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Title: Sketches and Studies in Italy and Greece, Complete - Series I, II, and III
Author: Symonds, John Addington, 1840-1893
Language: English
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  SKETCHES AND STUDIES IN ITALY AND GREECE, COMPLETE



  BY JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS

  AUTHOR OF "RENAISSANCE IN ITALY", "STUDIES OF THE GREEK POETS," ETC



  NEW EDITION

  LONDON
  JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.
  1914



  FIRST SERIES


PREFATORY NOTE


In preparing this new edition of the late J.A. Symonds's three volumes
of travels, 'Sketches in Italy and Greece,' 'Sketches and Studies
in Italy,' and 'Italian Byways,' nothing has been changed except the
order of the Essays. For the convenience of travellers a topographical
arrangement has been adopted. This implied a new title to cover the
contents of all three volumes, and 'Sketches and Studies in Italy
and Greece' has been chosen as departing least from the author's own
phraseology.

HORATIO F. BROWN.
Venice: _June_ 1898.



  CONTENTS


  THE LOVE OF THE ALPS

  WINTER NIGHTS AT DAVOS

  BACCHUS IN GRAUBÜNDEN

  OLD TOWNS OF PROVENCE

  THE CORNICE

  AJACCIO

  MONTE GENEROSO

  LOMBARD VIGNETTES

  COMO AND IL MEDEGHINO

  BERGAMO AND BARTOLOMMEO COLLEONI

  CREMA AND THE CRUCIFIX

  CHERUBINO AT THE SCALA THEATRE

  A VENETIAN MEDLEY

  THE GONDOLIER'S WEDDING

  A CINQUE CENTO BRUTUS

  TWO DRAMATISTS OF THE LAST CENTURY



  SKETCHES AND STUDIES

  IN

  ITALY AND GREECE



_THE LOVE OF THE ALPS_[1]


Of all the joys in life, none is greater than the joy of arriving on
the outskirts of Switzerland at the end of a long dusty day's journey
from Paris. The true epicure in refined pleasures will never travel
to Basle by night. He courts the heat of the sun and the monotony
of French plains,--their sluggish streams and never-ending poplar
trees--for the sake of the evening coolness and the gradual approach
to the great Alps, which await him at the close of the day. It is
about Mulhausen that he begins to feel a change in the landscape.
The fields broaden into rolling downs, watered by clear and running
streams; the green Swiss thistle grows by riverside and cowshed; pines
begin to tuft the slopes of gently rising hills; and now the sun has
set, the stars come out, first Hesper, then the troop of lesser lights;
and he feels--yes, indeed, there is now no mistake--the well-known,
well-loved magical fresh air, that never fails to blow from snowy
mountains and meadows watered by perennial streams. The last hour is
one of exquisite enjoyment, and when he reaches Basle, he scarcely
sleeps all night for hearing the swift Rhine beneath the balconies,
and knowing that the moon is shining on its waters, through the town,
beneath the bridges, between pasture-lands and copses, up the still
mountain-girdled valleys to the ice-caves where the water springs.
There is nothing in all experience of travelling like this. We may
greet the Mediterranean at Marseilles with enthusiasm; on entering
Rome by the Porta del Popolo, we may reflect with pride that we
have reached the goal of our pilgrimage, and are at last among
world-shaking memories. But neither Rome nor the Riviera wins our
hearts like Switzerland. We do not lie awake in London thinking of
them; we do not long so intensely, as the year comes round, to revisit
them. Our affection is less a passion than that which we cherish for
Switzerland.

Why, then, is this? What, after all, is the love of the Alps, and when
and where did it begin? It is easier to ask these questions than to
answer them. The classic nations hated mountains. Greek and Roman
poets talk of them with disgust and dread. Nothing could have been
more depressing to a courtier of Augustus than residence at Aosta,
even though he found his theatres and triumphal arches there. Wherever
classical feeling has predominated, this has been the case. Cellini's
Memoirs, written in the height of pagan Renaissance, well express
the aversion which a Florentine or Roman felt for the inhospitable
wildernesses of Switzerland.[2] Dryden, in his dedication to 'The
Indian Emperor,' says, 'High objects, it is true, attract the sight;
but it looks up with pain on craggy rocks and barren mountains, and
continues not intent on any object which is wanting in shades and
green to entertain it.' Addison and Gray had no better epithets than
'rugged,' 'horrid,' and the like for Alpine landscape. The classic
spirit was adverse to enthusiasm for mere nature. Humanity was too
prominent, and city life absorbed all interests,--not to speak of what
perhaps is the weightiest reason--that solitude, indifferent
accommodation, and imperfect means of travelling, rendered mountainous
countries peculiarly disagreeable. It is impossible to enjoy art or
nature while suffering from fatigue and cold, dreading the attacks of
robbers, and wondering whether you will find food and shelter at the
end of your day's journey. Nor was it different in the Middle Ages.
Then individuals had either no leisure from war or strife with the
elements, or else they devoted themselves to the salvation of their
souls. But when the ideas of the Middle Ages had decayed, when
improved arts of life had freed men from servile subjection to daily
needs, when the bondage of religious tyranny had been thrown off and
political liberty allowed the full development of tastes and
instincts, when, moreover, the classical traditions had lost their
power, and courts and coteries became too narrow for the activity of
man,--then suddenly it was discovered that Nature in herself possessed
transcendent charms. It may seem absurd to class them all together;
yet there is no doubt that the French Revolution, the criticism of the
Bible, Pantheistic forms of religious feeling, landscape-painting,
Alpine travelling, and the poetry of Nature, are all signs of the same
movement--of a new Renaissance. Limitations of every sort have been
shaken off during the last century; all forms have been destroyed, all
questions asked. The classical spirit loved to arrange, model,
preserve traditions, obey laws. We are intolerant of everything that
is not simple, unbiassed by prescription, liberal as the wind, and
natural as the mountain crags. We go to feed this spirit of freedom
among the Alps. What the virgin forests of America are to the
Americans, the Alps are to us. What there is in these huge blocks and
walls of granite crowned with ice that fascinates us, it is hard to
analyse. Why, seeing that we find them so attractive, they should have
repelled our ancestors of the fourth generation and all the world
before them, is another mystery. We cannot explain what rapport there
is between our human souls and these inequalities in the surface of
the earth which we call Alps. Tennyson speaks of

  Some vague emotion of delight
  In gazing up an Alpine height,

and its vagueness eludes definition. The interest which physical
science has created for natural objects has something to do with it.
Curiosity and the charm of novelty increase this interest. No towns,
no cultivated tracts of Europe however beautiful, form such a contrast
to our London life as Switzerland. Then there is the health and joy
that comes from exercise in open air; the senses freshened by good
sleep; the blood quickened by a lighter and rarer atmosphere. Our
modes of life, the breaking down of class privileges, the extension of
education, which contribute to make the individual greater and society
less, render the solitude of mountains refreshing. Facilities of
travelling and improved accommodation leave us free to enjoy the
natural beauty which we seek. Our minds, too, are prepared to
sympathise with the inanimate world; we have learned to look on the
universe as a whole, and ourselves as a part of it, related by close
ties of friendship to all its other members Shelley's, Wordsworth's,
Goethe's poetry has taught us this; we are all more or less
Pantheists, worshippers of 'God in Nature,' convinced of the
omnipresence of the informing mind.

Thus, when we admire the Alps, we are after all but children of
the century. We follow its inspiration blindly; and while we think
ourselves spontaneous in our ecstasy, perform the part for which we
have been trained from childhood by the atmosphere in which we live.
It is this very unconsciousness and universality of the impulse we
obey which makes it hard to analyse. Contemporary history is difficult
to write; to define the spirit of the age in which we live is still
more difficult; to account for 'impressions which owe all their force
to their identity with themselves' is most difficult of all. We must
be content to feel, and not to analyse.

Rousseau has the credit of having invented the love of Nature. Perhaps
he first expressed, in literature, the pleasures of open life among
the mountains, of walking tours, of the '_école buissonnière_,'
away from courts, and schools, and cities, which it is the fashion now
to love. His bourgeois birth and tastes, his peculiar religious
and social views, his intense self-engrossment,--all favoured the
development of Nature-worship. But Rousseau was not alone, nor yet
creative, in this instance. He was but one of the earliest to seize
and express a new idea of growing humanity. For those who seem to be
the most original in their inauguration of periods are only such
as have been favourably placed by birth and education to imbibe the
floating creeds of the whole race. They resemble the first cases of an
epidemic, which become the centres of infection and propagate disease.
At the time of Rousseau's greatness the French people were initiative.
In politics, in literature, in fashions, and in philosophy, they had
for some time led the taste of Europe. But the sentiment which first
received a clear and powerful expression in the works of Rousseau,
soon declared itself in the arts and literature of other nations.
Goethe, Wordsworth, and the earlier landscape-painters, proved that
Germany and England were not far behind the French. In England this
love of Nature for its own sake is indigenous, and has at all times
been peculiarly characteristic of our genius. Therefore it is not
surprising that our life and literature and art have been foremost
in developing the sentiment of which we are speaking. Our poets,
painters, and prose writers gave the tone to European thought in this
respect. Our travellers in search of the adventurous and picturesque,
our Alpine Club, have made of Switzerland an English playground.

The greatest period in our history was but a foreshadowing of this.
To return to Nature-worship was but to reassume the habits of the
Elizabethan age, altered indeed by all the changes of religion,
politics, society, and science which the last three centuries have
wrought, yet still, in its original love of free open life among the
fields and woods, and on the sea, the same. Now the French national
genius is classical. It reverts to the age of Louis XIV., and
Rousseauism in their literature is as true an innovation and
parenthesis as Pope-and-Drydenism was in ours. As in the age of the
Reformation, so in this, the German element of the modern character
predominates. During the two centuries from which we have emerged, the
Latin element had the upper hand. Our love of the Alps is a Gothic, a
Teutonic, instinct; sympathetic with all that is vague, infinite, and
insubordinate to rules, at war with all that is defined and systematic
in our genius. This we may perceive in individuals as well as in the
broader aspects of arts and literatures. The classically minded man,
the reader of Latin poets, the lover of brilliant conversation,
the frequenter of clubs and drawing-rooms, nice in his personal
requirements, scrupulous in his choice of words, averse to unnecessary
physical exertion, preferring town to country life, _cannot_
deeply feel the charm of the Alps. Such a man will dislike German art,
and however much he may strive to be Catholic in his tastes, will find
as he grows older that his liking for Gothic architecture and modern
painting diminish almost to aversion before an increasing admiration
for Greek peristyles and the Medicean Venus. If in respect of
speculation all men are either Platonists or Aristotelians, in respect
of taste all men are either Greek or German.

At present the German, the indefinite, the natural, commands; the
Greek, the finite, the cultivated, is in abeyance. We who talk so
much about the feeling of the Alps, are creatures, not creators of our
_cultus_,--a strange reflection, proving how much greater man is
than men, the common reason of the age in which we live than our own
reasons, its constituents and subjects.

Perhaps it is our modern tendency to 'individualism' which makes the
Alps so much to us. Society is there reduced to a vanishing point--no
claims are made on human sympathies--there is no need to toil in
yoke-service with our fellows. We may be alone, dream our own
dreams, and sound the depths of personality without the reproach of
selfishness, without a restless wish to join in action or money-making
or the pursuit of fame. To habitual residents among the Alps this
absence of social duties and advantages may be barbarising, even
brutalising. But to men wearied with too much civilisation,
and deafened by the noise of great cities, it is beyond measure
refreshing. Then, again, among the mountains history finds no place.
The Alps have no past nor present nor future. The human beings who
live upon their sides are at odds with nature, clinging on for bare
existence to the soil, sheltering themselves beneath protecting rocks
from avalanches, damming up destructive streams, all but annihilated
every spring. Man, who is paramount in the plain, is nothing here. His
arts and sciences, and dynasties, and modes of life, and mighty works,
and conquests and decays, demand our whole attention in Italy or
Egypt. But here the mountains, immemorially the same, which were,
which are, and which are to be, present a theatre on which the soul
breathes freely and feels herself alone. Around her on all sides is
God, and Nature, who is here the face of God and not the slave of man.
The spirit of the world hath here not yet grown old. She is as young
as on the first day; and the Alps are a symbol of the self-creating,
self-sufficing, self-enjoying universe which lives for its own ends.
For why do the slopes gleam with flowers, and the hillsides deck
themselves with grass, and the inaccessible ledges of black rock bear
their tufts of crimson primroses and flaunting tiger-lilies? Why,
morning after morning, does the red dawn flush the pinnacles of Monte
Rosa above cloud and mist unheeded? Why does the torrent shout, the
avalanche reply in thunder to the music of the sun, the trees and
rocks and meadows cry their 'Holy, Holy, Holy'? Surely not for us.
We are an accident here, and even the few men whose eyes are fixed
habitually upon these things are dead to them--the peasants do not
even know the names of their own flowers, and sigh with envy when you
tell them of the plains of Lincolnshire or Russian steppes.

But indeed there is something awful in the Alpine elevation above
human things. We do not love Switzerland merely because we associate
its thought with recollections of holidays and joyfulness. Some of
the most solemn moments of life are spent high up above among the
mountains, on the barren tops of rocky passes, where the soul has
seemed to hear in solitude a low controlling voice. It is almost
necessary for the development of our deepest affections that some sad
and sombre moments should be interchanged with hours of merriment and
elasticity. It is this variety in the woof of daily life which endears
our home to us; and perhaps none have fully loved the Alps who have
not spent some days of meditation, or it may be of sorrow, among their
solitudes. Splendid scenery, like music, has the power to make 'of
grief itself a fiery chariot for mounting above the sources of grief,'
to ennoble and refine our passions, and to teach us that our lives
are merely moments in the years of the eternal Being. There are many,
perhaps, who, within sight of some great scene among the Alps, upon
the height of the Stelvio or the slopes of Mürren, or at night in
the valley of Courmayeur, have felt themselves raised above cares
and doubts and miseries by the mere recognition of unchangeable
magnificence; have found a deep peace in the sense of their own
nothingness. It is not granted to us everyday to stand upon these
pinnacles of rest and faith above the world. But having once stood
there, how can we forget the station? How can we fail, amid the
tumult of our common cares, to feel at times the hush of that far-off
tranquillity? When our life is most commonplace, when we are ill or
weary in city streets, we can remember the clouds upon the mountains
we have seen, the sound of innumerable waterfalls, and the scent of
countless flowers. A photograph of Bisson's or of Braun's, the name of
some well-known valley, the picture of some Alpine plant, rouses the
sacred hunger in our souls, and stirs again the faith in beauty and
in rest beyond ourselves which no man can take from us. We owe a
deep debt of gratitude to everything which enables us to rise above
depressing and enslaving circumstances, which brings us nearer in some
way or other to what is eternal in the universe, and which makes us
know that, whether we live or die, suffer or enjoy, life and gladness
are still strong in the world. On this account, the proper attitude
of the soul among the Alps is one of silence. It is almost impossible
without a kind of impiety to frame in words the feelings they inspire.
Yet there are some sayings, hallowed by long usage, which throng
the mind through a whole summer's day, and seem in harmony with its
emotions--some portions of the Psalms or lines of greatest poets,
inarticulate hymns of Beethoven and Mendelssohn, waifs and strays not
always apposite, but linked by strong and subtle chains of feeling
with the grandeur of the mountains. This reverential feeling for
the Alps is connected with the Pantheistic form of our religious
sentiments to which I have before alluded. It is a trite remark, that
even devout men of the present generation prefer temples _not_
made with hands to churches, and worship God in the fields more
contentedly than in their pews. What Mr. Ruskin calls 'the instinctive
sense of the divine presence not formed into distinct belief' lies at
the root of our profound veneration for the nobler aspects of mountain
scenery. This instinctive sense has been very variously expressed by
Goethe in Faust's celebrated confession of faith, by Shelley in the
stanzas of 'Adonais,' which begin 'He is made one with nature,' by
Wordsworth in the lines on Tintern Abbey, and lately by Mr. Roden Noel
in his noble poems of Pantheism. It is more or less strongly felt by
all who have recognised the indubitable fact that religious belief is
undergoing a sure process of change from the dogmatic distinctness of
the past to some at present dimly descried creed of the future. Such
periods of transition are of necessity full of discomfort, doubt, and
anxiety, vague, variable, and unsatisfying. The men in whose spirits
the fermentation of the change is felt, who have abandoned their
old moorings, and have not yet reached the haven for which they are
steering, cannot but be indistinct and undecided in their faith. The
universe of which they form a part becomes important to them in its
infinite immensity. The principles of beauty, goodness, order and law,
no longer connected in their minds with definite articles of faith,
find symbols in the outer world. They are glad to fly at certain
moments from mankind and its oppressive problems, for which religion
no longer provides a satisfactory solution, to Nature, where they
vaguely localise the spirit that broods over us controlling all our
being. To such men Goethe's hymn is a form of faith, and born of such
a mood are the following far humbler verses:--

  At Mürren let the morning lead thee out
  To walk upon the cold and cloven hills,
  To hear the congregated mountains shout
  Their pæan of a thousand foaming rills.
  Raimented with intolerable light
  The snow-peaks stand above thee, row on row
  Arising, each a seraph in his might;
  An organ each of varied stop doth blow.
  Heaven's azure dome trembles through all her spheres,
  Feeling that music vibrate; and the sun
  Raises his tenor as he upward steers,
  And all the glory-coated mists that run
  Below him in the valley, hear his voice,
  And cry unto the dewy fields, Rejoice!

There is a profound sympathy between music and fine scenery: they both
affect us in the same way, stirring strong but undefined emotions,
which express themselves in 'idle tears,' or evoking thoughts 'which
lie,' as Wordsworth says, 'too deep for tears,' beyond the reach
of any words. How little we know what multitudes of mingling
reminiscences, held in solution by the mind, and colouring its fancy
with the iridescence of variable hues, go to make up the sentiments
which music or which mountains stir! It is the very vagueness,
changefulness, and dreamlike indistinctness of these feelings which
cause their charm; they harmonise with the haziness of our beliefs and
seem to make our very doubts melodious. For this reason it is obvious
that unrestrained indulgence in the pleasures of music or of scenery
may tend to destroy habits of clear thinking, sentimentalise the mind,
and render it more apt to entertain embryonic fancies than to bring
ideas to definite perfection.

If hours of thoughtfulness and seclusion are necessary to the
development of a true love for the Alps, it is no less essential to a
right understanding of their beauty that we should pass some wet and
gloomy days among the mountains. The unclouded sunsets and sunrises
which often follow one another in September in the Alps, have
something terrible. They produce a satiety of splendour, and oppress
the mind with a sense of perpetuity. I remember spending such a season
in one of the Oberland valleys, high up above the pine-trees, in
a little châlet. Morning after morning I awoke to see the sunbeams
glittering on the Eiger and the Jungfrau; noon after noon the
snow-fields blazed beneath a steady fire; evening after evening they
shone like beacons in the red light of the setting sun. Then peak by
peak they lost the glow; the soul passed from them, and they stood
pale yet weirdly garish against the darkened sky. The stars came out,
the moon shone, but not a cloud sailed over the untroubled heavens.
Thus day after day for several weeks there was no change, till I was
seized with an overpowering horror of unbroken calm. I left the valley
for a time; and when I returned to it in wind and rain, I found that
the partial veiling of the mountain heights restored the charm which
I had lost and made me feel once more at home. The landscape takes a
graver tone beneath the mist that hides the higher peaks, and
comes drifting, creeping, feeling, through the pines upon their
slopes--white, silent, blinding vapour-wreaths around the sable
spires. Sometimes the cloud descends and blots out everything. Again
it lifts a little, showing cottages and distant Alps beneath its
skirts. Then it sweeps over the whole valley like a veil, just broken
here and there above a lonely châlet or a thread of distant dangling
torrent foam. Sounds, too, beneath the mist are more strange. The
torrent seems to have a hoarser voice and grinds the stones more
passionately against its boulders. The cry of shepherds through the
fog suggests the loneliness and danger of the hills. The bleating
of penned sheep or goats, and the tinkling of the cowbells, are
mysteriously distant and yet distinct in the dull dead air. Then,
again, how immeasurably high above our heads appear the domes and
peaks of snow revealed through chasms in the drifting cloud; how
desolate the glaciers and the avalanches in gleams of light that
struggle through the mist! There is a leaden glare peculiar to clouds,
which makes the snow and ice more lurid. Not far from the house where
I am writing, the avalanche that swept away the bridge last winter is
lying now, dripping away, dank and dirty, like a rotting whale. I can
see it from my window, green beech-boughs nodding over it, forlorn
larches bending their tattered branches by its side, splinters of
broken pine protruding from its muddy caves, the boulders on its
flank, and the hoarse hungry torrent tossing up its tongues to lick
the ragged edge of snow. Close by, the meadows, spangled with yellow
flowers and red and blue, look even more brilliant than if the sun
were shining on them. Every cup and blade of grass is drinking. But
the scene changes; the mist has turned into rain-clouds, and the
steady rain drips down, incessant, blotting out the view. Then, too,
what a joy it is if the clouds break towards evening with a north
wind, and a rainbow in the valley gives promise of a bright to-morrow!
We look up to the cliffs above our heads, and see that they have just
been powdered with the snow that is a sign of better weather.

Such rainy days ought to be spent in places like Seelisberg and
Mürren, at the edge of precipices, in front of mountains, or above a
lake. The cloud-masses crawl and tumble about the valleys like a brood
of dragons; now creeping along the ledges of the rock with sinuous
self-adjustment to its turns and twists; now launching out into
the deep, repelled by battling winds, or driven onward in a coil of
twisted and contorted serpent curls. In the midst of summer these wet
seasons often end in a heavy fall of snow. You wake some morning to
see the meadows which last night were gay with July flowers huddled
up in snow a foot in depth. But fair weather does not tarry long to
reappear. You put on your thickest boots and sally forth to find the
great cups of the gentians full of snow, and to watch the rising of
the cloud-wreaths under the hot sun. Bad dreams or sickly thoughts,
dissipated by returning daylight or a friend's face, do not fly away
more rapidly and pleasantly than those swift glory-coated mists that
lose themselves we know not where in the blue depths of the sky.

In contrast with these rainy days nothing can be more perfect than
clear moonlight nights. There is a terrace upon the roof of the inn at
Courmayeur where one may spend hours in the silent watches, when all
the world has gone to sleep beneath. The Mont Chétif and the Mont
de la Saxe form a gigantic portal not unworthy of the pile that lies
beyond. For Mont Blanc resembles a vast cathedral; its countless
spires are scattered over a mass like that of the Duomo at Milan,
rising into one tower at the end. By night the glaciers glitter in the
steady moon; domes, pinnacles, and buttresses stand clear of clouds.
Needles of every height and most fantastic shapes rise from the
central ridge, some solitary, like sharp arrows shot against the sky,
some clustering into sheaves. On every horn of snow and bank of grassy
hill stars sparkle, rising, setting, rolling round through the long
silent night. Moonlight simplifies and softens the landscape. Colours
become scarcely distinguishable, and forms, deprived of half their
detail, gain in majesty and size. The mountains seem greater far by
night than day--higher heights and deeper depths, more snowy pyramids,
more beetling crags, softer meadows, and darker pines. The whole
valley is hushed, but for the torrent and the chirping grasshopper and
the striking of the village clocks. The black tower and the houses of
Courmayeur in the foreground gleam beneath the moon until she reaches
the edge of the Cramont, and then sinks quietly away, once more
to reappear among the pines, then finally to leave the valley dark
beneath the shadow of the mountain's bulk. Meanwhile the heights of
snow still glitter in the steady light: they, too, will soon be dark,
until the dawn breaks, tinging them with rose.

But it is not fair to dwell exclusively upon the more sombre aspect of
Swiss beauty when there are so many lively scenes of which to speak.
The sunlight and the freshness and the flowers of Alpine meadows form
more than half the charm of Switzerland. The other day we walked to a
pasture called the Col de Checruit, high up the valley of Courmayeur,
where the spring was still in its first freshness. Gradually we
climbed, by dusty roads and through hot fields where the grass had
just been mown, beneath the fierce light of the morning sun. Not a
breath of air was stirring, and the heavy pines hung overhead upon
their crags, as if to fence the gorge from every wandering breeze.
There is nothing more oppressive than these scorching sides of narrow
rifts, shut in by woods and precipices. But suddenly the valley
broadened, the pines and larches disappeared, and we found ourselves
upon a wide green semicircle of the softest meadows. Little rills of
water went rushing through them, rippling over pebbles, rustling under
dock leaves, and eddying against their wooden barriers. Far and wide
'you scarce could see the grass for flowers,' while on every side
the tinkling of cow-bells, and the voices of shepherds calling to one
another from the Alps, or singing at their work, were borne across the
fields. As we climbed we came into still fresher pastures, where the
snow had scarcely melted. There the goats and cattle were collected,
and the shepherds sat among them, fondling the kids and calling them
by name. When they called, the creatures came, expecting salt and
bread. It was pretty to see them lying near their masters, playing and
butting at them with their horns, or bleating for the sweet rye-bread.
The women knitted stockings, laughing among themselves, and singing
all the while. As soon as we reached them, they gathered round to
talk. An old herdsman, who was clearly the patriarch of this Arcadia,
asked us many questions in a slow deliberate voice. We told him who
we were, and tried to interest him in the cattle-plague, which he
appeared to regard as an evil very unreal and far away--like the
murrain upon Pharaoh's herds which one reads about in Exodus. But
he was courteous and polite, doing the honours of his pasture with
simplicity and ease. He took us to his châlet and gave us bowls of
pure cold milk. It was a funny little wooden house, clean and dark.
The sky peeped through its tiles, and if shepherds were not in the
habit of sleeping soundly all night long, they might count the setting
and rising stars without lifting their heads from the pillow. He told
us how far pleasanter they found the summer season than the long cold
winter which they have to spend in gloomy houses in Courmayeur. This,
indeed, is the true pastoral life which poets have described--a happy
summer holiday among the flowers, well occupied with simple cares, and
harassed by 'no enemy but winter and rough weather.'

Very much of the charm of Switzerland belongs to simple things--to
greetings from the herdsmen, the 'Guten Morgen,' and 'Guten Abend,'
that are invariably given and taken upon mountain paths; to the tame
creatures, with their large dark eyes, who raise their heads one
moment from the pasture while you pass; and to the plants that grow
beneath your feet. The latter end of May is the time when spring
begins in the high Alps. Wherever sunlight smiles away a patch of
snow, the brown turf soon becomes green velvet, and the velvet stars
itself with red and white and gold and blue. You almost see the grass
and lilies grow. First come pale crocuses and lilac soldanellas. These
break the last dissolving clods of snow, and stand upon an island,
with the cold wall they have thawed all round them. It is the fate
of these poor flowers to spring and flourish on the very skirts
of retreating winter; they soon wither--the frilled chalice of the
soldanella shrivels up and the crocus fades away before the grass
has grown; the sun, which is bringing all the other plants to life,
scorches their tender petals. Often when summer has fairly come,
you still may see their pearly cups and lilac bells by the side of
avalanches, between the chill snow and the fiery sun, blooming and
fading hour by hour. They have as it were but a Pisgah view of the
promised land, of the spring which they are foremost to proclaim. Next
come the clumsy gentians and yellow anemones, covered with soft
down like fledgling birds. These are among the earliest and hardiest
blossoms that embroider the high meadows with a diaper of blue and
gold. About the same time primroses and auriculas begin to tuft the
dripping rocks, while frail white fleur-de-lis, like flakes of
snow forgotten by the sun, and golden-balled ranunculuses join with
forget-me-nots and cranesbill in a never-ending dance upon the grassy
floor. Happy, too, is he who finds the lilies-of-the-valley clustering
about the chestnut boles upon the Colma, or in the beechwood by
the stream at Macugnaga, mixed with garnet-coloured columbines and
fragrant white narcissus, which the people of the villages call
'Angiolini.' There, too, is Solomon's seal, with waxen bells and
leaves expanded like the wings of hovering butterflies. But these
lists of flowers are tiresome and cold; it would be better to draw
the portrait of one which is particularly fascinating. I think that
botanists have called it _Saxifraga cotyledon_; yet, in spite
of its long name, it is beautiful and poetic. London-pride is the
commonest of all the saxifrages; but the one of which I speak is as
different from London-pride as a Plantagenet upon his throne from that
last Plantagenet who died obscure and penniless some years ago. It is
a great majestic flower, which plumes the granite rocks of Monte Rosa
in the spring. At other times of the year you see a little tuft of
fleshy leaves set like a cushion on cold ledges and dark places of
dripping cliffs. You take it for a stonecrop--one of those weeds
doomed to obscurity, and safe from being picked because they are so
uninviting--and you pass it by incuriously. But about June it puts
forth its power, and from the cushion of pale leaves there springs a
strong pink stem, which rises upward for a while, and then curves
down and breaks into a shower of snow-white blossoms. Far away the
splendour gleams, hanging like a plume of ostrich-feathers from the
roof of rock, waving to the wind, or stooping down to touch the water
of the mountain stream that dashes it with dew. The snow at evening,
glowing with a sunset flush, is not more rosy-pure than this cascade
of pendent blossoms. It loves to be alone--inaccessible ledges, chasms
where winds combat, or moist caverns overarched near thundering falls,
are the places that it seeks. I will not compare it to a spirit of the
mountains or to a proud lonely soul, for such comparisons desecrate
the simplicity of nature, and no simile can add a glory to the flower.
It seems to have a conscious life of its own, so large and glorious
it is, so sensitive to every breath of air, so nobly placed upon its
bending stem, so royal in its solitude. I first saw it years ago on
the Simplon, feathering the drizzling crags above Isella. Then we
found it near Baveno, in a crack of sombre cliff beneath the mines.
The other day we cut an armful opposite Varallo, by the Sesia, and
then felt like murderers; it was so sad to hold in our hands the
triumph of those many patient months, the full expansive life of
the flower, the splendour visible from valleys and hillsides, the
defenceless creature which had done its best to make the gloomy places
of the Alps most beautiful.

After passing many weeks among the high Alps it is a pleasure to
descend into the plains. The sunset, and sunrise, and the stars of
Lombardy, its level horizons and vague misty distances, are a source
of absolute relief after the narrow skies and embarrassed prospects of
a mountain valley. Nor are the Alps themselves ever more imposing than
when seen from Milan or the church-tower of Chivasso or the terrace
of Novara, with a foreground of Italian cornfields and old city towers
and rice-ground, golden-green beneath a Lombard sun. Half veiled
by clouds, the mountains rise like visionary fortress walls of a
celestial city--unapproachable, beyond the range of mortal feet.
But those who know by old experience what friendly châlets, and cool
meadows, and clear streams are hidden in their folds and valleys,
send forth fond thoughts and messages, like carrier-pigeons, from the
marble parapets of Milan, crying, 'Before another sun has set, I too
shall rest beneath the shadow of their pines!' It is in truth not more
than a day's journey from Milan to the brink of snow at Macugnaga. But
very sad it is to _leave_ the Alps, to stand upon the terraces
of Berne and waft ineffectual farewells. The unsympathising Aar
rushes beneath; and the snow-peaks, whom we love like friends, abide
untroubled by the coming and the going of the world. The clouds drift
over them--the sunset warms them with a fiery kiss. Night comes, and
we are hurried far away to wake beside the Seine, remembering, with a
pang of jealous passion, that the flowers on Alpine meadows are still
blooming, and the rivulets still flowing with a ceaseless song, while
Paris shops are all we see, and all we hear is the dull clatter of a
Paris crowd.


_THE ALPS IN WINTER_


The gradual approach of winter is very lovely in the high Alps. The
valley of Davos, where I am writing, more than five thousand feet
above the sea, is not beautiful, as Alpine valleys go, though it has
scenery both picturesque and grand within easy reach. But when summer
is passing into autumn, even the bare slopes of the least romantic
glen are glorified. Golden lights and crimson are cast over the
grey-green world by the fading of innumerable plants. Then the larches
begin to put on sallow tints that deepen into orange, burning against
the solid blue sky like amber. The frosts are severe at night, and the
meadow grass turns dry and wan. The last lilac crocuses die upon the
fields. Icicles, hanging from watercourse or mill-wheel, glitter in
the noonday sunlight. The wind blows keenly from the north, and now
the snow begins to fall and thaw and freeze, and fall and thaw again.
The seasons are confused; wonderful days of flawless purity are
intermingled with storm and gloom. At last the time comes when a great
snowfall has to be expected. There is hard frost in the early morning,
and at nine o'clock the thermometer stands at 2°. The sky is clear,
but it clouds rapidly with films of cirrus and of stratus in the south
and west. Soon it is covered over with grey vapour in a level sheet,
all the hill-tops standing hard against the steely heavens. The cold
wind from the west freezes the moustache to one's pipe-stem. By noon
the air is thick with a coagulated mist; the temperature meanwhile has
risen, and a little snow falls at intervals. The valleys are filled
with a curious opaque blue, from which the peaks rise, phantom-like
and pallid, into the grey air, scarcely distinguishable from their
background. The pine-forests on the mountain-sides are of darkest
indigo. There is an indescribable stillness and a sense of incubation.
The wind has fallen. Later on, the snow-flakes flutter silently and
sparely through the lifeless air. The most distant landscape is quite
blotted out. After sunset the clouds have settled down upon the hills,
and the snow comes in thick, impenetrable fleeces. At night our hair
crackles and sparkles when we brush it. Next morning there is a foot
and a half of finely powdered snow, and still the snow is falling.
Strangely loom the châlets through the semi-solid whiteness. Yet the
air is now dry and singularly soothing. The pines are heavy with their
wadded coverings; now and again one shakes himself in silence, and his
burden falls in a white cloud, to leave a black-green patch upon the
hillside, whitening again as the imperturbable fall continues. The
stakes by the roadside are almost buried. No sound is audible. Nothing
is seen but the snow-plough, a long raft of planks with a heavy stone
at its stem and a sharp prow, drawn by four strong horses, and driven
by a young man erect upon the stem.

So we live through two days and nights, and on the third a north wind
blows. The snow-clouds break and hang upon the hills in scattered
fleeces; glimpses of blue sky shine through, and sunlight glints along
the heavy masses. The blues of the shadows are everywhere intense. As
the clouds disperse, they form in moulded domes, tawny like sunburned
marble in the distant south lands. Every châlet is a miracle of
fantastic curves, built by the heavy hanging snow. Snow lies mounded
on the roads and fields, writhed into loveliest wreaths, or outspread
in the softest undulations. All the irregularities of the hills are
softened into swelling billows like the mouldings of Titanic statuary.

It happened once or twice last winter that such a clearing after
snowfall took place at full moon. Then the moon rose in a swirl of
fleecy vapour--clouds above, beneath, and all around. The sky was
blue as steel, and infinitely deep with mist-entangled stars. The horn
above which she first appears stood carved of solid black, and through
the valley's length from end to end yawned chasms and clefts of liquid
darkness. As the moon rose, the clouds were conquered, and massed into
rolling waves upon the ridges of the hills. The spaces of open sky
grew still more blue. At last the silver light came flooding over all,
and here and there the fresh snow glistened on the crags. There is
movement, palpitation, life of light through earth and sky. To walk
out on such a night, when the perturbation of storm is over and the
heavens are free, is one of the greatest pleasures offered by this
winter life. It is so light that you can read the smallest print with
ease. The upper sky looks quite black, shading by violet and sapphire
into turquoise upon the horizon. There is the colour of ivory upon
the nearest snow-fields, and the distant peaks sparkle like silver,
crystals glitter in all directions on the surface of the snow, white,
yellow, and pale blue. The stars are exceedingly keen, but only a few
can shine in the intensity of moonlight. The air is perfectly still,
and though icicles may be hanging from beard and moustache to the furs
beneath one's chin, there is no sensation of extreme cold.

During the earlier frosts of the season, after the first snows have
fallen, but when there is still plenty of moisture in the ground,
the loveliest fern-fronds of pure rime may be found in myriads on the
meadows. They are fashioned like perfect vegetable structures, opening
fan-shaped upon crystal stems, and catching the sunbeams with the
brilliancy of diamonds. Taken at certain angles, they decompose light
into iridescent colours, appearing now like emeralds, rubies, or
topazes, and now like Labrador spar, blending all hues in a wondrous
sheen. When the lake freezes for the first time, its surface is of
course quite black, and so transparent that it is easy to see the
fishes swimming in the deep beneath; but here and there, where rime
has fallen, there sparkle these fantastic flowers and ferns and mosses
made of purest frost. Nothing, indeed, can be more fascinating than
the new world revealed by frost. In shaded places of the valley you
may walk through larches and leafless alder thickets by silent farms,
all silvered over with hoar spangles--fairy forests, where the flowers
and foliage are rime. The streams are flowing half-frozen over rocks
sheeted with opaque green ice. Here it is strange to watch the swirl
of water freeing itself from these frost-shackles, and to see it
eddying beneath the overhanging eaves of frailest crystal-frosted
snow. All is so silent, still, and weird in this white world, that one
marvels when the spirit of winter will appear, or what shrill voices
in the air will make his unimaginable magic audible. Nothing happens,
however, to disturb the charm, save when a sunbeam cuts the chain of
diamonds on an alder bough, and down they drift in a thin cloud of
dust. It may be also that the air is full of floating crystals,
like tiniest most restless fire-flies rising and falling and passing
crosswise in the sun-illumined shade of tree or mountain-side.

It is not easy to describe these beauties of the winter-world; and yet
one word must be said about the sunsets. Let us walk out, therefore,
towards the lake at four o'clock in mid-December. The thermometer is
standing at 3°, and there is neither breath of wind nor cloud. Venus
is just visible in rose and sapphire, and the thin young moon is
beside her. To east and south the snowy ranges burn with yellow fire,
deepening to orange and crimson hues, which die away and leave a
greenish pallor. At last, the higher snows alone are livid with a last
faint tinge of light, and all beneath is quite white. But the tide
of glory turns. While the west grows momently more pale, the eastern
heavens flush with afterglow, suffuse their spaces with pink and
violet. Daffodil and tenderest emerald intermingle; and these colours
spread until the west again has rose and primrose and sapphire
wonderfully blent, and from the burning skies a light is cast upon the
valley--a phantom light, less real, more like the hues of molten
gems, than were the stationary flames of sunset. Venus and the moon
meanwhile are silvery clear. Then the whole illumination fades like
magic.

All the charms of which I have been writing are combined in a
sledge-drive. With an arrowy gliding motion one passes through the
snow-world as through a dream. In the sunlight the snow surface
sparkles with its myriad stars of crystals. In the shadow it ceases
to glitter, and assumes a blueness scarcely less blue than the sky.
So the journey is like sailing through alternate tracts of light
irradiate heavens, and interstellar spaces of the clearest and most
flawless ether. The air is like the keen air of the highest glaciers.
As we go, the bells keep up a drowsy tinkling at the horse's head.
The whole landscape is transfigured--lifted high up out of
commonplaceness. The little hills are Monte Rosas and Mont Blancs.
Scale is annihilated, and nothing tells but form. There is hardly
any colour except the blue of sky and shadow. Everything is traced in
vanishing tints, passing from the almost amber of the distant sunlight
through glowing white into pale greys and brighter blues and deep
ethereal azure. The pines stand in black platoons upon the hillsides,
with a tinge of red or orange on their sable. Some carry masses of
snow. Others have shaken their plumes free. The châlets are like fairy
houses or toys, waist-deep in stores of winter fuel. With their mellow
tones of madder and umber on the weather-beaten woodwork relieved
against the white, with fantastic icicles and folds of snow depending
from their eaves, or curled like coverlids from roof and window-sill,
they are far more picturesque than in the summer. Colour, wherever it
is found, whether in these cottages or in a block of serpentine by
the roadside, or in the golden bulrush blades by the lake shore, takes
more than double value. It is shed upon the landscape like a spiritual
and transparent veil. Most beautiful of all are the sweeping lines of
pure untroubled snow, fold over fold of undulating softness, billowing
along the skirts of the peaked hills. There is no conveying the
charm of immaterial, aërial, lucid beauty, the feeling of purity and
aloofness from sordid things, conveyed by the fine touch on all our
senses of light, colour, form, and air, and motion, and rare tinkling
sound. The magic is like a spirit mood of Shelley's lyric verse. And,
what is perhaps most wonderful, this delicate delight may be enjoyed
without fear in the coldest weather. It does not matter how low the
temperature may be, if the sun is shining, the air dry, and the wind
asleep.

Leaving the horse-sledges on the verge of some high hill-road, and
trusting oneself to the little hand-sledge which the people of the
Grisons use, and which the English have christened by the Canadian
term 'toboggan,' the excitement becomes far greater. The hand-sledge
is about three feet long, fifteen inches wide, and half a foot above
the ground, on runners shod with iron. Seated firmly at the back,
and guiding with the feet in front, the rider skims down precipitous
slopes and round perilous corners with a rapidity that beats a horse's
pace. Winding through sombre pine-forests, where the torrent roars
fitfully among caverns of barbed ice, and the glistening mountains
tower above in their glory of sun-smitten snow, darting round the
frozen ledges at the turnings of the road, silently gliding at a speed
that seems incredible, it is so smooth, he traverses two or three
miles without fatigue, carried onward by the mere momentum of his
weight. It is a strange and great joy. The toboggan, under these
conditions, might be compared to an enchanted boat shooting the rapids
of a river; and what adds to its fascination is the entire loneliness
in which the rider passes through those weird and ever-shifting scenes
of winter radiance. Sometimes, when the snow is drifting up the pass,
and the world is blank behind, before, and all around, it seems like
plunging into chaos. The muffled pines loom fantastically through
the drift as we rush past them, and the wind, ever and anon, detaches
great masses of snow in clouds from their bent branches. Or again at
night, when the moon is shining, and the sky is full of flaming
stars, and the snow, frozen to the hardness of marble, sparkles with
innumerable crystals, a new sense of strangeness and of joy is given
to the solitude, the swiftness, and the silence of the exercise.
No other circumstances invest the poetry of rapid motion with more
fascination. Shelley, who so loved the fancy of a boat inspired with
its own instinct of life, would have delighted in the game, and would
probably have pursued it recklessly. At the same time, as practised
on a humbler scale nearer home, in company, and on a run selected for
convenience rather than for picturesqueness, tobogganing is a very
Bohemian amusement. No one who indulges in it can count on avoiding
hard blows and violent upsets, nor will his efforts to maintain his
equilibrium at the dangerous corners be invariably graceful.

Nothing, it might be imagined, could be more monotonous than an Alpine
valley covered up with snow. And yet to one who has passed many months
in that seclusion Nature herself presents no monotony; for the changes
constantly wrought by light and cloud and alternations of weather
on this landscape are infinitely various. The very simplicity of the
conditions seems to assist the supreme artist. One day is wonderful
because of its unsullied purity; not a cloud visible, and the pines
clothed in velvet of rich green beneath a faultless canopy of light.
The next presents a fretwork of fine film, wrought by the south wind
over the whole sky, iridescent with delicate rainbow tints within the
influences of the sun, and ever-changing shape. On another, when the
turbulent Föhn is blowing, streamers of snow may be seen flying from
the higher ridges against a pallid background of slaty cloud, while
the gaunt ribs of the hills glisten below with fitful gleams of lurid
light. At sunrise, one morning, stealthy and mysterious vapours clothe
the mountains from their basement to the waist, while the peaks are
glistening serenely in clear daylight. Another opens with silently
falling snow. A third is rosy through the length and breadth of the
dawn-smitten valley. It is, however, impossible to catalogue the
indescribable variety of those beauties, which those who love nature
may enjoy by simply waiting on the changes of the winter in a single
station of the Alps.

       *       *       *       *       *



_WINTER NIGHTS AT DAVOS_


I

Light, marvellously soft yet penetrating, everywhere diffused,
everywhere reflected without radiance, poured from the moon high above
our heads in a sky tinted through all shades and modulations of blue,
from turquoise on the horizon to opaque sapphire at the zenith--_dolce
color_. (It is difficult to use the word _colour_ for this scene
without suggesting an exaggeration. The blue is almost indefinable,
yet felt. But if possible, the total effect of the night landscape
should be rendered by careful exclusion of tints from the
word-palette. The art of the etcher is more needed than that of the
painter.) Heaven overhead is set with stars, shooting intensely,
smouldering with dull red in Aldeboran, sparkling diamond-like in
Sirius, changing from orange to crimson and green in the swart fire of
yonder double star. On the snow this moonlight falls tenderly, not in
hard white light and strong black shadow, but in tones of cream and
ivory, rounding the curves of drift. The mountain peaks alone glisten
as though they were built of silver burnished by an agate. Far away
they rise diminished in stature by the all-pervading dimness of bright
light, that erases the distinctions of daytime. On the path before our
feet lie crystals of many hues, the splinters of a thousand gems. In
the wood there are caverns of darkness, alternating with spaces of
star-twinkled sky, or windows opened between russet stems and solid
branches for the moony sheen. The green of the pines is felt, although
invisible, so soft in substance that it seems less like velvet than
some materialised depth of dark green shadow.

II

Snow falling noiseless and unseen. One only knows that it is falling
by the blinking of our eyes as the flakes settle on their lids and
melt. The cottage windows shine red, and moving lanterns of belated
wayfarers define the void around them. Yet the night is far from dark.
The forests and the mountain-bulk beyond the valley loom softly large
and just distinguishable through a pearly haze. The path is purest
trackless whiteness, almost dazzling though it has no light. This was
what Dante felt when he reached the lunar sphere:

  Parova a me, che nube ne coprisse
  Lucida, spessa, solida e pulita.

Walking silent, with insensible footfall, slowly, for the snow is deep
above our ankles, we wonder what the world would be like if this were
all. Could the human race be acclimatised to this monotony (we say)
perhaps emotion would be rarer, yet more poignant, suspended brooding
on itself, and wakening by flashes to a quintessential mood. Then
fancy changes, and the thought occurs that even so must be a planet,
not yet wholly made, nor called to take her place among the sisterhood
of light and song.

III

Sunset was fading out upon the Rhætikon and still reflected from the
Seehorn on the lake, when we entered the gorge of the Fluela--dense
pines on either hand, a mounting drift of snow in front, and faint
peaks, paling from rose to saffron, far above, beyond. There was
no sound but a tinkling stream and the continual jingle of our
sledge-bells. We drove at a foot's pace, our horse finding his own
path. When we left the forest, the light had all gone except for some
almost imperceptible touches of primrose on the eastern horns. It was
a moonless night, but the sky was alive with stars, and now and then
one fell. The last house in the valley was soon passed, and we entered
those bleak gorges where the wind, fine, noiseless, penetrating like
an edge of steel, poured slantwise on us from the north. As we rose,
the stars to west seemed far beneath us, and the Great Bear sprawled
upon the ridges of the lower hills outspread. We kept slowly moving
onward, upward, into what seemed like a thin impalpable mist, but
was immeasurable tracts of snow. The last cembras were left behind,
immovable upon dark granite boulders on our right. We entered a
formless and unbillowed sea of greyness, from which there rose dim
mountain-flanks that lost themselves in air. Up, ever up, and
still below us westward sank the stars. We were now 7500 feet above
sea-level, and the December night was rigid with intensity of frost.
The cold, and movement, and solemnity of space, drowsed every sense.

IV

The memory of things seen and done in moonlight is like the memory of
dreams. It is as a dream that I recall the night of our tobogganing to
Klosters, though it was full enough of active energy. The moon was in
her second quarter, slightly filmed with very high thin clouds, that
disappeared as night advanced, leaving the sky and stars in all their
lustre. A sharp frost, sinking to three degrees above zero Fahrenheit,
with a fine pure wind, such wind as here they call 'the mountain
breath.' We drove to Wolfgang in a two-horse sledge, four of us
inside, and our two Christians on the box. Up there, where the Alps of
Death descend to join the Lakehorn Alps, above the Wolfswalk, there
is a world of whiteness--frozen ridges, engraved like cameos of aërial
onyx upon the dark, star-tremulous sky; sculptured buttresses of snow,
enclosing hollows filled with diaphanous shadow, and sweeping aloft
into the upland fields of pure clear drift. Then came the swift
descent, the plunge into the pines, moon-silvered on their frosted
tops. The battalions of spruce that climb those hills defined the
dazzling snow from which they sprang, like the black tufts upon an
ermine robe. At the proper moment we left our sledge, and the big
Christian took his reins in hand to follow us. Furs and greatcoats
were abandoned. Each stood forth tightly accoutred, with short coat,
and clinging cap, and gaitered legs for the toboggan. Off we started
in line, with but brief interval between, at first slowly, then
glidingly, and when the impetus was gained, with darting, bounding,
almost savage swiftness--sweeping round corners, cutting the hard
snow-path with keen runners, avoiding the deep ruts, trusting to
chance, taking advantage of smooth places, till the rush and swing and
downward swoop became mechanical. Space was devoured. Into the massy
shadows of the forest, where the pines joined overhead, we pierced
without a sound, and felt far more than saw the great rocks with their
icicles; and out again, emerging into moonlight, met the valley spread
beneath our feet, the mighty peaks of the Silvretta and the vast blue
sky. On, on, hurrying, delaying not, the woods and hills rushed by.
Crystals upon the snow-banks glittered to the stars. Our souls would
fain have stayed to drink these marvels of the moon-world, but our
limbs refused. The magic of movement was upon us, and eight minutes
swallowed the varying impressions of two musical miles. The village
lights drew near and nearer, then the sombre village huts, and soon
the speed grew less, and soon we glided to our rest into the sleeping
village street.

V

It was just past midnight. The moon had fallen to the western horns.
Orion's belt lay bar-like on the opening of the pass, and Sirius shot
flame on the Seehorn. A more crystalline night, more full of fulgent
stars, was never seen, stars everywhere, but mostly scattered in large
sparkles on the snow. Big Christian went in front, tugging toboggans
by their strings, as Gulliver, in some old woodcut, drew the fleets
of Lilliput. Through the brown wood-châlets of Selfrangr, up to the
undulating meadows, where the snow slept pure and crisp, he led us.
There we sat awhile and drank the clear air, cooled to zero, but
innocent and mild as mother Nature's milk. Then in an instant, down,
down through the hamlet, with its châlets, stables, pumps, and logs,
the slumbrous hamlet, where one dog barked, and darkness dwelt upon
the path of ice, down with the tempest of a dreadful speed, that
shot each rider upward in the air, and made the frame of the toboggan
tremble--down over hillocks of hard frozen snow, dashing and bounding,
to the river and the bridge. No bones were broken, though the race was
thrice renewed, and men were spilt upon the roadside by some furious
plunge. This amusement has the charm of peril and the unforeseen. In
no wise else can colder, keener air be drunken at such furious speed.
The joy, too, of the engine-driver and the steeplechaser is upon us.
Alas, that it should be so short! If only roads were better made for
the purpose, there would be no end to it; for the toboggan cannot lose
his wind. But the good thing fails at last, and from the silence of
the moon we pass into the silence of the fields of sleep.

VI

The new stable is a huge wooden building, with raftered lofts to stow
the hay, and stalls for many cows and horses. It stands snugly in an
angle of the pine-wood, bordering upon the great horse-meadow. Here
at night the air is warm and tepid with the breath of kine. Returning
from my forest walk, I spy one window yellow in the moonlight with a
lamp. I lift the latch. The hound knows me, and does not bark. I enter
the stable, where six horses are munching their last meal. Upon the
corn-bin sits a knecht. We light our pipes and talk. He tells me of
the valley of Arosa (a hawk's flight westward over yonder hills), how
deep in grass its summer lawns, how crystal-clear its stream, how blue
its little lakes, how pure, without a taint of mist, 'too beautiful to
paint,' its sky in winter! This knecht is an Ardüser, and the valley
of Arosa lifts itself to heaven above his Langwies home. It is his
duty now to harness a sleigh for some night-work. We shake hands and
part--I to sleep, he for the snow.

VII

The lake has frozen late this year, and there are places in it where
the ice is not yet firm. Little snow has fallen since it froze--about
three inches at the deepest, driven by winds and wrinkled like the
ribbed sea-sand. Here and there the ice-floor is quite black and
clear, reflecting stars, and dark as heaven's own depths. Elsewhere it
is of a suspicious whiteness, blurred in surface, with jagged cracks
and chasms, treacherously mended by the hand of frost. Moving slowly,
the snow cries beneath our feet, and the big crystals tinkle. These
are shaped like fern-fronds, growing fan-wise from a point, and set
at various angles, so that the moonlight takes them with capricious
touch. They flash, and are quenched, and flash again, light darting to
light along the level surface, while the sailing planets and the stars
look down complacent at this mimicry of heaven. Everything above,
around, beneath, is very beautiful--the slumbrous woods, the snowy
fells, and the far distance painted in faint blue upon the tender
background of the sky. Everything is placid and beautiful; and yet the
place is terrible. For, as we walk, the lake groans, with throttled
sobs, and sudden cracklings of its joints, and sighs that shiver,
undulating from afar, and pass beneath our feet, and die away in
distance when they reach the shore. And now and then an upper crust
of ice gives way; and will the gulfs then drag us down? We are in
the very centre of the lake. There is no use in thinking or in taking
heed. Enjoy the moment, then, and march. Enjoy the contrast between
this circumambient serenity and sweetness, and the dreadful sense of
insecurity beneath. Is not, indeed, our whole life of this nature?
A passage over perilous deeps, roofed by infinity and sempiternal
things, surrounded too with evanescent forms, that like these
crystals, trodden underfoot, or melted by the Föhn-wind into dew,
flash, in some lucky moment, with a light that mimics stars! But to
allegorise and sermonise is out of place here. It is but the expedient
of those who cannot etch sensation by the burin of their art of words.

VIII

It is ten o'clock upon Sylvester Abend, or New Year's Eve. Herr Buol
sits with his wife at the head of his long table. His family and
serving folk are round him. There is his mother, with little Ursula,
his child, upon her knee. The old lady is the mother of four comely
daughters and nine stalwart sons, the eldest of whom is now a grizzled
man. Besides our host, four of the brothers are here to-night; the
handsome melancholy Georg, who is so gentle in his speech; Simeon,
with his diplomatic face; Florian, the student of medicine; and
my friend, colossal-breasted Christian. Palmy came a little later,
worried with many cares, but happy to his heart's core. No optimist
was ever more convinced of his philosophy than Palmy. After them,
below the salt, were ranged the knechts and porters, the marmiton
from the kitchen, and innumerable maids. The board was tesselated with
plates of birnen-brod and eier-brod, küchli and cheese and butter; and
Georg stirred grampampuli in a mighty metal bowl. For the uninitiated,
it may be needful to explain these Davos delicacies. Birnen-brod
is what the Scotch would call a 'bun,' or massive cake, composed of
sliced pears, almonds, spices, and a little flour. Eier-brod is a
saffron-coloured sweet bread, made with eggs; and küchli is a kind
of pastry, crisp and flimsy, fashioned into various devices of cross,
star, and scroll. Grampampuli is simply brandy burnt with sugar, the
most unsophisticated punch I ever drank from tumblers. The frugal
people of Davos, who live on bread and cheese and dried meat all the
year, indulge themselves but once with these unwonted dainties in the
winter.

The occasion was cheerful, and yet a little solemn. The scene was
feudal. For these Buols are the scions of a warrior race:

  A race illustrious for heroic deeds;
  Humbled, but not degraded.

During the six centuries through which they have lived nobles in
Davos, they have sent forth scores of fighting men to foreign lands,
ambassadors to France and Venice and the Milanese, governors to
Chiavenna and Bregaglia and the much-contested Valtelline. Members of
their house are Counts of Buol-Schauenstein in Austria, Freiherrs of
Muhlingen and Berenberg in the now German Empire. They keep the patent
of nobility conferred on them by Henri IV. Their ancient coat--parted
per pale azure and argent, with a dame of the fourteenth century
bearing in her hand a rose, all counterchanged--is carved in wood and
monumental marble on the churches and old houses hereabouts. And from
immemorial antiquity the Buol of Davos has sat thus on Sylvester Abend
with family and folk around him, summoned from alp and snowy field to
drink grampampuli and break the birnen-brod.

These rites performed, the men and maids began to sing--brown arms
lounging on the table, and red hands folded in white aprons--serious
at first in hymn-like cadences, then breaking into wilder measures
with a jodel at the close. There is a measured solemnity in the
performance, which strikes the stranger as somewhat comic. But the
singing was good; the voices strong and clear in tone, no hesitation
and no shirking of the melody. It was clear that the singers enjoyed
the music for its own sake, with half-shut eyes, as they take dancing,
solidly, with deep-drawn breath, sustained and indefatigable. But
eleven struck; and the two Christians, my old friend, and Palmy, said
we should be late for church. They had promised to take me with them
to see bell-ringing in the tower. All the young men of the village
meet, and draw lots in the Stube of the Rathhaus. One party tolls the
old year out; the other rings the new year in. He who comes last is
sconced three litres of Veltliner for the company. This jovial fine
was ours to pay to-night.

When we came into the air, we found a bitter frost; the whole sky
clouded over; a north wind whirling snow from alp and forest through
the murky gloom. The benches and broad walnut tables of the Bathhaus
were crowded with men, in shaggy homespun of brown and grey frieze.
Its low wooden roof and walls enclosed an atmosphere of smoke, denser
than the external snow-drift. But our welcome was hearty, and we found
a score of friends. Titanic Fopp, whose limbs are Michelangelesque in
length; spectacled Morosani; the little tailor Kramer, with a French
horn on his knees; the puckered forehead of the Baumeister; the
Troll-shaped postman; peasants and woodmen, known on far excursions
upon pass and upland valley. Not one but carried on his face the
memory of winter strife with avalanche and snow-drift, of horses
struggling through Fluela whirlwinds, and wine-casks tugged across
Bernina, and haystacks guided down precipitous gullies at thundering
speed 'twixt pine and pine, and larches felled in distant glens beside
the frozen watercourses. Here we were, all met together for one hour
from our several homes and occupations, to welcome in the year with
clinked glasses and cries of _Prosit Neujahr!_

The tolling bells above us stopped. Our turn had come. Out into the
snowy air we tumbled, beneath the row of wolves' heads that adorn the
pent-house roof. A few steps brought us to the still God's acre,
where the snow lay deep and cold upon high-mounded graves of many
generations. We crossed it silently, bent our heads to the low Gothic
arch, and stood within the tower. It was thick darkness there. But
far above, the bells began again to clash and jangle confusedly, with
volleys of demonic joy. Successive flights of ladders, each ending in
a giddy platform hung across the gloom, climb to the height of some
hundred and fifty feet; and all their rungs were crusted with frozen
snow, deposited by trampling boots. For up and down these stairs,
ascending and descending, moved other than angels--the friezejacketed
Bürschen, Grisons bears, rejoicing in their exercise, exhilarated with
the tingling noise of beaten metal. We reached the first room safely,
guided by firm-footed Christian, whose one candle just defined the
rough walls and the slippery steps. There we found a band of boys,
pulling ropes that set the bells in motion. But our destination
was not reached. One more aërial ladder, perpendicular in darkness,
brought us swiftly to the home of sound. It is a small square chamber,
where the bells are hung, filled with the interlacement of enormous
beams, and pierced to north and south by open windows, from whose
parapets I saw the village and the valley spread beneath. The fierce
wind hurried through it, charged with snow, and its narrow space was
thronged with men. Men on the platform, men on the window-sills,
men grappling the bells with iron arms, men brushing by to reach the
stairs, crossing, recrossing, shouldering their mates, drinking
red wine from gigantic beakers, exploding crackers, firing squibs,
shouting and yelling in corybantic chorus. They yelled and shouted,
one could see it by their open mouths and glittering eyes; but not
a sound from human lungs could reach our ears. The overwhelming
incessant thunder of the bells drowned all. It thrilled the tympanum,
ran through the marrow of the spine, vibrated in the inmost entrails.
Yet the brain was only steadied and excited by this sea of brazen
noise. After a few moments I knew the place and felt at home in it.
Then I enjoyed a spectacle which sculptors might have envied. For they
ring the bells in Davos after this fashion:--The lads below set them
going with ropes. The men above climb in pairs on ladders to the beams
from which they are suspended. Two mighty pine-trees, roughly squared
and built into the walls, extend from side to side across the belfry.
Another from which the bells hang, connects these massive trunks
at right angles. Just where the central beam is wedged into the
two parallel supports, the ladders reach them from each side of the
belfry, so that, bending from the higher rung of the ladder, and
leaning over, stayed upon the lateral beam, each pair of men can keep
one bell in movement with their hands. Each comrade plants one leg
upon the ladder, and sets the other knee firmly athwart the horizontal
pine. Then round each other's waist they twine left arm and right. The
two have thus become one man. Right arm and left are free to grasp the
bell's horns, sprouting at its crest beneath the beam. With a grave
rhythmic motion, bending sideward in a close embrace, swaying and
returning to their centre from the well-knit loins, they drive the
force of each strong muscle into the vexed bell. The impact is earnest
at first, but soon it becomes frantic. The men take something from
each other of exalted enthusiasm. This efflux of their combined
energies inspires them and exasperates the mighty resonance of metal
which they rule. They are lost in a trance of what approximates to
dervish passion--so thrilling is the surge of sound, so potent are the
rhythms they obey. Men come and tug them by the heels. One grasps
the starting thews upon their calves. Another is impatient for their
place. But they strain still, locked together, and forgetful of the
world. At length they have enough: then slowly, clingingly unclasp,
turn round with gazing eyes, and are resumed, sedately, into the
diurnal round of common life. Another pair is in their room upon the
beam.

The Englishman who saw these things stood looking up, enveloped in his
ulster with the grey cowl thrust upon his forehead, like a monk. One
candle cast a grotesque shadow of him on the plastered wall. And when
his chance came, though he was but a weakling, he too climbed and for
some moments hugged the beam, and felt the madness of the swinging
bell. Descending, he wondered long and strangely whether he
ascribed too much of feeling to the men he watched. But no, that was
impossible. There are emotions deeply seated in the joy of exercise,
when the body is brought into play, and masses move in concert, of
which the subject is but half conscious. Music and dance, and the
delirium of battle or the chase, act thus upon spontaneous natures.
The mystery of rhythm and associated energy and blood tingling
in sympathy is here. It lies at the root of man's most tyrannous
instinctive impulses.

It was past one when we reached home, and now a meditative man might
well have gone to bed. But no one thinks of sleeping on Sylvester
Abend. So there followed bowls of punch in one friend's room, where
English, French, and Germans blent together in convivial Babel; and
flasks of old Montagner in another. Palmy, at this period, wore an
archdeacon's hat, and smoked a churchwarden's pipe; and neither were
his own, nor did he derive anything ecclesiastical or Anglican from
the association. Late in the morning we must sally forth, they said,
and roam the town. For it is the custom here on New Year's night to
greet acquaintances, and ask for hospitality, and no one may
deny these self-invited guests. We turned out again into the grey
snow-swept gloom, a curious Comus--not at all like Greeks, for we had
neither torches in our hands nor rose-wreaths to suspend upon a lady's
door-posts. And yet I could not refrain, at this supreme moment
of jollity, in the zero temperature, amid my Grisons friends, from
humming to myself verses from the Greek Anthology:--

  The die is cast! Nay, light the torch!
  I'll take the road! Up, courage, ho!
  Why linger pondering in the porch?
  Upon Love's revel we will go!

  Shake off those fumes of wine! Hang care
  And caution! What has Love to do
  With prudence? Let the torches flare!
  Quick, drown the doubts that hampered you!

  Cast weary wisdom to the wind!
  One thing, but one alone, I know:
  Love bent e'en Jove and made him blind
  Upon Love's revel we will go!

And then again:--

  I've drunk sheer madness! Not with wine,
  But old fantastic tales, I'll arm
  My heart in heedlessness divine,
  And dare the road, nor dream of harm!

  I'll join Love's rout! Let thunder break,
  Let lightning blast me by the way!
  Invulnerable Love shall shake
  His ægis o'er my head to-day.

This last epigram was not inappropriate to an invalid about to begin
the fifth act in a roystering night's adventure. And still once
more:--

  Cold blows the winter wind; 'tis Love,
  Whose sweet eyes swim with honeyed tears,
  That bears me to thy doors, my love,
  Tossed by the storm of hopes and fears.

  Cold blows the blast of aching Love;
  But be thou for my wandering sail,
  Adrift upon these waves of love,
  Safe harbour from the whistling gale!

However, upon this occasion, though we had winter-wind enough, and
cold enough, there was not much love in the business. My arm was
firmly clenched in Christian Buol's, and Christian Palmy came
behind, trolling out songs in Italian dialect, with still recurring
_canaille_ choruses, of which the facile rhymes seemed mostly
made on a prolonged _amu-u-u-r_. It is noticeable that Italian
ditties are specially designed for fellows shouting in the streets at
night. They seem in keeping there, and nowhere else that I could ever
see. And these Davosers took to them naturally when the time for Comus
came. It was between four and five in the morning, and nearly all the
houses in the place were dark. The tall church-tower and spire loomed
up above us in grey twilight. The tireless wind still swept thin
snow from fell and forest. But the frenzied bells had sunk into their
twelvemonth's slumber, which shall be broken only by decorous tollings
at less festive times. I wondered whether they were tingling still
with the heart-throbs and with the pressure of those many arms? Was
their old age warmed, as mine was, with that gust of life--the young
men who had clung to them like bees to lily-bells, and shaken all
their locked-up tone and shrillness into the wild winter air? Alas!
how many generations of the young have handled them; and they are
still there, frozen in their belfry; and the young grow middle-aged,
and old, and die at last; and the bells they grappled in their lust
of manhood toll them to their graves, on which the tireless wind will,
winter after winter, sprinkle snow from alps and forests which they
knew.

'There is a light,' cried Christian, 'up in Anna's window!' 'A light!
a light!' the Comus shouted. But how to get at the window, which is
pretty high above the ground, and out of reach of the most ardent
revellers? We search a neighbouring shed, extract a stable-ladder, and
in two seconds Palmy has climbed to the topmost rung, while Christian
and Georg hold it firm upon the snow beneath. Then begins a passage
from some comic opera of Mozart's or Cimarosa's--an escapade familiar
to Spanish or Italian students, which recalls the stage. It is an
episode from 'Don Giovanni,' translated to this dark-etched scene
of snowy hills, and Gothic tower, and mullioned windows deep embayed
beneath their eaves and icicles. _Deh vieni alla finestra!_ sings
Palmy-Leporello; the chorus answers: _Deh vieni! Perchè non vieni
ancora?_ pleads Leporello; the chorus shouts: _Perchè? Mio
amu-u-u-r_, sighs Leporello; and Echo cries, _amu-u-u-r!_ All
the wooing, be it noticed, is conducted in Italian. But the actors
murmur to each other in Davoser Deutsch, 'She won't come, Palmy! It is
far too late; she is gone to bed. Come down; you'll wake the village
with your caterwauling!' But Leporello waves his broad archdeacon's
hat, and resumes a flood of flexible Bregaglian. He has a shrewd
suspicion that the girl is peeping from behind the window curtain;
and tells us, bending down from the ladder, in a hoarse stage-whisper,
that we must have patience; 'these girls are kittle cattle, who take
long to draw: but if your lungs last out, they're sure to show.' And
Leporello is right. Faint heart ne'er won fair lady. From the summit
of his ladder, by his eloquent Italian tongue, he brings the shy bird
down at last. We hear the unbarring of the house door, and a comely
maiden, in her Sunday dress, welcomes us politely to her ground-floor
sitting-room. The Comus enters, in grave order, with set speeches,
handshakes, and inevitable _Prosits_! It is a large low chamber,
with a huge stone stove, wide benches fixed along the walls, and a
great oval table. We sit how and where we can. Red wine is produced,
and eier-brod and küchli. Fräulein Anna serves us sedately, holding
her own with decent self-respect against the inrush of the revellers.
She is quite alone; but are not her father and mother in bed above,
and within earshot? Besides, the Comus, even at this abnormal hour and
after an abnormal night, is well conducted. Things seem slipping into
a decorous wine-party, when Leporello readjusts the broad-brimmed
hat upon his head, and very cleverly acts a little love-scene for our
benefit. Fräulein Anna takes this as a delicate compliment, and the
thing is so prettily done in truth, that not the sternest taste could
be offended. Meanwhile another party of night-wanderers, attracted by
our mirth, break in. More _Prosits_ and clinked glasses follow;
and with a fair good-morning to our hostess, we retire.

It is too late to think of bed. 'The quincunx of heaven,' as Sir
Thomas Browne phrased it on a dissimilar occasion, 'runs low.... The
huntsmen are up in America; and not in America only, for the huntsmen,
if there are any this night in Graubünden, have long been out upon the
snow, and the stable-lads are dragging the sledges from their sheds
to carry down the mails to Landquart. We meet the porters from the
various hotels, bringing letter-bags and luggage to the post. It is
time to turn in and take a cup of black coffee against the rising sun.

IX

Some nights, even in Davos, are spent, even by an invalid, in bed.
A leaflet, therefore, of 'Sleep-chasings' may not inappropriately
be flung, as envoy to so many wanderings on foot and sledge upon the
winter snows.

The first is a confused medley of things familiar and things strange.
I have been dreaming of far-away old German towns, with gabled houses
deep in snow; dreaming of châlets in forgotten Alpine glens, where
wood-cutters come plunging into sleepy light from gloom, and sinking
down beside the stove to shake the drift from their rough shoulders;
dreaming of vast veils of icicles upon the gaunt black rocks in places
where no foot of man will pass, and where the snow is weaving eyebrows
over the ledges of grey whirlwind-beaten precipices; dreaming
of Venice, forlorn beneath the windy drip of rain, the gas lamps
flickering on the swimming piazzetta, the barche idle, the gondolier
wrapped in his thread-bare cloak, alone; dreaming of Apennines, with
world-old cities, brown, above the brown sea of dead chestnut boughs;
dreaming of stormy tides, and watchers aloft in lighthouses when day
is finished; dreaming of dead men and women and dead children in the
earth, far down beneath the snow-drifts, six feet deep. And then
I lift my face, awaking, from my pillow; the pallid moon is on the
valley, and the room is filled with spectral light.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. This is a hospice in an unfrequented
pass, between sad peaks, beside a little black lake, overdrifted with
soft snow. I pass into the house-room, gliding silently. An old man
and an old woman are nodding, bowed in deepest slumber, by the stove.
A young man plays the zither on a table. He lifts his head, still
modulating with his fingers on the strings. He looks right through me
with wide anxious eyes. He does not see me, but sees Italy, I know,
and some one wandering on a sandy shore.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. This is S. Stephen's Church in Wien.
Inside, the lamps are burning dimly in the choir. There is fog in the
aisles; but through the sleepy air and over the red candles flies a
wild soprano's voice, a boy's soul in its singing sent to heaven.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. From the mufflers in which his
father, the mountebank, has wrapped the child, to carry him across
the heath, a little tumbling-boy emerges in soiled tights. He is half
asleep. His father scrapes the fiddle. The boy shortens his red belt,
kisses his fingers to us, and ties himself into a knot among the
glasses on the table.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. I am on the parapet of a huge
circular tower, hollow like a well, and pierced with windows at
irregular intervals. The parapet is broad, and slabbed with red
Verona marble. Around me are athletic men, all naked, in the strangest
attitudes of studied rest, down-gazing, as I do, into the depths
below. There comes a confused murmur of voices, and the tower is
threaded and rethreaded with great cables. Up these there climb to us
a crowd of young men, clinging to the ropes and flinging their bodies
sideways on aërial trapezes. My heart trembles with keen joy and
terror. For nowhere else could plastic forms be seen more beautiful,
and nowhere else is peril more apparent. Leaning my chin upon the
utmost verge, I wait. I watch one youth, who smiles and soars to me;
and when his face is almost touching mine, he speaks, but what he says
I know not.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. The whole world rocks to its
foundations. The mountain summits that I know are shaken. They bow
their bristling crests. They are falling, falling on us, and the earth
is riven. I wake in terror, shouting: INSOLITIS TREMUERUNT MOTIBUS
ALPES! An earthquake, slight but real, has stirred the ever-wakeful
Vesta of the brain to this Virgilian quotation.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. Once more at night I sledge alone
upon the Klosters road. It is the point where the woods close over it
and moonlight may not pierce the boughs. There come shrill cries of
many voices from behind, and rushings that pass by and vanish. Then
on their sledges I behold the phantoms of the dead who died in Davos,
longing for their homes; and each flies past me, shrieking in the
still cold air; and phosphorescent like long meteors, the pageant
turns the windings of the road below and disappears.

I sleep, and change my dreaming. This is the top of some high
mountain, where the crags are cruelly tortured and cast in enormous
splinters on the ledges of cliffs grey with old-world ice. A ravine,
opening at my feet, plunges down immeasurably to a dim and distant
sea. Above me soars a precipice embossed with a gigantic ice-bound
shape. As I gaze thereon, I find the lineaments and limbs of a Titanic
man chained and nailed to the rock. His beard has grown for centuries,
and flowed this way and that, adown his breast and over to the stone
on either side; and the whole of him is covered with a greenish ice,
ancient beyond the memory of man. 'This is Prometheus,' I whisper to
myself, 'and I am alone on Caucasus.'

       *       *       *       *       *



BACCHUS IN GRAUBÜNDEN


I

Some years' residence in the Canton of the Grisons made me familiar
with all sorts of Valtelline wine; with masculine but rough _Inferno_,
generous _Forzato_, delicate _Sassella_, harsher _Montagner_, the
raspberry flavour of _Grumello_, the sharp invigorating twang of
_Villa_. The colour, ranging from garnet to almandine or ruby, told me
the age and quality of wine; and I could judge from the crust it forms
upon the bottle, whether it had been left long enough in wood to
ripen. I had furthermore arrived at the conclusion that the best
Valtelline can only be tasted in cellars of the Engadine or Davos,
where this vintage matures slowly in the mountain air, and takes a
flavour unknown at lower levels. In a word, it had amused my leisure
to make or think myself a connoisseur. My literary taste was tickled
by the praise bestowed in the Augustan age on Rhætic grapes by Virgil:

  Et quo te carmine dicam,
  Rhætica? nec cellis ideo contende Falernis.

I piqued myself on thinking that could the poet but have drank
one bottle at Samaden--where Stilicho, by the way, in his famous
recruiting expedition may perhaps have drank it--he would have been
less chary in his panegyric. For the point of inferiority on which he
seems to insist, namely, that Valtelline wine does not keep well
in cellar, is only proper to this vintage in Italian climate. Such
meditations led my fancy on the path of history. Is there truth,
then, in the dim tradition that this mountain land was colonised
by Etruscans? Is _Ras_ the root of Rhætia? The Etruscans were
accomplished wine-growers, we know. It was their Montepulciano which
drew the Gauls to Rome, if Livy can be trusted. Perhaps they first
planted the vine in Valtelline. Perhaps its superior culture in that
district may be due to ancient use surviving in a secluded Alpine
valley. One thing is certain, that the peasants of Sondrio and Tirano
understand viticulture better than the Italians of Lombardy.

Then my thoughts ran on to the period of modern history, when the
Grisons seized the Valtelline in lieu of war-pay from the Dukes of
Milan. For some three centuries they held it as a subject province.
From the Rathhaus at Davos or Chur they sent their nobles--Von
Salis and Buol, Planta and Sprecher von Bernegg--across the hills as
governors or podestàs to Poschiavo, Sondrio, Tirano, and Morbegno.
In those old days the Valtelline wines came duly every winter over
snow-deep passes to fill the cellars of the Signori Grigioni. That
quaint traveller Tom Coryat, in his so-called 'Crudities,' notes
the custom early in the seventeenth century. And as that custom
then obtained, it still subsists with little alteration. The
wine-carriers--Weinführer, as they are called--first scaled
the Bernina pass, halting then as now, perhaps at Poschiavo and
Pontresina. Afterwards, in order to reach Davos, the pass of the
Scaletta rose before them--a wilderness of untracked snow-drifts. The
country-folk still point to narrow, light hand-sledges, on which the
casks were charged before the last pitch of the pass. Some wine came,
no doubt, on pack-saddles. A meadow in front of the Dischma-Thal,
where the pass ends, still bears the name of the Ross-Weid, or
horse-pasture. It was here that the beasts of burden used for this
wine-service, rested after their long labours. In favourable weather
the whole journey from Tirano would have occupied at least four days,
with scanty halts at night.

The Valtelline slipped from the hands of the Grisons early in this
century. It is rumoured that one of the Von Salis family negotiated
matters with Napoleon more for his private benefit than for the
interests of the state. However this may have been, when the
Graubünden became a Swiss Canton, after four centuries of sovereign
independence, the whole Valtelline passed to Austria, and so
eventually to Italy. According to modern and just notions of
nationality, this was right. In their period of power, the Grisons
masters had treated their Italian dependencies with harshness. The
Valtelline is an Italian valley, connected with the rest of
the peninsula by ties of race and language. It is, moreover,
geographically linked to Italy by the great stream of the Adda, which
takes its rise upon the Stelvio, and after passing through the Lake of
Como, swells the volume of the Po.

But, though politically severed from the Valtelline, the Engadiners
and Davosers have not dropped their old habit of importing its best
produce. What they formerly levied as masters, they now acquire by
purchase. The Italian revenue derives a large profit from the frontier
dues paid at the gate between Tirano and Poschiavo on the Bernina
road. Much of the same wine enters Switzerland by another route,
travelling from Sondrio to Chiavenna and across the Splügen. But until
quite recently, the wine itself could scarcely be found outside the
Canton. It was indeed quoted upon Lombard wine-lists. Yet no one drank
it; and when I tasted it at Milan, I found it quite unrecognisable.
The fact seems to be that the Graubündeners alone know how to deal
with it; and, as I have hinted, the wine requires a mountain climate
for its full development.

II

The district where the wine of Valtellina is grown extends, roughly
speaking, from Tirano to Morbegno, a distance of some fifty-four
miles. The best sorts come from the middle of this region. High up
in the valley, soil and climate are alike less favourable. Low down
a coarser, earthier quality springs from fat land where the valley
broadens. The northern hillsides to a very considerable height above
the river are covered with vineyards. The southern slopes on the left
bank of the Adda, lying more in shade, yield but little. Inferno,
Grumello, and Perla di Sassella are the names of famous vineyards.
Sassella is the general name for a large tract. Buying an Inferno,
Grumello, or Perla di Sassella wine, it would be absurd to suppose
that one obtained it precisely from the eponymous estate. But as each
of these vineyards yields a marked quality of wine, which is taken
as standard-giving, the produce of the whole district may be broadly
classified as approaching more or less nearly to one of these accepted
types. The Inferno, Grumello, and Perla di Sassella of commerce are
therefore three sorts of good Valtelline, ticketed with famous names
to indicate certain differences of quality. Montagner, as the
name implies, is a somewhat lighter wine, grown higher up in the
hill-vineyards. And of this class there are many species, some
approximating to Sassella in delicacy of flavour, others approaching
the tart lightness of the Villa vintage. This last takes its title
from a village in the neighbourhood of Tirano, where a table-wine is
chiefly grown.

Forzato is the strongest, dearest, longest-lived of this whole family
of wines. It is manufactured chiefly at Tirano; and, as will be
understood from its name, does not profess to belong to any one of the
famous localities. Forzato or Sforzato, forced or enforced, is in fact
a wine which has undergone a more artificial process. In German the
people call it Strohwein, which also points to the method of its
preparation. The finest grapes are selected and dried in the sun
(hence the _Stroh_) for a period of eight or nine weeks. When
they have almost become raisins, they are pressed. The must is heavily
charged with sugar, and ferments powerfully. Wine thus made requires
several years to ripen. Sweet at first, it takes at last a very fine
quality and flavour, and is rough, almost acid, on the tongue. Its
colour too turns from a deep rich crimson to the tone of tawny port,
which indeed it much resembles.

Old Forzato, which has been long in cask, and then perhaps three years
in bottle, will fetch at least six francs, or may rise to even ten
francs a flask. The best Sassella rarely reaches more than five
francs. Good Montagner and Grumello can be had perhaps for four
francs; and Inferno of a special quality for six francs. Thus the
average price of old Valtelline wine may be taken as five francs a
bottle. These, I should observe, are hotel prices.

Valtelline wines bought in the wood vary, of course, according to
their age and year of vintage. I have found that from 2.50 fr. to 3.50
fr. per litre is a fair price for sorts fit to bottle. The new wine of
1881 sold in the following winter at prices varying from 1.05 fr. to
1.80 fr. per litre.

It is customary for the Graubünden wine-merchants to buy up the whole
produce of a vineyard from the peasants at the end of the vintage.
They go in person or depute their agents to inspect the wine, make
their bargains, and seal the cellars where the wine is stored. Then,
when the snow has fallen, their own horses with sleighs and trusted
servants go across the passes to bring it home. Generally they have
some local man of confidence at Tirano, the starting-point for the
homeward journey, who takes the casks up to that place and sees them
duly charged. Merchants of old standing maintain relations with the
same peasants, taking their wine regularly; so that from Lorenz Gredig
at Pontresina or Andreas Gredig at Davos Dörfli, from Fanconi at
Samaden, or from Giacomi at Chiavenna, special qualities of wine, the
produce of certain vineyards, are to be obtained. Up to the present
time this wine trade has been conducted with simplicity and honesty by
both the dealers and the growers. One chief merit of Valtelline wine
is that it is pure. How long so desirable a state of things will
survive the slow but steady development of an export business may be
questioned.

III

With so much practical and theoretical interest in the produce of
the Valtelline to stimulate my curiosity, I determined to visit the
district at the season when the wine was leaving it. It was the winter
of 1881-82, a winter of unparalleled beauty in the high Alps. Day
succeeded day without a cloud. Night followed night with steady
stars, gliding across clear mountain ranges and forests of dark pines
unstirred by wind. I could not hope for a more prosperous season; and
indeed I made such use of it, that between the months of January and
March I crossed six passes of the Alps in open sleighs--the Fluela
Bernina, Splügen, Julier, Maloja, and Albula--with less difficulty and
discomfort in mid-winter than the traveller may often find on them in
June.

At the end of January, my friend Christian and I left Davos long
before the sun was up, and ascended for four hours through the
interminable snow-drifts of the Fluela in a cold grey shadow. The
sun's light seemed to elude us. It ran along the ravine through which
we toiled; dipped down to touch the topmost pines above our heads;
rested in golden calm upon the Schiahorn at our back; capriciously
played here and there across the Weisshorn on our left, and made the
precipices of the Schwartzhorn glitter on our right. But athwart our
path it never fell until we reached the very summit of the pass.
Then we passed quietly into the full glory of the winter morning--a
tranquil flood of sunbeams, pouring through air of crystalline purity,
frozen and motionless. White peaks and dark brown rocks soared up,
cutting a sky of almost purple blueness. A stillness that might be
felt brooded over the whole world; but in that stillness there was
nothing sad, no suggestion of suspended vitality. It was the stillness
rather of untroubled health, of strength omnipotent but unexerted.

From the Hochspitz of the Fluela the track plunges at one bound into
the valley of the Inn, following a narrow cornice carved from the
smooth bank of snow, and hung, without break or barrier, a
thousand feet or more above the torrent. The summer road is lost in
snow-drifts. The galleries built as a protection from avalanches,
which sweep in rivers from those grim, bare fells above, are blocked
with snow. Their useless arches yawn, as we glide over or outside
them, by paths which instinct in our horse and driver traces. As a fly
may creep along a house-roof, slanting downwards we descend. One whisk
from the swinged tail of an avalanche would hurl us, like a fly, into
the ruin of the gaping gorge. But this season little snow has fallen
on the higher hills; and what still lies there, is hard frozen.
Therefore we have no fear, as we whirl fast and faster from the
snow-fields into the black forests of gnarled cembras and wind-wearied
pines. Then Süss is reached, where the Inn hurries its shallow waters
clogged with ice-floes through a sleepy hamlet. The stream is pure and
green; for the fountains of the glaciers are locked by winter frosts;
and only clear rills from perennial sources swell its tide. At Süss
we lost the sun, and toiled in garish gloom and silence, nipped by the
ever-deepening cold of evening, upwards for four hours to Samaden.

The next day was spent in visiting the winter colony at San Moritz,
where the Kulm Hotel, tenanted by some twenty guests, presented in its
vastness the appearance of a country-house. One of the prettiest spots
in the world is the ice-rink, fashioned by the skill of Herr Caspar
Badrutt on a high raised terrace, commanding the valley of the Inn and
the ponderous bulwarks of Bernina. The silhouettes of skaters, defined
against that landscape of pure white, passed to and fro beneath a
cloudless sky. Ladies sat and worked or read on seats upon the ice.
Not a breath of wind was astir, and warm beneficent sunlight flooded
the immeasurable air. Only, as the day declined, some iridescent films
overspread the west; and just above Maloja the apparition of a
mock sun--a well-defined circle of opaline light, broken at regular
intervals by four globes--seemed to portend a change of weather. This
forecast fortunately proved delusive. We drove back to Samaden across
the silent snow, enjoying those delicate tints of rose and violet and
saffron which shed enchantment for one hour over the white monotony of
Alpine winter.

At half-past eight next morning, the sun was rising from behind Pitz
Languard, as we crossed the Inn and drove through Pontresina in the
glorious light, with all its huge hotels quite empty and none but a
few country-folk abroad. Those who only know the Engadine in summer
have little conception of its beauty. Winter softens the hard details
of bare rock, and rounds the melancholy grassless mountain flanks,
suspending icicles to every ledge and spangling the curved surfaces
of snow with crystals. The landscape gains in purity, and, what sounds
unbelievable, in tenderness. Nor does it lose in grandeur. Looking
up the valley of the Morteratsch that morning, the glaciers were
distinguishable in hues of green and sapphire through their veil of
snow; and the highest peaks soared in a transparency of amethystine
light beneath a blue sky traced with filaments of windy cloud. Some
storm must have disturbed the atmosphere in Italy, for fan-shaped
mists frothed out around the sun, and curled themselves above the
mountains in fine feathery wreaths, melting imperceptibly into air,
until, when we had risen above the cembras, the sky was one deep solid
blue.

All that upland wilderness is lovelier now than in the summer; and on
the morning of which I write, the air itself was far more summery than
I have ever known it in the Engadine in August. We could scarcely
bear to place our hands upon the woodwork of the sleigh because of
the fierce sun's heat. And yet the atmosphere was crystalline with
windless frost. As though to increase the strangeness of these
contrasts, the pavement of beaten snow was stained with red drops
spilt from wine-casks which pass over it.

The chief feature of the Bernina--what makes it a dreary pass enough
in summer, but infinitely beautiful in winter--is its breadth;
illimitable undulations of snow-drifts; immensity of open sky;
unbroken lines of white, descending in smooth curves from glittering
ice-peaks.

A glacier hangs in air above the frozen lakes, with all its green-blue
ice-cliffs glistening in intensest light. Pitz Palu shoots aloft
like sculptured marble, delicately veined with soft aërial shadows of
translucent blue. At the summit of the pass all Italy seems to burst
upon the eyes in those steep serried ranges, with their craggy crests,
violet-hued in noonday sunshine, as though a bloom of plum or grape
had been shed over them, enamelling their jagged precipices.

The top of the Bernina is not always thus in winter. It has a bad
reputation for the fury of invading storms, when falling snow
hurtles together with snow scooped from the drifts in eddies, and the
weltering white sea shifts at the will of whirlwinds. The Hospice then
may be tenanted for days together by weather-bound wayfarers; and a
line drawn close beneath its roof shows how two years ago the whole
building was buried in one snow-shroud. This morning we lounged about
the door, while our horses rested and postillions and carters pledged
one another in cups of new Veltliner.

The road takes an awful and sudden dive downwards, quite irrespective
of the carefully engineered post-track. At this season the path is
badly broken into ruts and chasms by the wine traffic. In some places
it was indubitably perilous: a narrow ledge of mere ice skirting
thinly clad hard-frozen banks of snow, which fell precipitately
sideways for hundreds of sheer feet. We did not slip over this
parapet, though we were often within an inch of doing so. Had our
horse stumbled, it is not probable that I should have been writing
this.

When we came to the galleries which defend the road from avalanches,
we saw ahead of us a train of over forty sledges ascending, all
charged with Valtelline wine. Our postillions drew up at the inner
side of the gallery, between massive columns of the purest ice
dependent from the rough-hewn roof and walls of rock. A sort of open
_loggia_ on the farther side framed vignettes of the Valtelline
mountains in their hard cerulean shadows and keen sunlight. Between
us and the view defiled the wine-sledges; and as each went by, the
men made us drink out of their _trinketti_. These are oblong,
hexagonal wooden kegs, holding about fourteen litres, which the carter
fills with wine before he leaves the Valtelline, to cheer him on the
homeward journey. You raise it in both hands, and when the bung has
been removed, allow the liquor to flow stream-wise down your throat.
It was a most extraordinary Bacchic procession--a pomp which, though
undreamed of on the banks of the Ilissus, proclaimed the deity of
Dionysos in authentic fashion. Struggling horses, grappling at the
ice-bound floor with sharp-spiked shoes; huge, hoarse drivers, some
clad in sheepskins from Italian valleys, some brown as bears in rough
Graubünden homespun; casks, dropping their spilth of red wine on the
snow; greetings, embracings; patois of Bergamo, Romansch, and German
roaring around the low-browed vaults and tingling ice pillars;
pourings forth of libations of the new strong Valtelline on breasts
and beards;--the whole made up a scene of stalwart jollity and
manful labour such as I have nowhere else in such wild circumstances
witnessed. Many Davosers were there, the men of Andreas Gredig, Valär,
and so forth; and all of these, on greeting Christian, forced us to
drain a _Schluck_ from their unmanageable cruses. Then on they
went, crying, creaking, struggling, straining through the corridor,
which echoed deafeningly, the gleaming crystals of those hard Italian
mountains in their winter raiment building a background of still
beauty to the savage Bacchanalian riot of the team.

How little the visitors who drink Valtelline wine at S. Moritz or
Davos reflect by what strange ways it reaches them. A sledge can
scarcely be laden with more than one cask of 300 litres on the ascent;
and this cask, according to the state of the road, has many times to
be shifted from wheels to runners and back again before the journey
is accomplished. One carter will take charge of two horses, and
consequently of two sledges and two casks, driving them both by voice
and gesture rather than by rein. When they leave the Valtelline, the
carters endeavour, as far as possible, to take the pass in gangs, lest
bad weather or an accident upon the road should overtake them singly.
At night they hardly rest three hours, and rarely think of sleeping,
but spend the time in drinking and conversation. The horses are fed
and littered; but for them too the night-halt is little better than
a baiting-time. In fair weather the passage of the mountain is not
difficult, though tiring. But woe to men and beasts alike if they
encounter storms! Not a few perish in the passes; and it frequently
happens that their only chance is to unyoke the horses and leave the
sledges in a snow-wreath, seeking for themselves such shelter as
may possibly be gained, frost-bitten, after hours of battling with
impermeable drifts. The wine is frozen into one solid mass of rosy ice
before it reaches Pontresina. This does not hurt the young vintage,
but it is highly injurious to wine of some years' standing. The perils
of the journey are aggravated by the savage temper of the drivers.
Jealousies between the natives of rival districts spring up; and there
are men alive who have fought the whole way down from Fluela Hospice
to Davos Platz with knives and stones, hammers and hatchets, wooden
staves and splintered cart-wheels, staining the snow with blood, and
bringing broken pates, bruised limbs, and senseless comrades home to
their women to be tended.

Bacchus Alpinus shepherded his train away from us to northward, and we
passed forth into noonday from the gallery. It then seemed clear that
both conductor and postillion were sufficiently merry. The plunge they
took us down those frozen parapets, with shriek and _jauchzen_
and cracked whips, was more than ever dangerous. Yet we reached La
Rosa safely. This is a lovely solitary spot, beside a rushing stream,
among grey granite boulders grown with spruce and rhododendron: a
veritable rose of Sharon blooming in the desert. The wastes of the
Bernina stretch above, and round about are leaguered some of the most
forbidding sharp-toothed peaks I ever saw. Onwards, across the silent
snow, we glided in immitigable sunshine, through opening valleys and
pine-woods, past the robber-huts of Pisciadella, until at evenfall we
rested in the roadside inn at Poschiavo.

IV

The snow-path ended at Poschiavo; and when, as usual, we started on
our journey next day at sunrise, it was in a carriage upon wheels.
Yet even here we were in full midwinter. Beyond Le Prese the lake
presented one sheet of smooth black ice, reflecting every peak and
chasm of the mountains, and showing the rocks and water-weeds in the
clear green depths below. The glittering floor stretched away for
acres of untenanted expanse, with not a skater to explore those dark
mysterious coves, or strike across the slanting sunlight poured
from clefts in the impendent hills. Inshore the substance of the
ice sparkled here and there with iridescence like the plumelets of
a butterfly's wing under the microscope, wherever light happened to
catch the jagged or oblique flaws that veined its solid crystal.

From the lake the road descends suddenly for a considerable distance
through a narrow gorge, following a torrent which rushes among granite
boulders. Chestnut trees begin to replace the pines. The sunnier
terraces are planted with tobacco, and at a lower level vines appear
at intervals in patches. One comes at length to a great red gate
across the road, which separates Switzerland from Italy, and where the
export dues on wine are paid. The Italian custom-house is
romantically perched above the torrent. Two courteous and elegant
_finanzieri_, mere boys, were sitting wrapped in their military
cloaks and reading novels in the sun as we drove up. Though they made
some pretence of examining the luggage, they excused themselves with
sweet smiles and apologetic eyes--it was a disagreeable duty!

A short time brought us to the first village in the Valtelline,
where the road bifurcates northward to Bormio and the Stelvio pass,
southward to Sondrio and Lombardy. It is a little hamlet, known by
the name of La Madonna di Tirano, having grown up round a pilgrimage
church of great beauty, with tall Lombard bell-tower, pierced with
many tiers of pilastered windows, ending in a whimsical spire, and
dominating a fantastic cupola building of the earlier Renaissance.
Taken altogether, this is a charming bit of architecture,
picturesquely set beneath the granite snow-peaks of the Valtelline.
The church, they say, was raised at Madonna's own command to stay the
tide of heresy descending from the Engadine; and in the year 1620, the
bronze statue of S. Michael, which still spreads wide its wings above
the cupola, looked down upon the massacre of six hundred Protestants
and foreigners, commanded by the patriot Jacopo Robustelli.

From Madonna the road leads up the valley through a narrow avenue of
poplar-trees to the town of Tirano. We were now in the district where
Forzato is made, and every vineyard had a name and history. In Tirano
we betook ourself to the house of an old acquaintance of the Buol
family, Bernardo da Campo, or, as the Graubündeners call him, Bernard
Campbèll. We found him at dinner with his son and grandchildren in a
vast, dark, bare Italian chamber. It would be difficult to find a more
typical old Scotchman of the Lowlands than he looked, with his clean
close-shaven face, bright brown eyes, and snow-white hair escaping
from a broad-brimmed hat. He might have sat to a painter for some
Covenanter's portrait, except that there was nothing dour about him,
or for an illustration to Burns's 'Cotter's Saturday Night.' The air
of probity and canniness combined with a twinkle of dry humour was
completely Scotch; and when he tapped his snuff-box, telling stories
of old days, I could not refrain from asking him about his pedigree.
It should be said that there is a considerable family of Campèlls or
Campbèlls in the Graubünden, who are fabled to deduce their stock from
a Scotch Protestant of Zwingli's time; and this made it irresistible
to imagine that in our friend Bernardo I had chanced upon a notable
specimen of atavism. All he knew, however, was, that his first
ancestor had been a foreigner, who came across the mountains to Tirano
two centuries ago.[3]

This old gentleman is a considerable wine-dealer. He sent us with his
son, Giacomo, on a long journey underground through his cellars, where
we tasted several sorts of Valtelline, especially the new Forzato,
made a few weeks since, which singularly combines sweetness with
strength, and both with a slight effervescence. It is certainly the
sort of wine wherewith to tempt a Polyphemus, and not unapt to turn a
giant's head.

Leaving Tirano, and once more passing through the poplars by Madonna,
we descended the valley all along the vineyards of Villa and the vast
district of Sassella. Here and there, at wayside inns, we stopped to
drink a glass of some particular vintage; and everywhere it seemed as
though god Bacchus were at home. The whole valley on the right side of
the Adda is one gigantic vineyard, climbing the hills in tiers and
terraces, which justify its Italian epithet of _Teatro di Bacco_. The
rock is a greyish granite, assuming sullen brown and orange tints
where exposed to sun and weather. The vines are grown on stakes, not
trellised over trees or carried across boulders, as is the fashion at
Chiavenna or Terlan. Yet every advantage of the mountain is adroitly
used; nooks and crannies being specially preferred, where the sun's
rays are deflected from hanging cliffs. The soil seems deep, and is of
a dull yellow tone. When the vines end, brushwood takes up the growth,
which expires at last in crag and snow. Some alps and chalets, dimly
traced against the sky, are evidences that a pastoral life prevails
above the vineyards. Pan there stretches the pine-thyrsus down to
vine-garlanded Dionysos.

The Adda flows majestically among willows in the midst, and the valley
is nearly straight. The prettiest spot, perhaps, is at Tresenda or
S. Giacomo, where a pass from Edolo and Brescia descends from the
southern hills. But the Valtelline has no great claim to beauty of
scenery. Its chief town, Sondrio, where we supped and drank some
special wine called _il vino de' Signori Grigioni_, has been
modernised in dull Italian fashion.

V

The hotel at Sondrio, La Maddalena, was in carnival uproar of
masquers, topers, and musicians all night through. It was as much as
we could do to rouse the sleepy servants and get a cup of coffee
ere we started in the frozen dawn. 'Verfluchte Maddalena!' grumbled
Christian as he shouldered our portmanteaus and bore them in hot haste
to the post. Long experience only confirms the first impression, that,
of all cold, the cold of an Italian winter is most penetrating. As
we lumbered out of Sondrio in a heavy diligence, I could have fancied
myself back once again at Radicofani or among the Ciminian hills. The
frost was penetrating. Fur-coats would not keep it out; and we longed
to be once more in open sledges on Bernina rather than enclosed in
that cold coupé. Now we passed Grumello, the second largest of the
renowned vine districts; and always keeping the white mass of Monte di
Disgrazia in sight, rolled at last into Morbegno. Here the Valtelline
vintage properly ends, though much of the ordinary wine is probably
supplied from the inferior produce of these fields. It was past
noon when we reached Colico, and saw the Lake of Como glittering in
sunlight, dazzling cloaks of snow on all the mountains, which look as
dry and brown as dead beech-leaves at this season. Our Bacchic journey
had reached its close; and it boots not here to tell in detail how we
made our way across the Splügen, piercing its avalanches by low-arched
galleries scooped from the solid snow, and careering in our sledges
down perpendicular snow-fields, which no one who has crossed that
pass from the Italian side in winter will forget. We left the refuge
station at the top together with a train of wine-sledges, and passed
them in the midst of the wild descent. Looking back, I saw two of
their horses stumble in the plunge and roll headlong over. Unluckily
in one of these somersaults a man was injured. Flung ahead into the
snow by the first lurch, the sledge and wine-cask crossed him like a
garden-roller. Had his bed not been of snow, he must have been crushed
to death; and as it was, he presented a woeful appearance when he
afterwards arrived at Splügen.

VI

Though not strictly connected with the subject of this paper, I shall
conclude these notes of winter wanderings in the high Alps with an
episode which illustrates their curious vicissitudes.

It was late in the month of March, and nearly all the mountain roads
were open for wheeled vehicles. A carriage and four horses came to
meet us at the termination of a railway journey in Bagalz. We spent
one day in visiting old houses of the Grisons aristocracy at Mayenfeld
and Zizers, rejoicing in the early sunshine, which had spread the
fields with spring flowers--primroses and oxlips, violets, anemones,
and bright blue squills. At Chur we slept, and early next morning
started for our homeward drive to Davos. Bad weather had declared
itself in the night. It blew violently, and the rain soon changed to
snow, frozen by a bitter north blast. Crossing the dreary heath of
Lenz was both magnificent and dreadful. By the time we reached Wiesen,
all the forests were laden with snow, the roads deep in snow-drifts,
the whole scene wintrier than it had been the winter through.

At Wiesen we should have stayed, for evening was fast setting in. But
in ordinary weather it is only a two hours drive from Wiesen to Davos.
Our coachman made no objections to resuming the journey, and our four
horses had but a light load to drag. So we telegraphed for supper to
be prepared, and started between five and six.

A deep gorge has to be traversed, where the torrent cleaves its way
between jaws of limestone precipices. The road is carried along ledges
and through tunnels in the rock. Avalanches, which sweep this passage
annually from the hills above, give it the name of Züge, or the
Snow-Paths. As we entered the gorge darkness fell, the horses dragged
more heavily, and it soon became evident that our Tyrolese driver was
hopelessly drunk. He nearly upset us twice by taking sharp turns in
the road, banged the carriage against telegraph posts and jutting
rocks, shaved the very verge of the torrent in places where there
was no parapet, and, what was worst of all, refused to leave his box
without a fight. The darkness by this time was all but total, and a
blinding snow-storm swept howling through the ravine. At length we
got the carriage to a dead-stop, and floundered out in deep wet
snow toward some wooden huts where miners in old days made their
habitation. The place, by a curious, perhaps unconscious irony, is
called Hoffnungsau, or the Meadow of Hope. Indeed, it is not ill
named; for many wanderers, escaping, as we did, from the dreadful
gorge of Avalanches on a stormy night, may have felt, as we now felt,
their hope reviving when they reached this shelter.

There was no light; nothing above, beneath, around, on any side, but
tearing tempest and snow whirled through the ravine. The horses
were taken out of the carriage; on their way to the stable, which
fortunately in these mountain regions will be always found beside the
poorest habitation, one of them fell back across a wall and nearly
broke his spine. Hoffnungsau is inhabited all through the year. In its
dismal dark kitchen we found a knot of workmen gathered together, and
heard there were two horses on the premises besides our own. It then
occurred to us that we might accomplish the rest of the journey with
such sledges as they bring the wood on from the hills in winter, if
coal-boxes or boxes of any sort could be provided. These should be
lashed to the sledges and filled with hay. We were only four persons;
my wife and a friend should go in one, myself and my little girl in
the other. No sooner thought of than put into practice. These original
conveyances were improvised, and after two hours' halt on the Meadow
of Hope, we all set forth again at half-past eight.

I have rarely felt anything more piercing than the grim cold of that
journey. We crawled at a foot's pace through changeful snow-drifts.
The road was obliterated, and it was my duty to keep a petroleum
stable-lamp swinging to illuminate the untracked wilderness. My little
girl was snugly nested in the hay, and sound asleep with a deep white
covering of snow above her. Meanwhile, the drift clave in frozen
masses to our faces, lashed by a wind so fierce and keen that it
was difficult to breathe it. My forehead-bone ached, as though with
neuralgia, from the mere mask of icy snow upon it, plastered on with
frost. Nothing could be seen but millions of white specks, whirled
at us in eddying concentric circles. Not far from the entrance to the
village we met our house-folk out with lanterns to look for us. It was
past eleven at night when at last we entered warm rooms and refreshed
ourselves for the tiring day with a jovial champagne supper. Horses,
carriage, and drunken driver reached home next morning.

       *       *       *       *       *



OLD TOWNS OF PROVENCE


Travellers journeying southward from Paris first meet with olive-trees
near Montdragon or Monsélimart--little towns, with old historic names,
upon the road to Orange. It is here that we begin to feel ourselves
within the land of Provence, where the Romans found a second Italy,
and where the autumn of their antique civilisation was followed,
almost without an intermediate winter of barbarism, by the light and
delicate springtime of romance. Orange itself is full of Rome. Indeed,
the ghost of the dead empire seems there to be more real and living
than the actual flesh and blood of modern time, as represented by
narrow dirty streets and mean churches. It is the shell of the huge
theatre, hollowed from the solid hill, and fronted with a wall that
seems made rather to protect a city than to form a sounding-board for
a stage, which first tells us that we have reached the old Arausio. Of
all theatres this is the most impressive, stupendous, indestructible,
the Colosseum hardly excepted; for in Rome herself we are prepared
for something gigantic, while in the insignificant Arausio--a sort
of antique Tewkesbury--to find such magnificence, durability, and
vastness, impresses one with a nightmare sense that the old lioness
of Empire can scarcely yet be dead. Standing before the colossal,
towering, amorphous precipice which formed the background of the
scena, we feel as if once more the 'heart-shaking sound of Consul
Romanus' might be heard; as if Roman knights and deputies, arisen from
the dead, with faces hard and stern as those of the warriors carved on
Trajan's frieze, might take their seats beneath us in the orchestra,
and, after proclamation made, the mortmain of imperial Rome be laid
upon the comforts, liberties, and little gracefulnesses of our modern
life. Nor is it unpleasant to be startled from such reverie by the
voice of the old guardian upon the stage beneath, sonorously devolving
the vacuous Alexandrines with which he once welcomed his ephemeral
French emperor from Algiers. The little man is dim with distance,
eclipsed and swallowed up by the shadows and grotesque fragments of
the ruin in the midst of which he stands. But his voice--thanks to the
inimitable constructive art of the ancient architect, which, even
in the desolation of at least thirteen centuries, has not lost its
cunning-emerges from the pigmy throat, and fills the whole vast hollow
with its clear, if tiny, sound. Thank heaven, there is no danger of
Roman resurrection here! The illusion is completely broken, and we
turn to gather the first violets of February, and to wonder at the
quaint postures of a praying mantis on the grass grown tiers and
porches fringed with fern.

The sense of Roman greatness which is so oppressive in Orange and in
many other parts of Provence, is not felt at Avignon. Here we exchange
the ghost of Imperial for the phantom of Ecclesiastical Rome. The
fixed epithet of Avignon is Papal; and as the express train rushes
over its bleak and wind-tormented plain, the heavy dungeon-walls and
battlemented towers of its palace fortress seem to warn us off, and
bid us quickly leave the Babylon of exiled impious Antichrist. Avignon
presents the bleakest, barest, greyest scene upon a February morning,
when the incessant mistral is blowing, and far and near, upon desolate
hillside and sandy plain, the scanty trees are bent sideways, the
crumbling castle turrets shivering like bleached skeletons in the dry
ungenial air. Yet inside the town, all is not so dreary. The Papal
palace, with its terrible Glacière, its chapel painted by Simone
Memmi, its endless corridors and staircases, its torture-chamber,
funnel-shaped to drown and suffocate--so runs tradition--the shrieks
of wretches on the rack, is now a barrack, filled with lively little
French soldiers, whose politeness, though sorely taxed, is never
ruffled by the introduction of inquisitive visitors into their
dormitories, eating-places, and drill-grounds. And strange, indeed,
it is to see the lines of neat narrow barrack beds, between which the
red-legged little men are shaving, polishing their guns, or mending
their trousers, in those vaulted halls of popes and cardinals, those
vast presence-chambers and audience-galleries, where Urban entertained
S. Catherine, where Rienzi came, a prisoner, to be stared at. Pass by
the Glacière with a shudder, for it has still the reek of blood about
it; and do not long delay in the cheerless dungeon of Rienzi. Time and
regimental whitewash have swept these lurking-places of old crime very
bare; but the parable of the seven devils is true in more senses than
one, and the ghosts that return to haunt a deodorised, disinfected,
garnished sepulchre are almost more ghastly than those which have
never been disturbed from their old habitations.

Little by little the eye becomes accustomed to the bareness and
greyness of this Provençal landscape; and then we find that the
scenery round Avignon is eminently picturesque. The view from Les
Doms--which is a hill above the Pope's palace, the Acropolis, as it
were, of Avignon--embraces a wide stretch of undulating champaign,
bordered by low hills, and intersected by the flashing waters of the
majestic Rhone. Across the stream stands Villeneuve, like a castle
of romance, with its round stone towers fronting the gates and
battlemented walls of the Papal city. A bridge used to connect the two
towns, but it is now broken. The remaining fragment is of solid build,
resting on great buttresses, one of which rises fantastically above
the bridge into a little chapel. Such, one might fancy, was the
bridge which Ariosto's Rodomonte kept on horse against the Paladins of
Charlemagne, when angered by the loss of his love. Nor is it difficult
to imagine Bradamante spurring up the slope against him with her magic
lance in rest, and tilting him into the tawny waves beneath.

On a clear October morning, when the vineyards are taking their last
tints of gold and crimson, and the yellow foliage of the poplars by
the river mingles with the sober greys of olive-trees and willows,
every square inch of this landscape, glittering as it does with light
and with colour, the more beautiful for its subtlety and rarity, would
make a picture. Out of many such vignettes let us choose one. We are
on the shore close by the ruined bridge, the rolling muddy Rhone in
front; beyond it, by the towing-path, a tall strong cypress-tree rises
beside a little house, and next to it a crucifix twelve feet or more
in height, the Christ visible afar, stretched upon His red cross;
arundo donax is waving all around, and willows near; behind, far off,
soar the peaked hills, blue and pearled with clouds; past the cypress,
on the Rhone, comes floating a long raft, swift through the stream,
its rudder guided by a score of men: one standing erect upon the prow
bends forward to salute the cross; on flies the raft, the tall reeds
rustle, and the cypress sleeps.

For those who have time to spare in going to or from the south it
is worth while to spend a day or two in the most comfortable and
characteristic of old French inns, the Hôtel de l'Europe, at Avignon.
Should it rain, the museum of the town is worth a visit. It contains
Horace Vernet's not uncelebrated picture of Mazeppa, and another, less
famous, but perhaps more interesting, by swollen-cheeked David, the
'genius in convulsion,' as Carlyle has christened him. His canvas
is unfinished. Who knows what cry of the Convention made the painter
fling his palette down and leave the masterpiece he might have
spoiled? For in its way the picture is a masterpiece. There lies Jean
Barrad, drummer, aged fourteen, slain in La Vendée, a true patriot,
who, while his life-blood flowed away, pressed the tricolor cockade
to his heart, and murmured 'Liberty!' David has treated his subject
classically. The little drummer-boy, though French enough in feature
and in feeling, lies, Greek-like, naked on the sand--a very Hyacinth
of the Republic, La Vendée's Ilioneus. The tricolor cockade and the
sentiment of upturned patriotic eyes are the only indications of his
being a hero in his teens, a citizen who thought it sweet to die for
France.

In fine weather a visit to Vaucluse should by no means be omitted,
not so much, perhaps, for Petrarch's sake as for the interest of the
drive, and for the marvel of the fountain of the Sorgues. For some
time after leaving Avignon you jog along the level country between
avenues of plane-trees; then comes a hilly ridge, on which the olives,
mulberries, and vineyards join their colours and melt subtly into
distant purple. After crossing this we reach L'Isle, an island
village girdled by the gliding Sorgues, overshadowed with gigantic
plane-boughs, and echoing to the plash of water dripped from mossy
fern-tufted millwheels. Those who expect Petrarch's Sorgues to be
some trickling poet's rill emerging from a damp grotto, may well be
astounded at the rush and roar of this azure river so close upon
its fountain-head. It has a volume and an arrow-like rapidity that
communicate the feeling of exuberance and life. In passing, let it not
be forgotten that it was somewhere or other in this 'chiaro fondo di
Sorga,' as Carlyle describes, that Jourdain, the hangman-hero of the
Glacière, stuck fast upon his pony when flying from his foes, and had
his accursed life, by some diabolical providence, spared for future
butcheries. On we go across the austere plain, between fields of
madder, the red roots of the 'garance' lying in swathes along the
furrows. In front rise ash-grey hills of barren rock, here and there
crimsoned with the leaves of the dwarf sumach. A huge cliff stands up
and seems to bar all passage. Yet the river foams in torrents at our
side. Whence can it issue? What pass or cranny in that precipice is
cloven for its escape? These questions grow in interest as we enter
the narrow defile of limestone rocks which leads to the cliff-barrier,
and find ourselves among the figs and olives of Vaucluse. Here is the
village, the little church, the ugly column to Petrarch's memory,
the inn, with its caricatures of Laura, and its excellent trout, the
bridge and the many-flashing, eddying Sorgues, lashed by millwheels,
broken by weirs, divided in its course, channelled and dyked, yet
flowing irresistibly and undefiled. Blue, purple, greened by moss and
water-weeds, silvered by snow-white pebbles, on its pure smooth bed
the river runs like elemental diamond, so clear and fresh. The rocks
on either side are grey or yellow, terraced into oliveyards, with here
and there a cypress, fig, or mulberry tree. Soon the gardens cease,
and lentisk, rosemary, box, and ilex--shrubs of Provence--with here
and there a sumach out of reach, cling to the hard stone. And so at
last we are brought face to face with the sheer impassable precipice.
At its basement sleeps a pool, perfectly untroubled; a lakelet in
which the sheltering rocks and nestling wild figs are glassed as in a
mirror--a mirror of blue-black water, like amethyst or fluor-spar--so
pure, so still, that where it laps the pebbles you can scarcely say
where air begins and water ends. This, then, is Petrarch's 'grotto;'
this is the fountain of Vaucluse. Up from its deep reservoirs, from
the mysterious basements of the mountain, wells the silent stream;
pauseless and motionless it fills its urn, rises unruffled, glides
until the brink is reached, then overflows, and foams, and dashes
noisily, a cataract, among the boulders of the hills. Nothing at
Vaucluse is more impressive than the contrast between the tranquil
silence of the fountain and the roar of the released impetuous river.
Here we can realise the calm clear eyes of sculptured water-gods,
their brimming urns, their gushing streams, the magic of the
mountain-born and darkness-cradled flood. Or again, looking up at the
sheer steep cliff, 800 feet in height, and arching slightly roofwise,
so that no rain falls upon the cavern of the pool, we seem to see the
stroke of Neptune's trident, the hoof of Pegasus, the force of Moses'
rod, which cleft rocks and made water gush forth in the desert. There
is a strange fascination in the spot. As our eyes follow the white
pebble which cleaves the surface and falls visibly, until the veil
of azure is too thick for sight to pierce, we feel as if some glamour
were drawing us, like Hylas, to the hidden caves. At least, we long to
yield a prized and precious offering to the spring, to grace the nymph
of Vaucluse with a pearl of price as token of our reverence and love.

Meanwhile nothing has been said about Petrarch, who himself said much
about the spring, and complained against those very nymphs to whom we
have in wish, at least, been scattering jewels, that they broke his
banks and swallowed up his gardens every winter. At Vaucluse Petrarch
loved, and lived, and sang. He has made Vaucluse famous, and will
never be forgotten there. But for the present the fountain is even
more attractive than the memory of the poet.[4]

The change from Avignon to Nismes is very trying to the latter place;
for Nismes is not picturesquely or historically interesting. It is a
prosperous modern French town with two almost perfect Roman
monuments--Les Arènes and the Maison Carrée. The amphitheatre is a
complete oval, visible at one glance. Its smooth white stone, even
where it has not been restored, seems unimpaired by age; and Charles
Martel's conflagration, when he burned the Saracen hornet's nest
inside it, has only blackened the outer walls and arches venerably.
Utility and perfect adaptation of means to ends form the beauty of
Roman buildings. The science of construction and large intelligence
displayed in them, their strength, simplicity, solidity, and purpose,
are their glory. Perhaps there is only one modern edifice--Palladio's
Palazzo della Ragione at Vicenza--which approaches the dignity and
loftiness of Roman architecture; and this it does because of its
absolute freedom from ornament, the vastness of its design, and the
durability of its material. The temple, called the Maison Carrée, at
Nismes, is also very perfect, and comprehended at one glance. Light,
graceful, airy, but rather thin and narrow, it reminds one of the
temple of Fortuna Virilis at Rome.

But if Nismes itself is not picturesque, its environs contain the
wonderful Pont du Gard. A two or three hours' drive leads through a
desolate country to the valley of the Cardon, where suddenly, at a
turn of the road, one comes upon the aqueduct. It is not within the
scope of words to describe the impression produced by those vast
arches, row above row, cutting the deep blue sky. The domed summer
clouds sailing across them are comprehended in the gigantic span of
their perfect semicircles, which seem rather to have been described
by Miltonic compasses of Deity than by merely human mathematics. Yet,
standing beneath one of the vaults and looking upward, you may read
Roman numerals in order from I. to X., which prove their human origin
well enough. Next to their strength, regularity, and magnitude, the
most astonishing point about this triple tier of arches, piled one
above the other to a height of 180 feet above a brawling stream
between two barren hills, is their lightness. The arches are not
thick; the causeway on the top is only just broad enough for three men
to walk abreast. So smooth and perpendicular are the supporting walls
that scarcely a shrub or tuft of grass has grown upon the aqueduct
in all these years. And yet the huge fabric is strengthened by no
buttress, has needed no repair. This lightness of structure, combined
with such prodigious durability, produces the strongest sense of
science and self-reliant power in the men who designed it. None but
Romans could have built such a monument, and have set it in such a
place--a wilderness of rock and rolling hill, scantily covered with
low brushwood, and browsed over by a few sheep--for such a purpose,
too, in order to supply Nemausus with pure water. The modern town does
pretty well without its water; but here subsists the civilisation
of eighteen centuries past intact: the human labour yet remains,
the measuring, contriving mind of man, shrinking from no obstacles,
spanning the air, and in one edifice combining gigantic strength and
perfect beauty. It is impossible not to echo Rousseau's words in such
a place, and to say with him: 'Le retentissement de mes pas dans ces
immenses voûtes me faisait croire entendre la forte voix de ceux
qui les avaient bâties. Je me perdais comme un insecte dans cette
immensité. Je sentais, tout en me faisant petit, je ne sais quoi
qui m'élevait l'âme; et je me disais en soupirant, Que ne suis-je né
Romain!'

There is nothing at Arles which produces the same deep and indelible
impression. Yet Arles is a far more interesting town than Nismes,
partly because of the Rhone delta which begins there, partly because
of its ruinous antiquity, and partly also because of the strong local
character of its population. The amphitheatre of Arles is vaster and
more sublime in its desolation than the tidy theatre at Nismes; the
crypts, and dens, and subterranean passages suggest all manner of
speculation as to the uses to which they may have been appropriated;
while the broken galleries outside, intricate and black and cavernous,
like Piranesi's etchings of the 'Carceri,' present the wildest
pictures of greatness in decay, fantastic dilapidation. The ruins of
the smaller theatre, again, with their picturesquely grouped fragments
and their standing columns, might be sketched for a frontispiece to
some dilettante work on classical antiquities. For the rest, perhaps
the Aliscamps, or ancient Roman burial-ground, is the most interesting
thing at Arles, not only because of Dante's celebrated lines in the
canto of 'Farinata:'--

  Si come ad Arli ove 'l Rodano stagna,
  Fanno i sepolcri tutto 'l loco varo;

but also because of the intrinsic picturesqueness of this avenue of
sepulchres beneath green trees upon a long soft grassy field.

But as at Avignon and Nismes, so also at Arles, one of the chief
attractions of the place lies at a distance, and requires a special
expedition. The road to Les Baux crosses a true Provençal desert where
one realises the phrase, 'Vieux comme les rochers de Provence,'--a
wilderness of grey stone, here and there worn into cart-tracks, and
tufted with rosemary, box, lavender, and lentisk. On the way it passes
the Abbaye de Mont Majeur, a ruin of gigantic size, embracing all
periods of architecture; where nothing seems to flourish now but
henbane and the wild cucumber, or to breathe but a mumble-toothed and
terrible old hag. The ruin stands above a desolate marsh, its vast
Italian buildings of Palladian splendour looking more forlorn in their
decay than the older and austerer mediæval towers, which rise up proud
and patient and defiantly erect beneath the curse of time. When at
length what used to be the castle town of Les Baux is reached, you
find a naked mountain of yellow sandstone, worn away by nature into
bastions and buttresses and coigns of vantage, sculptured by ancient
art into palaces and chapels, battlements and dungeons. Now art and
nature are confounded in one ruin. Blocks of masonry lie cheek by jowl
with masses of the rough-hewn rock; fallen cavern vaults are heaped
round fragments of fan-shaped spandrel and clustered column-shaft; the
doors and windows of old pleasure-rooms are hung with ivy and wild fig
for tapestry; winding staircases start midway upon the cliff, and lead
to vacancy. High overhead suspended in mid-air hang chambers--lady's
bower or poet's singing-room--now inaccessible, the haunt of hawks and
swallows. Within this rocky honeycomb--'cette ville en monolithe,'
as it has been aptly called, for it is literally scooped out of one
mountain block--live about two hundred poor people, foddering their
wretched goats at carved piscina and stately sideboards, erecting mud
beplastered hovels in the halls of feudal princes. Murray is wrong in
calling the place a mediæval town in its original state, for anything
more purely ruinous, more like a decayed old cheese, cannot possibly
be conceived. The living only inhabit the tombs of the dead. At
the end of the last century, when revolutionary effervescence was
beginning to ferment, the people of Arles swept all its feudality
away, defacing the very arms upon the town gate, and trampling the
palace towers to dust.

The castle looks out across a vast extent of plain over Arles, the
stagnant Rhone, the Camargue, and the salt pools of the lingering sea.
In old days it was the eyrie of an eagle race called Seigneurs of Les
Baux; and whether they took their title from the rock, or whether,
as genealogists would have it, they gave the name of Oriental
Balthazar--their reputed ancestor, one of the Magi--to the rock
itself, remains a mystery not greatly worth the solving.

Anyhow, here they lived and flourished, these feudal princes, bearing
for their ensign a silver comet of sixteen rays upon a field of
gules--themselves a comet race, baleful to the neighbouring lowlands,
blazing with lurid splendour over wide tracts of country, a burning,
raging, fiery-souled, swift-handed tribe, in whom a flame unquenchable
glowed from son to sire through twice five hundred years until, in
the sixteenth century, they were burned out, and nothing remained but
cinders--these broken ruins of their eyrie, and some outworn and dusty
titles. Very strange are the fate and history of these same titles:
King of Arles, for instance, savouring of troubadour and high romance;
Prince of Tarentum, smacking of old plays and Italian novels; Prince
of Orange, which the Nassaus, through the Châlons, seized in all its
emptiness long after the real principality had passed away, and came
therewith to sit on England's throne.

The Les Baux in their heyday were patterns of feudal nobility. They
warred incessantly with Counts of Provence, archbishops and burghers
of Arles, Queens of Naples, Kings of Aragon. Crusading, pillaging,
betraying, spending their substance on the sword, and buying it again
by deeds of valour or imperial acts of favour, tuning troubadour
harps, presiding at courts of love,--they filled a large page in the
history of Southern France. The Les Baux were very superstitious. In
the fulness of their prosperity they restricted the number of their
dependent towns, or _places baussenques_, to seventy-nine,
because these numbers in combination were thought to be of good omen
to their house. Beral des Baux, Seigneur of Marseilles, was one day
starting on a journey with his whole force to Avignon. He met an old
woman herb-gathering at daybreak, and said, 'Mother, hast thou seen
a crow or other bird?' 'Yea,' answered the crone, 'on the trunk of a
dead willow.' Beral counted upon his fingers the day of the year, and
turned bridle. With troubadours of name and note they had dealings,
but not always to their own advantage, as the following story
testifies. When the Baux and Berengers were struggling for the
countship of Provence, Raymond Berenger, by his wife's counsel, went,
attended by troubadours, to meet the Emperor Frederick at Milan.
There he sued for the investiture and ratification of Provence. His
troubadours sang and charmed Frederick; and the Emperor, for the joy
he had in them, wrote his celebrated lines beginning--

  Plas mi cavalier Francez.

And when Berenger made his request he met with no refusal. Hearing
thereof, the lords of Baux came down in wrath with a clangour of armed
men. But music had already gained the day; and where the Phoebus of
Provence had shone, the Æolus of storm-shaken Les Baux was powerless.
Again, when Blacas, a knight of Provence, died, the great Sordello
chanted one of his most fiery hymns, bidding the princes of
Christendom flock round and eat the heart of the dead lord. 'Let
Rambaude des Baux,' cries the bard, with a sarcasm that is clearly
meant, but at this distance almost unintelligible, 'take also a good
piece, for she is fair and good and truly virtuous; let her keep it
well who knows so well to husband her own weal.' But the poets were
not always adverse to the house of Baux. Fouquet, the beautiful and
gentle melodist whom Dante placed in paradise, served Adelaisie, wife
of Berald, with long service of unhappy love, and wrote upon her
death 'The Complaint of Berald des Baux for Adelaisie.' Guillaume de
Cabestan loved Berangère des Baux, and was so loved by her that she
gave him a philtre to drink, whereof he sickened and grew mad. Many
more troubadours are cited as having frequented the castle of Les
Baux, and among the members of the princely house were several poets.

Some of them were renowned for beauty. We hear of a Cécile, called
Passe Rose, because of her exceeding loveliness; also of an unhappy
François, who, after passing eighteen years in prison, yet won the
grace and love of Joan of Naples by his charms. But the real temper of
this fierce tribe was not shown among troubadours, or in the courts of
love and beauty. The stern and barren rock from which they sprang, and
the comet of their scutcheon, are the true symbols of their nature.
History records no end of their ravages and slaughters. It is a
tedious catalogue of blood--how one prince put to fire and sword the
whole town of Courthezon; how another was stabbed in prison by his
wife; how a third besieged the castle of his niece, and sought to
undermine her chamber, knowing her the while to be in childbed; how a
fourth was flayed alive outside the walls of Avignon. There is nothing
terrible, splendid, and savage, belonging to feudal history, of which
an example may not be found in the annals of Les Baux, as narrated by
their chronicler, Jules Canonge.

However abrupt may seem the transition from these memories of
the ancient nobles of Les Baux to mere matters of travel and
picturesqueness, it would be impossible to take leave of the old
towns of Provence without glancing at the cathedrals of S. Trophime
at Arles, and of S. Gilles--a village on the border of the dreary
flamingo-haunted Camargue. Both of these buildings have porches
splendidly encrusted with sculptures, half classical, half mediæval,
marking the transition from ancient to modern art. But that of S.
Gilles is by far the richer and more elaborate. The whole façade of
this church is one mass of intricate decoration; Norman arches
and carved lions, like those of Lombard architecture, mingling
fantastically with Greek scrolls of fruit and flowers, with elegant
Corinthian columns jutting out upon the church steps, and with the old
conventional wave-border that is called Etruscan in our modern jargon.
From the midst of florid fret and foliage lean mild faces of saints
and Madonnas. Symbols of evangelists with half-human, half-animal
eyes and wings, are interwoven with the leafy bowers of cupids. Grave
apostles stand erect beneath acanthus wreaths that ought to crisp the
forehead of a laughing Faun or Bacchus. And yet so full, exuberant,
and deftly chosen are these various elements, that there remains no
sense of incongruity or discord. The mediæval spirit had much trouble
to disentangle itself from classic reminiscences; and fortunately for
the picturesqueness of S. Gilles, it did not succeed. How strangely
different is the result of this transition in the south from those
severe and rigid forms which we call Romanesque in Germany and
Normandy and England!

       *       *       *       *       *



THE CORNICE


It was a dull afternoon in February when we left Nice, and drove
across the mountains to Mentone. Over hill and sea hung a thick mist.
Turbia's Roman tower stood up in cheerless solitude, wreathed round
with driving vapour, and the rocky nest of Esa seemed suspended in
a chaos between sea and sky. Sometimes the fog broke and showed us
Villafranca, lying green and flat in the deep blue below: sometimes a
distant view of higher peaks swam into sight from the shifting cloud.
But the whole scene was desolate. Was it for this that we had left our
English home, and travelled from London day and night? At length we
reached the edge of the cloud, and jingled down by Roccabruna and the
olive-groves, till one by one Mentone's villas came in sight, and at
last we found ourselves at the inn door. That night, and all next day
and the next night, we heard the hoarse sea beat and thunder on the
beach. The rain and wind kept driving from the south, but we consoled
ourselves with thinking that the orange-trees and every kind of flower
were drinking in the moisture and waiting to rejoice in sunlight which
would come.

It was a Sunday morning when we woke and found that the rain had gone,
the sun was shining brightly on the sea, and a clear north wind was
blowing cloud and mist away. Out upon the hills we went, not caring
much what path we took; for everything was beautiful, and hill
and vale were full of garden walks. Through lemon-groves,--pale,
golden-tender trees,--and olives, stretching their grey boughs against
the lonely cottage tiles, we climbed, until we reached the pines and
heath above. Then I knew the meaning of Theocritus for the first time.
We found a well, broad, deep, and clear, with green herbs growing at
the bottom, a runlet flowing from it down the rocky steps, maidenhair,
black adiantum, and blue violets, hanging from the brink and mirrored
in the water. This was just the well in _Hylas_. Theocritus
has been badly treated. They call him a court poet, dead to Nature,
artificial in his pictures. Yet I recognised this fountain by his
verse, just as if he had showed me the very spot. Violets grow
everywhere, of every shade, from black to lilac. Their stalks are
long, and the flowers 'nod' upon them, so that I see how the Greeks
could make them into chaplets--how Lycidas wore his crown of white
violets[5] lying by the fireside elbow-deep in withered asphodel,
watching the chestnuts in the embers, and softly drinking deep healths
to Ageanax far off upon the waves. It is impossible to go wrong in
these valleys. They are cultivated to the height of about five hundred
feet above the sea, in terraces laboriously built up with walls,
earthed and manured, and irrigated by means of tanks and aqueducts.
Above this level, where the virgin soil has not been yet reclaimed,
or where the winds of winter bring down freezing currents from the
mountains through a gap or gully of the lower hills, a tangled growth
of heaths and arbutus, and pines, and rosemarys, and myrtles, continue
the vegetation, till it finally ends in bare grey rocks and peaks some
thousand feet in height. Far above all signs of cultivation on these
arid peaks, you still may see villages and ruined castles, built
centuries ago for a protection from the Moorish pirates. To these
mountain fastnesses the people of the coast retreated when they
descried the sails of their foes on the horizon. In Mentone, not very
long ago, old men might be seen who in their youth were said to have
been taken captive by the Moors; and many Arabic words have found
their way into the patois of the people.

There is something strangely fascinating in the sight of these ruins
on the burning rocks, with their black sentinel cypresses, immensely
tall and far away. Long years and rain and sunlight have made these
castellated eyries one with their native stone. It is hard to trace
in their foundations where Nature's workmanship ends and where man's
begins. What strange sights the mountain villagers must see! The vast
blue plain of the unfurrowed deep, the fairy range of Corsica hung
midway between the sea and sky at dawn or sunset, the stars so close
above their heads, the deep dew-sprinkled valleys, the green pines! On
penetrating into one of these hill-fortresses, you find that it is
a whole village, with a church and castle and piazza, some few feet
square, huddled together on a narrow platform. We met one day three
magnates of Gorbio taking a morning stroll backwards and forwards,
up and down their tiny square. Vehemently gesticulating, loudly
chattering, they talked as though they had not seen each other for ten
years, and were but just unloading their budgets of accumulated news.
Yet these three men probably had lived, eaten, drunk, and talked
together from the cradle to that hour: so true it is that use
and custom quicken all our powers, especially of gossiping and
scandal-mongering. S. Agnese is the highest and most notable of all
these villages. The cold and heat upon its absolutely barren rock
must be alike intolerable. In appearance it is not unlike the Etruscan
towns of Central Italy; but there is something, of course, far more
imposing in the immense antiquity and the historical associations of
a Narni, a Fiesole, a Chiusi, or an Orvieto. Sea-life and rusticity
strike a different note from that of those Apennine-girdled seats of
dead civilisation, in which nations, arts, and religions have gone by
and left but few traces,--some wrecks of giant walls, some excavated
tombs, some shrines, where monks still sing and pray above the relics
of the founders of once world-shaking, now almost forgotten, orders.
Here at Mentone there is none of this; the idyllic is the true note,
and Theocritus is still alive.

We do not often scale these altitudes, but keep along the terraced
glades by the side of olive-shaded streams. The violets, instead of
peeping shyly from hedgerows, fall in ripples and cascades over mossy
walls among maidenhair and spleen-worts. They are very sweet, and the
sound of trickling water seems to mingle with their fragrance in a
most delicious harmony. Sound, smell, and hue make up one chord, the
sense of which is pure and perfect peace. The country-people are
kind, letting us pass everywhere, so that we make our way along their
aqueducts and through their gardens, under laden lemon-boughs, the
pale fruit dangling at our ears, and swinging showers of scented dew
upon us as we pass. Far better, however, than lemon or orange trees,
are the olives. Some of these are immensely old, numbering, it is
said, five centuries, so that Petrarch may almost have rested beneath
their shade on his way to Avignon. These veterans are cavernous with
age: gnarled, split, and twisted trunks, throwing out arms that break
into a hundred branches; every branch distinct, and feathered with
innumerable sparks and spikelets of white, wavy, greenish light.
These are the leaves, and the stems are grey with lichens. The sky and
sea--two blues, one full of sunlight and the other purple--set these
fountains of perennial brightness like gems in lapis-lazuli. At a
distance the same olives look hoary and soft--a veil of woven light
or luminous haze. When the wind blows their branches all one way,
they ripple like a sea of silver. But underneath their covert, in
the shade, grey periwinkles wind among the snowy drift of allium. The
narcissus sends its arrowy fragrance through the air, while, far and
wide, red anemones burn like fire, with interchange of blue and lilac
buds, white arums, orchises, and pink gladiolus. Wandering there, and
seeing the pale flowers, stars white and pink and odorous, we dream
of Olivet, or the grave Garden of the Agony, and the trees seem always
whispering of sacred things. How people can blaspheme against the
olives, and call them imitations of the willow, or complain that they
are shabby shrubs, I do not know.[6]

This shore would stand for Shelley's Island of Epipsychidion, or
the golden age which Empedocles describes, when the mild nations
worshipped Aphrodite with incense and the images of beasts and
yellow honey, and no blood was spilt upon her altars--when 'the trees
flourished with perennial leaves and fruit, and ample crops adorned
their boughs through all the year.' This even now is literally true of
the lemon-groves, which do not cease to flower and ripen. Everything
fits in to complete the reproduction of Greek pastoral life. The goats
eat cytisus and myrtle on the shore; a whole flock gathered round me
as I sat beneath a tuft of golden green euphorbia the other day, and
nibbled bread from my hands. The frog still croaks by tank and
fountain, 'whom the Muses have ordained to sing for aye,' in
spite of Bion's death. The narcissus, anemone, and hyacinth still tell
their tales of love and death. Hesper still gazes on the shepherd
from the mountain-head. The slender cypresses still vibrate, the pines
murmur. Pan sleeps in noontide heat, and goat-herds and wayfaring
men lie down to slumber by the roadside, under olive-boughs in which
cicadas sing. The little villages high up are just as white, the
mountains just as grey and shadowy when evening falls. Nothing is
changed--except ourselves. I expect to find a statue of Priapus or
pastoral Pan, hung with wreaths of flowers--the meal cake, honey, and
spilt wine upon his altar, and young boys and maidens dancing round.
Surely, in some far-off glade, by the side of lemon-grove or garden,
near the village, there must be still a pagan remnant of glad
Nature-worship. Surely I shall chance upon some Thyrsis piping in the
pine-tree shade, or Daphne flying from the arms of Phoebus. So I dream
until I come upon the Calvary set on a solitary hillock, with its
prayer-steps lending a wide prospect across the olives and the
orange-trees, and the broad valleys, to immeasurable skies and purple
seas. There is the iron cross, the wounded heart, the spear, the reed,
the nails, the crown of thorns, the cup of sacrificial blood, the
title, with its superscription royal and divine. The other day we
crossed a brook and entered a lemon-field, rich with blossoms
and carpeted with red anemones. Everything basked in sunlight and
glittered with exceeding brilliancy of hue. A tiny white chapel stood
in a corner of the enclosure. Two iron-grated windows let me
see inside: it was a bare place, containing nothing but a wooden
praying-desk, black and worm-eaten, an altar with its candles and no
flowers, and above the altar a square picture brown with age. On the
floor were scattered several pence, and in a vase above the holy-water
vessel stood some withered hyacinths. As my sight became accustomed to
the gloom, I could see from the darkness of the picture a pale Christ
nailed to the cross with agonising upward eyes and ashy aureole above
the bleeding thorns. Thus I stepped suddenly away from the outward
pomp and bravery of nature to the inward aspirations, agonies,
and martyrdoms of man--from Greek legends of the past to the real
Christian present--and I remembered that an illimitable prospect has
been opened to the world, that in spite of ourselves we must turn our
eyes heavenward, inward, to the infinite unseen beyond us and within
our souls. Nothing can take us back to Phoebus or to Pan. Nothing
can again identify us with the simple natural earth. '_Une immense
espérance a traversé la terre_,' and these chapels, with their deep
significances, lurk in the fair landscape like the cares of real life
among our dreams of art, or like a fear of death and the hereafter in
the midst of opera music. It is a strange contrast. The worship of men
in those old times was symbolised by dances in the evening, banquets,
libations, and mirth-making. 'Euphrosyne' was alike the goddess of
the righteous mind and of the merry heart. Old withered women telling
their rosaries at dusk; belated shepherds crossing themselves beneath
the stars when they pass the chapel; maidens weighed down with
Margaret's anguish of unhappy love; youths vowing their life to
contemplation in secluded cloisters,--these are the human forms which
gather round such chapels; and the motto of the worshippers consists
in this, 'Do often violence to thy desire.' In the Tyrol we have seen
whole villages praying together at daybreak before their day's work,
singing their _Miserere_ and their _Gloria_ and their _Dies Iræ_, to
the sound of crashing organs and jangling bells; appealing in the
midst of Nature's splendour to the Spirit which is above Nature, which
dwells in darkness rather than light, and loves the yearnings and
contentions of our soul more than its summer gladness and peace. Even
the olives here tell more to us of Olivet and the Garden than of the
oil-press and the wrestling-ground. The lilies carry us to the Sermon
on the Mount, and teach humility, instead of summoning up some legend
of a god's love for a mortal. The hillside tanks and running streams,
and water-brooks swollen by sudden rain, speak of Palestine. We call
the white flowers stars of Bethlehem. The large sceptre-reed; the
fig-tree, lingering in barrenness when other trees are full of fruit;
the locust-beans of the Caruba:--for one suggestion of Greek idylls
there is yet another, of far deeper, dearer power.

But who can resist the influence of Greek ideas at the Cap S. Martin?
Down to the verge of the sea stretch the tall, twisted stems of Levant
pines, and on the caverned limestone breaks the deep blue water.
Dazzling as marble are these rocks, pointed and honeycombed with
constant dashing of the restless sea, tufted with corallines and grey
and purple seaweeds in the little pools, but hard and dry and rough
above tide level. Nor does the sea always lap them quietly; for the
last few days it has come tumbling in, roaring and raging on the beach
with huge waves crystalline in their transparency, and maned with
fleecy spray. Such were the rocks and such the swell of breakers when
Ulysses grasped the shore after his long swim. Samphire, very salt and
fragrant, grows in the rocky honeycomb; then lentisk and beach-loving
myrtle, both exceeding green and bushy; then rosemary and euphorbia
above the reach of spray. Fishermen, with their long reeds, sit lazily
perched upon black rocks above blue waves, sunning themselves as much
as seeking sport. One distant tip of snow, seen far away behind the
hills, reminds us of an alien, unremembered winter. While dreaming
there, this fancy came into my head: Polyphemus was born yonder in
the Gorbio Valley. There he fed his sheep and goats, and on the hills
found scanty pasture for his kine. He and his mother lived in the
white house by the cypress near the stream where tulips grow. Young
Galatea, nursed in the caverns of these rocks, white as the foam, and
shy as the sea fishes, came one morning up the valley to pick mountain
hyacinths, and little Polyphemus led the way. He knew where violets
and sweet narcissus grew, as well as Galatea where pink coralline
and spreading sea-flowers with their waving arms. But Galatea, having
filled her lap with bluebells, quite forgot the leaping kids, and
piping Cyclops, and cool summer caves, and yellow honey, and black
ivy, and sweet vine, and water cold as Alpine snow. Down the swift
streamlet she danced laughingly, and made herself once more bitter
with the sea. But Polyphemus remained,--hungry, sad, gazing on the
barren sea, and piping to the mockery of its waves.

Filled with these Greek fancies, it is strange to come upon a little
sandstone dell furrowed by trickling streams and overgrown with
English primroses; or to enter the village of Roccabruna, with its
mediæval castle and the motto on its walls, _Tempora labuntur
tacitisque senescimus annis_. A true motto for the town, where the
butcher comes but once a week, and where men and boys, and dogs, and
palms, and lemon-trees grow up and flourish and decay in the same
hollow of the sunny mountain-side. Into the hard conglomerate of the
hill the town is built; house walls and precipices mortised into one
another, dovetailed by the art of years gone by, and riveted by
age. The same plants grow from both alike--spurge, cistus, rue, and
henbane, constant to the desolation of abandoned dwellings. From the
castle you look down on roofs, brown tiles and chimney-pots, set one
above the other like a big card-castle. Each house has its foot on a
neighbour's neck, and its shoulder set against the native stone. The
streets meander in and out, and up and down, overarched and balconied,
but very clean. They swarm with children, healthy, happy, little
monkeys, who grow fat on salt fish and yellow polenta, with oil and
sun _ad libitum_.

At night from Roccabruna you may see the flaring gas-lamps of the
gaming-house at Monaco, that Armida's garden of the nineteenth
century. It is the sunniest and most sheltered spot of all the coast.
Long ago Lucan said of Monaco, '_Non Corus in illum jus habet aut
Zephyrus_;' winter never comes to nip its tangled cactuses, and
aloes, and geraniums. The air swoons with the scent of lemon-groves;
tall palm-trees wave their graceful branches by the shore; music of
the softest and the loudest swells from the palace; cool corridors
and sunny seats stand ready for the noontide heat or evening calm;
without, are olive-gardens, green and fresh and full of flowers. But
the witch herself holds her high court and never-ending festival of
sin in the painted banquet-halls and among the green tables.

Let us leave this scene and turn with the country-folk of Roccabruna
to S. Michael's Church at Mentone. High above the sea it stands,
and from its open doors you look across the mountains with their
olive-trees. Inside the church is a seething mass of country-folk and
townspeople, mostly women, and these almost all old, but picturesque
beyond description; kerchiefs of every colour, wrinkles of every shape
and depth, skins of every tone of brown and yellow, voices of every
gruffness, shrillness, strength, and weakness. Wherever an empty
corner can be found, it is soon filled by tottering babies and
mischievous children. The country-women come with their large dangling
earrings of thin gold, wearing pink tulips or lemon-buds in their
black hair. A low buzz of gossiping and mutual recognition keeps the
air alive. The whole service seems a holiday--a general enjoyment of
gala dresses and friendly greetings, very different from the
silence, immobility, and _noli me tangere_ aspect of an English
congregation. Over all drones, rattles, snores, and shrieks the organ;
wailing, querulous, asthmatic, incomplete, its everlasting nasal
chant--always beginning, never ending, through a range of two or three
notes ground into one monotony. The voices of the congregation
rise and sink above it. These southern people, like the Arabs, the
Apulians, and the Spaniards, seem to find their music in a hurdy-gurdy
swell of sound. The other day we met a little girl, walking and
spinning, and singing all the while, whose song was just another
version of this chant. It has a discontented plaintive wail, as if it
came from some vast age, and were a cousin of primeval winds.

At first sight, by the side of Mentone, San Remo is sadly prosaic. The
valleys seem to sprawl, and the universal olives are monotonously grey
upon their thick clay soil. Yet the wealth of flowers in the fat
earth is wonderful. One might fancy oneself in a weedy farm flower-bed
invaded by stray oats and beans and cabbages and garlic from the
kitchen-garden. The country does not suggest a single Greek idea.
It has no form or outline--no barren peaks, no spare and difficult
vegetation. The beauty is rich but tame--valleys green with oats and
corn, blossoming cherry-trees, and sweet bean-fields, figs coming into
leaf, and arrowy bay-trees by the side of sparkling streams: here and
there a broken aqueduct or rainbow bridge hung with maidenhair and
briar and clematis and sarsaparilla.

In the cathedral church of San Siro on Good Friday they hang the
columns and the windows with black; they cover the pictures and deface
the altar; above the high altar they raise a crucifix, and below they
place a catafalque with the effigy of the dead Christ. To this sad
symbol they address their prayers and incense, chant their 'litanies
and lurries,' and clash the rattles, which commemorate their rage
against the traitor Judas. So far have we already passed away from the
Greek feeling of Mentone. As I listened to the hideous din, I could
not but remember the Theocritean burial of Adonis. Two funeral beds
prepared: two feasts recurring in the springtime of the year. What a
difference beneath this superficial similarity--[Greek: kalos nekus
oia katheudôn]--_attritus ægrâ macie_. But the fast of Good
Friday is followed by the festival of Easter. That, after all, is the
chief difference.

After leaving the cathedral we saw a pretty picture in a dull old
street of San Remo--three children leaning from a window, blowing
bubbles. The bubbles floated down the street, of every colour, round
and trembling, like the dreams of life which children dream. The town
is certainly most picturesque. It resembles a huge glacier of houses
poured over a wedge of rock, running down the sides and along the
ridge, and spreading itself into a fan between two torrents on the
shore below. House over house, with balcony and staircase, convent
turret and church tower, palm-trees and olives, roof gardens and
clinging creepers--this white cataract of buildings streams downward
from the lazar-house, and sanctuary, and sandstone quarries on the
hill. It is a mass of streets placed close above each other, and
linked together with arms and arches of solid masonry, as a protection
from the earthquakes, which are frequent at San Remo. The walls are
tall, and form a labyrinth of gloomy passages and treacherous blind
alleys, where the Moors of old might meet with a ferocious welcome.
Indeed, San Remo is a fortress as well as a dwelling-place. Over its
gateways may still be traced the pipes for molten lead, and on its
walls the eyeloops for arrows, with brackets for the feet of archers.
Masses of building have been shaken down by earthquakes. The ruins of
what once were houses gape with blackened chimneys and dark forlorn
cellars; mazes of fungus and unhealthy weeds among the still secure
habitations. Hardly a ray of light penetrates the streets; one learns
the meaning of the Italian word _uggia_ from their cold and
gloom. During the day they are deserted by every one but babies and
witchlike old women--some gossiping, some sitting vacant at the house
door, some spinning or weaving, or minding little children--ugly and
ancient as are their own homes, yet clean as are the streets. The
younger population goes afield; the men on mules laden for the hills,
the women burdened like mules with heavy and disgusting loads. It is
an exceptionally good-looking race; tall, well-grown, and strong.--But
to the streets again. The shops in the upper town are few, chiefly
wine-booths and stalls for the sale of salt fish, eggs, and bread,
or cobblers' and tinkers' ware. Notwithstanding the darkness of their
dwellings, the people have a love of flowers; azaleas lean from their
windows, and vines, carefully protected by a sheath of brickwork,
climb the six stories, to blossom out into a pergola upon the roof.
Look at that mass of greenery and colours, dimly seen from beneath,
with a yellow cat sunning herself upon the parapet! To reach such a
garden and such sunlight who would not mount six stories and thread
a labyrinth of passages? I should prefer a room upon the east side of
the town, looking southward to the Molo and the sea, with a sound
of water beneath, and a palm soaring up to fan my window with his
feathery leaves.

The shrines are little spots of brightness in the gloomy streets.
Madonna with a sword; Christ holding His pierced and bleeding heart;
l'Eterno Padre pointing to the dead Son stretched upon His knee; some
souls in torment; S. Roch reminding us of old plagues by the spot upon
his thigh;--these are the symbols of the shrines. Before them stand
rows of pots filled with gillyflowers, placed there by pious, simple,
praying hands--by maidens come to tell their sorrows to our Lady rich
in sorrow, by old women bent and shrivelled, in hopes of paradise or
gratitude for happy days, when Madonna kept Cecchino faithful to his
home, or saved the baby from the fever.

Lower down, between the sea and the hill, is the municipal,
aristocratic, ecclesiastical quarter of San Remo. There stands the
Palace Borea--a truly princely pile, built in the last Renaissance
style of splendour, with sea-nymphs and dolphins, and satyric heads,
half lips, half leafage, round about its doors and windows. Once it
formed the dwelling of a feudal family, but now it is a roomy
anthill of a hundred houses, shops, and offices, the Boreas of to-day
retaining but a portion of one flat, and making profit of the rest.
There, too, are the barracks and the syndic's hall; the Jesuits'
school, crowded with boys and girls; the shops for clothes,
confectionery, and trinkets; the piazza, with its fountain and
tasselled planes, and flowery chestnut-trees, a mass of greenery.
Under these trees the idlers lounge, boys play at leap-frog, men at
bowls. Women in San Remo work all day, but men and boys play for the
most part at bowls or toss-penny or leap-frog or morra. San Siro, the
cathedral, stands at one end of the square. Do not go inside; it has
a sickly smell of immemorial incense and garlic, undefinable and
horrible. Far better looks San Siro from the parapet above the
torrent. There you see its irregular half-Gothic outline across a
tangle of lemon-trees and olives. The stream rushes by through high
walls, covered with creepers, spanned by ferny bridges, feathered by
one or two old tufty palms. And over all rises the ancient turret of
San Siro, like a Spanish giralda, a minaret of pinnacles and pyramids
and dome bubbles, with windows showing heavy bells, old clocks, and
sundials painted on the walls, and a cupola of green and yellow tiles
like serpent-scales, to crown the whole. The sea lies beyond, and
the house-roofs break it with grey horizontal lines. Then there are
convents, legions of them, large white edifices, Jesuitical apparently
for the most part, clanging importunate bells, leaning rose-blossoms
and cypress-boughs over their jealous walls.

Lastly, there is the port--the mole running out into the sea, the quay
planted with plane-trees, and the fishing-boats--by which San Remo is
connected with the naval glory of the past--with the Riviera that gave
birth to Columbus--with the Liguria that the Dorias ruled--with the
great name of Genoa. The port is empty enough now; but from the pier
you look back on San Remo and its circling hills, a jewelled town
set in illimitable olive greyness. The quay seems also to be the
cattle-market. There the small buff cows of North Italy repose after
their long voyage or march, kneeling on the sandy ground or rubbing
their sides against the wooden cross awry with age and shorn of all
its symbols. Lambs frisk among the boats; impudent kids nibble
the drooping ears of patient mules. Hinds in white jackets and
knee-breeches made of skins, lead shaggy rams and fiercely bearded
goats, ready to butt at every barking dog, and always seeking
opportunities of flight. Farmers and parish priests in black
petticoats feel the cattle and dispute about the price, or whet their
bargains with a draught of wine. Meanwhile the nets are brought on
shore glittering with the fry of sardines, which are cooked like
whitebait, with cuttlefish--amorphous objects stretching shiny feelers
on the hot dry sand--and prickly purple eggs of the sea-urchin. Women
go about their labour through the throng, some carrying stones upon
their heads, or unloading boats and bearing planks of wood in single
file, two marching side by side beneath one load of lime, others
scarcely visible under a stack of oats, another with her baby in its
cradle fast asleep.

San Remo has an elder brother among the hills, which is called San
Romolo, after one of the old bishops of Genoa. Who San Remo was is
buried in remote antiquity; but his town has prospered, while of San
Romolo nothing remains but a ruined hill-convent among pine-trees. The
old convent is worth visiting. Its road carries you into the heart of
the sierra which surrounds San Remo, a hill-country something like
the Jura, undulating and green to the very top with maritime pines and
pinasters. Riding up, you hear all manner of Alpine sounds; brawling
streams, tinkling cowbells, and herdsmen calling to each other on the
slopes. Beneath you lies San Remo, scarcely visible; and over it the
great sea rises ever so far into the sky, until the white sails hang
in air, and cloud and sea-line melt into each other indistinguishably.
Spanish chestnuts surround the monastery with bright blue gentians,
hepaticas, forget-me-nots, and primroses about their roots. The house
itself is perched on a knoll with ample prospect to the sea and to
the mountains, very near to heaven, within a theatre of noble
contemplations and soul-stirring thoughts. If Mentone spoke to me of
the poetry of Greek pastoral life, this convent speaks of mediæval
monasticism--of solitude with God, above, beneath, and all around, of
silence and repose from agitating cares, of continuity in prayer, and
changelessness of daily life. Some precepts of the _Imitatio_
came into my mind: 'Be never wholly idle; read or write, pray or
meditate, or work with diligence for the common needs.' 'Praiseworthy
is it for the religious man to go abroad but seldom, and to seem to
shun, and keep his eyes from men.' 'Sweet is the cell when it is often
sought, but if we gad about, it wearies us by its seclusion.' Then I
thought of the monks so living in this solitude; their cell windows
looking across the valley to the sea, through summer and winter, under
sun and stars. Then would they read or write, what long melodious
hours! or would they pray, what stations on the pine-clad hills! or
would they toil, what terraces to build and plant with corn, what
flowers to tend, what cows to milk and pasture, what wood to cut,
what fir-cones to gather for the winter fire! or should they yearn for
silence, silence from their comrades of the solitude, what whispering
galleries of God, where never human voice breaks loudly, but winds
and streams and lonely birds disturb the awful stillness! In such a
hermitage as this, only more wild, lived S. Francis of Assisi, among
the Apennines.[7] It was there that he learned the tongues of beasts
and birds, and preached them sermons. Stretched for hours motionless
on the bare rocks, coloured like them and rough like them in his brown
peasant's serge, he prayed and meditated, saw the vision of Christ
crucified, and planned his order to regenerate a vicious age. So still
he lay, so long, so like a stone, so gentle were his eyes, so kind
and low his voice, that the mice nibbled breadcrumbs from his wallet,
lizards ran over him, and larks sang to him in the air. There, too, in
those long, solitary vigils, the Spirit of God came upon him, and the
spirit of Nature was even as God's Spirit, and he sang: 'Laudato sia
Dio mio Signore, con tutte le creature, specialmente messer lo frate
sole; per suor luna, e per le stelle; per frate vento e per l'aire, e
nuvolo, e sereno e ogni tempo.' Half the value of this hymn would
be lost were we to forget how it was written, in what solitudes and
mountains far from men, or to ticket it with some abstract word
like Pantheism. Pantheism it is not; but an acknowledgment of that
brotherhood, beneath the love of God, by which the sun and moon and
stars, and wind and air and cloud, and clearness and all weather, and
all creatures, are bound together with the soul of man.

Few, of course, were like S. Francis. Probably no monk of San Romolo
was inspired with his enthusiasm for humanity, or had his revelation
of the Divine Spirit inherent in the world. Still fewer can have felt
the æsthetic charm of Nature but most vaguely. It was as much as they
could boast, if they kept steadily to the rule of their order, and
attended to the concerns each of his own soul. A terrible selfishness,
if rightly considered; but one which accorded with the delusion that
this world is a cave of care, the other world a place of torture or
undying bliss, death the prime object of our meditation, and lifelong
abandonment of our fellow-men the highest mode of existence. Why,
then, should monks, so persuaded of the riddle of the earth, have
placed themselves in scenes so beautiful? Why rose the Camaldolis and
Chartreuses over Europe? white convents on the brows of lofty hills,
among the rustling boughs of Vallombrosas, in the grassy meadows of
Engelbergs,--always the eyries of Nature's lovers, men smitten with
the loveliness of earth? There is surely some meaning in these poetic
stations.

Here is a sentence of the _Imitatio_ which throws some light upon
the hymn of S. Francis and the sites of Benedictine monasteries, by
explaining the value of natural beauty for monks who spent their life
in studying death: 'If thy heart were right, then would every creature
be to thee a mirror of life, and a book of holy doctrine. There is no
creature so small and vile that does not show forth the goodness
of God.' With this sentence bound about their foreheads, walked Fra
Angelico and S. Francis. To men like them the mountain valleys and the
skies, and all that they contained, were full of deep significance.
Though they reasoned '_de conditione humanæ miseriæ_,' and '_de
contemptu mundi_,' yet the whole world was a pageant of God's
glory, a testimony to His goodness. Their chastened senses, pure
hearts, and simple wills were as wings by which they soared above the
things of earth, and sent the music of their souls aloft with every
other creature in the symphony of praise. To them, as to Blake, the
sun was no mere blazing disc or ball, but 'an innumerable company
of the heavenly host singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God
Almighty."' To them the winds were brothers, and the streams were
sisters--brethren in common dependence upon God their Father, brethren
in common consecration to His service, brethren by blood, brethren by
vows of holiness. Unquestioning faith rendered this world no puzzle;
they overlooked the things of sense because the spiritual things
were ever present, and as clear as day. Yet did they not forget
that spiritual things are symbolised by things of sense; and so the
smallest herb of grass was vital to their tranquil contemplations.
We who have lost sight of the invisible world, who set our affections
more on things of earth, fancy that because these monks despised the
world, and did not write about its landscapes, therefore they were
dead to its beauty. This is mere vanity: the mountains, stars, seas,
fields, and living things were only swallowed up in the one thought of
God, and made subordinate to the awfulness of human destinies. We
to whom hills are hills, and seas are seas, and stars are ponderable
quantities, speak, write, and reason of them as of objects interesting
in themselves. The monks were less ostensibly concerned about such
things, because they only found in them the vestibules and symbols of
a hidden mystery.

The contrast between the Greek and mediæval modes of regarding
Nature is not a little remarkable. Both Greeks and monks, judged by
nineteenth-century standards, were unobservant of natural beauties.
They make but brief and general remarks upon landscapes and the like.
The [Greek: pontiôn te kumatôn anêrithmon gelasma] is very
rare. But the Greeks stopped at the threshold of Nature; the forces
they found there, the gods, were inherent in Nature, and distinct.
They did not, like the monks, place one spiritual power, omnipotent
and omnipresent, above all, and see in Nature lessons of Divine
government. We ourselves having somewhat overstrained the latter point
of view, are now apt to return vaguely to Greek fancies. Perhaps, too,
we talk so much about scenery because it is scenery to us, and the
life has gone out of it.

I cannot leave the Cornice without one word about a place which lies
between Mentone and San Remo. Bordighera has a beauty which is quite
distinct from both. Palms are its chief characteristics. They lean
against the garden walls, and feather the wells outside the town,
where women come with brazen pitchers to draw water. In some of the
marshy tangles of the plain, they spring from a thick undergrowth of
spiky leaves, and rear their tall aërial arms against the deep blue
background of the sea or darker purple of the distant hills. White
pigeons fly about among their branches, and the air is loud with
cooings and with rustlings, and the hoarser croaking of innumerable
frogs. Then, in the olive-groves that stretch along the level shore,
are labyrinths of rare and curious plants, painted tulips and white
periwinkles, flinging their light of blossoms and dark glossy leaves
down the swift channels of the brawling streams. On each side of the
rivulets they grow, like sister cataracts of flowers instead of spray.
At night fresh stars come out along the coast, beneath the stars
of heaven; for you can see the lamps of Ventimiglia and Mentone
and Monaco, and, far away, the lighthouses upon the promontories of
Antibes and the Estrelles. At dawn, a vision of Corsica grows from
the sea. The island lies eighty miles away, but one can trace the
dark strip of irregular peaks glowing amid the gold and purple of the
rising sun. If the air is clear and bright, the snows and overvaulting
clouds which crown its mountains shine all day, and glitter like an
apparition in the bright blue sky. 'Phantom fair,' half raised above
the sea, it stands, as unreal and transparent as the moon when seen in
April sunlight, yet not to be confounded with the shape of any cloud.
If Mentone speaks of Greek legends, and San Romolo restores the
monastic past, we feel ourselves at Bordighera transported to the
East; and lying under its tall palms can fancy ourselves at Tyre or
Daphne, or in the gardens of a Moslem prince.

    Note.--Dec. 1873. My old impressions are renewed and confirmed
    by a third visit, after seven years, to this coast. For purely
    idyllic loveliness, the Cornice is surpassed by nothing in
    the South. A very few spots in Sicily, the road between
    Castellammare and Amalfi, and the island of Corfu, are its
    only rivals in this style of scenery. From Cannes to Sestri is
    one continuous line of exquisitely modulated landscape beauty,
    which can only be fully appreciated by travellers in carriage
    or on foot.

       *       *       *       *       *



_AJACCIO_


It generally happens that visitors to Ajaccio pass over from the
Cornice coast, leaving Nice at night, and waking about sunrise to find
themselves beneath the frowning mountains of Corsica. The difference
between the scenery of the island and the shores which they have
left is very striking. Instead of the rocky mountains of the Cornice,
intolerably dry and barren at their summits, but covered at their base
with villages and ancient towns and olive-fields, Corsica presents a
scene of solitary and peculiar grandeur. The highest mountain-tops are
covered with snow, and beneath the snow-level to the sea they are
as green as Irish or as English hills, but nearly uninhabited and
uncultivated. Valleys of almost Alpine verdure are succeeded by
tracts of chestnut wood and scattered pines, or deep and flowery
brushwood--the 'maquis' of Corsica, which yields shelter to its
traditional outlaws and bandits. Yet upon these hillsides there
are hardly any signs of life; the whole country seems abandoned to
primeval wildness and the majesty of desolation. Nothing can possibly
be more unlike the smiling Riviera, every square mile of which is
cultivated like a garden, and every valley and bay dotted over with
white villages. After steaming for a few hours along this savage
coast, the rocks which guard the entrance to the bay of Ajaccio,
murderous-looking teeth and needles ominously christened Sanguinari,
are passed, and we enter the splendid land-locked harbour, on the
northern shore of which Ajaccio is built. About three centuries ago
the town, which used to occupy the extreme or eastern end of the bay,
was removed to a more healthy point upon the northern coast, so that
Ajaccio is quite a modern city. Visitors who expect to find in it
the picturesqueness of Genoa or San Remo, or even of Mentone, will
be sadly disappointed. It is simply a healthy, well-appointed town of
recent date, the chief merits of which are, that it has wide streets,
and is free, externally at least, from the filth and rubbish of most
southern seaports.

But if Ajaccio itself is not picturesque, the scenery which
it commands, and in the heart of which it lies, is of the most
magnificent. The bay of Ajaccio resembles a vast Italian lake--a Lago
Maggiore, with greater space between the mountains and the shore.
From the snow-peaks of the interior, huge granite crystals clothed in
white, to the southern extremity of the bay, peak succeeds peak and
ridge rises behind ridge in a line of wonderful variety and beauty.
The atmospheric changes of light and shadow, cloud and colour, on this
upland country, are as subtle and as various as those which lend their
beauty to the scenery of the lakes, while the sea below is blue and
rarely troubled. One could never get tired with looking at this view.
Morning and evening add new charms to its sublimity and beauty. In the
early morning Monte d'Oro sparkles like a Monte Rosa with its fresh
snow, and the whole inferior range puts on the crystal blueness of
dawn among the Alps. In the evening, violet and purple tints and
the golden glow of Italian sunset lend a different lustre to the
fairyland. In fact, the beauties of Switzerland and Italy are
curiously blended in this landscape.

In soil and vegetation the country round Ajaccio differs much from the
Cornice. There are very few olive-trees, nor is the cultivated ground
backed up so immediately by stony mountains; but between the seashore
and the hills there is plenty of space for pasture-land, and orchards
of apricot and peach-trees, and orange gardens. This undulating
champaign, green with meadows and watered with clear streams, is very
refreshing to the eyes of Northern people, who may have wearied of the
bareness and greyness of Nice or Mentone. It is traversed by excellent
roads, recently constructed on a plan of the French Government, which
intersect the country in all directions, and offer an infinite variety
of rides or drives to visitors. The broken granite of which these
roads are made is very pleasant for riding over. Most of the hills
through which they strike, after starting from Ajaccio, are
clothed with a thick brushwood of box, ilex, lentisk, arbutus,
and laurustinus, which stretches down irregularly into vineyards,
olive-gardens, and meadows. It is, indeed, the native growth of the
island; for wherever a piece of ground is left untilled, the macchi
grow up, and the scent of their multitudinous aromatic blossoms is so
strong that it may be smelt miles out at sea. Napoleon, at S. Helena,
referred to this fragrance when he said that he should know Corsica
blindfold by the smell of its soil. Occasional woods of holm oak make
darker patches on the landscape, and a few pines fringe the side of
enclosure walls or towers. The prickly pear runs riot in and out
among the hedges and upon the walls, diversifying the colours of the
landscape with its strange grey-green masses and unwieldy fans. In
spring, when peach and almond trees are in blossom, and when the
roadside is starred with asphodels, this country is most beautiful in
its gladness. The macchi blaze with cistus flowers of red and silver.
Golden broom mixes with the dark purple of the great French lavender,
and over the whole mass of blossom wave plumes of Mediterranean heath
and sweet-scented yellow coronilla. Under the stems of the ilex peep
cyclamens, pink and sweet; the hedgerows are a tangle of vetches,
convolvuluses, lupines, orchises, and alliums, with here and there a
purple iris. It would be difficult to describe all the rare and lovely
plants which are found here in a profusion that surpasses even the
flower-gardens of the Cornice, and reminds one of the most favoured
Alpine valleys in their early spring.

Since the French occupied Corsica they have done much for the island
by improving its harbours and making good roads, and endeavouring
to mitigate the ferocity of the people. But they have many things to
contend against, and Corsica is still behind the other provinces of
France. The people are idle, haughty, umbrageous, fiery, quarrelsome,
fond of gipsy life, and retentive through generations of old feuds and
prejudices to an almost inconceivable extent. Then the nature of the
country itself offers serious obstacles to its proper colonisation
and cultivation. The savage state of the island and its internal feuds
have disposed the Corsicans to quit the seaboard for their mountain
villages and fortresses, so that the great plains at the foot of the
hills are unwholesome for want of tillage and drainage. Again,
the mountains themselves have in many parts been stripped of their
forests, and converted into mere wildernesses of macchi stretching
up and down their slopes for miles and miles of useless desolation.
Another impediment to proper cultivation is found in the old habit of
what is called free pasturage. The highland shepherds are allowed
by the national custom to drive down their flocks and herds to the
lowlands during the winter, so that fences are broken, young crops
are browsed over and trampled down, and agriculture becomes a mere
impossibility. The last and chief difficulty against which the French
have had to contend, and up to this time with apparent success, is
brigandage. The Corsican system of brigandage is so very different
from that of the Italians, Sicilians, and Greeks, that a word may be
said about its peculiar character. In the first place, it has nothing
at all to do with robbery and thieving. The Corsican bandit took to a
free life among the macchi, not for the sake of supporting himself by
lawless depredation, but because he had put himself under a legal and
social ban by murdering some one in obedience to the strict code of
honour of his country. His victim may have been the hereditary foe of
his house for generations, or else the newly made enemy of yesterday.
But in either case, if he had killed him fairly, after a due
notification of his intention to do so, he was held to have fulfilled
a duty rather than to have committed a crime. He then betook himself
to the dense tangles of evergreens which I have described, where he
lived upon the charity of countryfolk and shepherds. In the eyes of
those simple people it was a sacred duty to relieve the necessities of
the outlaws, and to guard them from the bloodhounds of justice. There
was scarcely a respectable family in Corsica who had not one or more
of its members thus _alla campagna_, as it was euphemistically
styled. The Corsicans themselves have attributed this miserable state
of things to two principal causes. The first of these was the ancient
bad government of the island: under its Genoese rulers no justice was
administered, and private vengeance for homicide or insult became a
necessary consequence among the haughty and warlike families of
the mountain villages. Secondly, the Corsicans have been from time
immemorial accustomed to wear arms in everyday life. They used to sit
at their house doors and pace the streets with musket, pistol, dagger,
and cartouch-box on their persons; and on the most trivial occasion
of merriment or enthusiasm they would discharge their firearms. This
habit gave a bloody termination to many quarrels, which might have
ended more peaceably had the parties been unarmed; and so the seeds
of _vendetta_ were constantly being sown. Statistics published
by the French Government present a hideous picture of the state of
bloodshed in Corsica even during this century. In one period of thirty
years (between 1821 and 1850) there were 4319 murders in the island.
Almost every man was watching for his neighbour's life, or seeking how
to save his own; and agriculture and commerce were neglected for this
grisly game of hide-and-seek. In 1853 the French began to take strong
measures, and, under the Prefect Thuillier, they hunted the bandits
from the macchi, killing between 200 and 300 of them. At the same time
an edict was promulgated against bearing arms. It is forbidden to sell
the old Corsican stiletto in the shops, and no one may carry a gun,
even for sporting purposes, unless he obtains a special licence. These
licences, moreover, are only granted for short and precisely measured
periods.

In order to appreciate the stern and gloomy character of the
Corsicans, it is necessary to leave the smiling gardens of Ajaccio,
and to visit some of the more distant mountain villages--Vico, Cavro,
Bastelica, or Bocognano, any of which may easily be reached from the
capital. Immediately after quitting the seaboard, we enter a country
austere in its simplicity, solemn without relief, yet dignified by its
majesty and by the sense of freedom it inspires. As we approach the
mountains, the macchi become taller, feathering man-high above the
road, and stretching far away upon the hills. Gigantic masses of
granite, shaped like buttresses and bastions, seem to guard the
approaches to these hills; while, looking backward over the green
plain, the sea lies smiling in a haze of blue among the rocky horns
and misty headlands of the coast. There is a stateliness about the
abrupt inclination of these granite slopes, rising from their frowning
portals by sharp _arêtes_ to the snows piled on their summits,
which contrasts in a strange way with the softness and beauty of
the mingling sea and plain beneath. In no landscape are more various
qualities combined; in none are they so harmonised as to produce so
strong a sense of majestic freedom and severe power. Suppose that we
are on the road to Corte, and have now reached Bocognano, the first
considerable village since we left Ajaccio. Bocognano might be chosen
as typical of Corsican hill-villages, with its narrow street, and
tall tower-like houses of five or six stories high, faced with
rough granite, and pierced with the smallest windows and very narrow
doorways. These buildings have a mournful and desolate appearance.
There is none of the grandeur of antiquity about them; no sculptured
arms or castellated turrets, or balconies or spacious staircases,
such as are common in the poorest towns of Italy. The signs of warlike
occupation which they offer, and their sinister aspect of vigilance,
are thoroughly prosaic. They seem to suggest a state of society in
which feud and violence were systematised into routine. There is no
relief to the savage austerity of their forbidding aspect; no signs
of wealth or household comfort; no trace of art, no liveliness and
gracefulness of architecture. Perched upon their coigns of vantage,
these villages seem always menacing, as if Saracen pirates, or Genoese
marauders, or bandits bent on vengeance, were still for ever on the
watch. Forests of immensely old chestnut-trees surround Bocognano on
every side, so that you step from the village streets into the shade
of woods that seem to have remained untouched for centuries. The
country-people support themselves almost entirely upon the fruit of
these chestnuts; and there is a large department of Corsica called
Castagniccia, from the prevalence of these trees and the sustenance
which the inhabitants derive from them. Close by the village brawls
a torrent, such as one may see in the Monte Rosa valleys or the
Apennines, but very rarely in Switzerland. It is of a pure green
colour, absolutely like Indian jade, foaming round the granite
boulders, and gliding over smooth slabs of polished stone, and eddying
into still, deep pools fringed with fern. Monte d'Oro, one of the
largest mountains of Corsica, soars above, and from his snows the
purest water, undefiled by glacier mud or the _débris_ of
avalanches, melts away. Following the stream, we rise through the
macchi and the chestnut woods, which grow more sparely by degrees,
until we reach the zone of beeches. Here the scene seems suddenly
transferred to the Pyrenees; for the road is carried along abrupt
slopes, thickly set with gigantic beech-trees, overgrown with pink and
silver lichens. In the early spring their last year's leaves are still
crisp with hoar-frost; one morning's journey has brought us from the
summer of Ajaccio to winter on these heights, where no flowers are
visible but the pale hellebore and tiny lilac crocuses. Snow-drifts
stretch by the roadside, and one by one the pioneers of the vast
pine-woods of the interior appear. A great portion of the pine-forest
(_Pinus larix_, or Corsican pine, not larch) between Bocognano
and Corte had recently been burned by accident when we passed by.
Nothing could be more forlorn than the black leafless stems and
branches emerging from the snow. Some of these trees were mast-high,
and some mere saplings. Corte itself is built among the mountain
fastnesses of the interior. The snows and granite cliffs of Monte
Rotondo overhang it to the north-west, while two fair valleys lead
downward from its eyrie to the eastern coast. The rock on which it
stands rises to a sharp point, sloping southward, and commanding the
valleys of the Golo and the Tavignano. Remembering that Corte was the
old capital of Corsica, and the centre of General Paoli's government,
we are led to compare the town with Innsprück, Meran, or Grenoble.
In point of scenery and situation it is hardly second to any of these
mountain-girdled cities; but its poverty and bareness are scarcely
less striking than those of Bocognano.

The whole Corsican character, with its stern love of justice, its
furious revengefulness and wild passion for freedom, seems to be
illustrated by the peculiar elements of grandeur and desolation in
this landscape. When we traverse the forest of Vico or the rocky
pasture-lands of Niolo, the history of the Corsican national heroes,
Giudice della Rocca and Sampiero, becomes intelligible, nor do we fail
to understand some of the mysterious attraction which led the more
daring spirits of the island to prefer a free life among the macchi
and pine-woods to placid lawful occupations in farms and villages.
The lives of the two men whom I have mentioned are so prominent in
Corsican history, and are so often still upon the lips of the common
people, that it may be well to sketch their outlines in the foreground
of the Salvator Rosa landscape just described. Giudice was the
governor of Corsica, as lieutenant for the Pisans, at the end of the
thirteenth century. At that time the island belonged to the republic
of Pisa, but the Genoese were encroaching on them by land and sea,
and the whole life of their brave champion was spent in a desperate
struggle with the invaders, until at last he died, old, blind, and in
prison, at the command of his savage foes. Giudice was the title which
the Pisans usually conferred upon their governor, and Della Rocca
deserved it by right of his own inexorable love of justice. Indeed,
justice seems to have been with him a passion, swallowing up all other
feelings of his nature. All the stories which are told of him turn
upon this point in his character; and though they may not be strictly
true, they illustrate the stern virtues for which he was celebrated
among the Corsicans, and show what kind of men this harsh and gloomy
nation loved to celebrate as heroes. This is not the place either to
criticise these legends or to recount them at full length. The most
famous and the most characteristic may, however, be briefly told. On
one occasion, after a victory over the Genoese, he sent a message
that the captives in his hands should be released if their wives and
sisters came to sue for them. The Genoese ladies embarked, and
arrived in Corsica, and to Giudice's nephew was intrusted the duty
of fulfilling his uncle's promise. In the course of executing his
commission, the youth was so smitten with the beauty of one of the
women that he dishonoured her. Thereupon Giudice had him at once put
to death. Another story shows the Spartan justice of this hero in
a less savage light. He was passing by a cowherd's cottage, when he
heard some young calves bleating. On inquiring what distressed them,
he was told that the calves had not enough milk to drink after the
farm people had been served. Then Giudice made it a law that the
calves throughout the land should take their fill before the cows were
milked.

Sampiero belongs to a later period of Corsican history. After a long
course of misgovernment the Genoese rule had become unbearable. There
was no pretence of administering justice, and private vengeance had
full sway in the island. The sufferings of the nation were so great
that the time had come for a new judge or saviour to rise among them.
Sampiero was the son of obscure parents who lived at Bastelica. But
his abilities very soon declared themselves, and made a way for him in
the world. He spent his youth in the armies of the Medici and of the
French Francis, gaining great renown as a brave soldier. Bayard became
his friend, and Francis made him captain of his Corsican bands. But
Sampiero did not forget the wrongs of his native land while thus on
foreign service. He resolved, if possible, to undermine the power
of Genoa, and spent the whole of his manhood and old age in one
long struggle with their great captain, Stephen Doria. Of his stern
patriotism and Roman severity of virtue the following story is a
terrible illustration. Sampiero, though a man of mean birth, had
married an heiress of the noble Corsican house of the Ornani. His
wife, Vannina, was a woman of timid and flexible nature, who, though
devoted to her husband, fell into the snares of his enemies. During
his absence on an embassy to Algiers the Genoese induced her to leave
her home at Marseilles and to seek refuge in their city, persuading
her that this step would secure the safety of her child. She was
starting on her journey when a friend of Sampiero arrested her, and
brought her back to Aix, in Provence. Sampiero, when he heard of these
events, hurried to France, and was received by a relative of his,
who hinted that he had known of Vannina's projected flight. 'E tu hai
taciuto?' was Sampiero's only answer, accompanied by a stroke of his
poignard that killed the lukewarm cousin. Sampiero now brought his
wife from Aix to Marseilles, preserving the most absolute silence on
the way, and there, on entering his house, he killed her with his own
hand. It is said that he loved Vannina passionately; and when she was
dead, he caused her to be buried with magnificence in the church of S.
Francis. Like Giudice, Sampiero fell at last a prey to treachery. The
murder of Vannina had made the Ornani his deadly foes. In order to
avenge her blood, they played into the hands of the Genoese, and laid
a plot by which the noblest of the Corsicans was brought to death.
First, they gained over to their scheme a monk of Bastelica, called
Ambrogio, and Sampiero's own squire and shield-bearer, Vittolo. By
means of these men, in whom he trusted, he was drawn defenceless and
unattended into a deeply wooded ravine near Cavro, not very far from
his birthplace, where the Ornani and their Genoese troops surrounded
him. Sampiero fired his pistols in vain, for Vittolo had loaded them
with the shot downwards. Then he drew his sword, and began to lay
about him, when the same Vittolo, the Judas, stabbed him from
behind, and the old lion fell dead by his friend's hand. Sampiero was
sixty-nine when he died, in the year 1567. It is satisfactory to know
that the Corsicans have called traitors and foes to their country
Vittoli for ever. These two examples of Corsican patriots are enough;
we need not add to theirs the history of Paoli--a milder and more
humane, but scarcely less heroic leader. Paoli, however, in the
hour of Corsica's extremest peril, retired to England, and died in
philosophic exile. Neither Giudice nor Sampiero would have acted thus.
The more forlorn the hope, the more they struggled.

Among the old Corsican customs which are fast dying out, but
which still linger in the remote valleys of Niolo and Vico, is the
_vócero_, or funeral chant, improvised by women at funerals over
the bodies of the dead. Nothing illustrates the ferocious temper and
savage passions of the race better than these _vóceri_, many of
which have been written down and preserved. Most of them are songs
of vengeance and imprecation, mingled with hyperbolical laments and
utterances of extravagant grief, poured forth by wives and sisters at
the side of murdered husbands and brothers. The women who sing them
seem to have lost all milk of human kindness, and to have exchanged
the virtues of their sex for Spartan fortitude and the rage of furies.
While we read their turbid lines we are carried in imagination to one
of the cheerless houses of Bastelica or Bocognano, overshadowed by its
mournful chestnut-tree, on which the blood of the murdered man is yet
red. The _gridata_, or wake, is assembled in a dark room. On the
wooden board, called _tola_, the corpse lies stretched; and round
it are women, veiled in the blue-black mantle of Corsican costume,
moaning and rocking themselves upon their chairs. The _pasto_ or
_conforto_, food supplied for mourners, stands upon a side table,
and round the room are men with savage eyes and bristling beards,
armed to the teeth, keen for vengeance. The dead man's musket and
pocket-pistol lie beside him, and his bloody shirt is hung up at his
head. Suddenly, the silence, hitherto only disturbed by suppressed
groans and muttered curses, is broken by a sharp cry. A woman rises:
it is the sister of the dead man; she seizes his shirt, and holding
it aloft with Mænad gestures and frantic screams, gives rhythmic
utterance to her grief and rage. 'I was spinning, when I heard a great
noise: it was a gunshot, which went into my heart, and seemed a voice
that cried, "Run, thy brother is dying." I ran into the room above;
I took the blow into my breast; I said, "Now he is dead, there is
nothing to give me comfort. Who will undertake thy vengeance? When I
show thy shirt, who will vow to let his beard grow till the murderer
is slain? Who is there left to do it? A mother near her death? A
sister? Of all our race there is only left a woman, without kin, poor,
orphan, and a girl. Yet, O my brother! never fear. For thy vengeance
thy sister is enough!

  '"Ma per fà la to bindetta,
  Sta siguru, basta anch ella!

Give me the pistol; I will shoulder the gun; I will away to the
hills. My brother, heart of thy sister, thou shalt be avenged!"' A
_vócero_ declaimed upon the bier of Giammatteo and Pasquale,
two cousins, by the sister of the former, is still fiercer and more
energetic in its malediction. This Erinnys of revenge prays Christ and
all the saints to extirpate the murderer's whole race, to shrivel it
up till it passes from the earth. Then, with a sudden and vehement
transition to the pathos of her own sorrow, she exclaims:--

  'Halla mai bista nissunu
  Tumbà l'omi pe li canti?'

It appears from these words that Giammatteo's enemies had killed him
because they were jealous of his skill in singing. Shortly after,
she curses the curate of the village, a kinsman of the murderer, for
refusing to toll the funeral bells; and at last, all other threads of
rage and sorrow being twined and knotted into one, she gives loose
to her raging thirst for blood: 'If only I had a son, to train like
a sleuth-hound, that he might track the murderer! Oh, if I had a son!
Oh, if I had a lad!' Her words seem to choke her, and she swoons, and
remains for a short time insensible. When the Bacchante of revenge
awakes, it is with milder feelings in her heart: 'O brother mine,
Matteo! art thou sleeping? Here I will rest with thee and weep till
daybreak.' It is rare to find in literature so crude and intense
an expression of fiery hatred as these untranslatable _vóceri_
present. The emotion is so simple and so strong that it becomes
sublime by mere force, and affects us with a strange pathos when
contrasted with the tender affection conveyed in such terms of
endearment as 'my dove,' 'my flower,' 'my pheasant,' 'my bright
painted orange,' addressed to the dead. In the _vóceri_ it often
happens that there are several interlocutors: one friend questions and
another answers; or a kinswoman of the murderer attempts to justify
the deed, and is overwhelmed with deadly imprecations. Passionate
appeals are made to the corpse: 'Arise! Do you not hear the women cry?
Stand up. Show your wounds, and let the fountains of your blood flow!
Alas! he is dead; he sleeps; he cannot hear!' Then they turn again to
tears and curses, feeling that no help or comfort can come from the
clay-cold form. The intensity of grief finds strange language for its
utterance. A girl, mourning over her father, cries:--

  'Mi l'hannu crucifissatu
  Cume Ghiesu Cristu in croce.'

Once only, in Viale's collection, does any friend of the dead remember
mercy. It is an old woman, who points to the crucifix above the bier.

But all the _vóceri_ are not so murderous. Several are composed
for girls who died unwedded and before their time, by their mothers
or companions. The language of these laments is far more tender and
ornate. They praise the gentle virtues and beauty of the girl, her
piety and helpful household ways. The most affecting of these dirges
is that which celebrates the death of Romana, daughter of Dariola
Danesi. Here is a pretty picture of the girl: 'Among the best and
fairest maidens you were like a rose among flowers, like the moon
among stars; so far more lovely were you than the loveliest. The
youths in your presence were like lighted torches, but full of
reverence; you were courteous to all, but with none familiar. In
church they gazed at you, but you looked at none of them; and after
mass you said, "Mother, let us go." Oh! who will console me for your
loss? Why did the Lord so much desire you? But now you rest in heaven,
all joy and smiles; for the world was not worthy of so fair a face.
Oh, how far more beautiful will Paradise be now!' Then follows a
piteous picture of the old bereaved mother, to whom a year will seem
a thousand years, who will wander among relatives without affection,
neighbours without love; and who, when sickness comes, will have no
one to give her a drop of water, or to wipe the sweat from her brow,
or to hold her hand in death. Yet all that is left for her is to wait
and pray for the end, that she may join again her darling.

But it is time to return to Ajaccio itself. At present the attractions
and ornaments of the town consist of a good public library, Cardinal
Fesch's large but indifferent collection of pictures, two monuments
erected to Napoleon, and Napoleon's house. It will always be the chief
pride of Ajaccio that she gave birth to the great emperor. Close to
the harbour, in a public square by the sea-beach, stands an equestrian
statue of the conqueror, surrounded by his four brothers on foot. They
are all attired in Roman fashion, and are turned seaward, to the west,
as if to symbolise the emigration of this family to subdue Europe.
There is something ludicrous and forlorn in the stiffness of the
group--something even pathetic, when we think how Napoleon gazed
seaward from another island, no longer on horseback, no longer
laurel-crowned, an unthroned, unseated conqueror, on S. Helena. His
father's house stands close by. An old Italian waiting-woman, who had
been long in the service of the Murats, keeps it and shows it. She
has the manners of a lady, and can tell many stories of the various
members of the Buonaparte family. Those who fancy that Napoleon was
born in a mean dwelling of poor parents will be surprised to find so
much space and elegance in these apartments. Of course his family was
not rich by comparison with the riches of French or English nobles.
But for Corsicans they were well-to-do, and their house has an air of
antique dignity. The chairs of the entrance-saloon have been literally
stripped of their coverings by enthusiastic visitors; the horse-hair
stuffing underneath protrudes itself with a sort of comic pride, as
if protesting that it came to be so tattered in an honourable service.
Some of the furniture seems new; but many old presses, inlaid with
marbles, agates, and lapis-lazuli, such as Italian families preserve
for generations, have an air of respectable antiquity about them. Nor
is there any doubt that the young Napoleon led his minuets beneath
the stiff girandoles of the formal dancing-room. There, too, in a
dark back chamber, is the bed in which he was born. At its foot is a
photograph of the Prince Imperial sent by the Empress Eugénie, who,
when she visited the room, wept much _pianse molto_ (to use the
old lady's phrase)--at seeing the place where such lofty destinies
began. On the wall of the same room is a portrait of Napoleon himself
as the young general of the republic--with the citizen's unkempt
hair, the fierce fire of the Revolution in his eyes, a frown upon his
forehead, lips compressed, and quivering nostrils; also one of his
mother, the pastille of a handsome woman, with Napoleonic eyes
and brows and nose, but with a vacant simpering mouth. Perhaps
the provincial artist knew not how to seize the expression of this
feature, the most difficult to draw. For we cannot fancy that Letizia
had lips without the firmness or the fulness of a majestic nature.

The whole first story of this house belonged to the Buonaparte family.
The windows look out partly on a little court and partly on narrow
streets. It was, no doubt, the memory of this home that made Napoleon,
when emperor, design schemes for the good of Corsica--schemes that
might have brought him more honour than many conquests, but which
he had no time or leisure to carry out. On S. Helena his mind often
reverted to them, and he would speak of the gummy odours of the macchi
wafted from the hillsides to the seashore.

       *       *       *       *       *



_MONTE GENEROSO_

The long hot days of Italian summer were settling down on plain and
country when, in the last week of May, we travelled northward from
Florence and Bologna seeking coolness. That was very hard to find in
Lombardy. The days were long and sultry, the nights short, without a
respite from the heat. Milan seemed a furnace, though in the Duomo and
the narrow shady streets there was a twilight darkness which at least
looked cool. Long may it be before the northern spirit of improvement
has taught the Italians to despise the wisdom of their forefathers,
who built those sombre streets of palaces with overhanging eaves,
that, almost meeting, form a shelter from the fiercest sun. The lake
country was even worse than the towns; the sunlight lay all day asleep
upon the shining waters, and no breeze came to stir their surface or
to lift the tepid veil of haze, through which the stony mountains,
with their yet unmelted patches of winter snow, glared as if in
mockery of coolness.

Then we heard of a new inn, which had just been built by an
enterprising Italian doctor below the very top of Monte Generoso.
There was a picture of it in the hotel at Cadenabbia, but this gave
but little idea of any particular beauty. A big square house,
with many windows, and the usual ladies on mules, and guides with
alpenstocks, advancing towards it, and some round bushes growing near,
was all it showed. Yet there hung the real Monte Generoso above our
heads, and we thought it must be cooler on its height than by the
lake-shore. To find coolness was the great point with us just then.
Moreover, some one talked of the wonderful plants that grew among its
rocks, and of its grassy slopes enamelled with such flowers as make
our cottage gardens at home gay in summer, not to speak of others
rarer and peculiar to the region of the Southern Alps. Indeed, the
Generoso has a name for flowers, and it deserves it, as we presently
found.

This mountain is fitted by its position for commanding one of the
finest views in the whole range of the Lombard Alps. A glance at the
map shows that. Standing out pre-eminent among the chain of lower
hills to which it belongs, the lakes of Lugano and Como with their
long arms enclose it on three sides, while on the fourth the plain of
Lombardy with its many cities, its rich pasture-lands and cornfields
intersected by winding river-courses and straight interminable
roads, advances to its very foot. No place could be better chosen for
surveying that contrasted scene of plain and mountain, which forms
the great attraction of the outlying buttresses of the central Alpine
mass. The superiority of the Monte Generoso to any of the similar
eminences on the northern outskirts of Switzerland is great. In
richness of colour, in picturesqueness of suggestion, in sublimity and
breadth of prospect, its advantages are incontestable. The reasons for
this superiority are obvious. On the Italian side the transition from
mountain to plain is far more abrupt; the atmosphere being clearer,
a larger sweep of distance is within our vision; again, the sunlight
blazes all day long upon the very front and forehead of the distant
Alpine chain, instead of merely slanting along it, as it does upon the
northern side.

From Mendrisio, the village at the foot of the mountain, an easy
mule-path leads to the hotel, winding first through English-looking
hollow lanes with real hedges, which are rare in this country,
and English primroses beneath them. Then comes a forest region of
luxuriant chestnut-trees, giants with pink boles just bursting into
late leafage, yellow and tender, but too thin as yet for shade.
A little higher up, the chestnuts are displaced by wild laburnums
bending under their weight of flowers. The graceful branches meet
above our heads, sweeping their long tassels against our faces as we
ride beneath them, while the air for a good mile is full of fragrance.
It is strange to be reminded in this blooming labyrinth of the dusty
suburb roads and villa gardens of London. The laburnum is pleasant
enough in S. John's Wood or the Regent's Park in May--a tame
domesticated thing of brightness amid smoke and dust. But it is
another joy to see it flourishing in its own home, clothing acres of
the mountain-side in a very splendour of spring-colour, mingling its
paler blossoms with the golden broom of our own hills, and with
the silver of the hawthorn and wild cherry. Deep beds of
lilies-of-the-valley grow everywhere beneath the trees; and in the
meadows purple columbines, white asphodels, the Alpine spiræa, tall,
with feathery leaves, blue scabious, golden hawkweeds, turkscap
lilies, and, better than all, the exquisite narcissus poeticus, with
its crimson-tipped cup, and the pure pale lilies of San Bruno, are
crowded in a maze of dazzling brightness. Higher up the laburnums
disappear, and flaunting crimson peonies gleam here and there upon
the rocks, until at length the gentians and white ranunculuses of the
higher Alps displace the less hardy flowers of Italy.

About an hour below the summit of the mountain we came upon the inn,
a large clean building, with scanty furniture and snowy wooden floors,
guiltless of carpets. It is big enough to hold about a hundred guests;
and Doctor Pasta, who built it, a native of Mendrisio, was gifted
either with much faith or with a real prophetic instinct.[8] Anyhow he
deserves commendation for his spirit of enterprise. As yet the house
is little known to English travellers: it is mostly frequented by
Italians from Milan, Novara, and other cities of the plain, who call
it the Italian Righi, and come to it, as cockneys go to Richmond,
for noisy picnic excursions, or at most for a few weeks'
_villeggiatura_ in the summer heats. When we were there in May
the season had scarcely begun, and the only inmates besides ourselves
were a large party from Milan, ladies and gentlemen in holiday guise,
who came, stayed one night, climbed the peak at sunrise, and departed
amid jokes and shouting and half-childish play, very unlike the doings
of a similar party in sober England. After that the stillness of
nature descended on the mountain, and the sun shone day after day upon
that great view which seemed created only for ourselves. And what
a view it was! The plain stretching up to the high horizon, where a
misty range of pink cirrus-clouds alone marked the line where earth
ended and the sky began, was islanded with cities and villages
innumerable, basking in the hazy shimmering heat. Milan, seen through
the doctor's telescope, displayed its Duomo perfect as a microscopic
shell, with all its exquisite fretwork, and Napoleon's arch of triumph
surmounted by the four tiny horses, as in a fairy's dream. Far off,
long silver lines marked the lazy course of Po and Ticino, while
little lakes like Varese and the lower end of Maggiore spread
themselves out, connecting the mountains with the plain. Five minutes'
walk from the hotel brought us to a ridge where the precipice fell
suddenly and almost sheer over one arm of Lugano Lake. Sullenly
outstretched asleep it lay beneath us, coloured with the tints of
fluor-spar, or with the changeful green and azure of a peacock's
breast. The depth appeared immeasurable. San Salvadore had receded
into insignificance: the houses and churches and villas of Lugano
bordered the lake-shore with an uneven line of whiteness. And over all
there rested a blue mist of twilight and of haze, contrasting with the
clearness of the peaks above. It was sunset when we first came here;
and, wave beyond wave, the purple Italian hills tossed their crested
summits to the foot of a range of stormy clouds that shrouded the high
Alps. Behind the clouds was sunset, clear and golden; but the
mountains had put on their mantle for the night, and the hem of their
garment was all we were to see. And yet--over the edge of the topmost
ridge of cloud, what was that long hard line of black, too solid and
immovable for cloud, rising into four sharp needles clear and well
defined? Surely it must be the familiar outline of Monte Rosa itself,
the form which every one who loves the Alps knows well by heart, which
picture-lovers know from Ruskin's woodcut in the 'Modern Painters.'
For a moment only the vision stayed: then clouds swept over it again,
and from the place where the empress of the Alps had been, a pillar of
mist shaped like an angel's wing, purple and tipped with gold, shot up
against the pale green sky. That cloud-world was a pageant in itself,
as grand and more gorgeous perhaps than the mountains would have been.
Deep down through the hollows of the Simplon a thunderstorm was
driving; and we saw forked flashes once and again, as in a distant
world, lighting up the valleys for a moment, and leaving the darkness
blacker behind them as the storm blurred out the landscape forty miles
away. Darkness was coming to us too, though our sky was clear and the
stars were shining brightly. At our feet the earth was folding itself
to sleep; the plain was wholly lost; little islands of white mist had
formed themselves, and settled down upon the lakes and on their marshy
estuaries; the birds were hushed; the gentian-cups were filling to the
brim with dew. Night had descended on the mountain and the plain; the
show was over.

The dawn was whitening in the east next morning, when we again
scrambled through the dwarf beechwood to the precipice above the lake.
Like an ink-blot it lay, unruffled, slumbering sadly. Broad sheets of
vapour brooded on the plain, telling of miasma and fever, of which we
on the mountain, in the pure cool air, knew nothing. The Alps were
all there now--cold, unreal, stretching like a phantom line of snowy
peaks, from the sharp pyramids of Monte Viso and the Grivola in the
west to the distant Bernina and the Ortler in the east. Supreme among
them towered Monte Rosa--queenly, triumphant, gazing down in proud
pre-eminence, as she does when seen from any point of the Italian
plain. There is no mountain like her. Mont Blanc himself is scarcely
so regal; and she seems to know it, for even the clouds sweep humbled
round her base, girdling her at most, but leaving her crown clear and
free. Now, however, there were no clouds to be seen in all the sky.
The mountains had a strange unshriven look, as if waiting to be
blessed. Above them, in the cold grey air, hung a low black arch
of shadow, the shadow of the bulk of the huge earth, which still
concealed the sun. Slowly, slowly this dark line sank lower, till,
one by one, at last, the peaks caught first a pale pink flush; then
a sudden golden glory flashed from one to the other, as they leapt
joyfully into life. It is a supreme moment this first burst of life
and light over the sleeping world, as one can only see it on rare days
and in rare places like the Monte Generoso. The earth--enough of it at
least for us to picture to ourselves the whole--lies at our feet; and
we feel as the Saviour might have felt, when from the top of that
high mountain He beheld the kingdoms of the world and all the glory of
them. Strangely and solemnly may we image to our fancy the lives that
are being lived down in those cities of the plain: how many are waking
at this very moment to toil and a painful weariness, to sorrow, or to
'that unrest which men miscall delight;' while we upon our mountain
buttress, suspended in mid-heaven and for a while removed from daily
cares, are drinking in the beauty of the world that God has made so
fair and wonderful. From this same eyrie, only a few years ago, the
hostile armies of France, Italy, and Austria might have been watched
moving in dim masses across the plains, for the possession of which
they were to clash in mortal fight at Solferino and Magenta. All is
peaceful now. It is hard to picture the waving cornfields trodden
down, the burning villages and ransacked vineyards, all the horrors of
real war to which that fertile plain has been so often the prey. But
now these memories of

  Old, unhappy, far-off things,
  And battles long ago,

do but add a calm and beauty to the radiant scene that lies before us.
And the thoughts which it suggests, the images with which it stores
our mind, are not without their noblest uses. The glory of the world
sinks deeper into our shallow souls than we well know; and the spirit
of its splendour is always ready to revisit us on dark and dreary days
at home with an unspeakable refreshment. Even as I write, I seem to
see the golden glow sweeping in broad waves over the purple hills
nearer and nearer, till the lake brightens at our feet, and the
windows of Lugano flash with sunlight, and little boats creep forth
across the water like spiders on a pond, leaving an arrowy track of
light upon the green behind them, while Monte Salvadore with its tiny
chapel and a patch of the further landscape are still kept in darkness
by the shadow of the Generoso itself. The birds wake into song as the
sun's light comes; cuckoo answers cuckoo from ridge to ridge; dogs
bark; and even the sounds of human life rise up to us: children's
voices and the murmurs of the market-place ascending faintly from the
many villages hidden among the chestnut-trees beneath our feet; while
the creaking of a cart we can but just see slowly crawling along the
straight road by the lake, is heard at intervals.

The full beauty of the sunrise is but brief. Already the low lakelike
mists we saw last night have risen and spread, and shaken themselves
out into masses of summer clouds, which, floating upward, threaten to
envelop us upon our vantage-ground. Meanwhile they form a changeful
sea below, blotting out the plain, surging up into the valleys with
the movement of a billowy tide, attacking the lower heights like the
advance-guard of a besieging army, but daring not as yet to invade the
cold and solemn solitudes of the snowy Alps. These, too, in time, when
the sun's heat has grown strongest, will be folded in their midday
pall of sheltering vapour.

The very summit of Monte Generoso must not be left without a word of
notice. The path to it is as easy as the sheep-walks on an English
down, though cut along grass-slopes descending at a perilously sharp
angle. At the top the view is much the same, as far as the grand
features go, as that which is commanded from the cliff by the hotel.
But the rocks here are crowded with rare Alpine flowers--delicate
golden auriculas with powdery leaves and stems, pale yellow cowslips,
imperial purple saxifrages, soldanellas at the edge of lingering
patches of the winter snow, blue gentians, crocuses, and the frail,
rosy-tipped ranunculus, called glacialis. Their blooming time is
brief. When summer comes the mountain will be bare and burned, like
all Italian hills. The Generoso is a very dry mountain, silent and
solemn from its want of streams. There is no sound of falling waters
on its crags; no musical rivulets flow down its sides, led carefully
along the slopes, as in Switzerland, by the peasants, to keep their
hay-crops green and gladden the thirsty turf throughout the heat
and drought of summer. The soil is a Jurassic limestone: the rain
penetrates the porous rock, and sinks through cracks and fissures, to
reappear above the base of the mountain in a full-grown stream. This
is a defect in the Generoso, as much to be regretted as the want of
shade upon its higher pastures. Here, as elsewhere in Piedmont, the
forests are cut for charcoal; the beech-scrub, which covers large
tracts of the hills, never having the chance of growing into trees
much higher than a man. It is this which makes an Italian mountain
at a distance look woolly, like a sheep's back. Among the brushwood,
however, lilies-of-the-valley and Solomon's seals delight to grow;
and the league-long beds of wild strawberries prove that when the
laburnums have faded, the mountain will become a garden of feasting.

It was on the crest of Monte Generoso, late one afternoon in May, that
we saw a sight of great beauty. The sun had yet about an hour before
it sank behind the peaks of Monte Rosa, and the sky was clear, except
for a few white clouds that floated across the plain of Lombardy. Then
as we sat upon the crags, tufted with soldanellas and auriculas,
we could see a fleecy vapour gliding upward from the hollows of the
mountain, very thin and pale, yet dense enough to blot the landscape
to the south and east from sight. It rose with an imperceptible
motion, as the Oceanides might have soared from the sea to comfort
Prometheus in the tragedy of Æschylus. Already the sun had touched its
upper edge with gold, and we were expecting to be enveloped in a mist;
when suddenly upon the outspread sheet before us there appeared two
forms, larger than life, yet not gigantic, surrounded with haloes of
such tempered iridescence as the moon half hidden by a summer cloud is
wont to make. They were the glorified figures of ourselves; and what
we did, the phantoms mocked, rising or bowing, or spreading wide their
arms. Some scarce-felt breeze prevented the vapour from passing across
the ridge to westward, though it still rose from beneath, and kept
fading away into thin air above our heads. Therefore the vision lasted
as long as the sun stayed yet above the Alps; and the images with
their aureoles shrank and dilated with the undulations of the mist.
I could not but think of that old formula for an anthropomorphic
Deity--'the Brocken-spectre of the human spirit projected on the mists
of the Non-ego.' Even like those cloud-phantoms are the gods made in
the image of man, who have been worshipped through successive ages of
the world, gods dowered with like passions to those of the races
who have crouched before them, gods cruel and malignant and lustful,
jealous and noble and just, radiant or gloomy, the counterparts of men
upon a vast and shadowy scale. But here another question rose. If
the gods that men have made and ignorantly worshipped be really
but glorified copies of their own souls, where is the sun in this
parallel? Without the sun's rays the mists of Monte Generoso could
have shown, no shadowy forms. Without some other power than the mind
of man, could men have fashioned for themselves those ideals that they
named their gods? Unseen by Greek, or Norseman, or Hindoo, the potent
force by which alone they could externalise their image, existed
outside them, independent of their thought. Nor does the trite epigram
touch the surface of the real mystery. The sun, the human beings on
the mountain, and the mists are all parts of one material universe:
the transient phenomenon we witnessed was but the effect of a chance
combination. Is, then, the anthropomorphic God as momentary and as
accidental in the system of the world as that vapoury spectre? The
God in whom we live and move and have our being must be far more
all-pervasive, more incognisable by the souls of men, who doubt not
for one moment of His presence and His power. Except for purposes of
rhetoric the metaphor that seemed so clever fails. Nor, when once such
thoughts have been stirred in us by such a sight, can we do better
than repeat Goethe's sublime profession of a philosophic mysticism.
This translation I made one morning on the Pasterze Gletscher beneath
the spires of the Gross Glockner:--

  To Him who from eternity, self-stirred,
  Himself hath made by His creative word!
  To Him, supreme, who causeth Faith to be,
  Trust, Hope, Love, Power, and endless Energy!
  To Him, who, seek to name Him as we will,
  Unknown within Himself abideth still!

  Strain ear and eye, till sight and sense be dim;
  Thou'lt find but faint similitudes of Him:
  Yea, and thy spirit in her flight of flame
  Still strives to gauge the symbol and the name:
  Charmed and compelled thou climb'st from height to height,
  And round thy path the world shines wondrous bright;
  Time, Space, and Size, and Distance cease to be,
  And every step is fresh infinity.
  What were the God who sat outside to scan
  The spheres that 'neath His finger circling ran?
  God dwells within, and moves the world and moulds,
  Himself and Nature in one form enfolds:
  Thus all that lives in Him and breathes and is,
  Shall ne'er His puissance, ne'er His spirit miss.

  The soul of man, too, is an universe:
  Whence follows it that race with race concurs
  In naming all it knows of good and true
  God,--yea, its own God; and with homage due
  Surrenders to His sway both earth and heaven;
  Fears Him, and loves, where place for love is given.

       *       *       *       *       *



_LOMBARD VIGNETTES_


ON THE SUPERGA

This is the chord of Lombard colouring in May. Lowest in the scale:
bright green of varied tints, the meadow-grasses mingling with willows
and acacias, harmonised 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 toward 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 blent 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 idealises
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 agonising 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 tantalised 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, for ever 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 pot-house dissipation and
schoolboy 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 S. 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. Cristoforo in Vercelli, Gaudenzio Ferrari at the
full height of his powers showed what he could do to justify Lomazzo'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 frescoes) neutralised by an incurable defect of
the combining and harmonising faculty, so essential to a masterpiece.
There is stuff enough of thought and vigour 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 frescoes 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 frescoes. 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 colouring, 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 Lionardo 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
realised 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 frescoes
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 barefaced 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 colouring 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 vigour. But where the grace of
form and colour 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 scale 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 snowdrops, 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;
realising Simaetha's picture of her lover and his friend:

[Greek:

  tois d' ên xanthotera men elichrysoio geneias,
  stêthea de stilbonta poly pleon ê tu Selana.[9]]

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.[10]

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 vigour 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 frescoes in S. Caterina will repay the student
of art. This was once, apparently, a double church, or a church with
the hall and chapel of a _confraternita_ 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 around 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--romantically,
picturesquely perfect square, surpassing the most daring attempts
of the scene-painter, and realising 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 colour.

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, etherealised, and harmonised by one pervasive glow. When
I last saw Piacenza, it had been raining all day; and ere sundown 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 thundercloud kept flashing
distant lightnings. The pallid primrose of the West, forced down and
reflected back from that vast bank of tempest, gave unearthly beauty
to the hues of church and palace--tender half-tones of violet and
russet paling into greys and yellows on what in daylight seemed but
dull red brick. Even the uncompromising façade of S. 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 frescoes 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, S. Stephen and S. 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 frescoes, dealing with the legend of S. 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 realised. 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 S. 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
colour 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 praetereunt,'
&c. A dirty one-eyed fellow keeps the place. In my presence he swept
the frescoes over with a scratchy broom, flaying their upper surface
in profound unconsciousness of mischief. The armour of the executioner
has had its steel colours 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 sightseers, 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
chaunt 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 frescoes 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
colouring 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 colour what the greatest Lombard sculptors sought in stone--a
sharpness of relief that passes over into angularity. This brusqueness
was the counterpoise 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 S. Siro with S. Lawrence and S.
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 Lionardo on that rare Assumption of Madonna by
his pupil, Andrea Solari. Like everything touched by the Lionardesque
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
ascendant Mother of Heaven. The feeling of that happy region between
the Alps and Lombardy, where there are many waters--_et tacitos sine
labe laous 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 poignard; 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
basreliefs 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 ribands incessantly inscribed with Ave Maria! Then,
over all, the rich red light and purple shadows of the brick, than
which no substance sympathises 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 grey-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 S.
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
S. 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
frescoes 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, S. 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 colour. Every square inch is covered with
fresco or rich woodwork, 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 S. Martin and the glorified
Madonna of the Brera frescoes. It is not impossible that the male
saints of the loggia may be also his, though a tenderer touch, a
something more nearly Lionardesque 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 S.
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
harmonising colour 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, honoured 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 S. 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 frescoes,
they are far surpassed both in value and interest by his paintings in
the side chapel of S. 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
favourite types. The chapel was decorated at the expense of a Milanese
advocate, Francesco Besozzi, who died in 1529. It is he who is
kneeling, grey-haired and bareheaded, under the protection of S.
Catherine of Alexandria, intently gazing at Christ unbound from the
scourging pillar. On the other side stand S. Lawrence and S. 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 S.
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 S.
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 colouring. The most tragic
situation has here again been alchemised by Luini's magic into a
pure idyll, without the loss of power, without the sacrifice of
edification.

S. 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 Monistero 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 favour. 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 15,000 golden crowns with which she hoped to
bribe her jailors, she was finally beheaded. Thus did a vulgar and
infamous Messalina, distinguished only by rare beauty, furnish Luini
with a S. Catherine for this masterpiece of pious art! The thing seems
scarcely credible. Yet Bandello lived in Milan while the Church of
S. 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 nought of Death! Lancinus Curtius
shall live through all the centuries, and visit every shore of earth.
Such power have the Muses.' The timeworn 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 is 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
armour is quite plain. So is the surcoat. Upon the swelling bust,
that seems fit harbour 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 [Greek: 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
idealisation 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 honour and untimely
death; nor could any sculptor of death have poetised the theme more
thoroughly than Agostino Busti, whose simple instinct, unlike that of
Michelangelo, 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
neighbouring 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 Gandenzio 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 frescoes by Luini of S. Rocco, S. Sebastian,
S. Christopher, and S. Antony--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 frescoes 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
colour. 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 harmonised 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. Bach too has specific character, while all are robust and
full of life, intent upon the service set them. Their instruments
of music are all the lutes and viols, flutes, cymbals, drums, fifes,
citherns, organs, and harps that Ferrari's day could show. The scale
of colour, as usual with Ferrari, is a little heavy; nor are the tints
satisfactorily harmonised. But the vigour 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 vulgarised 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 nought 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 colour 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 those Parmese
frescoes, 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 frescoes of
the 'Marriage of the Virgin,' and the 'Dispute with the Doctors.'[11]
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
S. 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 frescoes. 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
colour in fresco. The blues detach themselves too much, perhaps, from
the rest of the colouring; and that is all a devil's advocate could
say. It is possible that the absence of blue makes the S. Catherine
frescoes 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 Lionardesque 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 idyll, is Sodoma; and the work of his which comes
nearest to Luini's masterpieces is the legend of S. 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? S. George, the chivalrous,
is champion of Ferrara. His is the marble group above the Cathedral
porch, so feudal in its medieval pomp. He and S. Michael are painted
in fresco over the south portcullis of the Castle. His lustrous armour
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 S. 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
drawbridges, 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 neighbouring 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 hillside, 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.
Gold 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 nought?

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 colour 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 immortalised 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
sunburned 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 blent upon his features. Yet this
impression was but the prelude to his smile. When that first dawned,
some breath of humour 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. I broadened,
showing brilliant teeth, and grew into a noiseless laugh; and then I
saw before me Dosso's jester, the type of Shakspere'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 S. John. On her right stood the man
of Torcello with his keys, a new S. 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?

       *       *       *       *       *



COMO AND IL MEDEGHINO

To which of the Italian lakes should the palm of beauty be accorded?
This question may not unfrequently have moved the idle minds of
travellers, wandering through that loveliest region from Orta to
Garda--from little Orta, with her gemlike island, rosy granite crags,
and chestnut-covered swards above the Colma; to Garda, bluest of all
waters, surveyed in majestic length from Desenzano or poetic Sirmione,
a silvery sleeping haze of hill and cloud and heaven and clear waves
bathed in modulated azure. And between these extreme points what
varied lovelinesses lie in broad Maggiore, winding Como, Varese with
the laughing face upturned to heaven, Lugano overshadowed by the
crested crags of Monte Generoso, and Iseo far withdrawn among the
rocky Alps! He who loves immense space, cloud shadows slowly sailing
over purple slopes, island gardens, distant glimpses of snow-capped
mountains, breadth, air, immensity, and flooding sunlight, will choose
Maggiore. But scarcely has he cast his vote for this, the Juno of the
divine rivals, when he remembers the triple lovelinesses of the
Larian Aphrodite, disclosed in all their placid grace from Villa
Serbelloni;--the green blue of the waters, clear as glass, opaque
through depth; the _millefleurs_ roses clambering into cypresses
by Cadenabbia; the laburnums hanging their yellow clusters from the
clefts of Sasso Eancio; the oleander arcades of Varenna; the wild
white limestone crags of San Martiuo, which he has climbed to feast
his eyes with the perspective, magical, serene, Lionardesquely
perfect, of the distant gates of Adda. Then while this modern Paris
is yet doubting, perhaps a thought may cross his mind of sterner,
solitary Lake Iseo--the Pallas of the three. She offers her own
attractions. The sublimity of Monte Adamello, dominating Lovere and
all the lowland like Hesiod's hill of Virtue reared aloft above the
plain of common life, has charms to tempt heroic lovers. Nor can
Varese be neglected. In some picturesque respects, Varese is the most
perfect of the lakes. Those long lines of swelling hills that lead
into the level, yield an infinite series of placid foregrounds,
pleasant to the eye by contrast with the dominant snow-summits, from
Monte Viso to Monte Leone: the sky is limitless to southward; the low
horizons are broken by bell-towers and farmhouses; while armaments of
clouds are ever rolling in the interval of Alps and plain.

Of a truth, to decide which is the queen of the Italian lakes, is but
an _infinita quæstio_; and the mere raising of it is folly. Still
each lover of the beautiful may give his vote; and mine, like that of
shepherd Paris, is already given to the Larian goddess. Words fail
in attempting to set forth charms which have to be enjoyed, or can at
best but lightly be touched with most consummate tact, even as great
poets have already touched on Como Lake--from Virgil with his 'Lari
maxume,' to Tennyson and the Italian Manzoni. The threshold of the
shrine is, however, less consecrated ground; and the Cathedral of Como
may form a vestibule to the temple where silence is more golden than
the speech of a describer.

The Cathedral of Como is perhaps the most perfect building in Italy
for illustrating the fusion of Gothic and Renaissance styles, both of
a good type and exquisite in their sobriety. The Gothic ends with the
nave. The noble transepts and the choir, each terminating in a rounded
tribune of the same dimensions, are carried out in a simple and
decorous Bramantesque manner. The transition from the one style to the
other is managed so felicitously, and the sympathies between them are
so well developed, that there is no discord. What we here call
Gothic, is conceived in a truly southern spirit, without fantastic
efflorescence or imaginative complexity of multiplied parts; while
the Renaissance manner, as applied by Tommaso Rodari, has not yet
stiffened into the lifeless neo-Latinism of the later _cinquecento_:
it is still distinguished by delicate inventiveness, and beautiful
subordination of decorative detail to architectural effect. Under
these happy conditions we feel that the Gothic of the nave, with its
superior severity and sombreness, dilates into the lucid harmonies of
choir and transepts like a flower unfolding. In the one the mind is
tuned to inner meditation and religious awe; in the other the
worshipper passes into a temple of the clear explicit faith--as an
initiated neophyte might be received into the meaning of the
mysteries.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire the district of Como seems
to have maintained more vividly than the rest of Northern Italy some
memory of classic art. _Magistri Comacini_ is a title frequently
inscribed upon deeds and charters of the earlier middle ages, as
synonymous with sculptors and architects. This fact may help to
account for the purity and beauty of the Duomo. It is the work of a
race in which the tradition of delicate artistic invention had
never been wholly interrupted. To Tommaso Rodari and his brothers,
Bernardino and Jacopo, the world owes this sympathetic fusion of the
Gothic and the Bramantesque styles; and theirs too is the sculpture
with which the Duomo is so richly decorated. They were natives of
Maroggia, a village near Mendrisio, beneath the crests of Monte
Generoso, close to Campione, which sent so many able craftsmen out
into the world between the years 1300 and 1500. Indeed the name of
Campionesi would probably have been given to the Rodari, had they left
their native province for service in Eastern Lombardy. The body of the
Duomo had been finished when Tommaso Rodari was appointed master of
the fabric in 1487. To complete the work by the addition of a tribune
was his duty. He prepared a wooden model and exposed it, after the
fashion of those times, for criticism in his _bottega_; and
the usual difference of opinion arose among the citizens of Como
concerning its merits. Cristoforo Solaro, surnamed Il Gobbo, was
called in to advise. It may be remembered that when Michelangelo first
placed his Pietà in S. Peter's, rumour gave it to this celebrated
Lombard sculptor, and the Florentine was constrained to set his own
signature upon the marble. The same Solaro carved the monument of
Beatrice Sforza in the Certosa of Pavia. He was indeed in all
points competent to criticise or to confirm the design of his
fellow-craftsman. Il Gobbo disapproved of the proportions chosen by
Rodari, and ordered a new model to be made; but after much discussion,
and some concessions on the part of Rodari, who is said to have
increased the number of the windows and lightened the orders of his
model, the work was finally entrusted to the master of Maroggia.

Not less creditable than the general design of the tribune is
the sculpture executed by the brothers. The north side door is a
master-work of early Renaissance chiselling, combining mixed Christian
and classical motives with a wealth of floral ornament. Inside, over
the same door, is a procession of children seeming to represent the
Triumph of Bacchus, with perhaps some Christian symbolism. Opposite,
above the south door, is a frieze of fighting Tritons--horsed sea
deities pounding one another with bunches of fish and splashing the
water, in Mantegna's spirit. The doorways of the façade are decorated
with the same rare workmanship; and the canopies, supported by naked
fauns and slender twisted figures, under which the two Plinies are
seated, may be reckoned among the supreme achievements of delicate
Renaissance sculpture. The Plinies are not like the work of the same
master. They are older, stiffer, and more Gothic. The chief interest
attaching to them is that they are habited and seated after the
fashion of Humanists. This consecration of the two Pagan saints beside
the portals of the Christian temple is truly characteristic of
the fifteenth century in Italy. Beneath, are little basreliefs
representing scenes from their respective lives, in the style of
carved predellas on the altars of saints.

The whole church is peopled with detached statues, among which a
Sebastian in the Chapel of the Madonna must be mentioned as singularly
beautiful. It is a finely modelled figure, with the full life and
exuberant adolescence of Venetian inspiration. A peculiar feature of
the external architecture is the series of Atlantes, bearing on their
shoulders urns, heads of lions, and other devices, and standing on
brackets round the upper cornice just below the roof. They are of all
sorts; young and old, male and female; classically nude, and boldly
outlined. These water-conduits, the work of Bernardo Bianco and
Francesco Rusca, illustrate the departure of the earlier Renaissance
from the Gothic style. They are gargoyles; but they have lost the
grotesque element. At the same time the sculptor, while discarding
Gothic tradition, has not betaken himself yet to a servile imitation
of the antique. He has used invention, and substituted for grinning
dragons' heads something wild and bizarre of his own in harmony with
classic taste.

The pictures in the chapels, chiefly by Luini and Ferrari--an idyllic
Nativity, with faun-like shepherds and choirs of angels--a sumptuous
adoration of the Magi--a jewelled Sposalizio with abundance of golden
hair flowing over draperies of green and crimson--will interest
those who are as yet unfamiliar with Lombard painting. Yet their
architectural setting, perhaps, is superior to their intrinsic merit
as works of art; and their chief value consists in adding rare dim
flakes of colour to the cool light of the lovely church. More curious,
because less easily matched, is the gilded woodwork above the altar of
S. Abondio, attributed to a German carver, but executed for the
most part in the purest Luinesque manner. The pose of the enthroned
Madonna, the type and gesture of S. Catherine, and the treatment of
the Pietà above, are thoroughly Lombard, showing how Luini's ideal of
beauty could be expressed in carving. Some of the choicest figures in
the Monastero Maggiore at Milan seem to have descended from the walls
and stepped into their tabernacles on this altar. Yet the style is not
maintained consistently. In the reliefs illustrating the life of S.
Abondio we miss Luini's childlike grace, and find instead a something
that reminds us of Donatello--a seeking after the classical in dress,
carriage, and grouping of accessory figures. It may have been that the
carver, recognising Luini's defective composition, and finding nothing
in that master's manner adapted to the spirit of relief, had the good
taste to render what was Luinesquely lovely in his female figures, and
to fall back on a severer model for his basreliefs.

The building-fund for the Duomo was raised in Como and its districts.
Boxes were placed in all the churches to receive the alms of those who
wished to aid the work. The clergy begged in Lent, and preached the
duty of contributing on special days. Presents of lime and bricks
and other materials were thankfully received. Bishops, canons, and
municipal magistrates were expected to make costly gifts on taking
office. Notaries, under penalty of paying 100 soldi if they neglected
their engagement, were obliged to persuade testators, _cum bonis
modis dulciter_, to inscribe the Duomo on their wills. Fines for
various offences were voted to the building by the city. Each new
burgher paid a certain sum; while guilds and farmers of the taxes
bought monopolies and privileges at the price of yearly subsidies.
A lottery was finally established for the benefit of the fabric.
Of course each payment to the good work carried with it spiritual
privileges; and so willingly did the people respond to the call of the
Church, that during the sixteenth century the sums subscribed amounted
to 200,000 golden crowns. Among the most munificent donators are
mentioned the Marchese Giacomo Gallio, who bequeathed 290,000 lire,
and a Benzi, who gave 10,000 ducats.

While the people of Como were thus straining every nerve to complete
a pious work, which at the same time is one of the most perfect
masterpieces of Italian art, their lovely lake was turned into a
pirate's stronghold, and its green waves stained with slaughter of
conflicting navies. So curious is this episode in the history of the
Larian lake that it is worth while to treat of it at some length.
Moreover, the lives of few captains of adventure offer matter more
rich in picturesque details and more illustrative of their times than
that of Gian Giacomo de' Medici, the Larian corsair, long known and
still remembered as Il Medeghino. He was born in Milan in 1498, at
the beginning of that darkest and most disastrous period of Italian
history, when the old fabric of social and political existence went to
ruin under the impact of conflicting foreign armies. He lived on until
the year 1555, witnessing and taking part in the dismemberment of the
Milanese Duchy, playing a game of hazard at high stakes for his own
profit with the two last Sforzas, the Empire, the French, and the
Swiss. At the beginning of the century, while he was still a youth,
the rich valley of the Valtelline, with Bormio and Chiavenna, had
been assigned to the Grisons. The Swiss Cantons at the same time had
possessed themselves of Lugano and Bellinzona. By these two acts of
robbery the mountaineers tore a portion of its fairest territory from
the Duchy; and whoever ruled in Milan, whether a Sforza, or a Spanish
viceroy, or a French general, was impatient to recover the lost jewel
of the ducal crown. So much has to be premised, because the scene of
our hero's romantic adventures was laid upon the borderland between
the Duchy and the Cantons. Intriguing at one time with the Duke of
Milan, at another with his foes the French or Spaniards, Il Medeghino
found free scope for his peculiar genius in a guerilla warfare,
carried on with the avowed purpose of restoring the Valtelline to
Milan. To steer a plain course through that chaos of politics, in
which the modern student, aided by the calm clear lights of history
and meditation, cannot find a clue, was of course impossible for an
adventurer whose one aim was to gratify his passions and exalt himself
at the expense of others. It is therefore of little use to seek
motives of statecraft or of patriotism in the conduct of Il Medeghino.
He was a man shaped according to Machiavelli's standard of political
morality--self-reliant, using craft and force with cold indifference
to moral ends, bent only upon wringing for himself the largest share
of this world's power for men who, like himself, identified virtue
with unflinching and immitigable egotism.

Il Medeghino's father was Bernardo de' Medici, a Lombard, who neither
claimed nor could have proved cousinship with the great Medicean
family of Florence. His mother was Cecilia Serbelloni. The boy was
educated in the fashionable humanistic studies, nourishing his young
imagination with the tales of Roman heroes. The first exploit by which
he proved his _virtù_, was the murder of a man he hated, at the
age of sixteen. This 'virile act of vengeance,' as it was called,
brought him into trouble, and forced him to choose the congenial
profession of arms. At a time when violence and vigour passed for
manliness, a spirited assassination formed the best of introductions
to the captains of mixed mercenary troops. Il Medeghino rose in
favour with his generals, helped to reinstate Francesco Sforza in his
capital, and, returning himself to Milan, inflicted severe vengeance
on the enemies who had driven him to exile. It was his ambition, at
this early period of his life, to be made governor of the Castle of
Musso, on the Lake of Como. While fighting in the neighbourhood, he
had observed the unrivalled capacities for defence presented by its
site; and some pre-vision of his future destinies now urged him to
acquire it, as the basis for the free marauding life he planned. The
headland of Musso lies about halfway between Gravedona and Menaggio,
on the right shore of the Lake of Como. Planted on a pedestal of
rock, and surmounted by a sheer cliff, there then stood a very ancient
tower, commanding this promontory on the side of the land. Between it
and the water the Visconti, in more recent days, had built a square
fort; and the headland had been further strengthened by the addition
of connecting walls and bastions pierced for cannon. Combining
precipitous cliffs, strong towers, and easy access from the lake
below, this fortress of Musso was exactly the fit station for a
pirate. So long as he kept the command of the lake, he had little
to fear from land attacks, and had a splendid basis for aggressive
operations. Il Medeghino made his request to the Duke of Milan; but
the foxlike Sforza would not grant him a plain answer. At length he
hinted that if his suitor chose to rid him of a troublesome subject,
the noble and popular Astore Visconti, he should receive Musso
for payment. Crimes of bloodshed and treason sat lightly on the
adventurer's conscience. In a short time he compassed the young
Visconti's death, and claimed his reward. The Duke despatched him
thereupon to Musso, with open letters to the governor, commanding him
to yield the castle to the bearer. Private advice, also entrusted to
Il Medeghino, bade the governor, on the contrary, cut the bearer's
throat. The young man, who had the sense to read the Duke's letter,
destroyed the secret document, and presented the other, or, as one
version of the story goes, forged a ducal order in his own favour.[12]
At any rate, the castle was placed in his hands; and affecting to know
nothing of the Duke's intended treachery, Il Medeghino took possession
of it as a trusted servant of the ducal crown.

As soon as he was settled in his castle, the freebooter devoted all
his energies to rendering it still more impregnable by strengthening
the walls and breaking the cliffs into more horrid precipices. In this
work he was assisted by his numerous friends and followers; for Musso
rapidly became, like ancient Rome, an asylum for the ruffians and
outlaws of neighbouring provinces. It is even said that his sisters,
Clarina and Margherita, rendered efficient aid with manual labour. The
mention of Clarina's name justifies a parenthetical side-glance at Il
Medeghino's pedigree, which will serve to illustrate the exceptional
conditions of Italian society during this age. She was married to
the Count Giberto Borromeo, and became the mother of the pious Carlo
Borromeo, whose shrine is still adored at Milan in the Duomo. Il
Medeghino's brother, Giovan Angelo, rose to the Papacy, assuming the
title of Pius IV. Thus this murderous marauder was the brother of a
Pope and the uncle of a Saint; and these three persons of one family
embraced the various degrees and typified the several characters which
flourished with peculiar lustre in Renaissance Italy--the captain of
adventure soaked in blood, the churchman unrivalled for intrigue, and
the saint aflame with holiest enthusiasm. Il Medeghino was short of
stature, but well made and powerful; broad-chested; with a penetrating
voice and winning countenance. He dressed simply, like one of his own
soldiers; slept but little; was insensible to carnal pleasure; and
though he knew how to win the affection of his men by jovial speech,
he maintained strict discipline in his little army. In all points he
was an ideal bandit chief, never happy unless fighting or planning
campaigns, inflexible of purpose, bold and cunning in the execution of
his schemes, cruel to his enemies, generous to his followers,
sacrificing all considerations, human and divine, to the one aim of
his life, self-aggrandisement by force and intrigue. He knew well how
to make himself both feared and respected. One instance of his dealing
will suffice. A gentleman of Bellano, Polidoro Boldoni, in return to
his advances, coldly replied that he cared for neither amity nor
relationship with thieves and robbers; whereupon Il Medeghino
extirpated his family, almost to a man.

Soon after his settlement in Musso, Il Medeghino, wishing to secure
the gratitude of the Duke, his master, began war with the Grisons.
From Coire, from the Engadine, and from Davos, the Alpine pikemen were
now pouring down to swell the troops of Francis I.; and their road lay
through the Lake of Como. Il Medeghino burned all the boats upon the
lake, except those which he took into his own service, and thus made
himself master of the water passage. He then swept the 'length of
lordly Lario' from Colico to Lecco, harrying the villages upon
the shore, and cutting off the bands of journeying Switzers at his
pleasure. Not content with this guerilla, he made a descent upon
the territory of the Trepievi, and pushed far up towards Chiavenna,
forcing the Grisons to recall their troops from the Milanese. These
acts of prowess convinced the Duke that he had found a strong ally
in the pirate chief. When Francis I. continued his attacks upon the
Duchy, and the Grisons still adhered to their French paymaster, the
Sforza formally invested Gian Giacomo de' Medici with the perpetual
governorship of Musso, the Lake of Como, and as much as he could wrest
from the Grisons above the lake. Furnished now with a just title for
his depredations, Il Medeghino undertook the siege of Chiavenna. That
town is the key to the valleys of the Splügen and Bregaglia. Strongly
fortified and well situated for defence, the burghers of the Grisons
well knew that upon its possession depended their power in the Italian
valleys. To take it by assault was impossible, Il Medeghino used
craft, entered the castle, and soon had the city at his disposition.
Nor did he lose time in sweeping Val Bregaglia. The news of this
conquest recalled the Switzers from the Duchy; and as they hurried
homeward just before the battle of Pavia, it may be affirmed that Gian
Giacomo de' Medici was instrumental in the defeat and capture of the
French King. The mountaineers had no great difficulty in dislodging
their pirate enemy from Chiavenna, the Valtelline, and Val Bregaglia.
But he retained his hold on the Trepievi, occupied the Valsassina,
took Porlezza, and established himself still more strongly in Musso as
the corsair monarch of the lake.

The tyranny of the Sforzas in Milan was fast going to pieces between
France and Spain; and in 1526 the Marquis of Pescara occupied the
capital in the name of Charles V. The Duke, meanwhile, remained a
prisoner in his Castello. Il Medeghino was now without a master; for
he refused to acknowledge the Spaniards, preferring to watch events
and build his own power on the ruins of the dukedom. At the head of
4,000 men, recruited from the lakes and neighbouring valleys, he
swept the country far and wide, and occupied the rich champaign of the
Brianza. He was now lord of the lakes of Como and Lugano, and absolute
in Lecco and the adjoining valleys. The town of Como itself alone
belonged to the Spaniards; and even Como was blockaded by the navy of
the corsair. Il Medeghino had a force of seven big ships, with three
sails and forty-eight oars, bristling with guns and carrying marines.
His flagship was a large brigantine, manned by picked rowers, from
the mast of which floated the red banner with the golden palle of the
Medicean arms. Besides these larger vessels, he commanded a flotilla
of countless small boats. It is clear that to reckon with him was a
necessity. If he could not be put down with force, he might be bought
over by concessions. The Spaniards adopted the second course, and Il
Medeghino, judging that the cause of the Sforza family was desperate,
determined in 1528 to attach himself to the Empire. Charles V.
invested him with the Castle of Musso and the larger part of Como
Lake, including the town of Lecco. He now assumed the titles of
Marquis of Musso and Count of Lecco: and in order to prove his
sovereignty before the world, he coined money with his own name and
devices.

It will be observed that Gian Giacomo de' Medici had hitherto acted
with a single-hearted view to his own interests. At the age of thirty
he had raised himself from nothing to a principality, which, though
petty, might compare with many of some name in Italy--with Carpi, for
example, or Mirandola, or Camerino. Nor did he mean to remain quiet
in the prime of life. He regarded Como Lake as the mere basis for more
arduous undertakings. Therefore, when the whirligig of events restored
Francesco Sforza to his duchy in 1529, Il Medeghino refused to obey
his old lord. Pretending to move under the Duke's orders, but really
acting for himself alone, he proceeded to attack his ancient
enemies, the Grisons. By fraud and force he worked his way into
their territory, seized Morbegno, and overran the Valtelline. He
was destined, however, to receive a serious check. Twelve thousand
Switzers rose against him on the one hand, on the other the Duke of
Milan sent a force by land and water to subdue his rebel subject,
while Alessandro Gonzaga marched upon his castles in the Brianza. He
was thus assailed by formidable forces from three quarters, converging
upon the Lake of Como, and driving him to his chosen element, the
water. Hastily quitting the Valtelline, he fell back to the Castle of
Mandello on the lake, collected his navy, and engaged the ducal ships
in a battle off Menaggio. In this battle he was worsted. But he did
not lose his courage. From Bellagio, from Varenna, from Bellano he
drove forth his enemies, rolled the cannon of the Switzers into the
lake, regained Lecco, defeated the troops of Alessandro Gonzaga, and
took the Duke of Mantua prisoner. Had he but held Como, it is probable
that he might have obtained such terms at this time as would have
consolidated his tyranny. The town of Como, however, now belonged
to the Duke of Milan, and formed an excellent basis for operations
against the pirate. Overmatched, with an exhausted treasury and broken
forces, Il Medeghino was at last compelled to give in. Yet he retired
with all the honours of war. In exchange for Musso and the lake, the
Duke agreed to give him 35,000 golden crowns, together with the feud
and marquisate of Marignano. A free pardon was promised not only
to himself and his brothers, but to all his followers; and the Duke
further undertook to transport his artillery and munitions of war at
his own expense to Marignano. Having concluded this treaty under the
auspices of Charles V. and his lieutenant, Il Medeghino, in March
1532, set sail from Musso, and turned his back upon the lake for
ever. The Switzers immediately destroyed the towers, forts, walls, and
bastions of the Musso promontory, leaving in the midst of their ruins
the little chapel of S. Eufemia.

Gian Giacomo de' Medici, henceforth known to Europe as the Marquis
of Marignano, now took service under Spain; and through the favour
of Anton de Leyva, Viceroy for the Duchy, rose to the rank of
Field Marshal. When the Marquis del Vasto succeeded to the Spanish
governorship of Milan in 1536, he determined to gratify an old grudge
against the ex-pirate, and, having invited him to a banquet, made him
prisoner. II Medeghino was not, however, destined to languish in a
dungeon. Princes and kings interested themselves in his fate. He
was released, and journeyed to the court of Charles V. in Spain.
The Emperor received him kindly, and employed him first in the Low
Countries, where he helped to repress the burghers of Ghent, and at
the siege of Landrecy commanded the Spanish artillery against other
Italian captains of adventure: for, Italy being now dismembered and
enslaved, her sons sought foreign service where they found best pay
and widest scope for martial science. Afterwards the Medici ruled
Bohemia as Spanish Viceroy; and then, as general of the league formed
by the Duke of Florence, the Emperor, and the Pope to repress the
liberties of Tuscany, distinguished himself in that cruel war of
extermination, which turned the fair Contado of Siena into a poisonous
Maremma. To the last Il Medeghino preserved the instincts and the
passions of a brigand chief. It was at this time that, acting for the
Grand Duke of Tuscany, he first claimed open kinship with the Medici
of Florence. Heralds and genealogists produced a pedigree, which
seemed to authorise this pretension; he was recognised, together with
his brother, Pius IV., as an offshoot of the great house which had
already given Dukes to Florence, Kings to France, and two Popes to
the Christian world. In the midst of all this foreign service he never
forgot his old dream of conquering the Valtelline; and in 1547 he
made proposals to the Emperor for a new campaign against the Grisons.
Charles V. did not choose to engage in a war, the profits of which
would have been inconsiderable for the master of half the civilised
world, and which might have proved troublesome by stirring up the
tameless Switzers. Il Medeghino was obliged to abandon a project
cherished from the earliest dawn of his adventurous manhood.

When Gian Giacomo died in 1555, his brother Battista succeeded to his
claims upon Lecco and the Trepievi. His monument, magnificent with
five bronze figures, the masterpiece of Leone Lioni, from Menaggio,
Michelangelesque in style, and of consummate workmanship, still adorns
the Duomo of Milan. It stands close by the door that leads to the
roof. This mausoleum, erected to the memory of Gian Giacomo and
his brother Gabrio, is said to have cost 7800 golden crowns. On the
occasion of the pirate's funeral the Senate of Milan put on mourning,
and the whole city followed the great robber, the hero of Renaissance
_virtù_, to the grave.

Between the Cathedral of Como and the corsair Medeghino there is but
a slight link. Yet so extraordinary were the social circumstances of
Renaissance Italy, that almost at every turn, on her seaboard, in her
cities, from her hill-tops, we are compelled to blend our admiration
for the loveliest and purest works of art amid the choicest scenes
of nature with memories of execrable crimes and lawless characters.
Sometimes, as at Perugia, the _nexus_ is but local. At others,
one single figure, like that of Cellini, unites both points of view in
a romance of unparalleled dramatic vividness. Or, again, beneath
the vaults of the Certosa, near Pavia, a masterpiece of the serenest
beauty carries our thoughts perforce back to the hideous cruelties
and snake-like frauds of its despotic founder. This is the excuse
for combining two such diverse subjects in one study.

       *       *       *       *       *



_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,
vapour-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 airspace 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 splendour live here side by side. Grand Renaissance
portals grinning with Satyr masks are flanked by tawdry frescoes
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, basreliefs, pilasters, statuettes, encrusted 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 labours. Italian
craftsmen of the _quattrocento_ were not averse to setting
thus together, in one framework, 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 labour, 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 epitomised
in twelve of the sixteen basreliefs. The remaining four show Hercules
wrestling with Antæus, taming the Nemean lion, extirpating the Hydra,
and bending to his will the bull of Crete. Labour, 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 basreliefs far-fetched; yet, such as
it is, it agrees with the spirit of Humanism, bent ever on harmonising
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
_improvvisatore_ 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 50,000 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 _cinquecento_ frieze,
for instance--and much of the low relief work--especially the
Crucifixion with its characteristic episodes of the fainting Maries
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 cheek bones 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, idealise the hero of romance--if
Michelangelo'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 enrol 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 armour. 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 800 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 Provoditore of the Republic. He
now took a commission from Filippo Maria Visconti, who received him at
Milan with great honour, 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 bodyguard 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 honour 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 1500 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 S. Mark elected him General-in-Chief of
their armies, with the fullest powers, and with a stipend of 100,000
florins. For nearly twenty-one years, until the day of his death, in
1475, Colleoni held this honourable 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 Bâton of S. 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 cortege. 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 S. 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 S.
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
splendour to maintain and to defend the Majesty, the Loyalty, and the
Principles of this Empire. Neither provoking, not 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 favourite 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. Honours 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, authorised 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 honour 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 good 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 S. Chiara, the other to S. Francis. In Bergamo itself he founded an
establishment named' La Pieta,' for the good purpose of dowering and
marrying poor girls. This house he endowed with a yearly income of
3000 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 S. 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 S. 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 recognised 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 a piece 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 coloured 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 favourite
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 frescoes, 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 honour, 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 armour, and gave to each of his servants a complete
livery of red and white, his colours. Among the frescoes 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 S. Mark
his heir-in-chief, after properly providing for his daughters and his
numerous foundations. The Venetians received under this testament a
sum of 100,000 ducats, together with all arrears of pay due to him,
and 10,000 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 S. Mark. This, however, involved some difficulty; for the
proud Republic had never accorded a similar honour, 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 S. 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 loth 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
splendour 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 dishonourable dealings, and Carmagnola to the
scaffold by questionable practice against his masters.

       *       *       *       *       *



_CREMA AND THE CRUCIFIX_


Few people visit Crema. It is a little country town of Lombardy,
between Cremona and Treviglio, with no historic memories but very
misty ones belonging to the days of the Visconti dynasty. On every
side around the city walls stretch smiling vineyards and rich meadows,
where the elms are married to the mulberry-trees by long festoons of
foliage hiding purple grapes, where the sunflowers droop their heavy
golden heads among tall stems of millet and gigantic maize, and here
and there a rice-crop ripens in the marshy loam. In vintage time
the carts, drawn by their white oxen, come creaking townward in
the evening, laden with blue bunches. Down the long straight roads,
between rows of poplars, they creep on; and on the shafts beneath
the pyramid of fruit lie contadini stained with lees of wine. Far off
across that 'waveless sea' of Lombardy, which has been the battlefield
of countless generations, rise the dim grey Alps, or else pearled
domes of thunder-clouds in gleaming masses over some tall solitary
tower. Such backgrounds, full of peace, suggestive of almost infinite
distance, and dignified with colours of incomparable depth and
breadth, the Venetian painters loved. No landscape in Europe is more
wonderful than this--thrice wonderful in the vastness of its arching
heavens, in the stillness of its level plain, and in the bulwark of
huge crested mountains, reared afar like bastions against the northern
sky. The little town is all alive in this September weather. At every
corner of the street, under rustling abeles and thick-foliaged planes,
at the doors of palaces and in the yards of inns, men, naked from the
thighs downward, are treading the red must into vats and tuns; while
their mild-eyed oxen lie beneath them in the road, peaceably chewing
the cud between one journey to the vineyard and another. It must not
be imagined that the scene of Alma Tadema's 'Roman Vintage,' or what
we fondly picture to our fancy of the Athenian Lenaea, is repeated in
the streets of Crema. This modern treading of the wine-press is a
very prosaic affair. The town reeks with a sour smell of old casks and
crushed grape-skins, and the men and women at work bear no resemblance
whatever to Bacchus and his crew. Yet even as it is, the Lombard
vintage, beneath floods of sunlight and a pure blue sky, is beautiful;
and he who would fain make acquaintance with Crema, should time his
entry into the old town, if possible, on some still golden afternoon
of autumn. It is then, if ever, that he will learn to love the glowing
brickwork of its churches and the quaint terra-cotta traceries that
form its chief artistic charm.

How the unique brick architecture of the Lombard cities took its
origin--whether from the precepts of Byzantine aliens in the earliest
middle ages, or from the native instincts of a mixed race composed of
Gallic, Ligurian, Roman, and Teutonic elements, under the leadership
of Longobardic rulers--is a question for antiquarians to decide.
There can, however, be no doubt that the monuments of the Lombard
style, as they now exist, are no less genuinely local, no less
characteristic of the country they adorn, no less indigenous to the
soil they sprang from, than the Attic colonnades of Mnesicles and
Ictinus. What the marble quarries of Pentelicus were to the Athenian
builders, the clay beneath their feet was to those Lombard craftsmen.
From it they fashioned structures as enduring, towers as majestic, and
cathedral aisles as solemn, as were ever wrought from chiselled stone.
There is a true sympathy between those buildings and the Lombard
landscape, which by itself might suffice to prove the originality
of their almost unknown architects. The rich colour of the baked
clay--finely modulated from a purplish red, through russet, crimson,
pink, and orange, to pale yellow and dull grey--harmonises with the
brilliant greenery of Lombard vegetation and with the deep azure
of the distant Alpine range. Reared aloft above the flat expanse of
plain, those square _torroni_, tapering into octagons and
crowned with slender cones, break the long sweeping lines and
infinite horizons with a contrast that affords relief, and yields a
resting-place to tired eyes; while, far away, seen haply from some
bridge above Ticino, or some high-built palace loggia, they gleam like
columns of pale rosy fire against the front of mustering storm-clouds
blue with rain. In that happy orchard of Italy, a pergola of vines
in leaf, a clump of green acacias, and a campanile soaring above its
church roof, brought into chance combination with the reaches of the
plain and the dim mountain range, make up a picture eloquent in its
suggestive beauty.

Those ancient builders wrought cunningly with their material. The
bricks are fashioned and fixed to last for all time. Exposed to the
icy winds of a Lombard winter, to the fierce fire of a Lombard summer,
and to the moist vapours of a Lombard autumn; neglected by unheeding
generations; with flowers clustering in their crannies, and birds
nesting in their eaves, and mason-bees filling the delicate network of
their traceries--they still present angles as sharp as when they were
but finished, and joints as nice as when the mortar dried in the first
months of their building. This immunity from age and injury they owe
partly to the imperishable nature of baked clay; partly to the care of
the artists who selected and mingled the right sorts of earth, burned
them with scrupulous attention, and fitted them together with a
patience born of loving service. Each member of the edifice was
designed with a view to its ultimate place. The proper curve was
ascertained for cylindrical columns and for rounded arches. Larger
bricks were moulded for the supporting walls, and lesser pieces were
adapted to the airy vaults and lanterns. In the brickfield and the
kiln the whole church was planned and wrought out in its details,
before the hands that made a unity of all these scattered elements
were set to the work of raising it in air. When they came to put the
puzzle together, they laid each brick against its neighbour, filling
up the almost imperceptible interstices with liquid cement composed
of quicklime and fine sand in water. After five centuries the seams
between the layers of bricks that make the bell-tower of S. Gottardo
at Milan, yield no point of vantage to the penknife or the chisel.

Nor was it in their welding of the bricks alone that these craftsmen
showed their science. They were wont to enrich the surface with
marble, sparingly but effectively employed--as in those slender
detached columns, which add such beauty to the octagon of S. Gottardo,
or in the string-courses of strange beasts and reptiles that adorn the
church fronts of Pavia. They called to their aid the _mandorlato_
of Verona, supporting their porch pillars on the backs of couchant
lions, inserting polished slabs on their façades, and building huge
sarcophagi into their cloister alleys. Between terra-cotta and this
marble of Verona there exists a deep and delicate affinity. It took
the name of _mandorlato_, I suppose, from a resemblance to almond
blossoms. But it is far from having the simple beauty of a single hue.
Like all noble veined stones, it passes by a series of modulations and
gradations through a gamut of associated rather than contrasted tints.
Not the pink of the almond blossom only, but the creamy whiteness of
the almond kernel, and the dull yellow of the almond nut may be found
in it; and yet these colours are so blent and blurred to all-pervading
mellowness, that nowhere is there any shock of contrast or violence of
a preponderating tone. The veins which run in labyrinths of crossing,
curving, and contorted lines all over its smooth surface add, no
doubt, to this effect of unity. The polish, lastly, which it takes,
makes the _mandorlato_ shine like a smile upon the sober face
of the brickwork: for, serviceable as terra-cotta is for nearly all
artistic purposes, it cannot reflect light or gain the illumination
which comes from surface brightness.

What the clay can do almost better than any crystalline material, may
be seen in the mouldings so characteristic of Lombard architecture.
Geometrical patterns of the rarest and most fanciful device; scrolls
of acanthus foliage, and traceries of tendrils; Cupids swinging in
festoons of vines; angels joining hands in dance, with fluttering
skirts and windy hair, and mouths that symbol singing; grave faces of
old men and beautiful profiles of maidens leaning from medallions;
wide-winged genii filling the spandrils of cloister arches, and
cherubs clustered in the rondure of rose-windows--ornaments like
these, wrought from the plastic clay, and adapted with true taste to
the requirements of the architecture, are familiar to every one who
has studied the church front of Crema, the cloisters of the Certosa,
the courts of the Ospedale Maggiore at Milan, or the public palace of
Cremona.

If the _mandorlato_ gives a smile to those majestic Lombard
buildings, the terra-cotta decorations add the element of life
and movement. The thought of the artist in its first freshness
and vivacity is felt in them. They have all the spontaneity of
improvisation, the seductive melody of unpremeditated music.
Moulding the supple earth with 'hand obedient to the brain,' the
_plasticatore_ has impressed his most fugitive dreams of beauty
on it without effort; and what it cost him but a few fatigueless
hours to fashion, the steady heat of the furnace has gifted with
imperishable life. Such work, no doubt, has the defects of its
qualities. As there are few difficulties to overcome, it suffers
from a fatal facility--_nec pluteum coedit nec demorsos sapit
ungues_. It is therefore apt to be unequal, touching at times the
highest point of inspiration, as in the angels of Guccio at Perugia,
and sinking not unfrequently into the commonplace of easygoing
triviality, as in the common floral traceries of Milanese windows.
But it is never laboured, never pedantic, never dulled by the painful
effort to subdue an obstinate material to the artist's will. If marble
is required to develop the strength of the few supreme sculptors,
terra-cotta saves intact the fancies of a crowd of lesser men.

When we reflect that all the force, solemnity, and beauty of the
Lombard buildings was evoked from clay, we learn from them this
lesson: that the thought of man needs neither precious material nor
yet stubborn substance for the production of enduring masterpieces.
The red earth was enough for God when He made man in His own image;
and mud dried in the sun suffices for the artist, who is next to God
in his creative faculty--since _non merita nome di creatore se
non Iddio ed il poeta_. After all, what is more everlasting than
terra-cotta? The hobnails of the boys who ran across the brickfields
in the Roman town of Silchester, may still be seen, mingled with
the impress of the feet of dogs and hoofs of goats, in the tiles
discovered there. Such traces might serve as a metaphor for the
footfall of artistic genius, when the form-giver has stamped his
thought upon the moist clay, and fire has made that imprint permanent.

Of all these Lombard edifices, none is more beautiful than the
Cathedral of Crema, with its delicately finished campanile, built
of choicely tinted yellow bricks, and ending in a lantern of the
gracefullest, most airily capricious fancy. This bell-tower does not
display the gigantic force of Cremona's famous torrazzo, shooting
396 feet into blue ether from the city square; nor can it rival the
octagon of S. Gottardo for warmth of hue. Yet it has a character of
elegance, combined with boldness of invention, that justifies the
citizens of Crema in their pride. It is unique; and he who has not
seen it does not know the whole resources of the Lombard style. The
façade of the Cathedral displays that peculiar blending of Byzantine
or Romanesque round arches with Gothic details in the windows,
and with the acute angle of the central pitch, which forms the
characteristic quality of the late _trecento_ Lombard manner. In
its combination of purity and richness it corresponds to the best age
of decorated work in English Gothic. What, however, strikes a Northern
observer is the strange detachment of this elaborate façade from the
main structure of the church. Like a frontispiece cut out of cardboard
and pierced with ornamental openings, it shoots far above the low
roof of the nave; so that at night the moon, rising above the southern
aisle, shines through its topmost window, and casts the shadow of
its tracery upon the pavement of the square. This is a constructive
blemish to which the Italians in no part of the peninsula were
sensitive. They seem to have regarded their church fronts as
independent of the edifice, capable of separate treatment, and worthy
in themselves of being made the subject of decorative skill.

In the so-called Santuario of Crema--a circular church dedicated to
S. Maria della Croce, outside the walls--the Lombard style has been
adapted to the manner of the Mid-Renaissance. This church was raised
in the last years of the fifteenth century by Gian Battista Battagli,
an architect of Lodi, who followed the pure rules of taste, bequeathed
to North Italian builders by Bramante. The beauty of the edifice
is due entirely to its tranquil dignity and harmony of parts, the
lightness of its circling loggia, and the just proportion maintained
between the central structure and the four projecting porticoes. The
sharp angles of these vestibules afford a contrast to the simplicity
of the main building, while their clustered cupolas assist the general
effect of roundness aimed at by the architect. Such a church as
this proves how much may be achieved by the happy distribution of
architectural masses. It was the triumph of the best Renaissance style
to attain lucidity of treatment, and to produce beauty by geometrical
proportion. When Leo Battista Alberti complained to his friend, Matteo
di Bastia, that a slight alteration of the curves in his design for
S. Francesco at Rimini would 'spoil his music,' _ciò che tu muti
discorda tutta quella musica_, this is what he meant. The melody
of lines and the harmony of parts made a symphony to his eyes no less
agreeable than a concert of tuned lutes and voices to his ears; and to
this concord he was so sensitive that any deviation was a discord.

After visiting the churches of Crema and sauntering about the streets
awhile, there is nothing left to do but to take refuge in the old
Albergo del Pozzo. This is one of those queer Italian inns, which
carry you away at once into a scene of Goldoni. It is part of some
palace, where nobles housed their _bravi_ in the sixteenth
century, and which the lesser people of to-day have turned into a
dozen habitations. Its great stone staircase leads to a saloon upon
which the various bedchambers open; and round its courtyard runs an
open balcony, and from the court grows up a fig-tree poking ripe fruit
against a bedroom window. Oleanders in tubs and red salvias in pots,
and kitchen herbs in boxes, flourish on the pavement, where the ostler
comes to wash his carriages, and where the barber shaves the poodle of
the house. Visitors to the Albergo del Pozzo are invariably asked if
they have seen the Museo; and when they answer in the negative, they
are conducted with some ceremony to a large room on the ground-floor
of the inn, looking out upon the courtyard and the fig-tree. It was
here that I gained the acquaintance of Signor Folcioni, and became
possessor of an object that has made the memory of Crema doubly
interesting to me ever since.

When we entered the Museo, we found a little old man, gentle, grave,
and unobtrusive, varnishing the ugly portrait of some Signor of the
_cinquecento_. Round the walls hung pictures, of mediocre value,
in dingy frames; but all of them bore sounding titles. Titians,
Lionardos, Guido Renis, and Luinis, looked down and waited for a
purchaser. In truth this museum was a _bric-à-brac_ shop of a
sort that is common enough in Italy, where treasures of old lace,
glass, armour, furniture, and tapestry, may still be met with. Signor
Folcioni began by pointing out the merits of his pictures; and after
making due allowance for his zeal as amateur and dealer, it was
possible to join in some of his eulogiums. A would-be Titian, for
instance, bought in Verona from a noble house in ruins, showed
Venetian wealth of colour in its gemmy greens and lucid crimsons
shining from a background deep and glowing. Then he led us to a
walnut-wood bureau of late Renaissance work, profusely carved with
nymphs and Cupids, and armed men, among festoons of fruits embossed
in high relief. Deeply drilled worm-holes set a seal of antiquity upon
the blooming faces and luxuriant garlandslike the touch of Time who
'delves the parallels in beauty's brow.' On the shelves of an ebony
cabinet close by he showed us a row of cups cut out of rock-crystal
and mounted in gilt silver, with heaps of engraved gems, old
snuff-boxes, coins, medals, sprays of coral, and all the indescribable
lumber that one age flings aside as worthless for the next to pick
up from the dust-heap and regard as precious. Surely the genius of
culture in our century might be compared to a chiffonnier of Paris,
who, when the night has fallen, goes into the streets, bag on back
and lantern in hand, to rake up the waifs and strays a day of whirling
life has left him.

The next curiosity was an ivory carving of S. Anthony preaching to the
fishes, so fine and small you held it on your palm, and used a lens
to look at it. Yet there stood the Santo gesticulating, and there
were the fishes in rows--the little fishes first, and then the
middle-sized, and last of all the great big fishes almost out at sea,
with their heads above the water and their mouths wide open, just as
the _Fioretti di San Francesco_ describes them. After this
came some original drawings of doubtful interest, and then a case of
fifty-two _nielli_. These were of unquestionable value; for has
not Cicognara engraved them on a page of his classic monograph?
The thin silver plates, over which once passed the burin of Maso
Finiguerra, cutting lines finer than hairs, and setting here a shadow
in dull acid-eaten grey, and there a high light of exquisite polish,
were far more delicate than any proofs impressed from them. These
frail masterpieces of Florentine art--the first beginnings of line
engraving--we held in our hands while Signor Folcioni read out
Cicognara's commentary in a slow impressive voice, breaking off now
and then to point at the originals before us.

The sun had set, and the room was almost dark, when he laid his book
down, and said: 'I have not much left to show--yet stay! Here are
still some little things of interest.' He then opened the door
into his bedroom, and took down from a nail above his bed a
wooden Crucifix. Few things have fascinated me more than this
Crucifix--produced without parade, half negligently, from the dregs of
his collection by a dealer in old curiosities at Crema. The cross was,
or is--for it is lying on the table now before me--twenty-one inches
in length, made of strong wood, covered with coarse yellow parchment,
and shod at the four ends with brass. The Christ is roughly hewn in
reddish wood, coloured scarlet, where the blood streams from the five
wounds. Over the head an oval medallion, nailed into the cross, serves
as framework to a miniature of the Madonna, softly smiling with a
Correggiesque simper. The whole Crucifix is not a work of art, but
such as may be found in every convent. Its date cannot be earlier than
the beginning of the eighteenth century. As I held it in my hand, I
thought--perhaps this has been carried to the bedside of the sick
and dying; preachers have brandished it from the pulpit over
conscience-stricken congregations; monks have knelt before it on the
brick floor of their cells, and novices have kissed it in the vain
desire to drown their yearnings after the relinquished world; perhaps
it has attended criminals to the scaffold, and heard the secrets
of repentant murderers; but why should it be shown me as a thing of
rarity? These thoughts passed through my mind, while Signor Folcioni
quietly remarked: 'I bought this Cross from the Frati when their
convent was dissolved in Crema.' Then he bade me turn it round, and
showed a little steel knob fixed into the back between the arms. This
was a spring. He pressed it, and the upper and lower parts of the
cross came asunder; and holding the top like a handle, I drew out as
from a scabbard a sharp steel blade, concealed in the thickness of the
wood, behind the very body of the agonising Christ. What had been a
crucifix became a deadly poniard in my grasp, and the rust upon it in
the twilight looked like blood. 'I have often wondered,' said Signor
Folcioni, 'that the Frati cared to sell me this.'

There is no need to raise the question of the genuineness of this
strange relic, though I confess to having had my doubts about it,
or to wonder for what nefarious purposes the impious weapon was
designed--whether the blade was inserted by some rascal monk who never
told the tale, or whether it was used on secret service by the
friars. On its surface the infernal engine carries a dark certainty of
treason, sacrilege, and violence. Yet it would be wrong to incriminate
the Order of S. Francis by any suspicion, and idle to seek the actual
history of this mysterious weapon. A writer of fiction could indeed
produce some dark tale in the style of De Stendhal's 'Nouvelles,' and
christen it 'The Crucifix of Crema.' And how delighted would Webster
have been if he had chanced to hear of such a sword-sheath! He might
have placed it in the hands of Bosola for the keener torment of his
Duchess. Flamineo might have used it; or the disguised friars, who
made the deathbed of Bracciano hideous, might have plunged it in the
Duke's heart after mocking his eyes with the figure of the suffering
Christ. To imagine such an instrument of moral terror mingled with
material violence, lay within the scope of Webster's sinister and
powerful genius. But unless he had seen it with his eyes, what poet
would have ventured to devise the thing and display it even in the
dumb show of a tragedy? Fact is more wonderful than romance. No
apocalypse of Antichrist matches what is told of Roderigo Borgia; and
the crucifix of Crema exceeds the sombre fantasy of Webster.

Whatever may be the truth about this cross, it has at any rate the
value of a symbol or a metaphor. The idea which it materialises, the
historical events of which it is a sign, may well arrest attention. A
sword concealed in the crucifix--what emblem brings more forcibly
to mind than this that two-edged glaive of persecution which Dominic
unsheathed to mow down the populations of Provence and to make Spain
destitute of men? Looking upon the crucifix of Crema, we may seem
to see pestilence-stricken multitudes of Moors and Jews dying on the
coasts of Africa and Italy. The Spaniards enter Mexico; and this is
the cross they carry in their hands. They take possession of Peru; and
while the gentle people of the Incas come to kiss the bleeding brows
of Christ, they plunge this dagger in their sides. What, again, was
the temporal power of the Papacy but a sword embedded in a cross?
Each Papa Rè, when he ascended the Holy Chair, was forced to take the
crucifix of Crema and to bear it till his death. A long procession of
war-loving Pontiffs, levying armies and paying captains with the pence
of S. Peter, in order to keep by arms the lands they had acquired by
fraud, defiles before our eyes. First goes the terrible Sixtus IV.,
who died of grief when news was brought him that the Italian princes
had made peace. He it was who sanctioned the conspiracy to murder
the Medici in church, at the moment of the elevation of the Host.
The brigands hired to do this work refused at the last moment. The
sacrilege appalled them. 'Then,' says the chronicler, 'was found a
priest, who, being used to churches, had no scruple.' The poignard
this priest carried was this crucifix of Crema. After Sixtus came the
blood-stained Borgia; and after him Julius II., whom the Romans
in triumphal songs proclaimed a second Mars, and who turned, as
Michelangelo expressed it, the chalices of Rome into swords and helms.
Leo X., who dismembered Italy for his brother and nephew; and Clement
VII., who broke the neck of Florence and delivered the Eternal City to
the spoiler, follow. Of the antinomy between the Vicariate of Christ
and an earthly kingdom, incarnated by these and other Holy Fathers,
what symbol could be found more fitting than a dagger with a crucifix
for case and covering?

It is not easy to think or write of these matters without rhetoric.
When I laid my head upon my pillow that night in the Albergo del Pozzo
at Crema, it was full of such thoughts; and when at last sleep came,
it brought with it a dream begotten doubtless by the perturbation of
my fancy. For I thought that a brown Franciscan, with hollow cheeks,
and eyes aflame beneath his heavy cowl, sat by my bedside, and, as he
raised the crucifix in his lean quivering hands, whispered a tale of
deadly passion and of dastardly revenge. His confession carried me
away to a convent garden of Palermo; and there was love in the story,
and hate that is stronger than love, and, for the ending of the whole
matter, remorse which dies not even in the grave. Each new possessor
of the crucifix of Crema, he told me, was forced to hear from him in
dreams his dreadful history. But, since it was a dream and nothing
more, why should I repeat it? I have wandered far enough already
from the vintage and the sunny churches of the little Lombard town.

       *       *       *       *       *



_CHERUBINO AT THE SCALA THEATRE_


I

It was a gala night. The opera-house of Milan was one blaze of light
and colour. Royalty in field-marshal's uniform and diamonds, attended
by decorated generals and radiant ladies of the court, occupied the
great box opposite the stage. The tiers from pit to gallery were
filled with brilliantly dressed women. From the third row, where we
were fortunately placed, the curves of that most beautiful of theatres
presented to my gaze a series of retreating and approaching lines,
composed of noble faces, waving feathers, sparkling jewels, sculptured
shoulders, uniforms, robes of costly stuffs and every conceivable
bright colour. Light poured from the huge lustre in the centre of the
roof, ran along the crimson velvet cushions of the boxes, and flashed
upon the gilded frame of the proscenium--satyrs and acanthus scrolls
carved in the manner of a century ago. Pit and orchestra scarcely
contained the crowd of men who stood in lively conversation, their
backs turned to the stage, their lorgnettes raised from time to time
to sweep the boxes. This surging sea of faces and sober costumes
enhanced by contrast the glitter, variety, and luminous tranquillity
of the theatre above it.

No one took much thought of the coming spectacle, till the conductor's
rap was heard upon his desk, and the orchestra broke into the overture
to Mozart's _Nozze_. Before they were half through, it was clear
that we should not enjoy that evening the delight of perfect music
added to the enchantment of so brilliant a scene. The execution of the
overture was not exactly bad. But it lacked absolute precision, the
complete subordination of all details to the whole. In rendering
German music Italians often fail through want of discipline, or
through imperfect sympathy with a style they will not take the pains
to master. Nor, when the curtain lifted and the play began, was the
vocalisation found in all parts satisfactory. The Contessa had a
meagre _mezza voce_. Susanna, though she did not sing false,
hovered on the verge of discords, owing to the weakness of an organ
which had to be strained in order to make any effect on that enormous
stage. On the other hand, the part of Almaviva was played with
dramatic fire, and Figaro showed a truly Southern sense of comic
fun. The scenes were splendidly mounted, and something of a princely
grandeur--the largeness of a noble train of life--was added to the
drama by the vast proportions of the theatre. It was a performance
which, in spite of drawbacks, yielded pleasure.

And yet it might have left me frigid but for the artist who played
Cherubino. This was no other than Pauline Lucca, in the prime of youth
and petulance. From her first appearance to the last note she sang,
she occupied the stage. The opera seemed to have been written for her.
The mediocrity of the troupe threw her commanding merits--the richness
of her voice, the purity of her intonation, her vivid conception of
character, her indescribable brusquerie of movement and emotion--into
that relief which a sapphire gains from a setting of pearls. I can see
her now, after the lapse of nearly twenty years, as she stood there
singing in blue doublet and white mantle, with the slouched Spanish
hat and plume of ostrich feathers, a tiny rapier at her side, and blue
rosettes upon her white silk shoes! The _Nozze di Figaro_ was
followed by a Ballo. This had for its theme the favourite legend of
a female devil sent from the infernal regions to ruin a young man.
Instead of performing the part assigned her, Satanella falls in love
with the hero, sacrifices herself, and is claimed at last by the
powers of goodness. _Quia multum amavit_, her lost soul is saved.
If the opera left much to be desired, the Ballo was perfection. That
vast stage of the Scala Theatre had almost overwhelmed the actors
of the play. Now, thrown open to its inmost depths, crowded with
glittering moving figures, it became a fairyland of fantastic
loveliness. Italians possess the art of interpreting a serious
dramatic action by pantomime. A Ballo with them is no mere affair of
dancing--fine dresses, evolutions performed by brigades of pink-legged
women with a fixed smile on their faces. It takes the rank of high
expressive art. And the motive of this Ballo was consistently worked
out in an intelligible sequence of well-ordered scenes. To moralise
upon its meaning would be out of place. It had a conflict of passions,
a rhythmical progression of emotions, a tragic climax in the triumph
of good over evil.

II

At the end of the performance there were five persons in our box--the
beautiful Miranda, and her husband, a celebrated English man of
letters; a German professor of biology; a young Milanese gentleman,
whom we called Edoardo; and myself. Edoardo and the professor had
joined us just before the ballet. I had occupied a seat behind Miranda
and my friend the critic from the commencement. We had indeed dined
together first at their hotel, the Rebecchino; and they now proposed
that we should all adjourn together there on foot for supper. From the
Scala Theatre to the Rebecchino is a walk of some three minutes.

When we were seated at the supper-table and had talked some while upon
indifferent topics, the enthusiasm roused in me by Pauline Lucca burst
out. I broke a moment's silence by exclaiming, 'What a wonder-world
music creates! I have lived this evening in a sphere of intellectual
enjoyment raised to rapture. I never lived so fast before!' 'Do
you really think so?' said Miranda. She had just finished a
_beccafico_, and seemed disposed for conversation. 'Do you really
think so? For my part, music is in a wholly different region from
experience, thought, or feeling. What does it communicate to you?' And
she hummed to herself the _motif_ of Cherubino's 'Non so più
cosa son cosa faccio.'--'What does it teach me?' I broke in upon the
melody. 'Why, to-night, when I heard the music, and saw her there, and
felt the movement of the play, it seemed to me that a new existence
was revealed. For the first time I understood what love might be in
one most richly gifted for emotion.' Miranda bent her eyes on the
table-cloth and played with her wineglass. 'I don't follow you at all.
I enjoyed myself to-night. The opera, indeed, might have been better
rendered. The ballet, I admit, was splendid. But when I remember the
music--even the best of it--even Pauline Lucca's part'--here she
looked up, and shot me a quick glance across the table--'I have mere
music in my ears. Nothing more. Mere music!' The professor of
biology, who was gifted with, a sense of music and had studied it
scientifically, had now crunched his last leaf of salad. Wiping his
lips with his napkin, he joined our _tête-à-tête_. 'Gracious
madam, I agree with you. He who seeks from music more than music
gives, is on the quest--how shall I put it?--of the Holy Grail.' 'And
what,' I struck in, 'is this minimum or maximum that music gives?'
'Dear young friend,' replied the professor, 'music gives melodies,
harmonies, the many beautiful forms to which sound shall be fashioned.
Just as in the case of shells and fossils, lovely in themselves,
interesting for their history and classification, so is it with
music. You must not seek an intellectual meaning. No; there is no
_Inhalt_ in music' And he hummed contentedly the air of 'Voi
che sapete.' While he was humming, Miranda whispered to me across the
table, 'Separate the Lucca from the music.' 'But,' I answered rather
hotly, for I was nettled by Miranda's argument _ad hominem_, 'But
it is not possible in an opera to divide the music from the words, the
scenery, the play, the actor. Mozart, when he wrote the score to Da
Ponte's libretto, was excited to production by the situations. He did
not conceive his melodies out of connection with a certain cast of
characters, a given ethical environment.' 'I do not know, my dear
young friend,' responded the professor, 'whether you have read
Mozart's Life and letters. It is clearly shown in them how he composed
airs at times and seasons when he had no words to deal with. These he
afterwards used as occasion served. Whence I conclude that music was
for him a free and lovely play of tone. The words of our excellent
Da Ponte were a scaffolding to introduce his musical creations to the
public. But without that carpenter's work, the melodies of Cherubino
are _Selbst-ständig_, sufficient in themselves to vindicate their
place in art. Do I interpret your meaning, gracious lady?' This he
said bending to Miranda. 'Yes,' she replied. But she still played with
her wineglass, and did not look as though she were quite satisfied.
I meanwhile continued: 'Of course I have read Mozart's Life, and know
how he went to work. But Mozart was a man of feeling, of experience,
of ardent passions. How can you prove to me that the melodies he gave
to Cherubino had not been evolved from situations similar to those
in which Cherubino finds himself? How can you prove he did not feel
a natural appropriateness in the _motifs_ he selected from his
memory for Cherubino? How can you be certain that the part itself did
not stimulate his musical faculty to fresh and still more appropriate
creativeness? And if we must fall back on documents, do you remember
what he said himself about the love-music in _Die Entführung?_ I
think he tells us that he meant it to express his own feeling for the
woman who had just become his wife.' Miranda looked up as though she
were almost half-persuaded. Yet she hummed again 'Non so più,' then
said to herself, 'Yes, it is wiser to believe with the professor that
these are sequences of sounds, and nothing more.' Then she sighed. In
the pause which followed, her husband, the famous critic, filled his
glass, stretched his legs out, and began: 'You have embarked, I see,
upon the ocean of æsthetics. For my part, to-night I was thinking
how much better fitted for the stage Beaumarchais' play was than this
musical mongrel--this operatic adaptation. The wit, observe, is lost.
And Cherubino--that sparkling little _enfant terrible_--becomes a
sentimental fellow--a something I don't know what--between a girl and
a boy--a medley of romance and impudence--anyhow a being quite unlike
the sharply outlined playwright's page. I confess I am not a musician;
the drama is my business, and I judge things by their fitness for
the stage. My wife agrees with me to differ. She likes music, I like
plays. To-night she was better pleased than I was; for she got good
music tolerably well rendered, while I got nothing but a mangled
comedy.'

We bore the critic's monologue with patience. But once again the
spirit, seeking after something which neither Miranda, nor her
husband, nor the professor could be got to recognise, moved within me.
I cried out at a venture, 'People who go to an opera must forget
music pure and simple, must forget the drama pure and simple. You
must welcome a third species of art, in which the play, the music, the
singers with their voices, the orchestra with its instruments--Pauline
Lucca, if you like, with her fascination' (and here I shot a
side-glance at Miranda), 'are so blent as to create a world beyond the
scope of poetry or music or acting taken by themselves. I give Mozart
credit for having had insight into this new world, for having brought
it near to us. And I hold that every fresh representation of his work
is a fresh revelation of its possibilities.'

To this the critic answered, 'You now seem to me to be confounding the
limits of the several arts.' 'What!' I continued, 'is the drama but
emotion presented in its most external forms as action? And what is
music but emotion, in its most genuine essence, expressed by sound?
Where then can a more complete artistic harmony be found than in the
opera?'

'The opera,' replied our host, 'is a hybrid. You will probably learn
to dislike artistic hybrids, if you have the taste and sense I give
you credit for. My own opinion has been already expressed. In the
_Nozze_, Beaumarchais' _Mariage de Figaro_ is simply spoiled. My
friend the professor declares Mozart's music to be sufficient by
itself, and the libretto to be a sort of machinery for its display.
Miranda, I think, agrees with him. You plead eloquently for the
hybrid. You have a right to your own view. These things are matters,
in the final resort, of individual taste rather than of demonstrable
principles. But I repeat that you are very young.' The critic drained
his Lambrusco, and smiled at me.

'Yes, he is young,' added Miranda. 'He must learn to distinguish
between music, his own imagination, and a pretty woman. At present he
mixes them all up together. It is a sort of transcendental omelette.
But I think the pretty woman has more to do with it than metaphysics!'

All this while Edoardo had bestowed devout attention on his supper.
But it appeared that the drift of our discourse had not been lost by
him. 'Well,' he said, 'you finely fibred people dissect and analyse.
I am content with the _spettacolo_. That pleases. What does a man
want more? The _Nozze_ is a comedy of life and manners. The music
is adorable. To-night the women were not bad to look at--the Lucca
was divine; the scenes--ingenious. I thought but little. I came away
delighted. You could have a better play, Caro Signore!' (with a bow
to our host). 'That is granted. You might have better music, Cara
Signora!' (with a bow to Miranda). 'That too is granted. But when the
play and the music come together--how shall I say?--the music helps
the play, and the play helps the music; and we--well we, I suppose,
must help both!'

Edoardo's little speech was so ingenuous, and, what is more, so true
to his Italian temperament, that it made us all laugh and leave the
argument just where we found it. The bottles of Lambrusco supplied us
each with one more glass; and while we were drinking them, Miranda,
woman-like, taking the last word, but contradicting herself, softly
hummed 'Non so più cosa son,' and 'Ah!' she said, 'I shall dream of
love to-night!'

We rose and said good-night. But when I had reached my bedroom in the
Hôtel de la Ville, I sat down, obstinate and unconvinced, and penned
this rhapsody, which I have lately found among papers of nearly twenty
years ago. I give it as it stands.

III

Mozart has written the two melodramas of love--the one a melo-tragedy,
the other a melo-comedy. But in really noble art, Comedy and Tragedy
have faces of equal serenity and beauty. In the Vatican there
are marble busts of the two Muses, differing chiefly in their
head-dresses: that of Tragedy is an elaborately built-up structure of
fillets and flowing hair, piled high above the forehead and descending
in long curls upon the shoulders; while Comedy wears a similar
adornment, with the addition of a wreath of vine-leaves and
grape-bunches. The expression of the sister goddesses is no less
finely discriminated. Over the mouth of Comedy plays a subtle smile,
and her eyes are relaxed in a half-merriment. A shadow rests upon
the slightly heavier brows of Tragedy, and her lips, though not
compressed, are graver. So delicately did the Greek artist indicate
the division between two branches of one dramatic art. And since all
great art is classical, Mozart's two melodramas, _Don Giovanni_
and the _Nozze di Figaro_, though the one is tragic and the other
comic, are twin-sisters, similar in form and feature.

The central figure of the melo-tragedy is Don Juan, the hero
of unlimited desire, pursuing the unattainable through tortuous
interminable labyrinths, eager in appetite yet never satisfied, 'for
ever following and for ever foiled.' He is the incarnation of lust
that has become a habit of the soul--rebellious, licentious, selfish,
even cruel. His nature, originally noble and brave, has assumed the
qualities peculiar to lust--rebellion, license, cruelty, defiant
egotism. Yet, such as he is, doomed to punishment and execration,
Don Juan remains a fit subject for poetry and music, because he is
complete, because he is impelled by some demonic influence, spurred on
by yearnings after an unsearchable delight. In his death, the spirit
of chivalry survives, metamorphosed, it is true, into the spirit of
revolt, yet still tragic, such as might animate the desperate sinner
of a haughty breed.

The central figure of the melo-comedy is Cherubino, the genius of
love, no less insatiable, but undetermined to virtue or to vice. This
is the point of Cherubino, that the ethical capacities in him are
still potential. His passion still hovers on the borderland of good
and bad. And this undetermined passion is beautiful because of extreme
freshness; of infinite, immeasurable expansibility. Cherubino is the
epitome of all that belongs to the amorous temperament in a state of
still ascendant adolescence. He is about sixteen years of age--a boy
yesterday, a man to-morrow--to-day both and neither--something
beyond boyhood, but not yet limited by man's responsibility and man's
absorbing passions. He partakes of both ages in the primal awakening
to self-consciousness. Desire, which in Don Juan has become a fiend,
hovers before him like a fairy. His are the sixteen years, not of a
Northern climate, but of Spain or Italy, where manhood appears in a
flash, and overtakes the child with sudden sunrise of new faculties.
_Nondum amabam, sed amare amabam, quaerebam quod amarem, amans
amare_--'I loved not yet, but was in love with loving; I sought
what I should love, being in love with loving.' That sentence, penned
by S. Augustine and consecrated by Shelley, describes the mood of
Cherubino. He loves at every moment of his life, with every pulse of
his being. His object is not a beloved being, but love itself--the
satisfaction of an irresistible desire, the paradise of bliss which
merely loving has become for him. What love means he hardly knows. He
only knows that he must love. And women love him--half as a plaything
to be trifled with, half as a young god to be wounded by. This rising
of the star of love as it ascends into the heaven of youthful fancy,
is revealed in the melodies Mozart has written for him. How shall we
describe their potency? Who shall translate those curiously perfect
words to which tone and rhythm have been indissolubly wedded? _E
pur mi piace languir cosi.... E se non ho chi m' oda, parlo d'amor con
me._

But if this be so, it may be asked, Who shall be found worthy to act
Cherubino on the stage? You cannot have seen and heard Pauline Lucca,
or you would not ask this question.

Cherubino is by no means the most important person in the plot of the
_Nozze_. But he strikes the keynote of the opera. His love is the
standard by which we measure the sad, retrospective, stately love of
the Countess, who tries to win back an alienated husband. By Cherubino
we measure the libertine love of the Count, who is a kind of Don Juan
without cruelty, and the humorous love of Figaro and his sprightly
bride Susanna. Each of these characters typifies one of the many
species of love. But Cherubino anticipates and harmonises all. They
are conscious, experienced, world-worn, disillusioned, trivial. He is
all love, foreseen, foreshadowed in a dream of life to be; all love,
diffused through brain and heart and nerves like electricity; all
love, merging the moods of ecstasy, melancholy, triumph, regret,
jealousy, joy, expectation, in a hazy sheen, as of some Venetian
sunrise. What will Cherubino be after three years? A Romeo, a
Lovelace, a Lothario, a Juan? a disillusioned rake, a sentimentalist,
an effete fop, a romantic lover? He may become any one of these, for
he contains the possibilities of all. As yet, he is the dear glad
angel of the May of love, the nightingale of orient emotion.
This moment in the unfolding of character Mozart has arrested and
eternalised for us in Cherubino's melodies; for it is the privilege of
art to render things most fugitive and evanescent fixed imperishably
in immortal form.

IV

This is indeed a rhapsodical production. Miranda was probably right.
Had it not been for Pauline Lucca, I might not have philosophised the
_Nozze_ thus. Yet, in the main, I believe that my instinct was
well grounded. Music, especially when wedded to words, more especially
when those words are dramatic, cannot separate itself from emotion. It
will not do to tell us that a melody is a certain sequence of sounds;
that the composer chose it for its beauty of rhythm, form, and tune,
and only used the words to get it vocalised. We are forced to go
farther back, and ask ourselves, What suggested it in the first place
to the composer? why did he use it precisely in connection with
this dramatic situation? How can we answer these questions except by
supposing that music was for him the utterance through art of some
emotion? The final fact of human nature is emotion, crystallising
itself in thought and language, externalising itself in action and
art. 'What,' said Novalis, 'are thoughts but pale dead feelings?'
Admitting this even in part, we cannot deny to music an emotional
content of some kind. I would go farther, and assert that, while a
merely mechanical musician may set inappropriate melodies to words,
and render music inexpressive of character, what constitutes a musical
dramatist is the conscious intention of fitting to the words of his
libretto such melody as shall interpret character, and the power to do
this with effect.

That the Cherubino of Mozart's _Nozze_ is quite different from
Beaumarchais' Cherubin does not affect this question. He is a new
creation, just because Mozart could not, or would not, conceive the
character of the page in Beaumarchais' sprightly superficial spirit.
He used the part to utter something unutterable except by music about
the soul of the still adolescent lover. The libretto-part and the
melodies, taken together, constitute a new romantic ideal, consistent
with experience, but realised with the intensity and universality
whereby art is distinguished from life. Don Juan was a myth before
Mozart touched him with the magic wand of music. Cherubino became
a myth by the same Prospero's spell. Both characters have the
universality, the symbolic potency, which belongs to legendary beings.
That there remains a discrepancy between the boy-page and the music
made for him, can be conceded without danger to my theory; for
the music made for Cherubino is meant to interpret his psychical
condition, and is independent of his boyishness of conduct.

This further explains why there may be so many renderings of
Cherubino's melodies. Mozart idealised an infinite emotion. The
singer is forced to define; the actor also is forced to define. Each
introduces his own limit on the feeling. When the actor and the singer
meet together in one personality, this definition of emotion becomes
of necessity doubly specific. The condition of all music is that it
depends in a great measure on the temperament of the interpreter for
its momentary shade of expression, and this dependence is of course
exaggerated when the music is dramatic. Furthermore, the subjectivity
of the audience enters into the problem as still another element of
definition. It may therefore be fairly said that, in estimating any
impression produced by Cherubino's music, the original character of
the page, transplanted from French comedy to Italian opera, Mozart's
conception of that character, Mozart's specific quality of emotion
and specific style of musical utterance, together with the contralto's
interpretation of the character and rendering of the music, according
to her intellectual capacity, artistic skill, and timbre of voice,
have collaborated with the individuality of the hearer. Some of the
constituents of the ever-varying product--a product which is new each
time the part is played--are fixed. Da Ponte's Cherubino and Mozart's
melodies remain unalterable. All the rest is undecided; the singer and
the listener change on each occasion.

To assert that the musician Mozart meant nothing by his music, to
assert that he only cared about it _quâ_ music, is the same as
to say that the painter Tintoretto, when he put the Crucifixion upon
canvas, the sculptor Michelangelo, when he carved Christ upon the lap
of Mary, meant nothing, and only cared about the beauty of their
forms and colours. Those who take up this position prove, not that the
artist has no meaning to convey, but that for them the artist's nature
is unintelligible, and his meaning is conveyed in an unknown tongue.
It seems superfluous to guard against misinterpretation by saying that
to expect clear definition from music--the definition which belongs
to poetry--would be absurd. The sphere of music is in sensuous
perception; the sphere of poetry is in intelligence. Music, dealing
with pure sound, must always be vaguer in significance than poetry,
dealing with words. Nevertheless, its effect upon the sentient subject
may be more intense and penetrating for this very reason. We cannot
fail to understand what words are intended to convey; we may very
easily interpret in a hundred different ways the message of sound.
But this is not because words are wider in their reach and more alive;
rather because they are more limited, more stereotyped, more dead.
They symbolise something precise and unmistakable; but this precision
is itself attenuation of the something symbolised. The exact value of
the counter is better understood when it is a word than when it is a
chord, because all that a word conveys has already become a thought,
while all that musical sounds convey remains within the region of
emotion which has not been intellectualised. Poetry touches emotion
through the thinking faculty. If music reaches the thinking faculty at
all, it is through fibres of emotion. But emotion, when it has become
thought, has already lost a portion of its force, and has taken to
itself a something alien to its nature. Therefore the message of music
can never rightly be translated into words. It is the very largeness
and vividness of the sphere of simple feeling which makes its
symbolical counterpart in sound so seeming vague. But in spite of this
incontestable defect of seeming vagueness, emotion expressed by music
is nearer to our sentient self, if we have ears to take it in, than
the same emotion limited by language. It is intenser, it is more
immediate, as compensation for being less intelligible, less
unmistakable in meaning. It is an infinite, an indistinct, where each
consciousness defines and sets a limitary form.

V

A train of thought which begins with the concrete not unfrequently
finds itself finishing, almost against its will, in abstractions. This
is the point to which the performance of Cherubino's part by Pauline
Lucca at the Scala twenty years ago has led me--that I have to settle
with myself what I mean by art in general, and what I take to be the
proper function of music as one of the fine arts.

'Art,' said Goethe, 'is but form-giving.' We might vary this
definition, and say, 'Art is a method of expression or presentation.'
Then comes the question: If art gives form, if it is a method of
expression or presentation, to what does it give form, what does it
express or present? The answer certainly must be: Art gives form to
human consciousness; expresses or presents the feeling or the thought
of man. Whatever else art may do by the way, in the communication
of innocent pleasures, in the adornment of life and the softening of
manners, in the creation of beautiful shapes and sounds, this, at all
events, is its prime function.

While investing thought, the spiritual subject-matter of all art, with
form, or finding for it proper modes of presentation, each of the arts
employs a special medium, obeying the laws of beauty proper to that
medium. The vehicles of the arts, roughly speaking, are material
substances (like stone, wood, metal), pigments, sounds, and words.
The masterly handling of these vehicles and the realisation of
their characteristic types of beauty have come to be regarded as the
craftsman's paramount concern. And in a certain sense this is a right
conclusion; for dexterity in the manipulation of the chosen vehicle
and power to create a beautiful object, distinguish the successful
artist from the man who may have had like thoughts and feelings. This
dexterity, this power, are the properties of the artist _quâ_
artist. Yet we must not forget that the form created by the artist
for the expression of a thought or feeling is not the final end of art
itself. That form, after all, is but the mode of presentation through
which the spiritual content manifests itself. Beauty, in like manner,
is not the final end of art, but is the indispensable condition under
which the artistic manifestation of the spiritual content must he
made. It is the business of art to create an ideal world, in which
perception, emotion, understanding, action, all elements of human life
sublimed by thought, shall reappear in concrete forms as beauty. This
being so, the logical criticism of art demands that we should not
only estimate the technical skill of artists and their faculty for
presenting beauty to the æsthetic sense, but that we should also ask
ourselves what portion of the human spirit he has chosen to invest
with form, and how he has conceived his subject. It is not necessary
that the ideas embodied in a work of art should be the artist's
own. They may be common to the race and age: as, for instance, the
conception of sovereign deity expressed in the Olympian Zeus of
Pheidias, or the conception of divine maternity expressed in Raphael's
'Madonna di San Sisto.' Still the personality of the artist, his
own intellectual and moral nature, his peculiar way of thinking and
feeling, his individual attitude towards the material given to him in
ideas of human consciousness, will modify his choice of subject and
of form, and will determine his specific type of beauty. To take an
example: supposing that an idea, common to his race and age, is given
to the artist for treatment; this will be the final end of the work
of art which he produces. But his personal qualities and technical
performance determine the degree of success or failure to which he
attains in presenting that idea and in expressing it with beauty.
Signorelli fails where Perugino excels, in giving adequate and lovely
form to the religious sentiment. Michelangelo is sure of the sublime,
and Raphael of the beautiful.

Art is thus the presentation of the human spirit by the artist to his
fellow-men. The subject-matter of the arts is commensurate with what
man thinks and feels and does. It is as deep as religion, as wide as
life. But what distinguishes art from religion or from life is, that
this subject-matter must assume beautiful form, and must be presented
directly or indirectly to the senses. Art is not the school or the
cathedral, but the playground, the paradise of humanity. It does not
teach, it does not preach. Nothing abstract enters into art's domain.
Truth and goodness are transmuted into beauty there, just as in
science beauty and goodness assume the shape of truth, and in
religion truth and beauty become goodness. The rigid definitions, the
unmistakable laws of science, are not to be found in art. Whatever art
has touched acquires a concrete sensuous embodiment, and thus ideas
presented to the mind in art have lost a portion of their pure
thought-essence. It is on this account that the religious conceptions
of the Greeks were so admirably fitted for the art of sculpture, and
certain portions of the mediæval Christian mythology lent themselves
so well to painting. For the same reason the metaphysics of
ecclesiastical dogma defy the artist's plastic faculty. Art, in a
word, is a middle term between reason and the senses. Its secondary
aim, after the prime end of presenting the human spirit in beautiful
form has been accomplished, is to give tranquil and innocent
enjoyment.

       *       *       *       *       *

From what has gone before it will be seen that no human being can
make or mould a beautiful form without incorporating in that form some
portion of the human mind, however crude, however elementary. In other
words, there is no work of art without a theme, without a motive,
without a subject. The presentation of that theme, that motive, that
subject, is the final end of art. The art is good or bad according as
the subject has been well or ill presented, consistently with the laws
of beauty special to the art itself. Thus we obtain two standards
for æsthetic criticism. We judge a statue, for example, both by
the sculptor's intellectual grasp upon his subject, and also by his
technical skill and sense of beauty. In a picture of the Last Judgment
by Fra Angelico we say that the bliss of the righteous has been more
successfully treated than the torments of the wicked, because the
former has been better understood, although the painter's skill in
each is equal. In the Perseus of Cellini we admire the sculptor's
spirit, finish of execution, and originality of design, while we
deplore that want of sympathy with the heroic character which makes
his type of physical beauty slightly vulgar and his facial expression
vacuous. If the phrase 'Art for art's sake' has any meaning, this
meaning is simply that the artist, having chosen a theme, thinks
exclusively in working at it of technical dexterity or the quality of
beauty. There are many inducements for the artist thus to narrow his
function, and for the critic to assist him by applying the canons of
a soulless connoisseurship to his work; for the conception of the
subject is but the starting-point in art-production, and the artist's
difficulties and triumphs as a craftsman lie in the region of
technicalities. He knows, moreover, that, however deep or noble his
idea may be, his work of art will be worthless if it fail in skill
or be devoid of beauty. What converts a thought into a statue or
a picture, is the form found for it; and so the form itself seems
all-important. The artist, therefore, too easily imagines that he may
neglect his theme; that a fine piece of colouring, a well-balanced
composition, or, as Cellini put it, 'un bel corpo ignudo,' is enough.
And this is especially easy in an age which reflects much upon the
arts, and pursues them with enthusiasm, while its deeper thoughts and
feelings are not of the kind which translate themselves readily
into artistic form. But, after all, a fine piece of colouring, a
well-balanced composition, a sonorous stanza, a learned essay in
counterpoint, are not enough. They are all excellent good things,
yielding delight to the artistic sense and instruction to the student.
Yet when we think of the really great statues, pictures, poems, music
of the world, we find that these are really great because of something
more--and that more is their theme, their presentation of a noble
portion of the human soul. Artists and art-students may be satisfied
with perfect specimens of a craftsman's skill, independent of his
theme; but the mass of men will not be satisfied; and it is as wrong
to suppose that art exists for artists and art-students, as to talk
of art for art's sake. Art exists for humanity. Art transmutes thought
and feeling into terms of beautiful form. Art is great and lasting
in proportion as it appeals to the human consciousness at large,
presenting to it portions of itself in adequate and lovely form.

VI

It was necessary in the first place firmly to apprehend the truth that
the final end of all art is the presentation of a spiritual content;
it is necessary in the next place to remove confusions by considering
the special circumstances of the several arts.

Each art has its own vehicle of presentation. What it can present and
how it must present it, depends upon the nature of this vehicle. Thus,
though architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, meet upon
the common ground of spiritualised experience--though the works of art
produced by the architect, sculptor, painter, musician, poet, emanate
from the spiritual nature of the race, are coloured by the spiritual
nature of the men who make them, and express what is spiritual in
humanity under concrete forms invented for them by the artist--yet it
is certain that all of these arts do not deal exactly with the same
portions of this common material in the same way or with the same
results. Each has its own department. Each exhibits qualities of
strength and weakness special to itself. To define these several
departments, to explain the relation of these several vehicles
of presentation to the common subject-matter, is the next step in
criticism.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the fine arts, architecture alone subserves utility. We build for
use. But the geometrical proportions which the architect observes,
contain the element of beauty and powerfully influence the soul. Into
the language of arch and aisle and colonnade, of cupola and façade and
pediment, of spire and vault, the architect translates emotion, vague
perhaps but deep, mute but unmistakable. When we say that a building
is sublime or graceful, frivolous or stern, we mean that sublimity
or grace, frivolity or sternness, is inherent in it. The emotions
connected with these qualities are inspired in us when we contemplate
it, and are presented to us by its form. Whether the architect
deliberately aimed at the sublime or graceful--whether the dignified
serenity of the Athenian genius sought to express itself in the
Parthenon, and the mysticism of mediæval Christianity in the gloom of
Chartres Cathedral--whether it was Renaissance paganism which gave its
mundane pomp and glory to S. Peter's, and the refined selfishness of
royalty its specious splendour to the palace of Versailles--need not
be curiously questioned. The fact that we are impelled to raise these
points, that architecture more almost than any art connects itself
indissolubly with the life, the character, the moral being of a nation
and an epoch, proves that we are justified in bringing it beneath
our general definition of the arts. In a great measure because it
subserves utility, and is therefore dependent upon the necessities of
life, does architecture present to us through form the human spirit.
Comparing the palace built by Giulio Romano for the Dukes of Mantua
with the contemporary castle of a German prince, we cannot fail at
once to comprehend the difference of spiritual conditions, as these
displayed themselves in daily life, which then separated Italy from
the Teutonic nations. But this is not all. Spiritual quality in
the architect himself finds clear expression in his work. Coldness
combined with violence marks Brunelleschi's churches; a certain
suavity and well-bred taste the work of Bramante; while Michelangelo
exhibits wayward energy in his Library of S. Lorenzo, and Amadeo
self-abandonment to fancy in his Lombard chapels. I have chosen
examples from one nation and one epoch in order that the point I seek
to make, the demonstration of a spiritual quality in buildings, may be
fairly stated.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sculpture and painting distinguish themselves from the other fine
arts by the imitation of concrete existences in nature. They copy the
bodies of men and animals, the aspects of the world around us, and the
handiwork of men. Yet, in so far as they are rightly arts, they do
not make imitation an object in itself. The grapes of Zeuxis at which
birds pecked, the painted dog at which a cat's hair bristles--if such
grapes or such a dog were ever put on canvas--are but evidences of the
artist's skill, not of his faculty as artist. These two plastic, or,
as I prefer to call them, figurative arts, use their imitation of
the external world for the expression, the presentation of internal,
spiritual things. The human form is for them the outward symbol of the
inner human spirit, and their power of presenting spirit is limited by
the means at their disposal.

Sculpture employs stone, wood, clay, the precious metals, to model
forms, detached and independent, or raised upon a flat surface
in relief. Its domain is the whole range of human character and
consciousness, in so far as these can be indicated by fixed facial
expression, by physical type, and by attitude. If we dwell for an
instant on the greatest historical epoch of sculpture, we shall
understand the domain of this art in its range and limitation. At a
certain point of Greek development the Hellenic Pantheon began to be
translated by the sculptors into statues; and when the genius of the
Greeks expired in Rome, the cycle of their psychological conceptions
had been exhaustively presented through this medium. During that long
period of time, the most delicate gradations of human personality,
divinised, idealised, were presented to the contemplation of the
consciousness which gave them being, in appropriate types. Strength
and swiftness, massive force and airy lightness, contemplative repose
and active energy, voluptuous softness and refined grace, intellectual
sublimity and lascivious seductiveness--the whole rhythm of qualities
which can be typified by bodily form--were analysed, selected,
combined in various degrees, to incarnate the religious conceptions of
Zeus, Aphrodite, Herakles, Dionysus, Pallas, Fauns and Satyrs, Nymphs
of woods and waves, Tritons, the genius of Death, heroes and hunters,
lawgivers and poets, presiding deities of minor functions, man's
lustful appetites and sensual needs. All that men think, or do, or
are, or wish for, or imagine in this world, had found exact corporeal
equivalents. Not physiognomy alone, but all the portions of the body
upon which the habits of the animating soul are wont to stamp
themselves, were studied and employed as symbolism. Uranian Aphrodite
was distinguished from her Pandemic sister by chastened lust-repelling
loveliness. The muscles of Herakles were more ponderous than the tense
sinews of Achilles. The Hermes of the palæstra bore a torso of
majestic depth; the Hermes, who carried messages from heaven, had
limbs alert for movement. The brows of Zeus inspired awe; the breasts
of Dionysus breathed delight.

A race accustomed, as the Greeks were, to read this symbolism,
accustomed, as the Greeks were, to note the individuality of naked
form, had no difficulty in interpreting the language of sculpture.
Nor is there now much difficulty in the task. Our surest guide to
the subject of a basrelief or statue is study of the physical type
considered as symbolical of spiritual quality. From the fragment of
a torso the true critic can say whether it belongs to the athletic or
the erotic species. A limb of Bacchus differs from a limb of Poseidon.
The whole psychological conception of Aphrodite Pandemos enters into
every muscle, every joint, no less than into her physiognomy, her
hair, her attitude.

There is, however, a limit to the domain of sculpture. This art deals
most successfully with personified generalities. It is also strong in
the presentation of incarnate character. But when it attempts to tell
a story, we often seek in vain its meaning. Battles of Amazons or
Centaurs upon basreliefs, indeed, are unmistakable. The subject is
indicated here by some external sign. The group of Laocoon appeals
at once to a reader of Virgil, and the divine vengeance of Leto's
children upon Niobe is manifest in the Uffizzi marbles. But who are
the several heroes of the Æginetan pediment, and what was the subject
of the Pheidian statues on the Parthenon? Do the three graceful
figures of a basrelief which exists at Naples and in the Villa Albani,
represent Orpheus, Hermes, and Eurydice, or Antiope and her two sons?
Was the winged and sworded genius upon the Ephesus column meant for a
genius of Death or a genius of Love?

This dimness of significance indicates the limitation of sculpture,
and inclines some of those who feel its charm to assert that the
sculptor seeks to convey no intellectual meaning, that he is satisfied
with the creation of beautiful form. There is sense in this revolt
against the faith which holds that art is nothing but a mode of
spiritual presentation. Truly the artist aims at producing beauty, is
satisfied if he conveys delight. But it is impossible to escape from
the certainty that, while he is creating forms of beauty, he means
something; and that something, that theme for which he finds the form,
is part of the world's spiritual heritage. Only the crudest works of
plastic art, capricci and arabesques, have no intellectual content;
and even these are good in so far as they convey the playfulness of
fancy.

Painting employs colours upon surfaces--walls, panels, canvas. What
has been said about sculpture will apply in a great measure to this
art. The human form, the world around us, the works of man's hands,
are represented in painting, not for their own sake merely, but with
a view to bringing thought, feeling, action, home to the consciousness
of the spectator from the artist's consciousness on which they have
been impressed. Painting can tell a story better than sculpture, can
represent more complicated feelings, can suggest thoughts of a subtler
intricacy. Through colour, it can play, like music, directly on
powerful but vague emotion. It is deficient in fulness and roundness
of concrete reality. A statue stands before us, the soul incarnate in
ideal form, fixed and frozen for eternity. The picture is a reflection
cast upon a magic glass; not less permanent, but reduced to a shadow
of reality. To follow these distinctions farther would be alien from
the present purpose. It is enough to repeat that, within their several
spheres, according to their several strengths and weaknesses, both
sculpture and painting present the spirit to us only as the spirit
shows itself immersed in things of sense. The light of a lamp enclosed
within an alabaster vase is still lamplight, though shorn of lustre
and toned to coloured softness. Even thus the spirit, immersed in
things of sense presented to us by the figurative arts, is still
spirit, though diminished in its intellectual clearness and invested
with hues not its own. To fashion that alabaster form of art with
utmost skill, to make it beautiful, to render it transparent, is the
artist's function. But he will have failed of the highest if the
light within burns dim, or if he gives the world a lamp in which no
spiritual flame is lighted.

       *       *       *       *       *

Music transports us to a different region. It imitates nothing. It
uses pure sound, and sound of the most wholly artificial kind--so
artificial that the musical sounds of one race are unmusical, and
therefore unintelligible, to another. Like architecture, music relies
upon mathematical proportions. Unlike architecture, music serves no
utility. It is the purest art of pleasure--the truest paradise and
playground of the spirit. It has less power than painting, even less
power than sculpture, to tell a story or to communicate an idea. For
we must remember that when music is married to words, the words, and
not the music, reach our thinking faculty. And yet, in spite of all,
music presents man's spirit to itself through form. The domain of the
spirit over which music reigns, is emotion--not defined emotion, not
feeling even so defined as jealousy or anger--but those broad bases of
man's being out of which emotions spring, defining themselves through
action into this or that set type of feeling. Architecture, we have
noticed, is so connected with specific modes of human existence, that
from its main examples we can reconstruct the life of men who used
it. Sculpture and painting, by limiting their presentation to the
imitation of external things, have all the help which experience
and, association render. The mere artificiality of music's vehicle
separates it from life and makes its message untranslatable. Yet, as I
have already pointed out, this very disability under which it labours
is the secret of its extraordinary potency. Nothing intervenes between
the musical work of art and the fibres of the sentient being it
immediately thrills. We do not seek to say what music means. We feel
the music. And if a man should pretend that the music has not passed
beyond his ears, has communicated nothing but a musical delight, he
simply tells us that he has not felt music. The ancients on this point
were wiser than some moderns when, without pretending to assign an
intellectual significance to music, they held it for an axiom that
one type of music bred one type of character, another type another.
A change in the music of a state, wrote Plato, will be followed by
changes in its constitution. It is of the utmost importance, said
Aristotle, to provide in education for the use of the ennobling and
the fortifying moods. These philosophers knew that music creates a
spiritual world, in which the spirit cannot live and move without
contracting habits of emotion. In this vagueness of significance but
intensity of feeling lies the magic of music. A melody occurs to the
composer, which he certainly connects with no act of the reason, which
he is probably unconscious of connecting with any movement of his
feeling, but which nevertheless is the form in sound of an emotional
mood. When he reflects upon the melody secreted thus impromptu, he
is aware, as we learn from his own lips, that this work has
correspondence with emotion. Beethoven calls one symphony Heroic,
another Pastoral; of the opening of another he says, 'Fate knocks at
the door.' Mozart sets comic words to the mass-music of a friend, in
order to mark his sense of its inaptitude for religious sentiment. All
composers use phrases like Maestoso, Pomposo, Allegro, Lagrimoso, Con
Fuoco, to express the general complexion of the mood their music ought
to represent.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before passing to poetry, it may be well to turn aside and consider
two subordinate arts, which deserve a place in any system of
æsthetics. These are dancing and acting. Dancing uses the living human
form, and presents feeling or action, the passions and the deeds of
men, in artificially educated movements of the body. The element of
beauty it possesses, independently of the beauty of the dancer, is
rhythm. Acting or the art of mimicry presents the same subject-matter,
no longer under the conditions of fixed rhythm but as an ideal
reproduction of reality. The actor is what he represents, and the
element of beauty in his art is perfection of realisation. It is his
duty as an artist to show us Orestes or Othello, not perhaps exactly
as Othello and Orestes were, but as the essence of their tragedies,
ideally incorporate in action, ought to be. The actor can do this
in dumb show. Some of the greatest actors of the ancient world were
mimes. But he usually interprets a poet's thought, and attempts to
present an artistic conception in a secondary form of art, which has
for its advantage his own personality in play.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last of the fine arts is literature; or, in the narrower sphere
of which it will be well to speak here only, is poetry. Poetry employs
words in fixed rhythms, which we call metres. Only a small portion of
its effect is derived from the beauty of its sound. It appeals to the
sense of hearing far less immediately than music does. It makes no
appeal to the eyesight, and takes no help from the beauty of colour.
It produces no tangible object. But language being the storehouse
of all human experience, language being the medium whereby spirit
communicates with spirit in affairs of life, the vehicle which
transmits to us the thoughts and feelings of the past, and on which we
rely for continuing our present to the future, it follows that, of all
the arts, poetry soars highest, flies widest, and is most at home in
the region of the spirit. What poetry lacks of sensuous fulness, it
more than balances by intellectual intensity. Its significance is
unmistakable, because it employs the very material men use in their
exchange of thoughts and correspondence of emotions. To the bounds of
its empire there is no end. It embraces in its own more abstract
being all the arts. By words it does the work in turn of architecture,
sculpture, painting, music. It is the metaphysic of the fine arts.
Philosophy finds place in poetry; and life itself, refined to its last
utterance, hangs trembling on this thread which joins our earth
to heaven, this bridge between experience and the realms where
unattainable and imperceptible will have no meaning.

If we are right in defining art as the manifestation of the human
spirit to man by man in beautiful form, poetry, more incontestably
than any other art, fulfils this definition and enables us to gauge
its accuracy. For words are the spirit, manifested to itself in
symbols with no sensual alloy. Poetry is therefore the presentation,
through words, of life and all that life implies. Perception, emotion,
thought, action, find in descriptive, lyrical, reflective, dramatic,
and epical poetry their immediate apocalypse. In poetry we are no
longer puzzled with problems as to whether art has or has not of
necessity a spiritual content. There cannot be any poetry whatsoever
without a spiritual meaning of some sort: good or bad, moral,
immoral, or non-moral, obscure or lucid, noble or ignoble, slight or
weighty--such distinctions do not signify. In poetry we are not met by
questions whether the poet intended to convey a meaning when he made
it. Quite meaningless poetry (as some critics would fain find melody
quite meaningless, or a statue meaningless, or a Venetian picture
meaningless) is a contradiction in terms. In poetry, life, or a
portion of life, lives again, resuscitated and presented to our mental
faculty through art. The best poetry is that which reproduces the most
of life, or its intensest moments. Therefore the extensive species of
the drama and the epic, the intensive species of the lyric, have been
ever held in highest esteem. Only a half-crazy critic flaunts the
paradox that poetry is excellent in so far as it assimilates the
vagueness of music, or estimates a poet by his power of translating
sense upon the borderland of nonsense into melodious words. Where
poetry falls short in the comparison with other arts, is in the
quality of form-giving, in the quality of sensuous concreteness.
Poetry can only present forms to the mental eye and to the
intellectual sense, stimulate the physical senses by indirect
suggestion. Therefore dramatic poetry, the most complicated kind of
poetry, relies upon the actor; and lyrical poetry, the intensest kind
of poetry, seeks the aid of music. But these comparative deficiencies
are overbalanced, for all the highest purposes of art, by the
width and depth, the intelligibility and power, the flexibility and
multitudinous associations, of language. The other arts are limited in
what they utter. There is nothing which has entered into the life of
man which poetry cannot express. Poetry says everything in man's own
language to the mind. The other arts appeal imperatively, each in its
own region, to man's senses; and the mind receives art's message
by the help of symbols from the world of sense. Poetry lacks this
immediate appeal to sense. But the elixir which it offers to the mind,
its quintessence extracted from all things of sense, reacts through
intellectual perception upon all the faculties that make men what they
are.

VII

I used a metaphor in one of the foregoing paragraphs to indicate the
presence of the vital spirit, the essential element of thought or
feeling, in the work of art. I said it radiated through the form, as
lamplight through an alabaster vase. Now the skill of the artist is
displayed in modelling that vase, in giving it shape, rich and rare,
and fashioning its curves with subtlest workmanship. In so far as he
is a craftsman, the artist's pains must be bestowed upon this precious
vessel of the animating theme. In so far as he has power over beauty,
he must exert it in this plastic act. It is here that he displays
dexterity; here that he creates; here that he separates himself from
other men who think and feel. The poet, more perhaps than any other
artist, needs to keep this steadily in view; for words being our daily
vehicle of utterance, it may well chance that the alabaster vase of
language should be hastily or trivially modelled. This is the true
reason why 'neither gods nor men nor the columns either suffer
mediocrity in singers.' Upon the poet it is specially incumbent to see
that he has something rare to say and some rich mode of saying it. The
figurative arts need hardly be so cautioned. They run their risk in
quite a different direction. For sculptor and for painter, the danger
is lest he should think that alabaster vase his final task. He may too
easily be satisfied with moulding a beautiful but empty form.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last word on the topic of the arts is given in one sentence. Let
us remember that every work of art enshrines a spiritual subject, and
that the artist's power is shown in finding for that subject a form of
ideal loveliness. Many kindred points remain to be discussed; as what
we mean by beauty, which is a condition indispensable to noble art;
and what are the relations of the arts to ethics. These questions
cannot now be raised. It is enough in one essay to have tried to
vindicate the spirituality of art in general.

       *       *       *       *       *



_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 sun-litten 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. Barelegged 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 wine-barge 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
swanlike 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 framework 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 seadinner--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 buttonhole. 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 waterline 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, running? doesn't make much sense, but can't figure
out a plausible alternative, 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 framework 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 borderland
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 Oasa 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.

Bather 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 balustraded 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 ribands 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, talking through a lane or _calle_ which
skirted Messer Pietro'a 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 Signiory 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 in a 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
overmeasure 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 afterglow blush crimson,
and through their rifts the depth of heaven is of a hard and gemlike
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 saltwater 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 Istrian
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--[Greek: 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 gondóla 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, beefsteak 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 in
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
a 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 bluish 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 _mezzo 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_, maybe 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 bedrooms 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 maccaroon 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
shopkeepers 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 dessert 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 shirts, 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. Azzo 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 goodwill 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.

       *       *       *       *       *



_A CINQUE CENTO BRUTUS_


I.--THE SESTIERE DI SAN POLO

There is a quarter of Venice not much visited by tourists, lying as
it does outside their beat, away from the Rialto, at a considerable
distance from the Frari and San Rocco, in what might almost pass for a
city separated by a hundred miles from the Piazza. This is the quarter
of San Polo, one corner of which, somewhere between the back of
the Palazzo Foscari and the Campo di San Polo, was the scene of
a memorable act of vengeance in the year 1546. Here Lorenzino de'
Medici, the murderer of his cousin Alessandro, was at last tracked
down and put to death by paid cut-throats. How they succeeded in their
purpose, we know in every detail from the narrative dictated by the
chief assassin. His story so curiously illustrates the conditions of
life in Italy three centuries ago, that I have thought it worthy of
abridgment. But, in order to make it intelligible, and to paint the
manners of the times more fully, I must first relate the series of
events which led to Lorenzino's murder of his cousin Alessandro, and
from that to his own subsequent assassination. Lorenzino de' Medici,
the Florentine Brutus of the sixteenth century, is the hero of the
tragedy. Some of his relatives, however, must first appear upon the
scene before he enters with a patriot's knife concealed beneath a
court-fool's bauble.

II.--THE MURDER OF IPPOLITO DE' MEDICI

After the final extinction of the Florentine Republic, the hopes of
the Medici, who now aspired to the dukedom of Tuscany, rested on three
bastards--Alessandro, the reputed child of Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino;
Ippolito, the natural son of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours; and Giulio,
the offspring of an elder Giuliano, who was at this time Pope, with
the title of Clement VII. Clement had seen Rome sacked in 1527 by a
horde of freebooters fighting under the Imperial standard, and had
used the remnant of these troops, commanded by the Prince of Orange,
to crush his native city in the memorable siege of 1529-30. He now
determined to rule Florence from the Papal chair by the help of the
two bastard cousins I have named. Alessandro was created Duke of
Cività di Penna, and sent to take the first place in the city.
Ippolito was made a cardinal; since the Medici had learned that Rome
was the real basis of their power, and it was undoubtedly in Clement's
policy to advance this scion of his house to the Papacy. The sole
surviving representative of the great Lorenzo de' Medici's legitimate
blood was Catherine, daughter of the Duke of Urbino by Madeleine de la
Tour d'Auvergne. She was pledged in marriage to the Duke of Orleans,
who was afterwards Henry II. of France. A natural daughter of
the Emperor Charles V. was provided for her putative half-brother
Alessandro. By means of these alliances the succession of Ippolito
to the Papal chair would have been secured, and the strength of the
Medici would have been confirmed in Tuscany, but for the disasters
which have now to be related.

Between the cousins Alessandro and Ippolito there was no love lost. As
boys, they had both played the part of princes in Florence under the
guardianship of the Cardinal Passerini da Cortona. The higher rank
had then been given to Ippolito, who bore the title of Magnifico, and
seemed thus designated for the lordship of the city. Ippolito, though
only half a Medici, was of more authentic lineage than Alessandro; for
no proof positive could be adduced that the latter was even a spurious
child of the Duke of Urbino. He bore obvious witness to his mother's
blood upon his mulatto's face; but this mother was the wife of a
groom, and it was certain that in the court of Urbino she had not been
chary of her favours. The old magnificence of taste, the patronage
of art and letters, and the preference for liberal studies which
distinguished Casa Medici, survived in Ippolito; whereas Alessandro
manifested only the brutal lusts of a debauched tyrant. It was
therefore with great reluctance that, moved by reasons of state and
domestic policy, Ippolito saw himself compelled to accept the scarlet
hat. Alessandro having been recognised as a son of the Duke of Urbino,
had become half-brother to the future Queen of France. To treat him as
the head of the family was a necessity thrust, in the extremity of
the Medicean fortunes, upon Clement. Ippolito, who more entirely
represented the spirit of the house, was driven to assume the position
of a cadet, with all the uncertainties of an ecclesiastical career.

In these circumstances Ippolito had not strength of character to
sacrifice himself for the consolidation of the Medicean power, which
could only have been effected by maintaining a close bond of union
between its members. The death of Clement in 1534 obscured his
prospects in the Church. He was still too young to intrigue for the
tiara. The new Pope, Alessandro Farnese, soon after his election,
displayed a vigour which was unexpected from his age, together with
a nepotism which his previous character had scarcely warranted. The
Cardinal de' Medici felt himself excluded and oppressed. He joined the
party of those numerous Florentine exiles, headed by Filippo Strozzi,
and the Cardinals Salviati and Ridolfi, all of whom were connected
by marriage with the legitimate Medici, and who unanimously hated and
were jealous of the Duke of Cività di Penna. On the score of policy it
is difficult to condemn this step. Alessandro's hold upon Florence was
still precarious, nor had he yet married Margaret of Austria. Perhaps
Ippolito was right in thinking he had less to gain from his cousin
than from the anti-Medicean faction and the princes of the Church who
favoured it. But he did not play his cards well. He quarrelled with
the new Pope, Paul III., and by his vacillations led the Florentine
exiles to suspect he might betray them.

In the summer of 1535 Ippolito was at Itri, a little town not far
from Gaeta and Terracina, within easy reach of Fondi, where dwelt the
beautiful Giulia Gonzaga. To this lady the Cardinal paid assiduous
court, passing his time with her in the romantic scenery of that
world-famous Capuan coast. On the 5th of August his seneschal,
Giovann' Andrea, of Borgo San Sepolcro, brought him a bowl of
chicken-broth, after drinking which he exclaimed to one of his
attendants, 'I have been poisoned, and the man who did it is Giovann'
Andrea.' The seneschal was taken and tortured, and confessed that he
had mixed a poison with the broth. Four days afterwards the Cardinal
died, and a post-mortem examination showed that the omentum had been
eaten by some corrosive substance. Giovann' Andrea was sent in chains
to Rome; but in spite of his confession, more than once repeated, the
court released him. He immediately took refuge with Alessandro de'
Medici in Florence, whence he repaired to Borgo San Sepolcro, and
was, at the close of a few months, there murdered by the people of the
place. From these circumstances it was conjectured, not without good
reason, that Alessandro had procured his cousin's death; and a certain
Captain Pignatta, of low birth in Florence, a bravo and a coward,
was believed to have brought the poison to Itri from the Duke. The
Medicean courtiers at Florence did not disguise their satisfaction;
and one of them exclaimed, with reference to the event, 'We know how
to brush flies from our noses!'

III.--THE MURDER OF ALESSANDRO DE' MEDICI

Having removed his cousin and rival from the scene, Alessandro de'
Medici plunged with even greater effrontery into the cruelties and
debaucheries which made him odious in Florence. It seemed as though
fortune meant to smile on him; for in this same year (1535) Charles
V. decided at Naples in his favour against the Florentine exiles,
who were pleading their own cause and that of the city injured by his
tyrannies; and in February of the following year he married Margaret
of Austria, the Emperor's natural daughter. Francesco Guicciardini,
the first statesman and historian of his age, had undertaken his
defence, and was ready to support him by advice and countenance in
the conduct of his government. Within the lute of this prosperity,
however, there was one little rift. For some months past he had
closely attached to his person a certain kinsman, Lorenzo de' Medici,
who was descended in the fourth generation from Lorenzo, the brother
of Cosimo Pater Patriæ. This Lorenzo, or Lorenzino, or Lorenzaccio,
as his most intimate acquaintances called him, was destined to murder
Alessandro; and it is worthy of notice that the Duke had received
frequent warnings of his fate. A Perugian page, for instance, who
suffered from some infirmity, saw in a dream that Lorenzino would kill
his master. Astrologers predicted that the Duke must die by having his
throat cut. One of them is said to have named Lorenzo de' Medici as
the assassin; and another described him so accurately that there was
no mistaking the man. Moreover, Madonna Lucrezia Salviati wrote to the
Duke from Rome that he should beware of a certain person, indicating
Lorenzino; and her daughter, Madonna Maria, told him to his face
she hated the young man, 'because I know he means to murder you,
and murder you he will.' Nor was this all. The Duke's favourite
body-servants mistrusted Lorenzino. On one occasion, when Alessandro
and Lorenzino, attended by a certain Giomo, were escalading a wall at
night, as was their wont upon illicit love-adventures, Giomo whispered
to his master: 'Ah, my lord, do let me cut the rope, and rid ourselves
of him!' To which the Duke replied: 'No, I do not want this; but if he
could, I know he'd twist it round my neck.'

In spite, then, of these warnings and the want of confidence he felt,
the Duke continually lived with Lorenzino, employing him as pander in
his intrigues, and preferring his society to that of simpler men. When
he rode abroad, he took this evil friend upon his crupper; although
he knew for certain that Lorenzino had stolen a tight-fitting vest of
mail he used to wear, and, while his arms were round his waist, was
always meditating how to stick a poignard in his body. He trusted,
so it seems, to his own great strength and to the other's physical
weakness.

At this point, since Lorenzino is the principal actor in the two-act
drama which follows, it will be well to introduce him to the reader in
the words of Varchi, who was personally acquainted with him. Born at
Florence in 1514, he was left early by his father's death to the
sole care of his mother, Maria Soderini, 'a lady of rare prudence
and goodness, who attended with the utmost pains and diligence to his
education. No sooner, however, had he acquired the rudiments of humane
learning, which, being of very quick parts, he imbibed with incredible
facility, than he began to display a restless mind, insatiable and
appetitive of vice. Soon afterwards, under the rule and discipline of
Filippo Strozzi, he made open sport of all things human and divine;
and preferring the society of low persons, who not only flattered him
but were congenial to his tastes, he gave free rein to his desires,
especially in affairs of love, without regard for sex or age or
quality, and in his secret soul, while he lavished feigned caresses
upon every one he saw, felt no esteem for any living being. He
thirsted strangely for glory, and omitted no point of deed or word
that might, he thought, procure him the reputation of a man of spirit
or of wit. He was lean of person, somewhat slightly built, and on
this account people called him Lorenzino. He never laughed, but had a
sneering smile; and although he was rather distinguished by grace than
beauty, his countenance being dark and melancholy, still in the flower
of his age he was beloved beyond all measure by Pope Clement; in spite
of which he had it in his mind (according to what he said himself
after killing the Duke Alessandro) to have murdered him. He brought
Francesco di Raffaello de' Medici, the Pope's rival, who was a young
man of excellent attainments and the highest hope, to such extremity
that he lost his wits, and became the sport of the whole court at
Rome, and was sent back, as a lesser evil, as a confirmed madman to
Florence.' Varchi proceeds to relate how Lorenzino fell
into disfavour with the Pope and the Romans by chopping the heads off
statues from the arch of Constantine and other monuments; for which
act of vandalism Molsa impeached him in the Roman Academy, and a price
was set upon his head. Having returned to Florence, he proceeded
to court Duke Alessandro, into whose confidence he wormed himself,
pretending to play the spy upon the exiles, and affecting a personal
timidity which put the Prince off his guard. Alessandro called him
'the philosopher,' because he conversed in solitude with his own
thoughts and seemed indifferent to wealth and office. But all this
while Lorenzino was plotting how to murder him.

Giovio's account of this strange intimacy may be added, since it
completes the picture I have drawn from Varchi:--'Lorenzo made himself
the accomplice and instrument of those amorous amusements for which
the Duke had an insatiable appetite, with the object of deceiving him.
He was singularly well furnished with all the scoundrelly arts and
trained devices of the pander's trade; composed fine verses to incite
to lust; wrote and represented comedies in Italian; and pretended
to take pleasure only in such tricks and studies. Therefore he never
carried arms like other courtiers, and feigned to be afraid of blood,
a man who sought tranquillity at any price. Besides, he bore a pallid
countenance and melancholy brow, walking alone, talking very little
and with few persons. He haunted solitary places apart from the city,
and showed such plain signs of hypochondria that some began covertly
to pass jokes on him. Certain others, who were more acute, suspected
that he was harbouring and devising in his mind some terrible
enterprise.' The Prologue to Lorenzino's own comedy of 'Aridosiso'
brings the sardonic, sneering, ironical man vividly before us.
He calls himself 'un certo omiciatto, che non è nessun di voi che
veggendolo non l'avesse a noia, pensando che egli abbia fatto una
commedia;' and begs the audience to damn his play to save him the
tedium of writing another. Criticised by the light of his subsequent
actions, this prologue may even be understood to contain a covert
promise of the murder he was meditating.

'In this way,' writes Varchi, 'the Duke had taken such familiarity
with Lorenzo, that, not content with making use of him as a ruffian
in his dealings with women, whether religious or secular, maidens
or wives or widows, noble or plebeian, young or elderly, as it might
happen, he applied to him to procure for his pleasure a half-sister of
Lorenzo's own mother, a young lady of marvellous beauty, but not less
chaste than beautiful, who was the wife of Lionardo Ginori, and lived
not far from the back entrance to the palace of the Medici.' Lorenzino
undertook this odious commission, seeing an opportunity to work his
designs against the Duke. But first he had to form an accomplice,
since he could not hope to carry out the murder without help. A bravo,
called Michele del Tavolaccino, but better known by the nickname of
Scoronconcolo, struck him as a fitting instrument. He had procured
this man's pardon for a homicide, and it appears that the fellow
retained a certain sense of gratitude. Lorenzino began by telling the
man there was a courtier who put insults upon him, and Scoronconcolo
professed his readiness to kill the knave. 'Sia chi si voglia; io
l'ammazzerò, se fosse Cristo.' Up to the last minute the name of
Alessandro was not mentioned. Having thus secured his assistant,
Lorenzino chose a night when he knew that Alessandro Vitelli, captain
of the Duke's guard, would be from home. Then, after supper, he
whispered in Alessandro's ear that at last he had seduced his aunt
with an offer of money, and that she would come to his, Lorenzo's
chamber at the service of the Duke that night. Only the Duke must
appear at the rendezvous alone, and when he had arrived, the lady
should be fetched. 'Certain it is,' says Varchi, 'that the Duke,
having donned a cloak of satin in the Neapolitan style, lined with
sable, when he went to take his gloves, and there were some of mail
and some of perfumed leather, hesitated awhile and said: "Which shall
I choose, those of war, or those of love-making?"' He took the latter
and went out with only four attendants, three of whom he dismissed
upon the Piazza di San Marco, while one was stationed just opposite
Lorenzo's house, with strict orders not to stir if he should see folk
enter or issue thence. But this fellow, called the Hungarian, after
waiting a great while, returned to the Duke's chamber, and there went
to sleep.

Meanwhile Lorenzino received Alessandro in his bedroom, where there
was a good fire. The Duke unbuckled his sword, which Lorenzino took,
and having entangled the belt with the hilt, so that it should not
readily be drawn, laid it on the pillow. The Duke had flung himself
already on the bed, and hid himself among the curtains--doing this, it
is supposed, to save himself from the trouble of paying compliments to
the lady when she should arrive. For Caterina Ginori had the fame of
a fair speaker, and Alessandro was aware of his own incapacity to play
the part of a respectful lover. Nothing could more strongly point the
man's brutality than this act, which contributed in no small measure
to his ruin.

Lorenzino left the Duke upon the bed, and went at once for
Scoronconcolo. He told him that the enemy was caught, and bade him
only mind the work he had to do. 'That will I do,' the bravo answered,
'even though it were the Duke himself.' 'You've hit the mark,' said
Lorenzino with a face of joy; 'he cannot slip through our fingers.
Come!' So they mounted to the bedroom, and Lorenzino, knowing where
the Duke was laid, cried: 'Sir, are you asleep?' and therewith ran
him through the back. Alessandro was sleeping, or pretending to
sleep, face downwards, and the sword passed through his kidneys and
diaphragm. But it did not kill him. He slipped from the bed, and
seized a stool to parry the next blow. Scoronconcolo now stabbed him
in the face, while Lorenzino forced him back upon the bed; and then
began a hideous struggle. In order to prevent his cries, Lorenzino
doubled his fist into the Duke's mouth. Alessandro seized the thumb
between his teeth, and held it in a vice until he died. This disabled
Lorenzino, who still lay upon his victim's body, and Scoronconcolo
could not strike for fear of wounding his master. Between the writhing
couple he made, however, several passes with his sword, which only
pierced the mattress. Then he drew a knife and drove it into the
Duke's throat, and bored about till he had severed veins and windpipe.


IV.--THE FLIGHT OF LORENZINO DE' MEDICI

Alessandro was dead. His body fell to earth. The two murderers,
drenched with blood, lifted it up, and placed it on the bed, wrapped
in the curtains, as they had found him first. Then Lorenzino went to
the window, which looked out upon the Via Larga, and opened it to rest
and breathe a little air. After this he called for Scoronconcolo's
boy, Il Freccia, and bade him look upon the dead man. Il Freccia
recognised the Duke. But why Lorenzino did this, no one knew. It
seemed, as Varchi says, that, having planned the murder with great
ability, and executed it with daring, his good sense and good luck
forsook him. He made no use of the crime he had committed; and from
that day forward till his own assassination, nothing prospered with
him. Indeed, the murder of Alessandro appears to have been almost
motiveless, considered from the point of view of practical politics.
Varchi assumes that Lorenzino's burning desire of glory prompted the
deed; and when he had acquired the notoriety he sought, there was an
end to his ambition. This view is confirmed by the Apology he wrote
and published for his act. It remains one of the most pregnant,
bold, and brilliant pieces of writing which we possess in favour of
tyrannicide from that epoch of insolent crime and audacious rhetoric.
So energetic is the style, and so biting the invective of this
masterpiece, in which the author stabs a second time his victim, that
both Giordani and Leopardi affirmed it to be the only true monument of
eloquence in the Italian language. If thirst for glory was Lorenzino's
principal incentive, immediate glory was his guerdon. He escaped that
same night with Scoronconcolo and Freccia to Bologna, where he stayed
to dress his thumb, and then passed forward to Venice. Filippo Strozzi
there welcomed him as the new Brutus, gave him money, and promised to
marry his two sons to the two sisters of the tyrant-killer. Poems were
written and published by the most famous men of letters, including
Benedetto Varchi and Francesco Maria Molsa, in praise of the Tuscan
Brutus, the liberator of his country from a tyrant. A bronze medal
was struck bearing his name, with a profile copied from Michelangelo's
bust of Brutus. On the obverse are two daggers and a cup, and the date
viii. id. Jan.

The immediate consequence of Alessandro's murder was the elevation
of Cosimo, son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere, and second cousin of
Lorenzino, to the duchy. At the ceremony of his investiture with
the ducal honours, Cosimo solemnly undertook to revenge Alessandro's
murder. In the following March he buried his predecessor with pomp
in San Lorenzo. The body was placed beside the bones of the Duke of
Urbino in the marble chest of Michelangelo, and here not many years
ago it was discovered. Soon afterwards Lorenzino was declared a rebel.
His portrait was painted according to old Tuscan precedent, head
downwards, and suspended by one foot, upon the wall of the fort built
by Alessandro. His house was cut in twain from roof to pavement, and
a narrow lane was driven through it, which received the title of
Traitor's Alley, _Chiasso del Traditore_. The price of four
thousand golden florins was put upon his head, together with the
further sum of one hundred florins per annum in perpetuity to be paid
to the murderer and his direct heirs in succession, by the Otto di
Balia. Moreover, the man who killed Lorenzino was to enjoy all civic
privileges; exemption from all taxes, ordinary and extraordinary; the
right of carrying arms, together with two attendants, in the city and
the whole domain of Florence; and the further prerogative of restoring
ten outlaws at his choice. If Lorenzino could be captured and brought
alive to Florence, the whole of this reward would be doubled.

This decree was promulgated in April 1537, and thenceforward Lorenzino
de' Medici lived a doomed man. The assassin, who had been proclaimed a
Brutus by Tuscan exiles and humanistic enthusiasts, was regarded as a
Judas by the common people. Ballads were written on him with the title
of the 'Piteous and sore lament made unto himself by Lorenzino de'
Medici, who murdered the most illustrious Duke Alessandro.' He had
become a wild beast, whom it was honourable to hunt down, a pest which
it was righteous to extirpate. Yet fate delayed nine years to overtake
him. What remains to be told about his story must be extracted
from the narrative of the bravo who succeeded, with the aid of an
accomplice, in despatching him at Venice.[13] So far as possible,
I shall use the man's own words, translating them literally, and
omitting only unimportant details. The narrative throws brilliant
light upon the manners and movements of professional cut-throats at
that period in Italy. It seems to have been taken down from the hero
Francesco, or Cecco, Bibboni's lips; and there is no doubt that we
possess in it a valuable historical document for the illustration of
contemporary customs. It offers in all points a curious parallel
to Cellini's account of his own homicides and hair-breadth escapes.
Moreover, it is confirmed in its minutest circumstances by the records
of the criminal courts of Venice in the sixteenth century. This I can
attest from recent examination of MSS. relating to the _Signori
di Notte_ and the _Esecutori contro la Bestemmia_, which are
preserved among the Archives at the Frari.

V.--THE MURDER OF LORENZINO DE' MEDICI

'When I returned from Germany,' begins Bibboni, 'where I had been in
the pay of the Emperor, I found at Vicenza Bebo da Volterra, who was
staying in the house of M. Antonio da Roma, a nobleman of that city.
This gentleman employed him because of a great feud he had; and he was
mighty pleased, moreover, at my coming, and desired that I too should
take up my quarters in his palace.'

This paragraph strikes the keynote of the whole narrative, and
introduces us to the company we are about to keep. The noblemen of
that epoch, if they had private enemies, took into their service
soldiers of adventure, partly to protect their persons, but also to
make war, when occasion offered, on their foes. The _bravi_, as
they were styled, had quarters assigned them in the basement of
the palace, where they might be seen swaggering about the door or
flaunting their gay clothes behind the massive iron bars of the
windows which opened on the streets. When their master went abroad
at night they followed him, and were always at hand to perform secret
services in love affairs, assassination, and espial. For the rest,
they haunted taverns, and kept up correspondence with prostitutes. An
Italian city had a whole population of such fellows, the offscourings
of armies, drawn from all nations, divided by their allegiance of the
time being into hostile camps, but united by community of interest and
occupation, and ready to combine against the upper class, upon whose
vices, enmities, and cowardice they throve.

Bibboni proceeds to say how another gentleman of Vicenza, M. Francesco
Manente, had at this time a feud with certain of the Guazzi and the
Laschi, which had lasted several years, and cost the lives of many
members of both parties and their following. M. Francesco being a
friend of M. Antonio, besought that gentleman to lend him Bibboni and
Bebo for a season; and the two _bravi_ went together with their
new master to Celsano, a village in the neighbourhood. 'There both
parties had estates, and all of them kept armed men in their houses,
so that not a day passed without feats of arms, and always there was
some one killed or wounded. One day, soon afterwards, the leaders of
our party resolved to attack the foe in their house, where we killed
two, and the rest, numbering five men, entrenched themselves in
a ground-floor apartment; whereupon we took possession of their
harquebuses and other arms, which forced them to abandon the villa and
retire to Vicenza; and within a short space of time this great feud
was terminated by an ample peace.' After this Bebo took service with
the Rector of the University in Padua, and was transferred by his new
patron to Milan. Bibboni remained at Vicenza with M. Galeazzo della
Seta, who stood in great fear of his life, notwithstanding the peace
which had been concluded between the two factions. At the end of ten
months he returned to M. Antonio da Roma and his six brothers, 'all of
whom being very much attached to me, they proposed that I should
live my life with them, for good or ill, and be treated as one of the
family; upon the understanding that if war broke out and I wanted to
take part in it, I should always have twenty-five crowns and arms and
horse, with welcome home, so long as I lived; and in case I did not
care to join the troops, the same provision for my maintenance.'

From these details we comprehend the sort of calling which a bravo
of Bibboni's species followed. Meanwhile Bebo was at Milan. 'There it
happened that M. Francesco Vinta, of Volterra, was on embassy from
the Duke of Florence. He saw Bebo, and asked him what he was doing in
Milan, and Bebo answered that he was a knight errant.' This phrase,
derived no doubt from the romantic epics then in vogue, was a pretty
euphemism for a rogue of Bebo's quality. The ambassador now began
cautiously to sound his man, who seems to have been outlawed from the
Tuscan duchy, telling him he knew a way by which he might return with
favour to his home, and at last disclosing the affair of Lorenzo. Bebo
was puzzled at first, but when he understood the matter, he professed
his willingness, took letters from the envoy to the Duke of Florence,
and, in a private audience with Cosimo, informed him that he was ready
to attempt Lorenzino's assassination. He added that 'he had a comrade
fit for such a job, whose fellow for the business could not easily be
found.'

Bebo now travelled to Vicenza, and opened the whole matter to Bibboni,
who weighed it well, and at last, being convinced that the Duke's
commission to his comrade was _bona fide_, determined to take his
share in the undertaking. The two agreed to have no accomplices.
They went to Venice, and 'I,' says Bibboni, 'being most intimately
acquainted with all that city, and provided there with many friends,
soon quietly contrived to know where Lorenzino lodged, and took a room
in the neighbourhood, and spent some days in seeing how we best might
rule our conduct.' Bibboni soon discovered that Lorenzino never left
his palace; and he therefore remained in much perplexity, until, by
good luck, Ruberto Strozzi arrived from France in Venice, bringing in
his train a Navarrese servant, who had the nickname of Spagnoletto.
This fellow was a great friend of the bravo. They met, and Bibboni
told him that he should like to go and kiss the hands of Messer
Ruberto, whom he had known in Rome. Strozzi inhabited the same palace
as Lorenzino. 'When we arrived there, both Messer Ruberto and Lorenzo
were leaving the house, and there were around them so many gentlemen
and other persons, that I could not present myself, and both
straightway stepped into the gondola. Then I, not having seen Lorenzo
for a long while past, and because he was very quietly attired, could
not recognise the man exactly, but only as it were between certainty
and doubt. Wherefore I said to Spagnoletto, "I think I know that
gentleman, but don't remember where I saw him." And Messer Ruberto was
giving him his right hand. Then Spagnoletto answered, "You know him
well enough; he is Messer Lorenzo. But see you tell this to nobody. He
goes by the name of Messer Dario, because he lives in great fear
for his safety, and people don't know that he is now in Venice." I
answered that I marvelled much, and if I could have helped him, would
have done so willingly. Then I asked where they were going, and he
said, to dine with Messer Giovanni della Casa, who was the Pope's
Legate. I did not leave the man till I had drawn from him all I
required.'

Thus spoke the Italian Judas. The appearance of La Casa on the
scene is interesting. He was the celebrated author of the scandalous
'Capitolo del Forno,' the author of many sublime and melancholy
sonnets, who was now at Venice, prosecuting a charge of heresy against
Pier Paolo Vergerio, and paying his addresses to a noble lady of the
Quirini family. It seems that on the territory of San Marco he made
common cause with the exiles from Florence, for he was himself by
birth a Florentine, and he had no objection to take Brutus-Lorenzino
by the hand.

After the noblemen had rowed off in their gondola to dine with the
Legate, Bibboni and his friend entered their palace, where he found
another old acquaintance, the house-steward, or _spenditore_ of
Lorenzo. From him he gathered much useful information. Pietro Strozzi,
it seems, had allowed the tyrannicide one thousand five hundred crowns
a year, with the keep of three brave and daring companions (_tre
compagni bravi e facinorosi_), and a palace worth fifty crowns on
lease. But Lorenzo had just taken another on the Campo di San Polo at
three hundred crowns a year, for which swagger (_altura_) Pietro
Strozzi had struck a thousand crowns off his allowance. Bibboni also
learned that he was keeping house with his uncle, Alessandro Soderini,
another Florentine outlaw, and that he was ardently in love with a
certain beautiful Barozza. This woman was apparently one of the grand
courtesans of Venice. He further ascertained the date when he was
going to move into the palace at San Polo, and, 'to put it briefly,
knew everything he did, and, as it were, how many times a day he
spit.' Such were the intelligences of the servants' hall, and of such
value were they to men of Bibboni's calling.

In the Carnival of 1546 Lorenzo meant to go masqued in the habit of
a gipsy woman to the square of San Spirito, where there was to be a
joust. Great crowds of people would assemble, and Bibboni hoped to
do his business there. The assassination, however, failed on this
occasion, and Lorenzo took up his abode in the palace he had hired
upon the Campo di San Polo. This Campo is one of the largest open
places in Venice, shaped irregularly, with a finely curving line upon
the western side, where two of the noblest private houses in the city
are still standing. Nearly opposite these, in the south-western angle,
stands, detached, the little old church of San Polo. One of its side
entrances opens upon the square; the other on a lane, which leads
eventually to the Frari. There is nothing in Bibboni's narrative to
make it clear where Lorenzo hired his dwelling. But it would seem
from certain things which he says later on, that in order to enter the
church his victim had to cross the square. Meanwhile Bibboni took the
precaution of making friends with a shoemaker, whose shop commanded
the whole Campo, including Lorenzo's palace. In this shop he began to
spend much of his time; 'and oftentimes I feigned to be asleep;
but God knows whether I was sleeping, for my mind, at any rate, was
wide-awake.'

A second convenient occasion for murdering Lorenzo soon seemed to
offer. He was bidden to dine with Monsignor della Casa; and Bibboni,
putting a bold face on, entered the Legate's palace, having left
Bebo below in the loggia, fully resolved to do the business. 'But we
found,' he says, 'that, they had gone to dine at Murano, so that we
remained with our tabors in their bag.' The island of Murano at that
period was a favourite resort of the Venetian nobles, especially of
the more literary and artistic, who kept country-houses there, where
they enjoyed the fresh air of the lagoons and the quiet of their
gardens.

The third occasion, after all these weeks of watching, brought success
to Bibboni's schemes. He had observed how Lorenzo occasionally so far
broke his rules of caution as to go on foot, past the church of San
Polo, to visit the beautiful Barozza; and he resolved, if possible,
to catch him on one of these journeys. 'It so chanced on the 28th of
February, which was the second Sunday of Lent, that having gone, as
was my wont, to pry out whether Lorenzo would give orders for going
abroad that day, I entered the shoemaker's shop, and stayed awhile,
until Lorenzo came to the window with a napkin round his neck for he
was combing his hair--and at the same moment I saw a certain Giovan
Battista Martelli, who kept his sword for the defence of Lorenzo's
person, enter and come forth again. Concluding that they would
probably go abroad, I went home to get ready and procure the necessary
weapons, and there I found Bebo asleep in bed, and made him get up at
once, and we came to our accustomed post of observation, by the church
of San Polo, where our men would have to pass.' Bibboni now retired to
his friend the shoemaker's, and Bebo took up his station at one of
the side-doors of San Polo; 'and, as good luck would have it, Giovan
Battista Martelli came forth, and walked a piece in front, and then
Lorenzo came, and then Alessandro Soderini, going the one behind the
other, like storks, and Lorenzo, on entering the church, and lifting
up the curtain of the door, was seen from the opposite door by Bebo,
who at the same time noticed how I had left the shop, and so we met
upon the street as we had agreed, and he told me that Lorenzo was
inside the church.'

To any one who knows the Campo di San Polo, it will be apparent that
Lorenzo had crossed from the western side of the piazza and entered
the church by what is technically called its northern door. Bebo,
stationed at the southern door, could see him when he pushed the heavy
_stoia_ or leather curtain aside, and at the same time could
observe Bibboni's movements in the cobbler's shop. Meanwhile Lorenzo
walked across the church and came to the same door where Bebo had been
standing. 'I saw him issue from the church and take the main street;
then came Alessandro Soderini, and I walked last of all; and when
we reached the point we had determined on, I jumped in front
of Alessandro with the poignard in my hand, crying, "Hold hard,
Alessandro, and get along with you in God's name, for we are not here
for you!" He then threw himself around my waist, and grasped my arms,
and kept on calling out. Seeing how wrong I had been to try to spare
his life, I wrenched myself as well as I could from his grip, and with
my lifted poignard struck him, as God willed, above the eyebrow, and a
little blood trickled from the wound. He, in high fury, gave me such a
thrust that I fell backward, and the ground besides was slippery
from having rained a little. Then Alessandro drew his sword, which he
carried in its scabbard, and thrust at me in front, and struck me on
the corslet, which for my good fortune was of double mail. Before I
could get ready I received three passes, which, had I worn a doublet
instead of that mailed corslet, would certainly have run me through.
At the fourth pass I had regained my strength and spirit, and closed
with him, and stabbed him four times in the head, and being so close
he could not use his sword, but tried to parry with his hand and hilt,
and I, as God willed, struck him at the wrist below the sleeve of
mail, and cut his hand off clean, and gave him then one last stroke on
his head. Thereupon he begged for God's sake spare his life, and I, in
trouble about Bebo, left him in the arms of a Venetian nobleman, who
held him back from jumping into the canal.'

Who this Venetian nobleman, found unexpectedly upon the scene, was,
does not appear. Nor, what is still more curious, do we hear anything
of that Martelli, the bravo, 'who kept his sword for the defence of
Lorenzo's person.' The one had arrived accidentally, it seems. The
other must have been a coward and escaped from the scuffle.

'When I turned,' proceeds Bibboni, 'I found Lorenzo on his knees. He
raised himself, and I, in anger, gave him a great cut across the head,
which split it in two pieces, and laid him at my feet, and he never
rose again.'

VI.--THE ESCAPE OF THE BRAVI

Bebo, meanwhile, had made off from the scene of action. And Bibboni,
taking to his heels, came up with him in the little square of San
Marcello. They now ran for their lives till they reached the traghetto
di San Spirito, where they threw their poignards into the water,
remembering that no man might carry these in Venice under penalty
of the galleys. Bibboni's white hose were drenched with blood. He
therefore agreed to separate from Bebo, having named a rendezvous.
Left alone, his ill luck brought him face to face with twenty
constables (_sbirri_). 'In a moment I conceived that they knew
everything, and were come to capture me, and of a truth I saw that it
was over with me. As swiftly as I could I quickened pace and got into
a church, near to which was the house of a Compagnia, and the one
opened into the other, and knelt down and prayed, commending myself
with fervour to God for my deliverance and safety. Yet while I prayed,
I kept my eyes well open and saw the whole band pass the church,
except one man who entered, and I strained my sight so that I seemed
to see behind as well as in front, and then it was I longed for my
poignard, for I should not have heeded being in a church.' But the
constable, it soon appeared, was not looking for Bibboni. So he
gathered up his courage, and ran for the Church of San Spirito, where
the Padre Andrea Volterrano was preaching to a great congregation.
He hoped to go in by one door and out by the other, but the crowd
prevented him, and he had to turn back and face the _sbirrí_. One
of them followed him, having probably caught sight of the blood upon
his hose. Then Bibboni resolved to have done with the fellow, and
rushed at him, and flung him down with his head upon the pavement,
and ran like mad and came at last, all out of breath, to San Marco. It
seems clear that before Bibboni separated from Bebo they had crossed
the water, for the Sestiere di San Polo is separated from the Sestiere
di San Marco by the Grand Canal. And this they must have done at the
traghetto di San Spirito. Neither the church nor the traghetto are
now in existence, and this part of the story is therefore obscure.[14]
Having reached San Marco, he took a gondola at the Ponte della Paglia,
where tourists are now wont to stand and contemplate the Ducal Palace
and the Bridge of Sighs. First, he sought the house of a woman of the
town who was his friend; then changed purpose, and rowed to the palace
of the Count Salici da Collalto. 'He was a great friend and intimate
of ours, because Bebo and I had done him many and great services in
times passed. There I knocked; and Bebo opened the door, and when he
saw me dabbled with blood, he marvelled that I had not come to grief
and fallen into the hands of justice, and, indeed, had feared as much
because I had remained so long away.' It appears, therefore, that the
Palazzo Collalto was their rendezvous. 'The Count was from home; but
being known to all his people, I played the master and went into the
kitchen to the fire, and with soap and water turned my hose, which had
been white, to a grey colour.' This is a very delicate way of saying
that he washed out the blood of Alessandro and Lorenzo!

Soon after the Count returned, and 'lavished caresses' upon Bebo and
his precious comrade. They did not tell him what they had achieved
that morning, but put him off with a story of having settled a
_sbirro_ in a quarrel about a girl. Then the Count invited them to
dinner; and being himself bound to entertain the first physician of
Venice, requested them to take it in an upper chamber. He and his
secretary served them with their own hands at table. When the
physician arrived, the Count went downstairs; and at this moment a
messenger came from Lorenzo's mother, begging the doctor to go at once
to San Polo, for that her son had been murdered and Soderini wounded
to the death. It was now no longer possible to conceal their doings
from the Count, who told them to pluck up courage and abide in
patience. He had himself to dine and take his siesta, and then to
attend a meeting of the Council.

About the hour of vespers, Bibboni determined to seek better refuge.
Followed at a discreet distance by Bebo, he first called at their
lodgings and ordered supper. Two priests came in and fell into
conversation with them. But something in the behaviour of one of
these good men roused his suspicions. So they left the house, took a
gondola, and told the man to row hard to S. Maria Zobenigo. On the way
he bade him put them on shore, paid him well, and ordered him to wait
for them. They landed near the palace of the Spanish embassy; and here
Bibboni meant to seek sanctuary. For it must be remembered that the
houses of ambassadors, no less than of princes of the Church, were
inviolable. They offered the most convenient harbouring-places to
rascals. Charles V., moreover, was deeply interested in the vengeance
taken on Alessandro de' Medici's murderer, for his own natural
daughter was Alessandro's widow and Duchess of Florence. In the palace
they were met with much courtesy by about forty Spaniards, who showed
considerable curiosity, and told them that Lorenzo and Alessandro
Soderini had been murdered that morning by two men whose description
answered to their appearance. Bibboni put their questions by and asked
to see the ambassador. He was not at home. In that case, said Bibboni,
take us to the secretary. Attended by some thirty Spaniards, 'with
great joy and gladness,' they were shown into the secretary's chamber.
He sent the rest of the folk away, 'and locked the door well, and then
embraced and kissed us before we had said a word, and afterwards bade
us talk freely without any fear.' When Bibboni had told the whole
story, he was again embraced and kissed by the secretary, who
thereupon left them and went to the private apartment of the
ambassador. Shortly after he returned and led them by a winding
staircase into the presence of his master. The ambassador greeted
them with great honour, told them he would strain all the power of
the empire to hand them in safety over to Duke Cosimo, and that he had
already sent a courier to the Emperor with the good news.

So they remained in hiding in the Spanish embassy; and in ten days'
time commands were received from Charles himself that everything
should be done to convey them safely to Florence. The difficulty was
how to smuggle them out of Venice, where the police of the Republic
were on watch, and Florentine outlaws were mounting guard on sea and
shore to catch them. The ambassador began by spreading reports on the
Rialto every morning of their having been seen at Padua, at Verona, in
Friuli. He then hired a palace at Malghera, near Mestre, and went out
daily with fifty Spaniards, and took carriage or amused himself with
horse exercise and shooting. The Florentines, who were on watch, could
only discover from his people that he did this for amusement. When
he thought that he had put them sufficiently off their guard, the
ambassador one day took Bibboni and Bebo out by Canaregio and Mestre
to Malghera, concealed in his own gondola, with the whole train of
Spaniards in attendance. And though, on landing, the Florentines
challenged them, they durst not interfere with an ambassador or come
to battle with his men. So Bebo and Bibboni were hustled into a coach,
and afterwards provided with two comrades and four horses. They rode
for ninety miles without stopping to sleep, and on the day following
this long journey reached Trento, having probably threaded the
mountain valleys above Bassano, for Bibboni speaks of a certain
village where the people talked half German. The Imperial Ambassador
at Trento forwarded them next day to Mantua; from Mantua they came to
Piacenza; thence, passing through the valley of the Taro, crossing
the Apennines at Cisa, descending on Pontremoli, and reaching Pisa at
night, the fourteenth day after their escape from Venice.

When they arrived at Pisa, Duke Cosimo was supping. So they went to
an inn, and next morning presented themselves to his Grace. Cosimo
received them kindly, assured them of his gratitude, confirmed them
in the enjoyment of their rewards and privileges, and swore that they
might rest secure of his protection in all parts of his dominion. We
may imagine how the men caroused together after this reception. As
Bibboni adds, 'We were now able for the whole time of life left us
to live splendidly, without a thought or care.' The last words of his
narrative are these: 'Bebo from Pisa, at what date I know not, went
home to Volterra, his native town, and there finished his days; while
I abode in Florence, where I have had no further wish to hear of wars,
but to live my life in holy peace.'

So ends the story of the two _bravi_. We have reason to believe,
from some contemporary documents which Cantù has brought to light,
that Bibboni exaggerated his own part in the affair. Luca Martelli,
writing to Varchi, says that it was Bebo who clove Lorenzo's skull
with a cutlass. He adds this curious detail, that the weapons of
both men were poisoned, and that the wound inflicted by Bibboni on
Soderini's hand was a slight one. Yet, the poignard being poisoned,
Soderini died of it. In other respects Martelli's brief account agrees
with that given by Bibboni, who probably did no more, his comrade
being dead, than claim for himself, at some expense of truth, the
lion's share of their heroic action.

VII.--LORENZINO BRUTUS

It remains to ask ourselves, What opinion can be justly formed of
Lorenzino's character and motives? When he murdered his cousin, was
he really actuated by the patriotic desire to rid his country of a
monster? Did he imitate the Roman Brutus in the noble spirit of
his predecessors, Olgiati and Boscoli, martyrs to the creed of
tyrannicide? Or must this crowning action of a fretful life be
explained, like his previous mutilation of the statues on the Arch
of Constantine, by a wild thirst for notoriety? Did he hope that the
exiles would return to Florence, and that he would enjoy an honourable
life, an immortality of glorious renown? Did envy for his cousin's
greatness and resentment of his undisguised contempt--the passions of
one who had been used for vile ends--conscious of self-degradation and
the loss of honour, yet mindful of his intellectual superiority--did
these emotions take fire in him and mingle with a scholar's
reminiscences of antique heroism, prompting him to plan a deed
which should at least assume the show of patriotic zeal, and prove
indubitable courage in its perpetrator? Did he, again, perhaps
imagine, being next in blood to Alessandro and direct heir to the
ducal crown by the Imperial Settlement of 1530, that the city would
elect her liberator for her ruler? Alfieri and Niccolini, having
taken, as it were, a brief in favour of tyrannicide, praised Lorenzino
as a hero. De Musset, who wrote a considerable drama on his story,
painted him as a _roué_ corrupted by society, enfeebled by
circumstance, soured by commerce with an uncongenial world, who hides
at the bottom of his mixed nature enough of real nobility to make him
the leader of a forlorn hope for the liberties of Florence. This is
the most favourable construction we can put upon Lorenzo's conduct.
Yet some facts of the case warn us to suspend our judgment. He seems
to have formed no plan for the liberation of his fellow-citizens. He
gave no pledge of self-devotion by avowing his deed and abiding by its
issues. He showed none of the qualities of a leader, whether in the
cause of freedom or of his own dynastic interests, after the murder.
He escaped as soon as he was able, as secretly as he could manage,
leaving the city in confusion, and exposing himself to the obvious
charge of abominable treason. So far as the Florentines knew, his
assassination of their Duke was but a piece of private spite, executed
with infernal craft. It is true that when he seized the pen in exile,
he did his best to claim the guerdon of a patriot, and to throw the
blame of failure on the Florentines. In his Apology, and in a letter
written to Francesco de' Medici, he taunts them with lacking the
spirit to extinguish tyranny when he had slain the tyrant. He summons
plausible excuses to his aid--the impossibility of taking persons of
importance into his confidence, the loss of blood he suffered from
his wound, the uselessness of rousing citizens whom events proved
over-indolent for action. He declares that he has nothing to regret.
Having proved by deeds his will to serve his country, he has saved
his life in order to spend it for her when occasion offered. But these
arguments, invented after the catastrophe, these words, so bravely
penned when action ought to have confirmed his resolution, do not
meet the case. It was no deed of a true hero to assassinate a despot,
knowing or half knowing that the despot's subjects would immediately
elect another. Their languor could not, except rhetorically, be
advanced in defence of his own flight.

The historian is driven to seek both the explanation and palliation of
Lorenzo's failure in the temper of his times. There was enough
daring left in Florence to carry through a plan of brilliant treason,
modelled on an antique Roman tragedy. But there was not moral force
in the protagonist to render that act salutary, not public energy
sufficient in his fellow-citizens to accomplish his drama of
deliverance. Lorenzo was corrupt. Florence was flaccid. Evil manners
had emasculated the hero. In the state the last spark of independence
had expired with Ferrucci.

Still I have not without forethought dubbed this man a Cinque Cento
Brutus. Like much of the art and literature of his century, his action
may be regarded as a _bizarre_ imitation of the antique manner.
Without the force and purpose of a Roman, Lorenzo set himself to copy
Plutarch's men--just as sculptors carved Neptunes and Apollos without
the dignity and serenity of the classic style. The antique faith
was wanting to both murderer and craftsman in those days. Even as
Renaissance work in art is too often aimless, decorative, vacant of
intention, so Lorenzino's Brutus tragedy seems but the snapping of
a pistol in void air. He had the audacity but not the ethical
consistency of his crime. He played the part of Brutus like a Roscius,
perfect in its histrionic details. And it doubtless gave to this
skilful actor a supreme satisfaction--salving over many wounds of
vanity, quenching the poignant thirst for things impossible and
draughts of fame--that he could play it on no mimic stage, but on
the theatre of Europe. The weakness of his conduct was the central
weakness of his age and country. Italy herself lacked moral purpose,
sense of righteous necessity, that consecration of self to a noble
cause, which could alone have justified Lorenzo's perfidy. Confused
memories of Judith, Jael, Brutus, and other classical tyrannicides,
exalted his imagination. Longing for violent emotions, jaded with
pleasure which had palled, discontented with his wasted life, jealous
of his brutal cousin, appetitive to the last of glory, he conceived
his scheme. Having conceived, he executed it with that which never
failed in Cinque Cento Italy--the artistic spirit of perfection. When
it was over, he shrugged his shoulders, wrote his magnificent Apology
with a style of adamant upon a plate of steel, and left it for the
outlaws of Filippo Strozzi's faction to deal with the crisis he
had brought about. For some years he dragged out an ignoble life
in obscurity, and died at last, as Varchi puts it, more by his own
carelessness than by the watchful animosity of others. Over the wild,
turbid, clever, incomprehensible, inconstant hero-artist's grave we
write our _Requiescat_. Clio, as she takes the pen in hand to
record this prayer, smiles disdainfully and turns to graver business.

       *       *       *       *       *



_TWO DRAMATISTS OF THE LAST CENTURY_


There are few contrasts more striking than that which is presented
by the memoirs of Goldoni and Alfieri. Both of these men bore names
highly distinguished in the history of Italian literature. Both of
them were framed by nature with strongly marked characters, and fitted
to perform a special work in the world. Both have left behind them
records of their lives and literary labours, singularly illustrative
of their peculiar differences. There is no instance in which we see
more clearly the philosophical value of autobiographies, than in these
vivid pictures which the great Italian tragedian and comic author have
delineated. Some of the most interesting works of Lionardo da Vinci,
Giorgione, Albert Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Andrea del Sarto, are
their portraits painted by themselves. These pictures exhibit not only
the lineaments of the masters, but also their art. The hand which drew
them was the hand which drew the 'Last Supper,' or the 'Madonna of
the Tribune:' colour, method, chiaroscuro, all that makes up manner in
painting, may be studied on the same canvas as that which faithfully
represents the features of the man whose genius gave his style its
special character. We seem to understand the clear calm majesty of
Lionardo's manner, the silver-grey harmonies and smooth facility of
Andrea's Madonnas, the better for looking at their faces drawn by
their own hands at Florence. And if this be the case with a dumb
picture, how far higher must be the interest and importance of the
written life of a known author! Not only do we recognise in its
composition the style and temper and habits of thought which are
familiar to us in his other writings; but we also hear from his
own lips how these were formed, how his tastes took their peculiar
direction, what circumstances acted on his character, what hopes he
had, and where he failed. Even should his autobiography not bear
the marks of uniform candour, it probably reveals more of the actual
truth, more of the man's real nature in its height and depth, than
any memoir written by friend or foe. Its unconscious admissions, its
general spirit, and the inferences which we draw from its perusal,
are far more valuable than any mere statement of facts or external
analysis, however scientific. When we become acquainted with
the series of events which led to the conception or attended the
production of some masterpiece of literature, a new light is thrown
upon its beauties, fresh life bursts forth from every chapter, and we
seem to have a nearer and more personal interest in its success. What
a powerful sensation, for instance, is that which we experience when,
after studying the 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' Gibbon
tells us how the thought of writing it came to him upon the Capitol,
among the ruins of dead Rome, and within hearing of the mutter of the
monks of Ara Coeli, and how he finished it one night by Lake Geneva,
and laid his pen down and walked forth and saw the stars above his
terrace at Lausanne!

The memoirs of Alfieri and Goldoni are not deficient in any of the
characteristics of good autobiography. They seem to bear upon their
face the stamp of truthfulness, they illustrate their authors' lives
with marvellous lucidity, and they are full of interest as stories.
But it is to the contrast which they present that our attention should
be chiefly drawn. Other biographies may be as interesting and amusing.
None show in a more marked manner two distinct natures endowed with
genius for one art, and yet designed in every possible particular for
different branches of that art. Alfieri embodies Tragedy; Goldoni
is the spirit of Comedy. They are both Italians: their tragedies and
comedies are by no means cosmopolitan; but this national identity of
character only renders more remarkable the individual divergences by
which they were impelled into their different paths. Thalia seems to
have made the one, body, soul, and spirit; and Melpomene the other;
each goddess launched her favourite into circumstances suited to the
evolution of his genius, and presided over his development, so that at
his death she might exclaim,--Behold the living model of my Art!

Goldoni was born at Venice in the year 1707; he had already reached
celebrity when Alfieri saw the light for the first time, in 1749, at
Asti. Goldoni's grandfather was a native of Modena, who had settled
in Venice, and there lived with the prodigality of a rich and
ostentatious 'bourgeois.' 'Amid riot and luxury did I enter the
world,' says the poet, after enumerating the banquets and theatrical
displays with which the old Goldoni entertained his guests in his
Venetian palace and country-house. Venice at that date was certainly
the proper birthplace for a comic poet. The splendour of the
Renaissance had thoroughly habituated her nobles to pleasures of the
sense, and had enervated their proud, maritime character, while the
great name of the republic robbed them of the caution for which they
used to be conspicuous. Yet the real strength of Venice was almost
spent, and nothing remained but outward insolence and prestige.
Everything was gay about Goldoni in his earliest childhood.
Puppet-shows were built to amuse him by his grandfather. 'My
mother,' he says, 'took charge of my education, and my father of my
amusements.' Let us turn to the opening scene in Alfieri's life,
and mark the difference. A father above sixty, 'noble, wealthy, and
respectable,' who died before his son had reached the age of one year
old. A mother devoted to religion, the widow of one marquis, and after
the death of a second husband, Alfieri's father, married for the third
time to a nobleman of ancient birth. These were Alfieri's parents. He
was born in a solemn palazzo in the country town of Asti, and at the
age of five already longed for death as an escape from disease and
other earthly troubles. So noble and so wealthy was the youthful poet
that an abbé was engaged to carry out his education, but not to teach
him more than a count should know. Except this worthy man he had no
companions whatever. Strange ideas possessed the boy. He ruminated on
his melancholy, and when eight years old attempted suicide. At this
age he was sent to the academy at Turin, attended, as befitted a lad
of his rank, by a man-servant, who was to remain and wait on him at
school. Alfieri stayed here several years without revisiting his home,
tyrannised over by the valet who added to his grandeur, constantly
subject to sickness, and kept in almost total ignorance by his
incompetent preceptors. The gloom and pride and stoicism of his
temperament were augmented by this unnatural discipline. His spirit
did not break, but took a haughtier and more disdainful tone. He
became familiar with misfortunes. He learned to brood over and
intensify his passions. Every circumstance of his life seemed strung
up to a tragic pitch. This at least is the impression which remains
upon our mind after reading in his memoirs the narrative of what must
in many of its details have been a common schoolboy's life at that
time.

Meanwhile, what had become of young Goldoni? His boyhood was as
thoroughly plebeian, various, and comic as Alfieri's had been
patrician, monotonous, and tragical. Instead of one place of
residence, we read of twenty. Scrape succeeds to scrape, adventure to
adventure. Knowledge of the world, and some book learning also, flow
in upon the boy, and are eagerly caught up by him and heterogeneously
amalgamated in his mind. Alfieri learned nothing, wrote nothing, in
his youth, and heard his parents say--'A nobleman need never strive to
be a doctor of the faculties.' Goldoni had a little medicine and much
law thrust upon him. At eight he wrote a comedy, and ere long began
to read the plays of Plautus, Terence, Aristophanes, and Machiavelli.
Between the nature of the two poets there was a marked and
characteristic difference as to their mode of labour and of acquiring
knowledge. Both of them loved fame, and wrought for it; but Alfieri
did so from a sense of pride and a determination to excel;
while Goldoni loved the approbation of his fellows, sought their
compliments, and basked in the sunshine of smiles. Alfieri wrote with
labour. Each tragedy he composed went through a triple process of
composition, and received frequent polishing when finished. Goldoni
dashed off his pieces with the greatest ease on every possible
subject. He once produced sixteen comedies in one theatrical season.
Alfieri's were like lion's whelps--brought forth with difficulty,
and at long intervals; Goldoni's, like the brood of a hare--many,
frequent, and as agile as their parent. Alfieri amassed knowledge
scrupulously, but with infinite toil. He mastered Greek and Hebrew
when he was past forty. Goldoni never gave himself the least trouble
to learn anything, but trusted to the ready wit, good memory, and
natural powers, which helped him in a hundred strange emergencies.
Power of will and pride sustained the one; facility and a
good-humoured vanity the other. This contrast was apparent at a very
early age. We have seen how Alfieri passed his time at Turin, in
a kind of aristocratic prison of educational ignorance. Goldoni's
grandfather died when he was five years old, and left his family in
great embarrassment. The poet's father went off to practise medicine
at Perugia. His son followed him, acquired the rudiments of knowledge
in that town, and then proceeded to study philosophy alone at Rimini.
There was no man-servant or academy in his case. He was far too
plebeian and too free. The boy lodged with a merchant, and got some
smattering of Thomas Aquinas and the Peripatetics into his small
brain, while he contrived to form a friendship with an acting company.
They were on the wing for Venice in a coasting boat, which would touch
at Chiozza, where Goldoni's mother then resided. The boy pleased them.
Would he like the voyage? This offer seemed too tempting, and away
he rushed, concealed himself on board, and made one of a merry motley
shipload. 'Twelve persons, actors as well as actresses, a prompter,
a machinist, a storekeeper, eight domestics, four chambermaids, two
nurses, children of every age, cats, dogs, monkeys, parrots, birds,
pigeons, and a lamb; it was another Noah's ark.' The young poet felt
at home; how could a comic poet feel otherwise? They laughed, they
sang, they danced; they ate and drank, and played at cards. 'Macaroni!
Every one fell on it, and three dishes were devoured. We had also
alamode beef, cold fowl, a loin of veal, a dessert, and excellent
wine. What a charming dinner! No cheer like a good appetite.' Their
harmony, however, was disturbed. The 'première amoureuse,' who, in
spite of her rank and title, was ugly and cross, and required to be
coaxed with cups of chocolate, lost her cat. She tried to kill the
whole boat-load of beasts--cats, dogs, monkeys, parrots, pigeons, even
the lamb stood in danger of her wrath. A regular quarrel ensued, was
somehow set at peace, and all began to laugh again. This is a sample
of Goldoni's youth. Comic pleasures, comic dangers; nothing deep or
lasting, but light and shadow cheerfully distributed, clouds lowering
with storm, a distant growl of thunder, then a gleam of light and
sunshine breaking overhead. He gets articled to an attorney at Venice,
then goes to study law at Pavia; studies society instead, and flirts,
and finally is expelled for writing satires. Then he takes a turn at
medicine with his father in Friuli, and acts as clerk to the criminal
chancellor at Chiozza.

Every employment seems easy to him, but he really cares for none but
literature. He spends all his spare time in reading and in amusements,
and begins to write a tragic opera. This proves, however, eminently
unsuccessful, and he burns it in a comic fit of anger. One laughable
love-affair in which he engaged at Udine exhibits his adventures
in their truly comic aspect. It reminds us of the scene in 'Don
Giovanni,' where Leporello personates the Don and deceives Donna
Elvira. Goldoni had often noticed a beautiful young lady at church
and on the public drives: she was attended by a waiting-maid, who soon
perceived that her mistress had excited the young man's admiration,
and who promised to befriend him in his suit. Goldoni was told to
repair at night to the palace of his mistress, and to pour his passion
forth beneath her window. Impatiently he waited for the trysting
hour, conned his love-sentences, and gloried in the romance of the
adventure. When night came, he found the window, and a veiled figure
of a lady in the moonlight, whom he supposed at once to be his
mistress. Her he eloquently addressed in the true style of Romeo's
rapture, and she answered him. Night after night this happened,
but sometimes he was a little troubled by a sound of ill-suppressed
laughter interrupting the _tête-à-tête_. Meanwhile Teresa,
the waiting-maid, received from his hands costly presents for her
mistress, and made him promises on her part in exchange. As she proved
unable to fulfil them, Goldoni grew suspicious, and at last discovered
that the veiled figure to whom he had poured out his tale of love was
none other than Teresa, and that the laughter had proceeded from
her mistress, whom the faithless waiting-maid regaled at her lover's
expense. Thus ended this ridiculous matter. Goldoni was not, however,
cured by his experience. One other love-affair rendered Udine too hot
to hold him, and in consequence of a third he had to fly from Venice
just when he was beginning to flourish there. At length he married
comfortably and suitably, settling down into a quiet life with a woman
whom, if he did not love her with passion, he at least respected and
admired. Goldoni, in fact, had no real passion in his nature.

Alfieri, on the other hand, was given over to volcanic ebullitions of
the most ungovernable hate and affection, joy and sorrow. The chains
of love which Goldoni courted so willingly, Alfieri regarded with
the greatest shyness. But while Goldoni healed his heart of all its
bruises in a week or so, the tragic poet bore about him wounds that
would not close. He enumerates three serious passions which possessed
his whole nature, and at times deprived him almost of his reason. A
Dutch lady first won his heart, and when he had to leave her, Alfieri
suffered so intensely that he never opened his lips during the course
of a long journey through Germany, Switzerland, and Piedmont. Fevers,
and suicides attempted but interrupted, marked the termination of this
tragic amour. His second passion had for its object an English lady,
with whose injured husband he fought a duel, although his collarbone
was broken at the time. The lady proved unworthy of Alfieri as well
as of her husband, and the poet left her in a most deplorable state
of hopelessness and intellectual prostration. At last he formed
a permanent affection for the wife of Prince Charles Edward, the
Countess of Albany, in close friendship with whom he lived after her
husband's death. The society of this lady gave him perfect happiness;
but it was founded on her lofty beauty, the pathos of her situation,
and her intellectual qualities. Melpomene presided at this union,
while Thalia blessed the nuptials of Goldoni. How characteristic
also were the adventures which these two pairs of lovers encountered!
Goldoni once carried his wife upon his back across two rivers in their
flight from the Spanish to the Austrian camp at Rimini, laughing and
groaning, and perceiving the humour of his situation all the time.
Alfieri, on an occasion of even greater difficulty, was stopped with
his illustrious friend at the gates of Paris in 1792. They were flying
in post-chaises, with their servants and their baggage, from the
devoted city, when a troop of _sansculottes_ rushed on them,
surged around the carriage, called them aristocrats, and tried to drag
them off to prison. Alfieri, with his tall gaunt figure, pallid face,
and red voluminous hair, stormed, raged, and raised his deep bass
voice above the tumult. For half an hour he fought with them, then
made his coachmen gallop through the gates, and scarcely halted till
they got to Gravelines. By this prompt movement they escaped arrest
and death at Paris. These two scenes would make agreeable companion
pictures: Goldoni staggering beneath his wife across the muddy bed
of an Italian stream--the smiling writer of agreeable plays, with his
half-tearful helpmate ludicrous in her disasters; Alfieri mad with
rage among Parisian Mænads, his princess quaking in her carriage, the
air hoarse with cries, and death and safety trembling in the balance.
It is no wonder that the one man wrote 'La Donna di Garbo' and the
'Cortese Veneziano,' while the other was inditing essays on Tyranny
and dramas of 'Antigone,' 'Timoleon,' and 'Brutus.'

The difference between the men is seen no less remarkably in regard
to courage. Alfieri was a reckless rider, and astonished even English
huntsmen by his desperate leaps. In one of them he fell and broke
his collar-bone, but not the less he held his tryst with a fair lady,
climbed her park gates, and fought a duel with her husband. Goldoni
was a pantaloon for cowardice. In the room of an inn at Desenzano
which he occupied together with a female fellow-traveller, an attempt
was made to rob them by a thief at night. All Goldoni was able to do
consisted in crying out for help, and the lady called him 'M. l'Abbé'
ever after for his want of pluck. Goldoni must have been by far the
more agreeable of the two. In all his changes from town to town of
Italy he found amusement and brought gaiety. The sights, the theatres,
the society aroused his curiosity. He trembled with excitement at the
performance of his pieces, made friends with the actors, taught them,
and wrote parts to suit their qualities. At Pisa he attended as
a stranger the meeting of the Arcadian Academy, and at its close
attracted all attention to himself by his clever improvisation. He was
in truth a ready-witted man, pliable, full of resource, bred half a
valet, half a Roman _græculus_. Alfieri saw more of Europe than
Goldoni. France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, England, Spain, all
parts of Italy he visited with restless haste. From land to land he
flew, seeking no society, enjoying nothing, dashing from one inn door
to another with his servants and his carriages, and thinking chiefly
of the splendid stud of horses which he took about with him upon his
travels. He was a lonely, stiff, self-engrossed, indomitable man. He
could not rest at home: he could not bear to be the vassal of a king
and breathe the air of courts. So he lived always on the wing, and
ended by exiling himself from Sardinia in order to escape the trammels
of paternal government. As for his tragedies, he wrote them to win
laurels from posterity. He never cared to see them acted; he bullied
even his printers and correctors; he cast a glove down in defiance
of his critics. Goldoni sought the smallest meed of approbation. It
pleased him hugely in his old age to be Italian master to a French
princess. Alfieri openly despised the public. Goldoni wrote because he
liked to write; Alfieri, for the sake of proving his superior powers.
Against Alfieri's hatred of Turin and its trivial solemnities, we
have to set Goldoni's love of Venice and its petty pleasures. He would
willingly have drunk chocolate and played at dominoes or picquet all
his life on the Piazza di San Marco, when Alfieri was crossing the
sierras on his Andalusian horse, and devouring a frugal meal of rice
in solitude. Goldoni glided through life an easy man, with genial,
venial thoughts; with a clear, gay, gentle temper; a true sense of
what is good and just; and a heart that loved diffusively, if not too
warmly. Many were the checks and obstacles thrown on his path; but
round them or above them he passed nimbly, without scar or scathe.
Poverty went close behind him, but he kept her off, and never felt
the pinch of need. Alfieri strained and strove against the barriers
of fate; a sombre, rugged man, proud, candid, and self-confident, who
broke or bent all opposition; now moving solemnly with tragic pomp,
now dashing passionately forward by the might of will. Goldoni drew
his inspirations from the moment and surrounding circumstances.
Alfieri pursued an ideal, slowly formed, but strongly fashioned and
resolutely followed. Of wealth he had plenty and to spare, but
he disregarded it, and was a Stoic in his mode of life. He was an
unworldly man, and hated worldliness. Goldoni, but for his authorship,
would certainly have grown a prosperous advocate, and died of gout
in Venice. Goldoni liked smart clothes; Alfieri went always in
black. Goldoni's fits of spleen--for he _was_ melancholy now and
then--lasted a day or two, and disappeared before a change of place.
Alfieri dragged his discontent about with him all over Europe, and let
it interrupt his work and mar his intellect for many months together.
Alfieri was a patriot, and hated France. Goldoni never speaks
of politics, and praises Paris as a heaven on earth. The genial
moralising of the latter appears childish by the side of Alfieri's
terse philosophy and pregnant remarks on the development of character.
What suits the page of Plautus would look poor in 'Oedipus' or
'Agamemnon.' Goldoni's memoirs are diffuse and flippant in their light
French dress. They seem written to please. Alfieri's Italian style
marches with dignity and Latin terseness. He rarely condescends to
smile. He writes to instruct the world and to satisfy himself. Grim
humour sometimes flashes out, as when he tells the story of the Order
of Homer, which he founded. How different from Goldoni's naïve account
of his little ovation in the theatre at Paris!

But it would be idle to carry on this comparison, already tedious. The
life of Goldoni was one long scene of shifts and jests, of frequent
triumphs and some failures, of lessons hard at times, but kindly.
Passions and _ennui_, flashes of heroic patriotism, constant
suffering and stoical endurance, art and love idealised, fill up the
life of Alfieri. Goldoni clung much to his fellow-men, and shared
their pains and pleasures. Alfieri spent many of his years in almost
absolute solitude. On the whole character and deeds of the one man was
stamped Comedy: the other was own son of Tragedy.

If, after reading the autobiographies of Alfieri and Goldoni, we turn
to the perusal of their plays, we shall perceive that there is no
better commentary on the works of an artist than his life, and no
better life than one written by himself. The old style of criticism,
which strove to separate an author's productions from his life, and
even from the age in which he lived, to set up an arbitrary canon
of taste, and to select one or two great painters or poets as ideals
because they seemed to illustrate that canon, has passed away. We are
beginning to feel that art is a part of history and of physiology.
That is to say, the artist's work can only be rightly understood by
studying his age and temperament. Goldoni's versatility and want of
depth induced him to write sparkling comedies. The merry life men
passed at Venice in its years of decadence proved favourable to his
genius. Alfieri's melancholy and passionate qualities, fostered in
solitude, and aggravated by a tyranny he could not bear, led him
irresistibly to tragic composition. Though a noble, his nobility only
added to his pride, and insensibly his intellect had been imbued with
the democratic sentiments which were destined to shake Europe in his
lifetime. This, in itself, was a tragic circumstance, bringing him
into close sympathy with the Brutus, the Prometheus, the Timoleon of
ancient history. Goldoni's _bourgeoisie_, in the atmosphere of
which he was born and bred, was essentially comic. The true comedy
of manners, which is quite distinct from Shakspere's fancy or from
Aristophanic satire, is always laid in middle life. Though Goldoni
tried to write tragedies, they were unimpassioned, dull, and tame. He
lacked altogether the fire, high-wrought nobility of sentiment, and
sense of form essential for tragic art. On the other hand, Alfieri
composed some comedies before his death which were devoid of humour,
grace, and lightness. A strange elephantine eccentricity is their
utmost claim to comic character. Indeed, the temper of Alfieri, ever
in extremes, led him even to exaggerate the qualities of tragedy.
He carried its severity to a pitch of dulness and monotony. His
chiaroscuro was too strong; virtue and villany appearing in pure
black and white upon his pages. His hatred of tyrants induced him to
transgress the rules of probability, so that it has been well said
that if his wicked kings had really had such words of scorn and hatred
thrown at them by their victims, they were greatly to be pitied. On
the other hand, his pithy laconisms have often a splendidly tragical
effect. There is nothing in the modern drama more rhetorically
impressive, though spasmodic, than the well-known dialogue between
Antigone and Creon:--

'_Cr_. Scegliesti?

'_Ant_. Ho scelto.

'_Cr_. Emon?

'_Ant_. Morte.

'_Cr_. L'avrai!'

Goldoni's comedies, again, have not enough of serious thought or of
true creative imagination to be works of high art. They lean too much
to the side of farce; they have none of the tragic salt which gives
a dignity to Tartuffe. They are, in a word, almost too enethistically
comic.

The contrast between these authors might lead us to raise the question
long ago discussed by Socrates at Agathon's banquet--Can the same man
write both comedies and tragedies? We in England are accustomed to
read the serious and comic plays of Shakspere, Fletcher, Jonson, and
to think that one poet could excel in either branch. The custom of
the Elizabethan theatre obliged this double authorship; yet it must be
confessed that Shakspere's comedies are not such comedies as Greek
or Romnan or French critics would admit. They are works of the purest
imagination, wholly free from the laws of this world; while the
tragedies of Fletcher have a melodramatic air equally at variance with
the classical Melpomene. It may very seriously be doubted whether the
same mind could produce, with equal power, a comedy like the 'Cortese
Veneziano' and a tragedy like Alfieri's 'Brutus.' At any rate,
returning to our old position, we find in these two men the very
opposite conditions of dramatic genius. They are, as it were,
specimens prepared by Nature for the instruction of those who analyse
genius in its relations to temperament, to life, and to external
circumstances.

       *       *       *       *       *



     FOOTNOTES:

     [Footnote 1: This Essay was written in 1866, and published
     in 1867. Reprinting it in 1879, after eighteen months spent
     continuously in one high valley of the Grisons, I feel how
     slight it is. For some amends, I take this opportunity of
     printing at the end of it a description of Davos in winter.]

     [Footnote 2: See, however, what is said about Leo Battista
     Alberti in the sketch of Rimini in the second series.]

     [Footnote 3: The Grisons surname Campèll may derive from the
     Romansch Campo Bello. The founder of the house was one
     Kaspar Campèll, who in the first half of the sixteenth
     century preached the Reformed religion in the Engadine.]

     [Footnote 4: I have translated and printed at the end of the
     second volume some sonnets of Petrarch as a kind of palinode
     for this impertinence.]

     [Footnote 5: This begs the question whether [Greek:
     leukoion] does not properly mean snowflake, or some such
     flower. Violets in Greece, however, were often used for
     crowns: [Greek: iostephanos] is the epithet of Homer for
     Aphrodite, and of Aristophanes for Athens.]

     [Footnote 6: Olive-trees must be studied at Mentone or San
     Remo, in Corfu, at Tivoli, on the coast between Syracuse and
     Catania, or on the lowlands of Apulia. The stunted but
     productive trees of the Rhone valley, for example, are no
     real measure of the beauty they can exhibit.]

     [Footnote 7: Dante, Par. xi. 106.]

     [Footnote 8: It is but just to Doctor Pasta to remark that
     the above sentence was written more than ten years ago.
     Since then he has enlarged and improved his house in many
     ways, furnished it more luxuriously, made paths through the
     beechwoods round it, and brought excellent water at a great
     cost from a spring near the summit of the mountain. A more
     charming residence from early spring to late autumn can
     scarcely be discovered.]

     [Footnote 9: 'The down upon their cheeks and chin was
     yellower than helichrysus, and their breasts gleamed whiter
     far than thou, O Moon.']

     [Footnote 10: 'Thy tresses have I oftentimes compared to
     Ceres' yellow autumn sheaves, wreathed in curled bands
     around thy head.']

     [Footnote 11: Both these and the large frescoes in the choir
     have been chromolithographed by the Arundel Society.]

     [Footnote 12: I cannot see clearly through these
     transactions, the muddy waters of decadent Italian plot and
     counterplot being inscrutable to senses assisted by nothing
     more luminous than mere tradition.]

     [Footnote 13: Those who are interested in such matters may
     profitably compare this description of a planned murder in
     the sixteenth century with the account written by Ambrogio
     Tremazzi of the way in which he tracked and slew Troilo
     Orsini in Paris in the year 1577. It is given by Gnoli in
     his _Vittoria Accoramboni_, pp. 404-414.]

     [Footnote 14: So far as I can discover, the only church of
     San Spirito in Venice was a building on the island of San
     Spirito, erected by Sansavino, which belonged to the
     Sestiere di S. Croce, and which was suppressed in 1656. Its
     plate and the fine pictures which Titian painted there were
     transferred at that date to S.M. della Salute. I cannot help
     inferring that either Bibboni's memory failed him, or that
     his words were wrongly understood by printer or amanuensis.
     If for S. Spirito we substitute S. Stefano, the account
     would be intelligible.]

       *       *       *       *       *



SKETCHES AND STUDIES IN ITALY AND GREECE



BY JOHN ADDINGTON SYMONDS


AUTHOR OF "RENAISSANCE IN ITALY" "STUDIES OF THE GREEK POETS," ETC



SECOND SERIES

LONDON JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.

1914

_All rights reserved_



  FIRST EDITION (_Smith, Elder & Co._)    _October, 1898_
  _Reprinted_                                 _May, 1900_
  _Reprinted_                                _June, 1902_
  _Reprinted_                            _November, 1905_
  _Reprinted_                            _December, 1907_
  _Reprinted_                            _February, 1914_
  _Taken over by John Murray_             _January, 1917_



_Printed in Great Britain at_ THE BALLANTYNE PRESS _by_ SPOTTISWOODE,
BALLANTYNE & Co. LTD. _Colchester, London & Eton_



CONTENTS

                                                   PAGE

  RAVENNA                                            1
  RIMINI                                            14
  MAY IN UMBRIA                                     32
  THE PALACE OF URBINO                              50
  VITTORIA ACCORAMBONI                              88
  AUTUMN WANDERINGS                                127
  PARMA                                            147
  CANOSSA                                          163
  FORNOVO                                          180
  FLORENCE AND THE MEDICI                          201
  THE DEBT OF ENGLISH TO ITALIAN LITERATURE        258
  POPULAR SONGS OF TUSCANY                         276
  POPULAR ITALIAN POETRY OF THE RENAISSANCE        305
  THE 'ORFEO' OF POLIZIANO                         345
  EIGHT SONNETS OF PETRARCH                        365



SKETCHES AND STUDIES IN ITALY AND GREECE



_RAVENNA_


The Emperor Augustus chose Ravenna for one of his two naval stations,
and in course of time a new city arose by the sea-shore, which
received the name of Portus Classis. Between this harbour and the
mother city a third town sprang up, and was called Cæsarea. Time and
neglect, the ravages of war, and the encroaching powers of Nature have
destroyed these settlements, and nothing now remains of the three
cities but Ravenna. It would seem that in classical times Ravenna
stood, like modern Venice, in the centre of a huge lagune, the fresh
waters of the Ronco and the Po mixing with the salt waves of the
Adriatic round its very walls. The houses of the city were built on
piles; canals instead of streets formed the means of communication,
and these were always filled with water artificially conducted from
the southern estuary of the Po. Round Ravenna extended a vast morass,
for the most part under shallow water, but rising at intervals into
low islands like the Lido or Murano or Torcello which surround Venice.
These islands were celebrated for their fertility: the vines and
fig-trees and pomegranates, springing from a fat and fruitful soil,
watered with constant moisture, and fostered by a mild sea-wind and
liberal sunshine, yielded crops that for luxuriance and quality
surpassed the harvests of any orchards on the mainland. All the
conditions of life in old Ravenna seem to have resembled those of
modern Venice; the people went about in gondolas, and in the early
morning barges laden with fresh fruit or meat and vegetables flocked
from all quarters to the city of the sea.[1] Water also had to be
procured from the neighbouring shore, for, as Martial says, a well at
Ravenna was more valuable than a vineyard. Again, between the city and
the mainland ran a long low causeway all across the lagune like that
on which the trains now glide into Venice. Strange to say, the air of
Ravenna was remarkably salubrious: this fact, and the ease of life
that prevailed there, and the security afforded by the situation of
the town, rendered it a most desirable retreat for the monarchs of
Italy during those troublous times in which the empire nodded to its
fall. Honorius retired to its lagunes for safety; Odoacer, who
dethroned the last Cæsar of the West, succeeded him; and was in turn,
supplanted by Theodoric the Ostrogoth. Ravenna, as we see it now,
recalls the peaceful and half-Roman rule of the great Gothic king. His
palace, his churches, and the mausoleums in which his daughter
Amalasuntha laid the hero's bones, have survived the sieges of
Belisarius and Astolphus, the conquest of Pepin, the bloody quarrels
of Iconoclasts with the children of the Roman Church, the mediæval
wars of Italy, the victory of Gaston de Foix, and still stand gorgeous
with marbles and mosaics in spite of time and the decay of all around
them.

As early as the sixth century, the sea had already retreated to such a
distance from Ravenna that orchards and gardens were cultivated on
the spot where once the galleys of the Cæsars rode at anchor. Groves
of pines sprang up along the shore, and in their lofty tops the music
of the wind moved like the ghost of waves and breakers plunging upon
distant sands. This Pinetum stretches along the shore of the Adriatic
for about forty miles, forming a belt of variable width between the
great marsh and the tumbling sea. From a distance the bare stems and
velvet crowns of the pine-trees stand up like palms that cover an
oasis on Arabian sands; but at a nearer view the trunks detach
themselves from an inferior forest-growth of juniper and thorn and ash
and oak, the tall roofs of the stately firs shooting their breadth of
sheltering greenery above the lower and less sturdy brushwood. It is
hardly possible to imagine a more beautiful and impressive scene than
that presented by these long alleys of imperial pines. They grow so
thickly one behind another, that we might compare them to the pipes of
a great organ, or the pillars of a Gothic church, or the basaltic
columns of the Giant's Causeway. Their tops are evergreen and laden
with the heavy cones, from which Ravenna draws considerable wealth.
Scores of peasants are quartered on the outskirts of the forest, whose
business it is to scale the pines and rob them of their fruit at
certain seasons of the year. Afterwards they dry the fir-cones in the
sun, until the nuts which they contain fall out. The empty husks are
sold for firewood, and the kernels in their stony shells reserved for
exportation. You may see the peasants, men, women, and boys, sorting
them by millions, drying and sifting them upon the open spaces of the
wood, and packing them in sacks to send abroad through Italy. The
_pinocchi_ or kernels of the stone-pine are largely used in cookery,
and those of Ravenna are prized for their good quality and aromatic
flavour. When roasted or pounded, they taste like a softer and more
mealy kind of almonds. The task of gathering this harvest is not a
little dangerous. Men have to cut notches in the straight shafts, and
having climbed, often to the height of eighty feet, to lean upon the
branches, and detach the fir-cones with a pole--and this for every
tree. Some lives, they say, are yearly lost in the business.

As may be imagined, the spaces of this great forest form the haunt of
innumerable living creatures. Lizards run about by myriads in the
grass. Doves coo among the branches of the pines, and nightingales
pour their full-throated music all day and night from thickets of
white-thorn and acacia. The air is sweet with aromatic scents: the
resin of the pine and juniper, the mayflowers and acacia-blossoms, the
violets that spring by thousands in the moss, the wild roses and faint
honeysuckles which throw fragrant arms from bough to bough of ash or
maple, join to make one most delicious perfume. And though the air
upon the neighbouring marsh is poisonous, here it is dry, and spreads
a genial health. The sea-wind murmuring through these thickets at
nightfall or misty sunrise, conveys no fever to the peasants stretched
among their flowers. They watch the red rays of sunset flaming through
the columns of the leafy hall, and flaring on its fretted rafters of
entangled boughs; they see the stars come out, and Hesper gleam, an
eye of brightness, among dewy branches; the moon walks silver-footed
on the velvet tree-tops, while they sleep beside the camp-fires; fresh
morning wakes them to the sound of birds and scent of thyme and
twinkling of dewdrops on the grass around. Meanwhile ague, fever, and
death have been stalking all night long about the plain, within a few
yards of their couch, and not one pestilential breath has reached the
charmed precincts of the forest.

You may ride or drive for miles along green aisles between the pines
in perfect solitude; and yet the creatures of the wood, the sunlight
and the birds, the flowers and tall majestic columns at your side,
prevent all sense of loneliness or fear. Huge oxen haunt the
wilderness--grey creatures, with mild eyes and spreading horns and
stealthy tread. Some are patriarchs of the forest, the fathers and
the mothers of many generations who have been carried from their sides
to serve in ploughs or waggons on the Lombard plain. Others are
yearling calves, intractable and ignorant of labour. In order to
subdue them to the yoke, it is requisite to take them very early from
their native glades, or else they chafe and pine away with weariness.
Then there is a sullen canal, which flows through the forest from the
marshes to the sea; it is alive with frogs and newts and snakes. You
may see these serpents basking on the surface among thickets of the
flowering rush, or coiled about the lily leaves and flowers--lithe
monsters, slippery and speckled, the tyrants of the fen.

It is said that when Dante was living at Ravenna he would spend whole
days alone among the forest glades, thinking of Florence and her civil
wars, and meditating cantos of his poem. Nor have the influences of
the pine-wood failed to leave their trace upon his verse. The charm of
its summer solitude seems to have sunk into his soul; for when he
describes the whispering of winds and singing birds among the boughs
of his terrestrial paradise, he says:--

  Non però dal lor esser dritto sparte
    Tanto, che gli augelletti per le cime
    Lasciasser d' operare ogni lor arte:
  Ma con piena letizia l' aure prime,
    Cantando, ricevano intra le foglie,
    Che tenevan bordone alle sue rime
  Tal, qual di ramo in ramo si raccoglie
    Per la pineta in sul lito di Chiassi
    Quand' Eolo Scirocco fuor discioglie.

With these verses in our minds, while wandering down the grassy
aisles, beside the waters of the solitary place, we seem to meet that
lady singing as she went, and plucking flower by flower, 'like
Proserpine when Ceres lost a daughter, and she lost her spring.'
There, too, the vision of the griffin and the car, of singing
maidens, and of Beatrice descending to the sound of Benedictus and of
falling flowers, her flaming robe and mantle green as grass, and veil
of white, and olive crown, all flashed upon the poet's inner eye, and
he remembered how he bowed before her when a boy. There is yet another
passage in which it is difficult to believe that Dante had not the
pine-forest in his mind. When Virgil and the poet were waiting in
anxiety before the gates of Dis, when the Furies on the wall were
tearing their breasts and crying, 'Venga Medusa, e si 'l farem di
smalto,' suddenly across the hideous river came a sound like that
which whirlwinds make among the shattered branches and bruised stems
of forest-trees; and Dante, looking out with fear upon the foam and
spray and vapour of the flood, saw thousands of the damned flying
before the face of one who forded Styx with feet unwet. 'Like frogs,'
he says, 'they fled, who scurry through the water at the sight of
their foe, the serpent, till each squats and hides himself close to
the ground.' The picture of the storm among the trees might well have
occurred to Dante's mind beneath the roof of pine-boughs. Nor is there
any place in which the simile of the frogs and water-snake attains
such dignity and grandeur. I must confess that till I saw the ponds
and marshes of Ravenna, I used to fancy that the comparison was
somewhat below the greatness of the subject; but there so grave a note
of solemnity and desolation is struck, the scale of Nature is so
large, and the serpents coiling in and out among the lily leaves and
flowers are so much in their right place, that they suggest a scene by
no means unworthy of Dante's conception.

Nor is Dante the only singer who has invested this wood with poetical
associations. It is well known that Boccaccio laid his story of
'Honoria' in the pine-forest, and every student of English literature
must be familiar with the noble tale in verse which Dryden has founded
on this part of the 'Decameron.' We all of us have followed Theodore,
and watched with him the tempest swelling in the grove, and seen the
hapless ghost pursued by demon hounds and hunter down the glades. This
story should be read while storms are gathering upon the distant sea,
or thunderclouds descending from the Apennines, and when the pines
begin to rock and surge beneath the stress of labouring winds. Then
runs the sudden flash of lightning like a rapier through the boughs,
the rain streams hissing down, and the thunder 'breaks like a whole
sea overhead.'

With the Pinetum the name of Byron will be for ever associated. During
his two years' residence in Ravenna he used to haunt its wilderness,
riding alone or in the company of friends. The inscription placed
above the entrance to the house he occupied alludes to it as one of
the objects which principally attracted the poet to the neighbourhood
of Ravenna: 'Impaziente di visitare l' antica selva, che inspirò già
il Divino e Giovanni Boccaccio.' We know, however, that a more
powerful attraction, in the person of the Countess Guiccioli,
maintained his fidelity to 'that place of old renown, once in the
Adrian Sea, Ravenna.'

Between the Bosco, as the people of Ravenna call this pine-wood, and
the city, the marsh stretches for a distance of about three miles. It
is a plain intersected by dykes and ditches, and mapped out into
innumerable rice-fields. For more than half a year it lies under
water, and during the other months exhales a pestilential vapour,
which renders it as uninhabitable as the Roman Campagna; yet in
springtime this dreary flat is even beautiful. The young blades of the
rice shoot up above the water, delicately green and tender. The
ditches are lined with flowering rush and golden flags, while white
and yellow lilies sleep in myriads upon the silent pools. Tamarisks
wave their pink and silver tresses by the road, and wherever a plot of
mossy earth emerges from the marsh, it gleams with purple orchises and
flaming marigolds; but the soil beneath is so treacherous and spongy,
that these splendid blossoms grow like flowers in dreams or fairy
stories. You try in vain to pick them; they elude your grasp, and
flourish in security beyond the reach of arm or stick.

Such is the sight of the old town of Classis. Not a vestige of the
Roman city remains, not a dwelling or a ruined tower, nothing but the
ancient church of S. Apollinare in Classe. Of all desolate buildings
this is the most desolate. Not even the deserted grandeur of S. Paolo
beyond the walls of Rome can equal it. Its bare round campanile gazes
at the sky, which here vaults only sea and plain--a perfect dome,
star-spangled like the roof of Galla Placidia's tomb. Ravenna lies low
to west, the pine-wood stretches away in long monotony to east. There
is nothing else to be seen except the spreading marsh, bounded by dim
snowy Alps and purple Apennines, so very far away that the level rack
of summer clouds seem more attainable and real. What sunsets and
sunrises that tower must see; what glaring lurid afterglows in August,
when the red light scowls upon the pestilential fen; what sheets of
sullen vapour rolling over it in autumn; what breathless heats, and
rainclouds big with thunder; what silences; what unimpeded blasts of
winter winds! One old monk tends this deserted spot. He has the huge
church, with its echoing aisles and marble columns and giddy
bell-tower and cloistered corridors, all to himself. At rare
intervals, priests from Ravenna come to sing some special mass at
these cold altars; pious folk make vows to pray upon their mouldy
steps and kiss the relics which are shown on great occasions. But no
one stays; they hurry, after muttering their prayers, from the
fever-stricken spot, reserving their domestic pieties and customary
devotions for the brighter and newer chapels of the fashionable
churches in Ravenna. So the old monk is left alone to sweep the marsh
water from his church floor, and to keep the green moss from growing
too thickly on its monuments. A clammy conferva covers everything
except the mosaics upon tribune, roof, and clerestory, which defy the
course of age. Christ on His throne _sedet aternumque sedebit_: the
saints around him glitter with their pitiless uncompromising eyes and
wooden gestures, as if twelve centuries had not passed over them, and
they were nightmares only dreamed last night, and rooted in a sick
man's memory. For those gaunt and solemn forms there is no change of
life or end of days. No fever touches them; no dampness of the wind
and rain loosens their firm cement. They stare with senseless faces in
bitter mockery of men who live and die and moulder away beneath. Their
poor old guardian told us it was a weary life. He has had the fever
three times, and does not hope to survive many more Septembers. The
very water that he drinks is brought him from Ravenna; for the vast
fen, though it pours its overflow upon the church floor, and spreads
like a lake around, is death to drink. The monk had a gentle woman's
voice and mild brown eyes. What terrible crime had consigned him to
this living tomb? For what past sorrow is he weary of his life? What
anguish of remorse has driven him to such a solitude? Yet he looked
simple and placid; his melancholy was subdued and calm, as if life
were over for him, and he were waiting for death to come with a
friend's greeting upon noiseless wings some summer night across the
fen-lands in a cloud of soft destructive fever-mist.

Another monument upon the plain is worthy of a visit. It is the
so-called Colonna dei Francesi, a _cinquecento_ pillar of Ionic
design, erected on the spot where Gaston de Foix expired victorious
after one of the bloodiest battles ever fought. The Ronco, a straight
sluggish stream, flows by the lonely spot; mason bees have covered
with laborious stucco-work the scrolls and leafage of its ornaments,
confounding epitaphs and trophies under their mud houses. A few
cypress-trees stand round it, and the dogs and chickens of a
neighbouring farmyard make it their rendezvous. Those mason bees are
like posterity, which settles down upon the ruins of a Baalbec or a
Luxor, setting up its tents, and filling the fair spaces of Hellenic
or Egyptian temples with clay hovels. Nothing differs but the scale;
and while the bees content themselves with filling up and covering,
man destroys the silent places of the past which he appropriates.

In Ravenna itself, perhaps what strikes us most is the abrupt
transition everywhere discernible from monuments of vast antiquity to
buildings of quite modern date. There seems to be no interval between
the marbles and mosaics of Justinian or Theodoric and the
insignificant frippery of the last century. The churches of
Ravenna--S. Vitale, S. Apollinare, and the rest--are too well known,
and have been too often described by enthusiastic antiquaries, to need
a detailed notice in this place. Every one is aware that the
ecclesiastical customs and architecture of the early Church can be
studied in greater perfection here than elsewhere. Not even the
basilicas and mosaics of Rome, nor those of Palermo and Monreale, are
equal for historical interest to those of Ravenna. Yet there is not
one single church which remains entirely unaltered and unspoiled. The
imagination has to supply the atrium or outer portico from one
building, the vaulted baptistery with its marble font from another,
the pulpits and ambones from a third the tribune from a fourth, the
round brick bell-tower from a fifth, and then to cover all the concave
roofs and chapel walls with grave and glittering mosaics.

There is nothing more beautiful in decorative art than the mosaics of
such tiny buildings as the tomb of Galla Placidia or the chapel of the
Bishop's Palace. They are like jewelled and enamelled cases; not an
inch of wall can be seen which is not covered with elaborate patterns
of the brightest colours. Tall date-palms spring from the floor with
fruit and birds among their branches, and between them stand the
pillars and apostles of the Church. In the spandrels and lunettes
above the arches and the windows angels fly with white extended wings.
On every vacant place are scrolls and arabesques of foliage,--birds
and beasts, doves drinking from the vase, and peacocks spreading
gorgeous plumes--a maze of green and gold and blue. Overhead, the
vault is powdered with stars gleaming upon the deepest azure, and in
the midst is set an aureole embracing the majestic head of Christ, or
else the symbol of the sacred fish, or the hand of the Creator
pointing from a cloud. In Galla Placidia's tomb these storied vaults
spring above the sarcophagi of empresses and emperors, each lying in
the place where he was laid more than twelve centuries ago. The light
which struggles through the narrow windows serves to harmonise the
brilliant hues and make a gorgeous gloom.

Besides these more general and decorative subjects, many of the
churches are adorned with historical mosaics, setting forth the Bible
narrative or incidents from the life of Christian emperors and kings.
In S. Apollinare Nuovo there is a most interesting treble series of
such mosaics extending over both walls of the nave. On the left hand,
as we enter, we see the town of Classis; on the right the palace of
Theodoric, its doors and loggie rich with curtains, and its friezes
blazing with coloured ornaments. From the city gate of Classis virgins
issue, and proceed in a long line until they reach Madonna seated on a
throne, with Christ upon her knees, and the three kings in adoration
at her feet. From Theodoric's palace door a similar procession of
saints and martyrs carry us to Christ surrounded by archangels. Above
this double row of saints and virgins stand the fathers and prophets
of the Church, and highest underneath the roof are pictures from the
life of our Lord. It will be remembered in connection with these
subjects that the women sat upon the left and the men upon the right
side of the church. Above the tribune, at the east end of the church,
it was customary to represent the Creative Hand, or the monogram of
the Saviour, or the head of Christ with the letters A and [Greek Ô].
Moses and Elijah frequently stand on either side to symbolise the
transfiguration, while the saints and bishops specially connected with
the church appeared upon a lower row. Then on the side walls were
depicted such subjects as Justinian and Theodora among their
courtiers, or the grant of the privileges of the church to its first
founder from imperial patrons, with symbols of the old Hebraic
ritual--Abel's lamb, the sacrifice of Isaac, Melchisedec's offering of
bread and wine,--which were regarded as the types of Christian
ceremonies. The baptistery was adorned with appropriate mosaics
representing Christ's baptism in Jordan.

Generally speaking, one is struck with the dignity of these designs,
and especially with the combined majesty and sweetness of the face of
Christ. The sense for harmony of hue displayed in their composition is
marvellous. It would be curious to trace in detail the remnants of
classical treatment which may be discerned--Jordan, for instance,
pours his water from an urn like a river-god crowned with sedge--or to
show what points of ecclesiastical tradition are established these
ancient monuments. We find Mariolatry already imminent, the names of
the three kings, Kaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the four evangelists
as we now recognise them, and many of the rites and vestments which
Ritualists of all denominations regard with superstitious reverence.

There are two sepulchral monuments in Ravenna which cannot be passed
over unnoticed. The one is that of Theodoric the Goth, crowned by its
semisphere of solid stone, a mighty tomb, well worthy of the conqueror
and king. It stands in a green field, surrounded by acacias, where the
nightingales sing ceaselessly in May. The mason bees have covered it,
and the water has invaded its sepulchral vaults. In spite of many
trials, it seems that human art is unable to pump out the pond and
clear the frogs and efts from the chamber where the great Goth was
laid by Amalasuntha.

The other is Dante's temple, with its basrelief and withered garlands.
The story of his burial, and of the discovery of his real tomb, is
fresh in the memory of every one. But the 'little cupola, more neat
than solemn,' of which Lord Byron speaks, will continue to be the goal
of many a pilgrimage. For myself--though I remember Chateaubriand's
bareheaded genuflection on its threshold, Alfieri's passionate
prostration at the altar-tomb, and Byron's offering of poems on the
poet's shrine--I confess that a single canto of the 'Inferno,' a
single passage of the 'Vita Nuova,' seems more full of soul-stirring
associations than the place where, centuries ago, the mighty dust was
laid. It is the spirit that lives and makes alive. And Dante's spirit
seems more present with us under the pine-branches of the Bosco than
beside his real or fancied tomb. 'He is risen,'--'Lo, I am with you
alway'--these are the words that ought to haunt us in a
burying-ground. There is something affected and self-conscious in
overpowering grief or enthusiasm or humiliation at a tomb.

       *       *       *       *       *



_RIMINI_

SIGISMONDO PANDOLFO MALATESTA AND LEO BATTISTA ALBERTI


Rimini is a city of about 18,000 souls, famous for its Stabilmento de'
Bagni and its antiquities, seated upon the coast of the Adriatic, a
little to the south-east of the world-historical Rubicon. It is our
duty to mention the baths first among its claims to distinction,
since the prosperity and cheerfulness of the little town depend on
them in a great measure. But visitors from the north will fly from
these, to marvel at the bridge which Augustus built and Tiberius
completed, and which still spans the Marecchia with five gigantic
arches of white Istrian limestone, as solidly as if it had not borne
the tramplings of at least three conquests. The triumphal arch, too,
erected in honour of Augustus, is a notable monument of Roman
architecture. Broad, ponderous, substantial, tufted here and there
with flowering weeds, and surmounted with mediaeval machicolations,
proving it to have sometimes stood for city gate or fortress, it
contrasts most favourably with the slight and somewhat gimcrack arch
of Trajan in the sister city of Ancona. Yet these remains of the
imperial pontifices, mighty and interesting as they are, sink into
comparative insignificance beside the one great wonder of Rimini, the
cathedral remodelled for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta by Leo Battista
Alberti in 1450. This strange church, one of the earliest extant
buildings in which the Neopaganism of the Renaissance showed itself in
full force, brings together before our memory two men who might be
chosen as typical in their contrasted characters of the transitional
age which gave them birth.

No one with any tincture of literary knowledge is ignorant of the fame
at least of the great Malatesta family--the house of the Wrongheads,
as they were rightly called by some prevision of their future part in
Lombard history. The readers of the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth
cantos of the 'Inferno' have all heard of

  E il mastin vecchio e il nuovo da Verucchio
      Che fecer di Montagna il mal governo,

while the story of Francesca da Polenta, who was wedded to the
hunchback Giovanni Malatesta and murdered by him with her lover Paolo,
is known not merely to students of Dante, but to readers of Byron and
Leigh Hunt, to admirers of Flaxman, Ary Scheffer, Doré--to all, in
fact, who have of art and letters any love.

The history of these Malatesti, from their first establishment under
Otho III. as lieutenants for the Empire in the Marches of Ancona, down
to their final subjugation by the Papacy in the age of the
Renaissance, is made up of all the vicissitudes which could befall a
mediaeval Italian despotism. Acquiring an unlawful right over the
towns of Rimini, Cesena, Sogliano, Ghiacciuolo, they ruled their petty
principalities like tyrants by the help of the Guelf and Ghibelline
factions, inclining to the one or the other as it suited their humour
or their interest, wrangling among themselves, transmitting the
succession of their dynasty through bastards and by deeds of force,
quarrelling with their neighbours the Counts of Urbino, alternately
defying and submitting to the Papal legates in Romagna, serving as
condottieri in the wars of the Visconti and the state of Venice, and
by their restlessness and genius for military intrigues contributing
in no slight measure to the general disturbance of Italy. The
Malatesti were a race of strongly marked character: more, perhaps,
than any other house of Italian tyrants, they combined for generations
those qualities of the fox and the lion, which Machiavelli thought
indispensable to a successful despot. Son after son, brother with
brother, they continued to be fierce and valiant soldiers, cruel in
peace, hardy in war, but treasonable and suspicious in all
transactions that could not be settled by the sword. Want of union,
with them as with the Baglioni and many other of the minor noble
families in Italy, prevented their founding a substantial dynasty.
Their power, based on force, was maintained by craft and crime, and
transmitted through tortuous channels by intrigue. While false in
their dealings with the world at large, they were diabolical in the
perfidy with which they treated one another. No feudal custom, no
standard of hereditary right, ruled the succession in their family.
Therefore the ablest Malatesta for the moment clutched what he could
of the domains that owned his house for masters. Partitions among sons
or brothers, mutually hostile and suspicious, weakened the whole
stock. Yet they were great enough to hold their own for centuries
among the many tyrants who infested Lombardy. That the other princely
families of Romagna, Emilia, and the March were in the same state of
internal discord and dismemberment, was probably one reason why the
Malatesti stood their ground so firmly as they did.

So far as Rimini is concerned, the house of Malatesta culminated in
Sigismondo Pandolfo, son of Gian Galeazzo Visconti's general, the
perfidious Pandolfo. It was he who built the Rocca, or castle of the
despots, which stands a little way outside the town, commanding a fair
view of Apennine tossed hill-tops and broad Lombard plain, and who
remodelled the Cathedral of S. Francis on a plan suggested by the
greatest genius of the age. Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta was one of
the strangest products of the earlier Renaissance. To enumerate the
crimes which he committed within the sphere of his own family,
mysterious and inhuman outrages which render the tale of the Cenci
credible, would violate the decencies of literature. A thoroughly
bestial nature gains thus much with posterity that its worst qualities
must be passed by in silence. It is enough to mention that he murdered
three wives in succession,[2] Bussoni di Carmagnuola, Guinipera
d'Este, and Polissena Sforza, on various pretexts of infidelity, and
carved horns upon his own tomb with this fantastic legend
underneath:--

  Porto le corna ch' ognuno le vede,
  E tal le porta che non se lo crede.

He died in wedlock with the beautiful and learned Isotta degli Atti,
who had for some time been his mistress. But, like most of the
Malatesti, he left no legitimate offspring. Throughout his life he was
distinguished for bravery and cunning, for endurance of fatigue and
rapidity of action, for an almost fretful rashness in the execution of
his schemes, and for a character terrible in its violence. He was
acknowledged as a great general; yet nothing succeeded with him. The
long warfare which he carried on against the Duke of Montefeltro ended
in his discomfiture. Having begun by defying the Holy See, he was
impeached at Rome for heresy, parricide, incest, adultery, rape, and
sacrilege, burned in effigy by Pope Pius II., and finally restored to
the bosom of the Church, after suffering the despoliation of almost
all his territories, in 1463. The occasion on which this fierce and
turbulent despiser of laws human and divine was forced to kneel as a
penitent before the Papal legate in the gorgeous temple dedicated to
his own pride, in order that the ban of excommunication might be
removed from Rimini, was one of those petty triumphs, interesting
chiefly for their picturesqueness, by which the Popes confirmed their
questionable rights over the cities of Romagna. Sigismondo, shorn of
his sovereignty, took the command of the Venetian troops against the
Turks in the Morea, and returned in 1465, crowned with laurels, to die
at Rimini in the scene of his old splendour.

A very characteristic incident belongs to this last act of his life.
Dissolute, treacherous, and inhuman as he was, the tyrant of Rimini
had always encouraged literature, and delighted in the society of
artists. He who could brook no contradiction from a prince or soldier,
allowed the pedantic scholars of the sixteenth century to dictate to
him in matters of taste, and sat with exemplary humility at the feet
of Latinists like Porcellio, Basinio, and Trebanio. Valturio, the
engineer, and Alberti, the architect, were his familiar friends; and
the best hours of his life were spent in conversation with these men.
Now that he found himself upon the sacred soil of Greece, he was
determined not to return to Italy empty-handed. Should he bring
manuscripts or marbles, precious vases or inscriptions in half-legible
Greek character? These relics were greedily sought for by the
potentates of Italian cities; and no doubt Sigismondo enriched his
library with some such treasures. But he obtained a nobler
prize--nothing less than the body of a saint of scholarship, the
authentic bones of the great Platonist, Gemisthus Pletho.[3] These he
exhumed from their Greek grave and caused them to be deposited in a
stone sarcophagus outside the cathedral of his building in Rimini. The
Venetians, when they stole the body of S. Mark from Alexandria, were
scarcely more pleased than was Sigismondo with the acquisition of this
Father of the Neopagan faith. Upon the tomb we still may read this
legend: 'Jemisthii Bizantii philosopher sua temp principis reliquum
Sig. Pan. Mal. Pan. F. belli Pelop adversus Turcor regem Imp ob
ingentem eruditorum quo flagrat amorem huc afferendum introque
mittendum curavit MCCCCLXVI.' Of the Latinity of the inscription much
cannot be said; but it means that 'Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta,
having served as general against the Turks in the Morea, induced by
the great love with which he burns for all learned men, brought and
placed here the remains of Gemisthus of Byzantium, the prince of the
philosophers of his day.'

Sigismondo's portrait, engraved on medals, and sculptured upon every
frieze and point of vantage in the Cathedral of Rimini, well denotes
the man. His face is seen in profile. The head, which is low and flat
above the forehead, rising swiftly backward from the crown, carries a
thick bushy shock of hair curling at the ends, such as the Italians
call a _zazzera_. The eye is deeply sunk, with long venomous flat
eyelids, like those which Leonardo gives to his most wicked faces. The
nose is long and crooked, curved like a vulture's over a petulant
mouth, with lips deliberately pressed together, as though it were
necessary to control some nervous twitching. The cheek is broad, and
its bone is strongly marked. Looking at these features in repose, we
cannot but picture to our fancy what expression they might assume
under a sudden fit of fury, when the sinews of the face were
contracted with quivering spasms, and the lips writhed in sympathy
with knit forehead and wrinkled eyelids.

Allusion has been made to the Cathedral of S. Francis at Rimini, as
the great ornament of the town, and the chief monument of Sigismondo's
fame. It is here that all the Malatesti lie. Here too is the chapel
consecrated to Isotta, 'Divæ Isottæ Sacrum;' and the tombs of the
Malatesta ladies, 'Malatestorum domûs heroidum sepulchrum;' and
Sigismondo's own grave with the cuckold's horns and scornful epitaph.
Nothing but the fact that the church is duly dedicated to S. Francis,
and that its outer shell of classic marble encases an old Gothic
edifice, remains to remind us that it is a Christian place of
worship.[4] It has no sanctity, no spirit of piety. The pride of the
tyrant whose legend--'Sigismundus Pandulphus Malatesta Pan. F. Fecit
Anno Gratiæ MCCCCL'--occupies every arch and stringcourse of the
architecture, and whose coat-of-arms and portrait in medallion, with
his cipher and his emblems of an elephant and a rose, are wrought in
every piece of sculptured work throughout the building, seems so to
fill this house of prayer that there is no room left for God. Yet the
Cathedral of Rimini remains a monument of first-rate importance for
all students who seek to penetrate the revived Paganism of the
fifteenth century. It serves also to bring a far more interesting
Italian of that period than the tyrant of Rimini himself, before our
notice.

In the execution of his design, Sigismondo received the assistance of
one of the most remarkable men of this or any other age. Leo Battista
Alberti, a scion of the noble Florentine house of that name, born
during the exile of his parents, and educated in the Venetian
territory, was endowed by nature with aptitudes, faculties, and
sensibilities so varied, as to deserve the name of universal genius.
Italy in the Renaissance period was rich in natures of this sort, to
whom nothing that is strange or beautiful seemed unfamiliar, and who,
gifted with a kind of divination, penetrated the secrets of the world
by sympathy. To Pico della Mirandola, Lionardo da Vinci, and Michel
Agnolo Buonarroti may be added Leo Battista Alberti. That he achieved
less than his great compeers, and that he now exists as the shadow of
a mighty name, was the effect of circumstances. He came half a century
too early into the world, and worked as a pioneer rather than a
settler of the realm which Lionardo ruled as his demesne. Very early
in his boyhood Alberti showed the versatility of his talents. The use
of arms, the management of horses, music, painting, modelling for
sculpture, mathematics, classical and modern literature, physical
science as then comprehended, and all the bodily exercises proper to
the estate of a young nobleman, were at his command. His biographer
asserts that he was never idle, never subject to ennui or fatigue. He
used to say that books at times gave him the same pleasure as
brilliant jewels or perfumed flowers: hunger and sleep could not keep
him from them then. At other times the letters on the page appeared to
him like twining and contorted scorpions, so that he preferred to gaze
on anything but written scrolls. He would then turn to music or
painting, or to the physical sports in which he excelled. The language
in which this alternation of passion and disgust for study is
expressed, bears on it the stamp of Alberti's peculiar temperament,
his fervid and imaginative genius, instinct with subtle sympathies and
strange repugnances. Flying from his study, he would then betake
himself to the open air. No one surpassed him in running, in
wrestling, in the force with which he cast his javelin or discharged
his arrows. So sure was his aim and so skilful his cast, that he could
fling a farthing from the pavement of the square, and make it ring
against a church roof far above. When he chose to jump, he put his
feet together and bounded over the shoulders of men standing erect
upon the ground. On horseback he maintained perfect equilibrium, and
seemed incapable of fatigue. The most restive and vicious animals
trembled under him and became like lambs. There was a kind of
magnetism in the man. We read, besides these feats of strength and
skill, that he took pleasure in climbing mountains, for no other
purpose apparently than for the joy of being close to nature.

In this, as in many other of his instincts, Alberti was before his
age. To care for the beauties of landscape unadorned by art, and to
sympathise with sublime or rugged scenery, was not in the spirit of
the Renaissance. Humanity occupied the attention of poets and
painters; and the age was yet far distant when the pantheistic feeling
for the world should produce the art of Wordsworth and of Turner. Yet
a few great natures even then began to comprehend the charm and
mystery which the Greeks had imaged in their Pan, the sense of an
all-pervasive spirit in wild places, the feeling of a hidden want, the
invisible tie which makes man a part of rocks and woods and streams
around him. Petrarch had already ascended the summit of Mont Ventoux,
to meditate, with an exaltation of the soul he scarcely understood,
upon the scene spread at his feet and above his head. Æneas Sylvius
Piccolomini delighted in wild places for no mere pleasure of the
chase, but for the joy he took in communing with nature. How S.
Francis found God in the sun and the air, the water and the stars, we
know by his celebrated hymn; and of Dante's acute observation, every
canto of the 'Divine Comedy' is witness.

Leo Alberti was touched in spirit by even a deeper and a stranger
pathos than any of these men: 'In the early spring, when he beheld the
meadows and hills covered with flowers, and saw the trees and plants
of all kinds bearing promise of fruit, his heart became exceeding
sorrowful; and when in autumn he looked on fields heavy with harvest
and orchards apple-laden, he felt such grief that many even saw him
weep for the sadness of his soul.' It would seem that he scarcely
understood the source of this sweet trouble: for at such times he
compared the sloth and inutility of men with the industry and
fertility of nature; as though this were the secret of his melancholy.
A poet of our century has noted the same stirring of the spirit, and
has striven to account for it:--

  Tears from the depth of some divine despair
  Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
  In looking on the happy autumn fields,
  And thinking of the days that are no more.

Both Alberti and Tennyson have connected the _mal du pays_ of the
human soul for that ancient country of its birth, the mild Saturnian
earth from which we sprang, with a sense of loss. It is the waste of
human energy that affects Alberti; the waste of human life touches the
modern poet. Yet both perhaps have scarcely interpreted their own
spirit; for is not the true source of tears deeper and more secret?
Man is a child of nature in the simplest sense; and the stirrings of
the secular breasts that gave him suck, and on which he even now must
hang, have potent influences over his emotions.

Of Alberti's extraordinary sensitiveness to all such impressions many
curious tales are told. The sight of refulgent jewels, of flowers, and
of fair landscapes, had the same effect upon his nerves as the sound
of the Dorian mood upon the youths whom Pythagoras cured of passion by
music. He found in them an anodyne for pain, a restoration from
sickness. Like Walt Whitman, who adheres to nature by closer and more
vital sympathy than any other poet of the modern world, Alberti felt
the charm of excellent old age no less than that of florid youth. 'On
old men gifted with a noble presence and hale and vigorous, he gazed
again and again, and said that he revered in them the delights of
nature (_naturæ delitias_).' Beasts and birds and all living creatures
moved him to admiration for the grace with which they had been gifted,
each in his own kind. It is even said that he composed a funeral
oration for a dog which he had loved and which died.

To this sensibility for all fair things in nature, Alberti added the
charm of a singularly sweet temper and graceful conversation. The
activity of his mind, which was always being exercised on subjects of
grave speculation, removed him from the noise and bustle of
commonplace society. He was somewhat silent, inclined to solitude,
and of a pensive countenance; yet no man found him difficult of
access: his courtesy was exquisite, and among familiar friends he was
noted for the flashes of a delicate and subtle wit. Collections were
made of his apophthegms by friends, and some are recorded by his
anonymous biographer.[5] Their finer perfume, as almost always happens
with good sayings which do not certain the full pith of a proverb, but
owe their force, in part at least, to the personality of their author,
and to the happy moment of their production, has evanesced. Here,
however, is one which seems still to bear the impress of Alberti's
genius: 'Gold is the soul of labour, and labour the slave of
pleasure.' Of women he used to say that their inconstancy was an
antidote to their falseness; for if a woman could but persevere in
what she undertook, all the fair works of men would be ruined. One of
his strongest moral sentences is aimed at envy, from which he suffered
much in his own life, and against which he guarded with a curious
amount of caution. His own family grudged the distinction which his
talents gained for him, and a dark story is told of a secret attempt
made by them to assassinate him through his servants. Alberti met
these ignoble jealousies with a stately calm and a sweet dignity of
demeanour, never condescending to accuse his relatives, never seeking
to retaliate, but acting always for the honour of his illustrious
house. In the same spirit of generosity he refused to enter into wordy
warfare with detractors and calumniators, sparing the reputation even
of his worst enemy when chance had placed him in his power. This
moderation both of speech and conduct was especially distinguished in
an age which tolerated the fierce invectives of Filelfo, and applauded
the vindictive courage of Cellini. To money Alberti showed a calm
indifference. He committed his property to his friends and shared with
them in common. Nor was he less careless about vulgar fame, spending
far more pains in the invention of machinery and the discovery of
laws, than in their publication to the world. His service was to
knowledge, not to glory. Self-control was another of his eminent
qualities. With the natural impetuosity of a large heart, and the
vivacity of a trained athlete, he yet never allowed himself to be
subdued by anger or by sensual impulses, but took pains to preserve
his character unstained and dignified before the eyes of men. A story
is told of him which may remind us of Goethe's determination to
overcome his giddiness. In his youth his head was singularly sensitive
to changes of temperature; but by gradual habituation he brought
himself at last to endure the extremes of heat and cold bareheaded. In
like manner he had a constitutional disgust for onions and honey; so
powerful, that the very sight of these things made him sick. Yet by
constantly viewing and touching what was disagreeable, he conquered
these dislikes; and proved that men have a complete mastery over what
is merely instinctive in their nature. His courage corresponded to his
splendid physical development. When a boy of fifteen, he severely
wounded himself in the foot. The gash had to be probed and then sewn
up. Alberti not only bore the pain of this operation without a groan,
but helped the surgeon with his own hands; and effected a cure of the
fever which succeeded by the solace of singing to his cithern. For
music he had a genius of the rarest order; and in painting he is said
to have achieved success. Nothing, however, remains of his work and
from what Vasari says of it, we may fairly conclude that he gave less
care to the execution of finished pictures, than to drawings
subsidiary to architectural and mechanical designs. His biographer
relates that when he had completed a painting, he called children and
asked them what it meant. If they did not know, he reckoned it a
failure. He was also in the habit of painting from memory. While at
Venice, he put on canvas the faces of friends at Florence whom he had
not seen for months. That the art of painting was subservient in his
estimation to mechanics, is indicated by what we hear about the
camera, in which he showed landscapes by day and the revolutions of
the stars by night, so lively drawn that the spectators were affected
with amazement. The semi-scientific impulse to extend man's mastery
over nature, the magician's desire to penetrate secrets, which so
powerfully influenced the development of Lionardo's genius, seems to
have overcome the purely æsthetic instincts of Alberti, so that he
became in the end neither a great artist like Raphael, nor a great
discoverer like Galileo, but rather a clairvoyant to whom the miracles
of nature and of art lie open.

After the first period of youth was over, Leo Battista Alberti devoted
his great faculties and all his wealth of genius to the study of the
law--then, as now, the quicksand of the noblest natures. The industry
with which he applied himself to the civil and ecclesiastical codes
broke his health. For recreation he composed a Latin comedy called
'Philodoxeos,' which imposed upon the judgment of scholars, and was
ascribed as a genuine antique to Lepidus, the comic poet. Feeling
stronger, Alberti returned at the age of twenty to his law studies,
and pursued them in the teeth of disadvantages. His health was still
uncertain, and the fortune of an exile reduced him to the utmost want.
It was no wonder that under these untoward circumstances even his
Herculean strength gave way. Emaciated and exhausted, he lost the
clearness of his eyesight, and became subject to arterial
disturbances, which filled his ears with painful sounds. This nervous
illness is not dissimilar to that which Rousseau describes in the
confessions of his youth. In vain, however, his physicians warned
Alberti of impending peril. A man of so much stanchness, accustomed
to control his nature with an iron will, is not ready to accept
advice. Alberti persevered in his studies, until at last the very seat
of intellect was invaded. His memory began to fail him for names,
while he still retained with wonderful accuracy whatever he had seen
with his eyes. It was now impossible to think of law as a profession.
Yet since he could not live without severe mental exercise, he had
recourse to studies which tax the verbal memory less than the
intuitive faculties of the reason. Physics and mathematics became his
chief resource; and he devoted his energies to literature. His
'Treatise on the Family' may be numbered among the best of those
compositions on social and speculative subjects in which the Italians
of the Renaissance sought to rival Cicero. His essays on the arts are
mentioned by Vasari with sincere approbation. Comedies, interludes,
orations, dialogues, and poems flowed with abundance from his facile
pen. Some were written in Latin, which he commanded more than fairly;
some in the Tuscan tongue, of which owing to the long exile of his
family in Lombardy, he is said to have been less a master. It was
owing to this youthful illness, from which apparently his constitution
never wholly recovered, that Alberti's genius was directed to
architecture.

Through his friendship with Flavio Biondo, the famous Roman antiquary,
Alberti received an introduction to Nicholas V. at the time when this,
the first great Pope of the Renaissance, was engaged in rebuilding the
palaces and fortifications of Rome. Nicholas discerned the genius of
the man, and employed him as his chief counsellor in all matters of
architecture. When the Pope died, he was able, while reciting his long
Latin will upon his deathbed, to boast that he had restored the Holy
See to its due dignity, and the Eternal City to the splendour worthy
of the seat of Christendom. The accomplishment of the second part of
his work he owed to the genius of Alberti. After doing thus much for
Rome under Thomas of Sarzana, and before beginning to beautify
Florence at the instance of the Rucellai family, Alberti entered the
service of the Malatesta, and undertook to remodel the Cathedral of S.
Francis at Rimini. He found it a plain Gothic structure with apse and
side chapels. Such churches are common enough in Italy, where pointed
architecture never developed its true character of complexity and
richness, but was doomed to the vast vacuity exemplified in S.
Petronio of Bologna. He left it a strange medley of mediæval and
Renaissance work, a symbol of that dissolving scene in the world's
pantomime, when the spirit of classic art, as yet but little
comprehended, was encroaching on the early Christian taste. Perhaps
the mixture of styles so startling in S. Francesco ought not to be
laid to the charge of Alberti, who had to execute the task of turning
a Gothic into a classic building. All that he could do was to alter
the whole exterior of the church, by affixing a screen-work of Roman
arches and Corinthian pilasters, so as to hide the old design and yet
to leave the main features of the fabric, the windows and doors
especially, _in statu quo_. With the interior he dealt upon the same
general principle, by not disturbing its structure, while he covered
every available square inch of surface with decorations alien to the
Gothic manner. Externally, S. Francesco is perhaps the most original
and graceful of the many attempts made by Italian builders to fuse the
mediæval and the classic styles. For Alberti attempted nothing less. A
century elapsed before Palladio, approaching the problem from a
different point of view, restored the antique in its purity, and
erected in the Palazzo della Ragione of Vicenza an almost unique
specimen of resuscitated Roman art.

Internally, the beauty of the church is wholly due to its exquisite
wall-ornaments. These consist for the most part of low reliefs in a
soft white stone, many of them thrown out upon a blue ground in the
style of Della Robbia. Allegorical figures designed with the purity of
outline we admire in Botticelli, draperies that Burne-Jones might
copy, troops of singing boys in the manner of Donatello, great angels
traced upon the stone so delicately that they seem to be rather drawn
than sculptured, statuettes in niches, personifications of all arts
and sciences alternating with half-bestial shapes of satyrs and
sea-children:--such are the forms which fill the spaces of the chapel
walls, and climb the pilasters, and fret the arches, in such abundance
that had the whole church been finished as it was designed, it would
have presented one splendid though bizarre effect of incrustation.
Heavy screens of Verona marble, emblazoned in open arabesques with the
ciphers of Sigismondo and Isotta, with coats-of-arms, emblems, and
medallion portraits, shut the chapels from the nave. Who produced all
this sculpture it is difficult to say. Some of it is very good: much
is indifferent. We may hazard the opinion that, besides Bernardo
Ciuffagni, of whom Vasari speaks, some pupils of Donatello and
Benedetto da Majano worked at it. The influence of the sculptors of
Florence is everywhere perceptible.

Whatever be the merit of these reliefs, there is no doubt that they
fairly represent one of the most interesting moments in the history of
modern art. Gothic inspiration had failed; the early Tuscan style of
the Pisani had been worked out; Michelangelo was yet far distant, and
the abundance of classic models had not overwhelmed originality. The
sculptors of the school of Ghiberti and Donatello, who are represented
in this church, were essentially pictorial, preferring low to high
relief, and relief in general to detached figures. Their style, like
the style of Boiardo in poetry, of Botticelli in painting, is specific
to Italy in the middle of the fifteenth century. Mediæval standards of
taste were giving way to classical, Christian sentiment to Pagan; yet
the imitation of the antique had not been carried so far as to efface
the spontaneity of the artist, and enough remained of Christian
feeling to tinge the fancy with a grave and sweet romance. The
sculptor had the skill and mastery to express his slightest shade of
thought with freedom, spirit, and precision. Yet his work showed no
sign of conventionality, no adherence to prescribed rules. Every
outline, every fold of drapery, every attitude was pregnant, to the
artist's own mind at any rate, with meaning. In spite of its
symbolism, what he wrought was never mechanically figurative, but
gifted with the independence of its own beauty, vital with an
inbreathed spirit of life. It was a happy moment, when art had reached
consciousness, and the artist had not yet become self-conscious. The
hand and the brain then really worked together for the procreation of
new forms of grace, not for the repetition of old models, or for the
invention of the strange and startling. 'Delicate, sweet, and
captivating,' are good adjectives to express the effect produced upon
the mind by the contemplation even of the average work of this period.

To study the flowing lines of the great angels traced upon the walls
of the Chapel of S. Sigismund in the Cathedral of Rimini, to follow
the undulations of their drapery that seems to float, to feel the
dignified urbanity of all their gestures, is like listening to one of
those clear early Italian compositions for the voice, which surpasses
in suavity of tone and grace of movement all that Music in her
full-grown vigour has produced. There is indeed something infinitely
charming in the crepuscular moments of the human mind. Whether it be
the rathe loveliness of an art still immature, or the beauty of art
upon the wane--whether, in fact, the twilight be of morning or of
evening, we find in the masterpieces of such periods a placid calm and
chastened pathos, as of a spirit self-withdrawn from vulgar cares,
which in the full light of meridian splendour is lacking. In the
Church of S. Francesco at Rimini the tempered clearness of the dawn is
just about to broaden into day.

       *       *       *       *       *



_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
thunderclouds, 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 hillsides 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 S. 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![6]


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 depôt, 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 paulownias 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 Gorrado Trinci paraded the mangled
remnants of three hundred of his victims, heaped on mule-back, through
Foligno, for a warning to the citizens. As the procession moved along
the ramparts, I found myself in contest 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 bedroom 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 Guerin 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 dovelike 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 thundercloud hang every day; but the plain and
hill-buttresses are clear in 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, 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 under-foliage
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 Petrueci. 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 Vitellozzo 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 aesthetic vocation, whether creative 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 traveling, 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 consists, 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 smallpox 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 Porsenna 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 mortised into the solid hillside, 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 cultae pastoribus arae

--once rose behind us on the bald Iguvian summits. A second little
pass leads from this region to the Adriatic side of the Italian
watershed, and the road now follows the Barano downward toward the
sea. The valley is fairly green with woods, where mistletoe 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:--

  Laetior hinc fano recipit fortuna vetusto,
  Despiciturque vagus praerupta valle Metaurus,
  Qua mons arte patens vivo se perforat arcu
  Admittitque viam sectae 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
roadsides 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 faraway
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 sainfoin.
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 snap-dragon, 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 hillsides. 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 sea-shore 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!

       *       *       *       *       *



_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 master-stroke 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
goodwill 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 del 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 out-lands, 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
eagles' 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
_loggie_ 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 the
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 goodwill 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 dependents. 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 and beautifying 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 at Florence. 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 basreliefs. 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 goodwill. 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 guerilla 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
dependents 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
ultramarine, 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 cipher, 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 suchlike 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 manuscripts, 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 facade. 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 dais 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
Caetiglione'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 dais 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 Bombo 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 afterglow 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 halfway 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
bareheaded 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.

       *       *       *       *       *



_VITTORIA ACCORAMBONI_

AND THE TRAGEDY OF WEBSTER


I

During the pontificate of Gregory XIII. (1572-85), Papal authority in
Rome reached its lowest point of weakness, and the ancient splendour
of the Papal court was well-nigh eclipsed. Art and learning had died
out. The traditions of the days of Leo, Julius, and Paul III. were
forgotten. It seemed as though the genius of the Renaissance had
migrated across the Alps. All the powers of the Papacy were directed
to the suppression of heresies and to the re-establishment of
spiritual supremacy over the intellect of Europe. Meanwhile society in
Rome returned to mediæval barbarism. The veneer of classical
refinement and humanistic urbanity, which for a time had hidden the
natural savagery of the Roman nobles, wore away. The Holy City became
a den of bandits; the territory of the Church supplied a battle-ground
for senseless party strife, which the weak old man who wore the triple
crown was quite unable to control. It is related how a robber
chieftain, Marianazzo, refused the offer of a general pardon from the
Pope, alleging that the profession of brigand was far more lucrative,
and offered greater security of life, than any trade within the walls
of Rome. The Campagna, the ruined citadels about the basements of the
Sabine and Ciminian hills, the quarters of the aristocracy within the
city, swarmed with bravos, who were protected by great nobles and fed
by decent citizens for the advantages to be derived from the
assistance of abandoned and courageous ruffians. Life, indeed, had
become impossible without fixed compact with the powers of
lawlessness. There was hardly a family in Rome which did not number
some notorious criminal among the outlaws. Murder, sacrilege, the love
of adventure, thirst for plunder, poverty, hostility to the ascendant
faction of the moment, were common causes of voluntary or involuntary
outlawry; nor did public opinion regard a bandit's calling as other
than honourable.

It may readily be imagined that in such a state of society the
grisliest tragedies were common enough in Rome. The history of some of
these has been preserved to us in documents digested from public
trials and personal observation by contemporary writers. That of the
Cenci, in which a notorious act of parricide furnished the plot of a
popular novella, is well known. And such a tragedy, even more rife in
characteristic incidents, and more distinguished by the quality of its
_dramatis personæ_, is that of Vittoria Accoramboni.

Vittoria was born in 1557, of a noble but impoverished family, at
Gubbio, among the hills of Umbria. Her biographers are rapturous in
their praises of her beauty, grace, and exceeding charm of manner. Not
only was her person most lovely, but her mind shone at first with all
the amiable lustre of a modest, innocent, and winning youth. Her
father, Claudio Accoramboni, removed to Rome, where his numerous
children were brought up under the care of their mother, Tarquinia, an
ambitious and unscrupulous woman, bent on rehabilitating the decayed
honours of their house. Here Vittoria in early girlhood soon became
the fashion. She exercised an irresistible influence over all who saw
her, and many were the offers of marriage she refused. At length a
suitor appeared whose condition and connection with the Roman
ecclesiastical nobility rendered him acceptable in the eyes of the
Accoramboni. Francesco Peretti was welcomed as the successful
candidate for Vittoria's hand. His mother, Camilla, was sister to
Felice, Cardinal of Montalto; and her son, Francesco Mignucci, had
changed his surname in compliment to this illustrious relative. The
Peretti were of humble origin. The cardinal himself had tended swine
in his native village; but, supported by an invincible belief in his
own destinies, and gifted with a powerful intellect and determined
character, he passed through all grades of the Franciscan Order to its
generalship, received the bishoprics of Fermo and S. Agata, and
lastly, in the year 1570, assumed the scarlet with the title of
Cardinal Montalto. He was now upon the high way to the Papacy,
amassing money by incessant care, studying the humours of surrounding
factions, effacing his own personality, and by mixing but little in
the intrigues of the court, winning the reputation of a prudent,
inoffensive old man. These were his tactics for securing the Papal
throne; nor were his expectations frustrated; for in 1585 he was
chosen Pope, the parties of the Medici and the Farnesi agreeing to
accept him as a compromise. When Sixtus V. was once firmly seated on
S. Peter's chair, he showed himself in his true colours. An implacable
administrator of severest justice, a rigorous economist, an
iconoclastic foe to paganism, the first act of his reign was to
declare a war of extirpation against the bandits who had reduced Rome
in his predecessor's rule to anarchy.

It was the nephew, then, of this man, whom historians have judged the
greatest personage of his own times, that Vittoria Accoramboni married
on the 28th of June 1573. For a short while the young couple lived
happily together. According to some accounts of their married life,
the bride secured the favour of her powerful uncle-in-law, who
indulged her costly fancies to the full. It is, however, more probable
that the Cardinal Montalto treated her follies with a grudging
parsimony; for we soon find the Peretti household hopelessly involved
in debt. Discord, too, arose between Vittoria and her husband on the
score of a certain levity in her behaviour; and it was rumoured that
even during the brief space of their union she had proved a faithless
wife. Yet she contrived to keep Francesco's confidence, and it is
certain that her family profited by their connection with the Peretti.
Of her six brothers, Mario, the eldest, was a favourite courtier of
the great Cardinal d'Este. Ottavio was in orders, and through
Montalto's influence obtained the See of Fossombrone. The same
eminent protector placed Scipione in the service of the Cardinal
Sforza. Camillo, famous for his beauty and his courage, followed the
fortunes of Filibert of Savoy, and died in France. Flaminio was still
a boy, dependent, as the sequel of this story shows, upon his sister's
destiny. Of Marcello, the second in age and most important in the
action of this tragedy, it is needful to speak with more
particularity. He was young, and, like the rest of his breed,
singularly handsome--so handsome, indeed, that he is said to have
gained an infamous ascendency over the great Duke of Bracciano, whose
privy chamberlain he had become. Marcello was an outlaw for the murder
of Matteo Pallavicino, the brother of the Cardinal of that name. This
did not, however, prevent the chief of the Orsini house from making
him his favourite and confidential friend. Marcello, who seems to have
realised in actual life the worst vices of those Roman courtiers
described for us by Aretino, very soon conceived the plan of exalting
his own fortunes by trading on his sister's beauty. He worked upon the
Duke of Bracciano's mind so cleverly, that he brought this haughty
prince to the point of an insane passion for Peretti's young wife; and
meanwhile so contrived to inflame the ambition of Vittoria and her
mother, Tarquinia, that both were prepared to dare the worst of crimes
in expectation of a dukedom. The game was a difficult one to play. Not
only had Francesco Peretti first to be murdered, but the inequality of
birth and wealth and station between Vittoria and the Duke of
Bracciano rendered a marriage almost impossible. It was also an affair
of delicacy to stimulate without satisfying the Duke's passion. Yet
Marcello did not despair. The stakes were high enough to justify great
risks; and all he put in peril was his sister's honour, the fame of
the Accoramboni, and the favour of Montalto. Vittoria, for her part,
trusted in her power to ensnare and secure the noble prey both had in
view.

Paolo Giordano Orsini, born about the year 1537, was reigning Duke of
Bracciano. Among Italian princes he ranked at least upon a par with
the Dukes of Urbino, and his family, by its alliances, was more
illustrious than any of that time in Italy. He was a man of gigantic
stature, prodigious corpulence, and marked personal daring; agreeable
in manners, but subject to uncontrollable fits of passion, and
incapable of self-restraint when crossed in any whim or fancy. Upon
the habit of his body it is needful to insist, in order that the part
he played in this tragedy of intrigue, crime, and passion may be well
defined. He found it difficult to procure a charger equal to his
weight, and he was so fat that a special dispensation relieved him
from the duty of genuflexion in the Papal presence. Though lord of a
large territory, yielding princely revenues, he laboured under heavy
debts; for no great noble of the period lived more splendidly, with
less regard for his finances. In the politics of that age and country,
Paolo Giordano leaned toward France. Yet he was a grandee of Spain,
and had played a distinguished part in the battle of Lepanto. Now the
Duke of Bracciano was a widower. He had been married in 1553 to
Isabella de' Medici, daughter of the Grand Duke Cosimo, sister of
Francesco, Bianca Capello's lover, and of the Cardinal Ferdinando.
Suspicion of adultery with Troilo Orsini had fallen on Isabella, and
her husband, with the full concurrence of her brothers, removed her in
1576 from this world.[7] No one thought the worse of Bracciano for
this murder of his wife. In those days of abandoned vice and intricate
villany, certain points of honour were maintained with scrupulous
fidelity. A wife's adultery was enough to justify the most savage and
licentious husband in an act of semi-judicial vengeance; and the shame
she brought upon his head was shared by the members of her own house,
so that they stood by, consenting to her death. Isabella, it may be
said, left one son, Virginio, who became in due time Duke of
Bracciano.

It appears that in the year 1581, four years after Vittoria's
marriage, the Duke of Bracciano had satisfied Marcello of his
intention to make her his wife, and of his willingness to countenance
Francesco Peretti's murder. Marcello, feeling sure of his game,
introduced the Duke in private to his sister, and induced her to
overcome any natural repugnance she may have felt for the unwieldy and
gross lover. Having reached this point, it was imperative to push
matters quickly on toward matrimony.

But how should the unfortunate Francesco be entrapped? They caught him
in a snare of peculiar atrocity, by working on the kindly feelings
which his love for Vittoria had caused him to extend to all the
Acooramboni. Marcello, the outlaw, was her favourite brother, and
Marcello at that time lay in hiding, under the suspicion of more than
ordinary crime, beyond the walls of Rome. Late in the evening of the
18th of April, while the Peretti family were retiring to bed, a
messenger from Marcello arrived, entreating Francesco to repair at
once to Monte Cavallo. Marcello had affairs of the utmost importance
to communicate, and begged his brother-in-law not to fail him at a
grievous pinch. The letter containing this request was borne by one
Dominico d'Aquaviva, _alias_ Il Mancino, a confederate of Vittoria's
waiting-maid. This fellow, like Marcello, was an outlaw; but when he
ventured into Rome he frequented Peretti's house, and had made himself
familiar with its master as a trusty bravo. Neither in the message,
therefore, nor in the messenger was there much to rouse suspicion. The
time, indeed, was oddly chosen, and Marcello had never made a similar
appeal on any previous occasion. Yet his necessities might surely have
obliged him to demand some more than ordinary favour from a brother.
Francesco immediately made himself ready to set out, armed only with
his sword and attended by a single servant. It was in vain that his
wife and his mother reminded him of the dangers of the night, the
loneliness of Monte Cavallo, its ruinous palaces and robber-haunted
caves. He was resolved to undertake the adventure, and went forth,
never to return. As he ascended the hill, he fell to earth, shot with
three harquebuses. His body was afterwards found on Monte Cavallo,
stabbed through and through, without a trace that could identify the
murderers. Only, in the course of subsequent investigations, Il
Mancino (on the 24th of February 1582) made the following
statements:--That Vittoria's mother, assisted by the waiting woman,
had planned the trap; that Marchionne of Gubbio and Paolo Barca of
Bracciano, two of the Duke's men, had despatched the victim. Marcello
himself, it seems, had come from Bracciano to conduct the whole
affair. Suspicion fell immediately upon Vittoria and her kindred,
together with the Duke of Bracciano; nor was this diminished when the
Accoramboni, fearing the pursuit of justice, took refuge in a villa of
the Duke's at Magnanapoli a few days after the murder.

A cardinal's nephew, even in those troublous times, was not killed
without some noise being made about the matter. Accordingly Pope
Gregory XIII. began to take measures for discovering the authors of
the crime. Strange to say, however, the Cardinal Montalto,
notwithstanding the great love he was known to bear his nephew, begged
that the investigation might be dropped. The coolness with which he
first received the news of Francesco Peretti's death, the
dissimulation with which he met the Pope's expression of sympathy in a
full consistory, his reserve in greeting friends on ceremonial visits
of condolence, and, more than all, the self-restraint he showed in the
presence of the Duke of Bracciano, impressed the society of Rome with
the belief that he was of a singularly moderate and patient temper. It
was thought that the man who could so tamely submit to his nephew's
murder, and suspend the arm of justice when already raised for
vengeance, must prove a mild and indulgent ruler. When, therefore, in
the fifth year after this event, Montalto was elected Pope, men
ascribed his elevation in no small measure to his conduct at the
present crisis. Some, indeed, attributed his extraordinary moderation
and self-control to the right cause. _'Veramente costui è un gran
frate!_' was Gregory's remark at the close of the consistory when
Montalto begged him to let the matter of Peretti's murder rest. '_Of a
truth, that fellow is a consummate hypocrite!_' How accurate this
judgment was, appeared when Sixtus V. assumed the reins of power. The
same man who, as monk and cardinal, had smiled on Bracciano, though he
knew him to be his nephew's assassin, now, as Pontiff and sovereign,
bade the chief of the Orsini purge his palace and dominions of the
scoundrels he was wont to harbour, adding significantly, that if
Felice Peretti forgave what had been done against him in a private
station, he would exact uttermost vengeance for disobedience to the
will of Sixtus. The Duke of Bracciano judged it best, after that
warning, to withdraw from Rome.

Francesco Peretti had been murdered on the 16th of April 1581. Sixtus
V. was proclaimed on the 24th of April 1585. In this interval Vittoria
underwent a series of extraordinary perils and adventures. First of
all, she had been secretly married to the Duke in his gardens of
Magnanapoli at the end of April 1581. That is to say, Marcello and she
secured their prize, as well as they were able, the moment after
Francesco had been removed by murder. But no sooner had the marriage
become known, than the Pope, moved by the scandal it created, no less
than by the urgent instance of the Orsini and Medici, declared it
void. After some while spent in vain resistance, Bracciano submitted,
and sent Vittoria back to her father's house. By an order issued under
Gregory's own hand, she was next removed to the prison of Corte
Savella, thence to the monastery of S. Cecilia in Trastevere, and
finally to the Castle of S. Angelo. Here, at the end of December 1581,
she was put on trial for the murder of her first husband. In prison
she seems to have borne herself bravely, arraying her beautiful person
in delicate attire, entertaining visitors, exacting from her friends
the honours due to a duchess, and sustaining the frequent examinations
to which she was submitted with a bold, proud front. In the middle of
the month of July her constancy was sorely tried by the receipt of a
letter in the Duke's own handwriting, formally renouncing his
marriage. It was only by a lucky accident that she was prevented on
this occasion from committing suicide. The Papal court meanwhile kept
urging her either to retire to a monastery or to accept another
husband. She firmly refused to embrace the religious life, and
declared that she was already lawfully united to a living husband, the
Duke of Bracciano. It seemed impossible to deal with her; and at last,
on the 8th of November, she was released from prison under the
condition of retirement to Gubbio. The Duke had lulled his enemies to
rest by the pretence of yielding to their wishes. But Marcello was
continually beside him at Bracciano, where we read of a mysterious
Greek enchantress whom he hired to brew love-philters for the
furtherance of his ambitious plots. Whether Bracciano was stimulated
by the brother's arguments or by the witch's potions need not be too
curiously questioned. But it seems in any case certain that absence
inflamed his passion instead of cooling it.

Accordingly, in September 1583, under the excuse of a pilgrimage to
Loreto, he contrived to meet Vittoria at Trevi, whence he carried her
in triumph to Bracciano. Here he openly acknowledged her as his wife,
installing her with all the splendour due to a sovereign duchess. On
the 10th of October following, he once more performed the marriage
ceremony in the principal church of his fief; and in the January of
1584 he brought her openly to Rome. This act of contumacy to the Pope,
both as feudal superior and as supreme Pontiff, roused all the former
opposition to his marriage. Once more it was declared invalid. Once
more the Duke pretended to give way. But at this juncture Gregory
died; and while the conclave was sitting for the election of the new
Pope, he resolved to take the law into his own hands, and to ratify
his union with Vittoria by a third and public marriage in Rome. On the
morning of the 24th of April 1585, their nuptials were accordingly
once more solemnised in the Orsini palace. Just one hour after the
ceremony, as appears from the marriage register, the news arrived of
Cardinal Montalto's election to the Papacy, Vittoria lost no time in
paying her respects to Camilla, sister of the new Pope, her former
mother-in-law. The Duke visited Sixtus V. in state to compliment him
on his elevation. But the reception which both received proved that
Rome was no safe place for them to live in. They consequently made up
their minds for flight.

A chronic illness from which Bracciano had lately suffered furnished a
sufficient pretext. This seems to have been something of the nature of
a cancerous ulcer, which had to be treated by the application of raw
meat to open sores. Such details are only excusable in the present
narrative on the ground that Bracciano's disease considerably affects
our moral judgment of the woman who could marry a man thus physically
tainted, and with her husband's blood upon his hands. At any rate,
the Duke's _lupa_ justified his trying what change of air, together
with the sulphur waters of Abano, would do for him.

The Duke and Duchess arrived in safety at Venice, where they had
engaged the Dandolo palace on the Zuecca. There they only stayed a few
days, removing to Padua, where they had hired palaces of the Foscari
in the Arena and a house called De' Cavalli. At Salò, also, on the
Lake of Garda, they provided themselves with fit dwellings for their
princely state and their large retinues, intending to divide their
time between the pleasures which the capital of luxury afforded and
the simpler enjoyments of the most beautiful of the Italian lakes. But
_la gioia dei profani è un fumo passaggier_. Paolo Giordano Orsini,
Duke of Bracciano, died suddenly at Salò on the 10th of November 1585,
leaving the young and beautiful Vittoria helpless among enemies. What
was the cause of his death? It is not possible to give a clear and
certain answer. We have seen that he suffered from a horrible and
voracious disease, which after his removal from Rome seems to have
made progress. Yet though this malady may well have cut his life
short, suspicion of poison was not, in the circumstances, quite
unreasonable. The Grand Duke of Tuscany, the Pope, and the Orsini
family were all interested in his death. Anyhow, he had time to make a
will in Vittoria's favour, leaving her large sums of money, jewels,
goods, and houses--enough, in fact, to support her ducal dignity with
splendour. His hereditary fiefs and honours passed by right to his
only son, Virginio.

Vittoria, accompanied by her brother, Marcello, and the whole court of
Bracciano, repaired at once to Padua, where she was soon after joined
by Flaminio, and by the Prince Lodovico Orsini. Lodovico Orsini
assumed the duty of settling Vittoria's affairs under her dead
husband's will. In life he had been the Duke's ally as well as
relative. His family pride was deeply wounded by what seemed to him an
ignoble, as it was certainly an unequal, marriage. He now showed
himself the relentless enemy of the Duchess. Disputes arose between
them as to certain details, which seem to have been legally decided in
the widow's favour. On the night of the 22nd of December, however,
forty men disguised in black and fantastically tricked out to elude
detection, surrounded her palace. Through the long galleries and
chambers hung with arras, eight of them went, bearing torches, in
search of Vittoria and her brothers. Marcello escaped, having fled the
house under suspicion of the murder of one of his own followers.
Flaminio, the innocent and young, was playing on his lute and singing
_Miserere_ in the great hall of the palace. The murderers surprised
him with a shot from one of their harquebuses. He ran, wounded in the
shoulder, to his sister's room. She, it is said, was telling her beads
before retiring for the night. When three of the assassins entered,
she knelt before the crucifix, and there they stabbed her in the left
breast, turning the poignard in the wound, and asking her with savage
insults if her heart was pierced. Her last words were, 'Jesus, I
pardon you.' Then they turned to Flaminio, and left him pierced with
seventy-four stiletto wounds.

The authorities of Padua identified the bodies of Vittoria and
Flaminio, and sent at once for further instructions to Venice.
Meanwhile it appears that both corpses were laid out in one open
coffin for the people to contemplate. The palace and the church of the
Eremitani, to which they had been removed, were crowded all through
the following day with a vast concourse of the Paduans. Vittoria's
wonderful dead body, pale yet sweet to look upon, the golden hair
flowing around her marble shoulders, the red wound in her breast
uncovered, the stately limbs arrayed in satin as she died, maddened
the populace with its surpassing loveliness. '_Dentibus fremebant_,'
says the chronicler, when they beheld that gracious lady stiff in
death. And of a truth, if her corpse was actually exposed in the
chapel of the Eremitani, as we have some right to assume, the
spectacle must have been impressive. Those grim gaunt frescoes of
Mantegna looked down on her as she lay stretched upon her bier, solemn
and calm, and, but for pallor, beautiful as though in life. No wonder
that the folk forgot her first husband's murder, her less than comely
marriage to the second. It was enough for them that this flower of
surpassing loveliness had been cropped by villains in its bloom.
Gathering in knots around the torches placed beside the corpse, they
vowed vengeance against the Orsini; for suspicion, not unnaturally,
fell on Prince Lodovico.

The Prince was arrested and interrogated before the court of Padua. He
entered their hall attended by forty armed men, responded haughtily to
their questions, and demanded free passage for his courier to Virginio
Orsini, then at Florence. To this demand the court acceded; but the
precaution of way-laying the courier and searching his person was
very wisely taken. Besides some formal dispatches which announced
Vittoria's assassination, they found in this man's boot a compromising
letter, declaring Virginio a party to the crime, and asserting that
Lodovico had with his own poignard killed their victim. Padua placed
itself in a state of defence, and prepared to besiege the palace of
Prince Lodovico, who also got himself in readiness for battle.
Engines, culverins, and firebrands were directed against the
barricades which he had raised. The militia was called out and the
Brenta was strongly guarded. Meanwhile the Senate of S. Mark had
dispatched the Avogadore, Aloisio Bragadin, with full power to the
scene of action. Lodovico Orsini, it may be mentioned, was in their
service; and had not this affair intervened, he would in a few weeks
have entered on his duties as Governor for Venice of Corfu.

The bombardment of Orsini's palace began on Christmas Day. Three of
the Prince's men were killed in the first assault; and since the
artillery brought to bear upon him threatened speedy ruin to the house
and its inhabitants, he made up his mind to surrender. 'The Prince
Luigi,' writes one-chronicler of these events, 'walked attired in
brown, his poignard at his side, and his cloak slung elegantly under
his arm. The weapon being taken from him, he leaned upon a balustrade,
and began to trim his nails with a little pair of scissors he happened
to find there.' On the 27th he was strangled in prison by order of the
Venetian Republic. His body was carried to be buried, according to his
own will, in the church of S. Maria dell' Orto at Venice. Two of his
followers were hung next day. Fifteen were executed on the following
Monday; two of these were quartered alive; one of them, the Conte
Paganello, who confessed to having slain Vittoria, had his left side
probed with his own cruel dagger. Eight were condemned to the galleys,
six to prison, and eleven were acquitted. Thus ended this terrible
affair, which brought, it is said, good credit and renown to the lords
of Venice through all nations of the civilised world. It only remains
to be added that Marcello Accoramboni was surrendered to the Pope's
vengeance and beheaded at Ancona, where also his mysterious
accomplice, the Greek sorceress, perished.


II

This story of Vittoria Accoramboni's life and tragic ending is drawn,
in its main details, from a narrative published by Henri Beyle in his
'Chroniques et Novelles.'[8] He professes to have translated it
literally from a manuscript communicated to him by a nobleman of
Mantua; and there are strong internal evidences of the truth of this
assertion. Such compositions are frequent in Italian libraries, nor is
it rare for one of them to pass into the common market--as Mr.
Browning's famous purchase of the tale on which he based his 'Ring
and the Book' sufficiently proves. These pamphlets were produced, in
the first instance, to gratify the curiosity of the educated public in
an age which had no newspapers, and also to preserve the memory of
famous trials. How far the strict truth was represented, or whether,
as in the case of Beatrice Cenci, the pathetic aspect of the tragedy
was unduly dwelt on, depended, of course, upon the mental bias of the
scribe, upon his opportunities of obtaining exact information, and
upon the taste of the audience for whom he wrote. Therefore, in
treating such documents as historical data, we must be upon our
guard. Professor Gnoli, who has recently investigated the whole of
Vittoria's eventful story by the light of contemporary documents,
informs us that several narratives exist in manuscript, all dealing
more or less accurately with the details of the tragedy. One of these
was published in Italian at Brescia in 1586. A Frenchman, De Rosset,
printed the same story in its main outlines at Lyons in 1621. Our own
dramatist, John Webster, made it the subject of a tragedy, which he
gave to the press in 1612. What were his sources of information we do
not know for certain. But it is clear that he was well acquainted with
the history. He has changed some of the names and redistributed some
of the chief parts. Vittoria's first husband, for example, becomes
Camillo; her mother, named Cornelia instead of Tarquinia, is so far
from abetting Peretti's murder and countenancing her daughter's shame,
that she acts the _rôle_ of a domestic Cassandra. Flaminio and not
Marcello is made the main instrument of Vittoria's crime and
elevation. The Cardinal Montalto is called Monticelso, and his papal
title is Paul IV. instead of Sixtus V. These are details of
comparative indifference, in which a playwright may fairly use his
liberty of art. On the other hand, Webster shows a curious knowledge
of the picturesque circumstances of the tale. The garden in which
Vittoria meets Bracciano is the villa of Magnanapoli; Zanche, the
Moorish slave, combines Vittoria's waiting-woman, Caterina, and the
Greek sorceress who so mysteriously dogged Marcello's footsteps to the
death. The suspicion of Bracciano's murder is used to introduce a
quaint episode of Italian poisoning.

Webster exercised the dramatist's privilege of connecting various
threads of action in one plot, disregarding chronology, and hazarding
an ethical solution of motives which mere fidelity to fact hardly
warrants. He shows us Vittoria married to Camillo, a low-born and
witless fool, whose only merit consists in being nephew to the
Cardinal Monticelso, afterwards Pope Paul IV.[9] Paulo Giordano
Ursini, Duke of Brachiano, loves Vittoria, and she suggests to him
that, for the furtherance of their amours, his wife, the Duchess
Isabella, sister to Francesco de' Medici, Grand Duke of Florence,
should be murdered at the same time as her own husband, Camillo.
Brachiano is struck by this plan, and with the help of Vittoria's
brother, Flamineo, he puts it at once into execution. Flamineo hires a
doctor who poisons Brachiano's portrait, so that Isabella dies after
kissing it. He also with his own hands twists Camillo's neck during a
vaulting-match, making it appear that he came by his death
accidentally. Suspicion of the murder attaches, however, to Vittoria.
She is tried for her life before Monticelso and De' Medici; acquitted,
and relegated to a house of Convertites or female reformatory.
Brachiano, on the accession of Monticelso to the Papal throne,
resolves to leave Rome with Vittoria. They escape, together with her
mother Cornelia, and her brothers Flamineo and Marcello, to Padua; and
it is here that the last scenes of the tragedy are laid.

The use Webster made of Lodovico Orsini deserves particular attention.
He introduces this personage in the very first scene as a spendthrift,
who, having run through his fortune, has been outlawed. Count
Lodovico, as he is always called, has no relationship with the Orsini,
but is attached to the service of Francesco de' Medici, and is an old
lover of the Duchess Isabella. When, therefore, the Grand Duke
meditates vengeance on Brachiano, he finds a fitting instrument in the
desperate Lodovico. Together, in disguise, they repair to Padua.
Lodovico poisons the Duke of Brachiano's helmet, and has the
satisfaction of ending his last struggles by the halter. Afterwards,
with companions, habited as a masquer, he enters Vittoria's palace and
puts her to death together with her brother Flamineo. Just when the
deed of vengeance has been completed, young Giovanni Orsini, heir of
Brachiano, enters and orders the summary execution of Lodovico for
this deed of violence. Webster's invention in this plot is confined to
the fantastic incidents attending on the deaths of Isabella, Camillo,
and Brachiano, and to the murder of Marcello by his brother Flamineo,
with the further consequence of Cornelia's madness and death. He has
heightened our interest in Isabella, at the expense of Brachiano's
character, by making her an innocent and loving wife instead of an
adulteress. He has ascribed different motives from the real ones to
Lodovico in order to bring this personage into rank with the chief
actors, though this has been achieved with only moderate success.
Vittoria is abandoned to the darkest interpretation. She is a woman
who rises to eminence by crime, as an unfaithful wife, the murderess
of her husband, and an impudent defier of justice. Her brother,
Flamineo, becomes under Webster's treatment one of those worst human
infamies--a court dependent; ruffian, buffoon, pimp, murderer by
turns. Furthermore, and without any adequate object beyond that of
completing this study of a type he loved, Webster makes him murder his
own brother Marcello by treason. The part assigned to Marcello, it
should be said, is a genial and happy one; and Cornelia, the mother of
the Accoramboni, is a dignified character, pathetic in her suffering.
Webster, it may be added, treats the Cardinal Monticelso as allied in
some special way to the Medici. Yet certain traits in his character,
especially his avoidance of bloodshed and the tameness of his temper
after Camillo has been murdered, seem to have been studied from the
historical Sixtus.

III

The character of the 'White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona,' is perhaps
the most masterly creation of Webster's genius. Though her history is
a true one in its leading incidents, the poet, while portraying a real
personage, has conceived an original individuality. It is impossible
to know for certain how far the actual Vittoria was guilty of her
first husband's murder. Her personality fails to detach itself from
the romance of her biography by any salient qualities. But Webster,
with true playwright's instinct, casts aside historical doubts, and
delineates in his heroine a woman of a very marked and terrible
nature. Hard as adamant, uncompromising, ruthless, Vittoria follows
ambition as the loadstar of her life. It is the ambition to reign as
Duchess, far more than any passion for a paramour, which makes her
plot Camillo's and Isabella's murders, and throws her before marriage
into Brachiano's arms. Added to this ambition, she is possessed with
the cold demon of her own imperial and victorious beauty. She has the
courage of her criminality in the fullest sense; and much of the
fascination with which Webster has invested her, depends upon her
dreadful daring. Her portrait is drawn with full and firm touches.
Although she appears but five times on the scene, she fills it from
the first line of the drama to the last. Each appearance adds
effectively to the total impression. We see her first during a
criminal interview with Brachiano, contrived by her brother Flamineo.
The plot of the tragedy is developed in this scene; Vittoria
suggesting, under the metaphor of a dream, that her lover should
compass the deaths of his duchess and her husband. The dream is told
with deadly energy and ghastly picturesqueness. The cruel sneer at its
conclusion, murmured by a voluptuous woman in the ears of an
impassioned paramour, chills us with the sense of concentrated vice.
Her next appearance is before the court, on trial for her husband's
murder. The scene is celebrated, and has been much disputed by
critics. Relying on her own dauntlessness, on her beauty, and on the
protection of Brachiano, Vittoria hardly takes the trouble to plead
innocence or to rebut charges. She stands defiant, arrogant, vigilant,
on guard; flinging the lie in the teeth of her arraigners; quick to
seize the slightest sign of feebleness in their attack; protesting her
guiltlessness so loudly that she shouts truth down by brazen strength
of lung; retiring at the close with taunts; blazing throughout with
the intolerable lustre of some baleful planet. When she enters for the
third time, it is to quarrel with her paramour. He has been stung to
jealousy by a feigned love-letter. She knows that she has given him no
cause; it is her game to lure him by fidelity to marriage. Therefore
she resolves to make his mistake the instrument of her exaltation.
Beginning with torrents of abuse, hurling reproaches at him for her
own dishonour and the murder of his wife, working herself by studied
degrees into a tempest of ungovernable rage, she flings herself upon
the bed, refuses his caresses, spurns and tramples on him, till she
has brought Brachiano, terrified, humbled, fascinated, to her feet.
Then she gradually relents beneath his passionate protestations and
repeated promises of marriage. At this point she speaks but little.
We only feel her melting humour in the air, and long to see the scene
played by such an actress as Madame Bernhardt. When Vittoria next
appears, it is as Duchess by the deathbed of the Duke, her husband.
Her attendance here is necessary, but it contributes little to the
development of her character. We have learned to know her, and expect
neither womanish tears nor signs of affection at a crisis which
touches her heart less than her self-love. Webster, among his other
excellent qualities, knew how to support character by reticence.
Vittoria's silence in this act is significant; and when she retires
exclaiming, 'O me! this place is hell!' we know that it is the outcry,
not of a woman who has lost what made life dear, but of one who sees
the fruits of crime imperilled by a fatal accident. The last scene of
the play is devoted to Vittoria. It begins with a notable altercation
between her and Flamineo. She calls him 'ruffian' and 'villain,'
refusing him the reward of his vile service. This quarrel emerges in
one of Webster's grotesque contrivances to prolong a poignant
situation. Flamineo quits the stage and reappears with pistols. He
affects a kind of madness; and after threatening Vittoria, who never
flinches, he proposes they should end their lives by suicide. She
humours him, but manages to get the first shot. Flamineo falls,
wounded apparently to death. Then Vittoria turns and tramples on him
with her feet and tongue, taunting him in his death agony with the
enumeration of his crimes. Her malice and her energy are equally
infernal. Soon, however, it appears that the whole device was but a
trick of Flamineo's to test his sister. The pistol was not loaded. He
now produces a pair which are properly charged, and proceeds in good
earnest to the assassination of Vittoria. But at this critical moment
Lodovico and his masquers appear; brother and sister both die
unrepentant, defiant to the end. Vittoria's customary pride and her
familiar sneers impress her speech in these last moments with a
trenchant truth to nature:

                _You_ my death's-man!
  Methinks thou dost not look horrid enough,
  Thou hast too good a face to be a hangman:
  If thou be, do thy office in right form;
  Fall down upon thy knees, and ask forgiveness!

         *       *       *       *       *

  I will be waited on in death; my servant
  Shall never go before me.

         *       *       *       *       *

                Yes, I shall welcome death
  As princes do some great ambassadors:
  I'll meet thy weapon half-way.

         *       *       *       *       *

                 'Twas a manly blow!
  The next thou giv'st, murder some sucking infant;
  And then thou wilt be famous.

So firmly has Webster wrought the character of this white devil, that
we seem to see her before us as in a picture. 'Beautiful as the
leprosy, dazzling as the lightning,' to use a phrase of her
enthusiastic admirer Hazlitt, she takes her station like a lady in
some portrait by Paris Bordone, with gleaming golden hair twisted into
snakelike braids about her temples, with skin white as cream, bright
cheeks, dark dauntless eyes, and on her bosom, where it has been
chafed by jewelled chains, a flush of rose. She is luxurious, but not
so abandoned to the pleasures of the sense as to forget the purpose of
her will and brain. Crime and peril add zest to her enjoyment. When
arraigned in open court before the judgment-seat of deadly and
unscrupulous foes, she conceals the consciousness of guilt, and stands
erect, with fierce front, unabashed, relying on the splendour of her
irresistible beauty and the subtlety of her piercing wit. Chafing with
rage, the blood mounts and adds a lustre to her cheek. It is no flush
of modesty, but of rebellious indignation. The Cardinal, who hates
her, brands her emotion with the name of shame. She rebukes him,
hurling a jibe at his own mother. And when they point with spiteful
eagerness to the jewels blazing on her breast, to the silks and satins
that she rustles in, her husband lying murdered, she retorts:

     Had I foreknown his death, as you suggest, I would have
     bespoke my mourning.

She is condemned, but not vanquished, and leaves the court with a
stinging sarcasm. They send her to a house of Convertites:

     _V.C_. A house of Convertites! what's that?

     _M_. A house of penitent whores.

     _V.C_. Do the noblemen of Rome Erect it for their wives,
     that I am sent To lodge there?

Charles Lamb was certainly in error? when he described Vittoria's
attitude as one of 'innocence-resembling boldness.' In the trial
scene, no less than in the scenes of altercation with Brachiano and
Flamineo, Webster clearly intended her to pass for a magnificent
vixen, a beautiful and queenly termagant. Her boldness is the audacity
of impudence, which does not condescend to entertain the thought of
guilt. Her egotism is so hard and so profound that the very victims
whom she sacrifices to ambition seem in her sight justly punished. Of
Camillo and Isabella, her husband and his wife, she says to Brachiano:

     And both were struck dead by that sacred yew, In that base
     shallow grave that was their due.

IV

It is tempting to pass from this analysis of Vittoria's life to a
consideration of Webster's drama as a whole, especially in a book
dedicated to Italian byways. For that mysterious man of genius had
explored the dark and devious paths of Renaissance vice, and had
penetrated the secrets of Italian wickedness with truly appalling
lucidity. His tragedies, though worthless as historical documents,
have singular value as commentaries upon history, as revelations to us
of the spirit of the sixteenth century in its deepest gloom.

Webster's plays, owing to the condensation of their thought and the
compression of their style, are not easy to read for the first time.
He crowds so many fantastic incidents into one action, and burdens his
discourse with so much profoundly studied matter, that we rise from
the perusal of his works with a blurred impression of the fables, a
deep sense of the poet's power and personality, and an ineffaceable
recollection of one or two resplendent scenes. His Roman history-play
of 'Appius and Virginia' proves that he understood the value of a
simple plot, and that he was able, when he chose, to work one out with
conscientious calmness. But the two Italian dramas upon which his fame
is justly founded, by right of which he stands alone among the
playwrights of all literatures, are marked by a peculiar and wayward
mannerism. Each part is etched with equal effort after luminous effect
upon a back-ground of lurid darkness; and the whole play is made up
of these parts, without due concentration on a master-motive. The
characters are definite in outline, but, taken together in the conduct
of a single plot, they seem to stand apart, like figures in a _tableau
vivant_; nor do they act and react each upon the other in the play of
interpenetrative passions. That this mannerism was deliberately
chosen, we have a right to believe. 'Willingly, and not ignorantly, in
this kind have I faulted,' is the answer Webster gives to such as may
object that he has not constructed his plays upon the classic model.
He seems to have had a certain sombre richness of tone and intricacy
of design in view, combining sensational effect and sententious
pregnancy of diction in works of laboured art, which, when adequately
represented to the ear and eye upon the stage, might at a touch obtain
the animation they now lack for chamber-students.

When familiarity has brought us acquainted with his style, when we
have disentangled the main characters and circumstances from their
adjuncts, we perceive that he treats poignant and tremendous
situations with a concentrated vigour special to his genius; that he
has studied each word and trait of character, and that he has prepared
by gradual approaches and degrees of horror for the culmination of his
tragedies. The sentences which seem at first sight copied from a
commonplace book, are found to be appropriate. Brief lightning flashes
of acute perception illuminate the midnight darkness of his all but
unimaginably depraved characters. Sharp unexpected touches evoke
humanity in the _fantoccini_ of his wayward art. No dramatist has
shown more consummate ability in heightening terrific effects, in
laying bare the innermost mysteries of crime, remorse, and pain,
combined to make men miserable. It has been said of Webster that,
feeling himself deficient in the first poetic qualities, he
concentrated his powers upon one point, and achieved success by sheer
force of self-cultivation. There is perhaps some truth in this. At any
rate, his genius was of a narrow and peculiar order, and he knew well
how to make the most of its limitations. Yet we must not forget that
he felt a natural bias toward the dreadful stuff with which he deals.
The mystery of iniquity had an irresistible attraction for his mind.
He was drawn to comprehend and reproduce abnormal elements of
spiritual anguish. The materials with which he builds his tragedies
are sought for in the ruined places of lost souls, in the agonies of
madness and despair, in the sarcasms of criminal and reckless atheism,
in slow tortures, griefs beyond endurance, the tempests of remorseful
death, the spasms of fratricidal bloodshed. He is often melodramatic
in the means employed to bring these psychological conditions home to
us. He makes too free use of poisoned engines, daggers, pistols,
disguised murderers, and so forth. Yet his firm grasp upon the
essential qualities of diseased and guilty human nature saves him,
even at his wildest, from the unrealities and extravagances into which
less potent artists of the _drame sanglant_--Marston, for
example--blundered.

With Webster, the tendency to brood on horrors was no result of
calculation. It belonged to his idiosyncrasy. He seems to have been
suckled from birth at the breast of that _Mater Tenebrarum_, our Lady
of Darkness, whom De Quincey in one of his 'Suspiria de Profundis'
describes among the Semnai Theai, the august goddesses, the mysterious
foster-nurses of suffering humanity. He cannot say the simplest thing
without giving it a ghastly or sinister turn. If one of his characters
draws a metaphor from pie-crust, he must needs use language of the
churchyard:

                         You speak as if a man
  Should know what fowl is coffined in a baked meat
  Afore you cut it open.

Hideous similes are heaped together in illustration of the commonest
circumstances:

     Places at court are but like beds in the hospital, where
     this man's head lies at that man's foot, and so lower and
     lower.

     When knaves come to preferment, they rise as gallowses are
     raised in the Low Countries, one upon another's shoulders.

     I would sooner eat a dead pigeon taken from the soles of the
     feet of one sick of the plague than kiss one of you fasting.

A soldier is twitted with serving his master:

  As witches do their serviceable spirits,
  Even with thy prodigal blood.

An adulterous couple get this curse:

  Like mistletoe on sear elms spent by weather,
  Let him cleave to her, and both rot together.

A bravo is asked:

  Dost thou imagine thou canst slide on blood,
  And not be tainted with a shameful fall?
  Or, like the black and melancholic yew-tree,
  Dost think to root thyself in dead men's graves,
  And yet to prosper?

It is dangerous to extract philosophy of life from any dramatist. Yet
Webster so often returns to dark and doleful meditations, that we may
fairly class him among constitutional pessimists. Men, according to
the grimness of his melancholy, are:

           Only like dead walls or vaulted graves,
  That, ruined, yield no echo.
                O this gloomy world!
  In what a shadow or deep pit of darkness
  Doth womanish and fearful mankind live!

         *       *       *       *       *

  We are merely the stars' tennis-balls, struck and banded
  Which way please them.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Pleasure of life! what is't? only the good hours of an ague.

A Duchess is 'brought to mortification,' before her strangling by the
executioner, in this high fantastical oration:

     Thou art a box of worm-seed, at best but a salvatory of
     green mummy. What's this flesh? A little crudded milk,
     fantastical puff-paste, &c. &c.

Man's life in its totality is summed up with monastic cynicism in
these lyric verses:

  Of what is't fools make such vain keeping?
  Sin their conception, their birth weeping,
  Their life a general mist of error,
  Their death a hideous storm of terror.

The greatness of the world passes by with all its glory:

  Vain the ambition of kings,
  Who seek by trophies and dead things
  To leave a living name behind,
  And weave but nets to catch the wind.

It would be easy to surfeit criticism with similar examples; where
Webster is writing in sarcastic, meditative, or deliberately
terror-stirring moods. The same dark dye of his imagination shows
itself even more significantly in circumstances where, in the work of
any other artist, it would inevitably mar the harmony of the picture.
A lady, to select one instance, encourages her lover to embrace her at
the moment of his happiness. She cries:

                         Sir, be confident!
  What is't distracts you? This is flesh and blood, sir;
  'Tis not the figure cut in alabaster,
  Kneels at my husband's tomb.

Yet so sustained is Webster's symphony of sombre tints, that we do not
feel this sepulchral language, this 'talk fit for a charnel' (to use
one of his own phrases), to be out of keeping. It sounds like a
presentiment of coming woes, which, as the drama grows to its
conclusion, gather and darken on the wretched victims of his bloody
plot.

It was with profound sagacity, or led by some deep-rooted instinct,
that Webster sought the fables of his two great tragedies, 'The White
Devil' and 'The Duchess of Malfi,' in Italian annals. Whether he had
visited Italy in his youth, we cannot say; for next to nothing is
known about Webster's life. But that he had gazed long and earnestly
into the mirror held up by that enchantress of the nations in his age,
is certain. Aghast and fascinated by the sins he saw there flaunting
in the light of day--sins on whose pernicious glamour Ascham, Greene,
and Howell have insisted with impressive vehemence--Webster discerned
in them the stuff he needed for philosophy and art. Withdrawing from
that contemplation, he was like a spirit 'loosed out of hell to speak
of horrors.' Deeper than any poet of the time, deeper than any even of
the Italians, he read the riddle of the sphinx of crime. He found
there something akin to his own imaginative mood, something which he
alone could fully comprehend and interpret. From the superficial
narratives of writers like Bandello he extracted a spiritual essence
which was, if not the literal, at least the ideal, truth involved in
them.

The enormous and unnatural vices, the domestic crimes of cruelty,
adultery, and bloodshed, the political scheming and the subtle arts of
vengeance, the ecclesiastical tyranny and craft, the cynical
scepticism and lustre of luxurious godlessness, which made Italy in
the midst of her refinement blaze like 'a bright and ominous star'
before the nations; these were the very elements in which the genius
of Webster--salamander-like in flame--could live and flourish. Only
the incidents of Italian history, or of French history in its
Italianated epoch, were capable of supplying him with the proper type
of plot. It was in Italy alone, or in an Italianated country, such as
England for a brief space in the reign of the first Stuart threatened
to become, that the well-nigh diabolical wickedness of his characters
might have been realised. An audience familiar with Italian novels
through Belleforest and Painter, inflamed by the long struggle of the
Reformation against the scarlet abominations of the Papal See,
outraged in their moral sense by the political paradoxes of
Machiavelli, horror-stricken at the still recent misdoings of Borgias
and Medici and Farnesi, alarmed by that Italian policy which had
conceived the massacre of S. Bartholomew in France, and infuriated by
that ecclesiastical hypocrisy which triumphed in the same; such an
audience were at the right point of sympathy with a poet who undertook
to lay the springs of Southern villany before them bare in a dramatic
action. But, as the old proverb puts it, 'Inglese Italianato è un
diavolo incarnato.' 'An Englishman assuming the Italian habit is a
devil in the flesh.' The Italians were depraved, but spiritually
feeble. The English playwright, when he brought them on the stage,
arrayed with intellectual power and gleaming with the lurid splendour
of a Northern fancy, made them tenfold darker and more terrible. To
the subtlety and vices of the South he added the melancholy,
meditation, and sinister insanity of his own climate. He deepened the
complexion of crime and intensified lawlessness by robbing the Italian
character of levity. Sin, in his conception of that character, was
complicated with the sense of sin, as it never had been in a
Florentine or a Neapolitan. He had not grasped the meaning of the
Machiavellian conscience, in its cold serenity and disengagement from
the dread of moral consequence. Not only are his villains stealthy,
frigid, quick to evil, merciless, and void of honour; but they brood
upon their crimes and analyse their motives. In the midst of their
audacity they are dogged by dread of coming retribution. At the crisis
of their destiny they look back upon their better days with
intellectual remorse. In the execution of their bloodiest schemes they
groan beneath the chains of guilt they wear, and quake before the
phantoms of their haunted brains.

Thus passion and reflection, superstition and profanity, deliberate
atrocity and fear of judgment, are united in the same nature; and to
make the complex still more strange, the play-wright has gifted these
tremendous personalities with his own wild humour and imaginative
irony. The result is almost monstrous, such an ideal of character as
makes earth hell. And yet it is not without justification. To the
Italian text has been added the Teutonic commentary, and both are
fused by a dramatic genius into one living whole.

One of these men is Flamineo, the brother of Vittoria Corombona, upon
whose part the action of the 'White Devil' depends. He has been bred
in arts and letters at the university of Padua; but being poor and of
luxurious appetites, he chooses the path of crime in courts for his
advancement. A duke adopts him for his minion, and Flamineo acts the
pander to this great man's lust. He contrives the death of his
brother-in-law, suborns a doctor to poison the Duke's wife, and
arranges secret meetings between his sister and the paramour who is to
make her fortune and his own. His mother appears like a warning Até to
prevent her daughter's crime. In his rage he cries:

  What fury raised _thee_ up? Away, away!

And when she pleads the honour of their house he answers:

                        Shall I,
  Having a path so open and so free
  To my preferment, still retain your milk
  In my pale forehead?

Later on, when it is necessary to remove another victim, he runs his
own brother through the body and drives his mother to madness. Yet, in
the midst of these crimes, we are unable to regard him as a simple
cut-throat. His irony and reckless courting of damnation open-eyed to
get his gust of life in this world, make him no common villain. He can
be brave as well as fierce. When the Duke insults him he bandies taunt
for taunt:

     _Brach_. No, you pander?

     _Flam_. What, me, my lord?
      Am I your dog?

     _B_. A bloodhound; do you brave, do you stand me?

     _F_. Stand you! let those that have diseases run;
     I need no plasters.

     _B_. Would you be kicked?

     _F_. Would you have your neck broke?
     I tell you, duke, I am not in Russia;
     My shins must be kept whole.

     _B_. Do you know me?

     _F_. Oh, my lord, methodically:
     As in this world there are degrees of evils,
     So in this world there are degrees of devils.
     You're a great duke, I your poor secretary.

When the Duke dies and his prey escapes him, the rage of
disappointment breaks into this fierce apostrophe:

     I cannot conjure; but if prayers or oaths. Will get the
     speech of him, though forty devils Wait on him in his livery
     of flames, I'll speak to him and shake him by the hand,
     Though I be blasted.

As crimes thicken round him, and he still despairs of the reward for
which he sold himself, conscience awakes:

                              I have lived
     Riotously ill, like some that live in court,
     And sometimes when my face was full of smiles Have felt the
     maze of conscience in my breast.

The scholar's scepticism, which lies at the root of his perversity,
finds utterance in this meditation upon death:

     Whither shall I go now? O Lucian, thy ridiculous purgatory!
     to find Alexander the Great cobbling shoes, Pompey tagging
     points, and Julius Cæsar making hair-buttons!

     Whether I resolve to fire, earth, water, air, or all the
     elements by scruples, I know not, nor greatly care.

At the last moment he yet can say:

     We cease to grieve, cease to be Fortune's slaves, Nay, cease
     to die, by dying.

And again, with the very yielding of his spirit:

     My life was a black charnel.

It will be seen that in no sense does Flamineo resemble Iago. He is
not a traitor working by craft and calculating ability to
well-considered ends. He is the desperado frantically clutching at an
uncertain and impossible satisfaction. Webster conceives him as a
self-abandoned atheist, who, maddened by poverty and tainted by
vicious living, takes a fury to his heart, and, because the goodness
of the world has been for ever lost to him, recklessly seeks the bad.

Bosola, in the 'Duchess of Malfi,' is of the same stamp. He too has
been a scholar. He is sent to the galleys 'for a notorious murder,'
and on his release he enters the service of two brothers, the Duke of
Calabria and the Cardinal of Aragon, who place him as their
intelligencer at the court of their sister.


     _Bos_. It seems you would create me
     One of your familiars.

     _Ferd_. Familiar! what's that?

     _Bos_. Why, a very quaint invisible devil in flesh,
     An intelligencer.

     _Ferd_. Such a kind of thriving thing
      I would wish thee; and ere long thou may'st arrive
      At a higher place by it.

Lured by hope of preferment, Bosola undertakes the office of spy,
tormentor, and at last of executioner. For:

    Discontent and want
  Is the best clay to mould a villain of.

But his true self, though subdued to be what he quaintly styles 'the
devil's quilted anvil,' on which 'all sins are fashioned and the blows
never heard,' continually rebels against this destiny. Compared with
Flamineo, he is less unnaturally criminal. His melancholy is more
fantastic, his despair more noble. Throughout the course of craft and
cruelty on which he is goaded by a relentless taskmaster, his nature,
hardened as it is, revolts.

At the end, when Bosola presents the body of the murdered Duchess to
her brother, Webster has wrought a scene of tragic savagery that
surpasses almost any other that the English stage can show. The
sight, of his dead sister maddens Ferdinand, who, feeling the eclipse
of reason gradually absorb his faculties, turns round with frenzied
hatred on the accomplice of his fratricide. Bosola demands the price
of guilt. Ferdinand spurns him with the concentrated eloquence of
despair and the extravagance of approaching insanity. The murderer
taunts his master coldly and laconically, like a man whose life is
wrecked, who has waded through blood to his reward, and who at the
last moment discovers the sacrifice of his conscience and masculine
freedom to be fruitless. Remorse, frustrated hopes, and thirst for
vengeance convert Bosola from this hour forward into an instrument of
retribution. The Duke and his brother the Cardinal are both brought to
bloody deaths by the hand which they had used to assassinate their
sister.

It is fitting that something should be said about Webster's conception
of the Italian despot. Brachiano and Ferdinand, the employers of
Flamineo and Bosola, are tyrants such as Savonarola described, and as
we read of in the chronicles of petty Southern cities. Nothing is
suffered to stand between their lust and its accomplishment. They
override the law by violence, or pervert its action to their own
advantage:

    The law to him
  Is like a foul black cobweb to a spider;
  He makes it his dwelling and a prison
  To entangle those shall feed him.

They are eaten up with parasites, accomplices, and all the creatures
of their crimes:

     He and his brother are like plum-trees that grow crooked
     over standing pools; they are rich and over-laden with
     fruit, but none but crows, pies, and caterpillars feed on
     them.

In their lives they are without a friend; for society in guilt brings
nought of comfort, and honours are but emptiness:

     Glories, like glow-worms, afar off shine bright;
     But looked to near, have neither heat nor light.

Their plots and counterplots drive repose far from them:

     There's but three furies found in spacious hell;
     But in a great man's breast three thousand dwell.

Fearful shapes afflict their fancy; shadows of ancestral crime or
ghosts of their own raising:

                      For these many years
  None of our family dies, but there is seen
  The shape of an old woman; which is given
  By tradition to us to have been murdered
  By her nephews for her riches.

Apparitions haunt them:

    How tedious is a guilty conscience!
  When I look into the fish-ponds in my garden,
  Methinks I see a thing armed with a rake
  That seems to strike at me.

Continually scheming against the objects of their avarice and hatred,
preparing poisons or suborning bravoes, they know that these same arts
will be employed against them. The wine-cup hides arsenic; the
headpiece is smeared with antimony; there is a dagger behind every
arras, and each shadow is a murderer's. When death comes, they meet it
trembling. What irony Webster has condensed in Brachiano's outcry:

  On pain of death, let no man name death to me;
  It is a word infinitely horrible.

And how solemn are the following reflections on the death of princes:

  O thou soft natural death, that art joint-twin
  To sweetest slumber! no rough-bearded comet
  Stares on thy mild departure; the dull owl
  Beats not against thy casement, the hoarse wolf
  Scents not thy carrion: pity winds thy corse,
  Whilst horror waits on princes.

After their death, this is their epitaph:

               These wretched eminent things
  Leave no more fame behind'em than should one
  Fall in a frost and leave his print in snow.

Of Webster's despots, the finest in conception and the firmest in
execution is Ferdinand of Aragon. Jealousy of his sister and avarice
take possession of him and torment him like furies. The flash of
repentance over her strangled body is also the first flash of
insanity. He survives to present the spectacle of a crazed lunatic,
and to be run through the body by his paid assassin. In the Cardinal
of Aragon, Webster paints a profligate Churchman, no less voluptuous,
blood-guilty, and the rest of it, than his brother the Duke of
Calabria. It seems to have been the poet's purpose in each of his
Italian tragedies to unmask Rome as the Papal city really was. In the
lawless desperado, the intemperate tyrant, and the godless
ecclesiastic, he portrayed the three curses from which Italian society
was actually suffering.

It has been needful to dwell upon the gloomy and fantastic side of
Webster's genius. But it must not be thought that he could touch no
finer chord. Indeed, it might be said that in the domain of pathos he
is even more powerful than in that of horror. His mastery in this
region is displayed in the creation of that dignified and beautiful
woman, the Duchess of Malfi, who, with nothing in her nature, had she
but lived prosperously, to divide her from the sisterhood of gentle
ladies, walks, shrined in love and purity and conscious rectitude,
amid the snares and pitfalls of her persecutors, to die at last the
victim of a brother's fevered avarice and a desperado's egotistical
ambition. The apparatus of infernal cruelty, the dead man's hand, the
semblances of murdered sons and husband, the masque of madmen, the
dirge and doleful emblems of the tomb with which she is environed in
her prison by the torturers who seek to goad her into lunacy, are
insufficient to disturb the tranquillity and tenderness of her nature.
When the rope is being fastened to her throat, she does not spend her
breath in recriminations, but turns to the waiting-woman and says:

                        Farewell, Cariola!
  I pray thee look thou givest my little boy
  Some syrup for his cold, and let the girl
  Say her prayers ere she sleep.

In the preceding scenes we have had enough, nay, over-much, of
madness, despair, and wrestling with doom. This is the calm that comes
when death is present, when the tortured soul lays down its burden of
the flesh with gladness. But Webster has not spared another touch of
thrilling pathos.

The death-struggle is over; the fratricide has rushed away, a maddened
man; the murderer is gazing with remorse upon the beautiful dead body
of his lady, wishing he had the world wherewith to buy her back to
life again; when suddenly she murmurs 'Mercy!' Our interest, already
overstrained, revives with momentary hope. But the guardians of the
grave will not be exorcised; and 'Mercy!' is the last groan of the
injured Duchess.

Webster showed great skill in his delineation of the Duchess. He had
to paint a woman in a hazardous situation: a sovereign stooping in her
widowhood to wed a servant; a lady living with the mystery of this
unequal marriage round her like a veil. He dowered her with no salient
qualities of intellect or heart or will; but he sustained our sympathy
with her, and made us comprehend her. To the last she is a Duchess;
and when she has divested state and bowed her head to enter the low
gate of heaven--too low for coronets--her poet shows us, in the lines
already quoted, that the woman still survives.

The same pathos surrounds the melancholy portrait of Isabella in
'Vittoria Corombona.' But Isabella, in that play, serves chiefly to
enhance the tyranny of her triumphant rival. The main difficulty under
which these scenes of rarest pathos would labour, were they brought
upon the stage, is their simplicity in contrast with the ghastly and
contorted horrors that envelop them. A dialogue abounding in the
passages I have already quoted--a dialogue which bandies 'O you
screech-owl!' and 'Thou foul black cloud!'--in which a sister's
admonition to her brother to think twice of suicide assumes a form so
weird as this:

                 I prithee, yet remember,
  Millions are now in graves, which at last day
  Like mandrakes shall rise shrieking.--

such a dialogue could not be rendered save by actors strung up to a
pitch of almost frenzied tension. To do full justice to what in
Webster's style would be spasmodic were it not so weighty, and at the
same time to maintain the purity of outline and melodious rhythm of
such characters as Isabella, demands no common histrionic power.

In attempting to define Webster's touch upon Italian tragic story, I
have been led perforce to concentrate attention on what is painful and
shocking to our sense of harmony in art. He was a vigorous and
profoundly imaginative playwright. But his most enthusiastic admirers
will hardly contend that good taste or moderation determined the
movement of his genius. Nor, though his insight into the essential
dreadfulness of Italian tragedy was so deep, is it possible to
maintain that his portraiture of Italian life was true to its more
superficial aspects. What place would there be for a Correggio or a
Raphael in such a world as Webster's? Yet we know that the art of
Raphael and Correggio is in exact harmony with the Italian temperament
of the same epoch which gave birth to Cesare Borgia and Bianca
Gapello. The comparatively slighter sketch of Iachimo in 'Cymbeline'
represents the Italian as he felt and lived, better than the laboured
portrait of Flamineo. Webster's Italian tragedies are consequently
true, not so much to the actual conditions of Italy, as to the moral
impression made by those conditions on a Northern imagination.

       *       *       *       *       *



_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 loggie, 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
mythopœic 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 mouldy 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 watershed 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 Apennine, 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 hillsides 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 pinkling, 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 is 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 hillside 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:

(Greek:)

  kai prospesôn eklaus' erêmias tuchôn
  spondas te lusas askon hon pherô xenois
  espeisa tumbô 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 pleasaunce; 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 Lunae_ flashed sunrise
from their battlements, but close beside the little hills which back
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 _espieglerie_. 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 coast-guard 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 which drop about
fifty feet upon the water. A line of ancient walls, with mediaeval
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 obligate, '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 basreliefs 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.

       *       *       *       *       *



_PARMA_


Parma is perhaps the brightest _Residenzstadt_ of the second class in
Italy. Built on a sunny and fertile tract of the Lombard plain, within
view of the Alps, and close beneath the shelter of the Apennines, it
shines like a well-set gem with stately towers and cheerful squares in
the midst of verdure. The cities of Lombardy are all like large
country houses: walking out of their gates, you seem to be stepping
from a door or window that opens on a trim and beautiful garden, where
mulberry-tree is married to mulberry by festoons of vines, and where
the maize and sunflower stand together in rows between patches of flax
and hemp. But it is not in order to survey the union of well-ordered
husbandry with the civilities of ancient city-life that we break the
journey at Parma between Milan and Bologna. We are attracted rather by
the fame of one great painter, whose work, though it may be studied
piecemeal in many galleries of Europe, in Parma has a fulness,
largeness, and mastery that can nowhere else be found. In Parma alone
Correggio challenges comparison with Raphael, with Tintoret, with all
the supreme decorative painters who have deigned to make their art the
handmaid of architecture. Yet even in the cathedral and the church of
S. Giovanni, where Correggio's frescoes cover cupola and chapel wall,
we could scarcely comprehend his greatness now--so cruelly have time
and neglect dealt with those delicate dream-shadows of celestial
fairyland--were it not for an interpreter, who consecrated a lifetime
to the task of translating his master's poetry of fresco into the
prose of engraving. That man was Paolo Toschi--a name to be ever
venerated by all lovers of the arts; since without his guidance we
should hardly know what to seek for in the ruined splendours of the
domes of Parma, or even seeking, how to find the object of our search.
Toschi's labour was more effectual than that of a restorer however
skilful, more loving than that of a follower however faithful. He
respected Correggio's handiwork with religious scrupulousness, adding
not a line or tone or touch of colour to the fading frescoes; but he
lived among them, aloft on scaffoldings, and face to face with the
originals which he designed to reproduce. By long and close
familiarity, by obstinate and patient interrogation, he divined
Correggio's secret, and was able at last to see clearly through the
mist of cobweb and mildew and altar smoke, and through the still more
cruel travesty of so-called restoration. What he discovered, he
faithfully committed first to paper in water colours, and then to
copperplate with the burin, so that we enjoy the privilege of seeing
Correggio's masterpieces as Toschi saw them, with the eyes of genius
and of love and of long scientific study. It is not too much to say
that some of Correggio's most charming compositions--for example, the
dispute of S. Augustine and S. John--have been resuscitated from the
grave by Toschi's skill. The original offers nothing but a mouldering
surface from which the painter's work has dropped in scales. The
engraving presents a design which we doubt not was Correggio's, for it
corresponds in all particulars to the style and spirit of the master.
To be critical in dealing with so successful an achievement of
restoration and translation is difficult. Yet it may be admitted once
and for all that Toschi has not unfrequently enfeebled his original.
Under his touch Correggio loses somewhat of his sensuous audacity, his
dithyrambic ecstasy, and approaches the ordinary standard of
prettiness and graceful beauty. The Diana of the Camera di S. Paolo,
for instance, has the strong calm splendour of a goddess: the same
Diana in Toschi's engraving seems about to smile with girlish joy. In
a word, the engraver was a man of a more common stamp--more timid and
more conventional than the painter. But this is after all a trifling
deduction from the value of his work.

Our debt to Paolo Toschi is such that it would be ungrateful not to
seek some details of his life. The few that can be gathered even at
Parma are brief and bald enough. The newspaper articles and funeral
panegyrics which refer to him are as barren as all such occasional
notices in Italy have always been; the panegyrist seeming more anxious
about his own style than eager to communicate information. Yet a bare
outline of Toschi's biography may be supplied. He was born at Parma in
1788. His father was cashier of the post-office, and his mother's name
was Anna Maria Brest. Early in his youth he studied painting at Parma
under Biagio Martini; and in 1809 he went to Paris, where he learned
the art of engraving from Bervic and of etching from Oortman. In Paris
he contracted an intimate friendship with the painter Gérard. But
after ten years he returned to Parma, where he established a company
and school of engravers in concert with his friend Antonio Isac. Maria
Louisa, the then Duchess, under whose patronage the arts flourished at
Parma (witness Bodoni's exquisite typography), soon recognised his
merit, and appointed him Director of the Ducal Academy. He then formed
the project of engraving a series of the whole of Correggio's
frescoes. The undertaking was a vast one. Both the cupolas of S. John
and the cathedral, together with the vault of the apse of S.
Giovanni[10] and various portions of the side aisles, and the
so-called Camera di S. Paolo, are covered by frescoes of Correggio and
his pupil Parmegiano. These frescoes have suffered so much from
neglect and time, and from unintelligent restoration, that it is
difficult in many cases to determine their true character. Yet Toschi
did not content himself with selections, or shrink from the task of
deciphering and engraving the whole. He formed a school of disciples,
among whom were Carlo Raimondi of Milan, Antonio Costa of Venice,
Edward Eichens of Berlin, Aloisio Juvara of Naples, Antonio Dalcò,
Giuseppe Magnani, and Lodovico Bisola of Parma, and employed them as
assistants in his work. Death overtook him in 1854, before it was
finished, and now the water-colour drawings which are exhibited in the
Gallery of Parma prove to what extent the achievement fell short of
his design. Enough, however, was accomplished to place the chief
masterpieces of Correggio beyond the possibility of utter oblivion.

To the piety of his pupil Carlo Raimondi, the bearer of a name
illustrious in the annals of engraving, we owe a striking portrait of
Toschi. The master is represented on his seat upon the scaffold in the
dizzy half-light of the dome. The shadowy forms of saints and angels
are around him. He has raised his eyes from his cartoon to study one
of these. In his right hand is the opera-glass with which he
scrutinises the details of distant groups. The upturned face, with its
expression of contemplative intelligence, is like that of an
astronomer accustomed to commerce with things above the sphere of
common life, and ready to give account of all that he has gathered
from his observation of a world not ours. In truth the world created
by Correggio and interpreted by Toschi is very far removed from that
of actual existence. No painter has infused a more distinct
individuality into his work, realising by imaginative force and
powerful projection an order of beauty peculiar to himself, before
which it is impossible to remain quite indifferent. We must either
admire the manner of Correggio, or else shrink from it with the
distaste which sensual art is apt to stir in natures of a severe or
simple type.

What, then, is the Correggiosity of Correggio? In other words, what is
the characteristic which, proceeding from the personality of the
artist, is impressed on all his work? The answer to this question,
though by no means simple, may perhaps be won by a process of gradual
analysis. The first thing that strikes us in the art of Correggio is,
that he has aimed at the realistic representation of pure unrealities.
His saints and angels are beings the like of whom we have hardly seen
upon the earth. Yet they are displayed before us with all the movement
and the vivid truth of nature. Next we feel that what constitutes the
superhuman, visionary quality of these creatures, is their uniform
beauty of a merely sensuous type. They are all created for pleasure,
not for thought or passion or activity or heroism. The uses of their
brains, their limbs, their every feature, end in enjoyment; innocent
and radiant wantonness is the condition of their whole existence.
Correggio conceived the universe under the one mood of sensuous joy:
his world was bathed in luxurious light; its inhabitants were capable
of little beyond a soft voluptuousness. Over the domain of tragedy he
had no sway, and very rarely did he attempt to enter on it: nothing,
for example, can be feebler than his endeavour to express anguish in
the distorted features of Madonna, S. John, and the Magdalen, who are
bending over the dead body of a Christ extended in the attitude of
languid repose. In like manner he could not deal with subjects which
demand a pregnancy of intellectual meaning. He paints the three Fates
like young and joyous Bacchantes, places rose-garlands and
thyrsi in their hands instead of the distaff and the thread of human
destinies, and they might figure appropriately upon the panels of a
banquet-chamber in Pompeii. In this respect Correggio might be termed
the Rossini of painting. The melodies of the 'Stabat Mater'--_Fac ut
portem_ or _Quis est homo_--are the exact analogues in music of
Correggio's voluptuous renderings of grave or mysterious motives. Nor,
again, did he possess that severe and lofty art of composition which
subordinates the fancy to the reason, and which seeks for the highest
intellectual beauty in a kind of architectural harmony supreme above
the melodies of gracefulness in detail. The Florentines and those who
shared their spirit--Michelangelo and Lionardo and Raphael--deriving
this principle of design from the geometrical art of the Middle Ages,
converted it to the noblest uses in their vast well-ordered
compositions. But Correggio ignored the laws of scientific
construction. It was enough for him to produce a splendid and
brilliant effect by the life and movement of his figures, and by the
intoxicating beauty of his forms. His type of beauty, too, is by no
means elevated. Lionardo painted souls whereof the features and the
limbs are but an index. The charm of Michelangelo's ideal is like a
flower upon a tree of rugged strength. Raphael aims at the loveliness
which cannot be disjoined from goodness. But Correggio is contented
with bodies 'delicate and desirable.' His angels are genii
disimprisoned from the perfumed chalices of flowers, houris of an
erotic paradise, elemental spirits of nature wantoning in Eden in her
prime. To accuse the painter of conscious immorality or of what is
stigmatised as sensuality, would be as ridiculous as to class his
seraphic beings among the products of the Christian imagination. They
belong to the generation of the fauns; like fauns, they combine a
certain savage wildness, a dithyrambic ecstasy of inspiration, a
delight in rapid movement as they revel amid clouds or flowers, with
the permanent and all-pervading sweetness of the master's style. When
infantine or childlike, these celestial sylphs are scarcely to be
distinguished for any noble quality of beauty from Murillo's cherubs,
and are far less divine than the choir of children who attend Madonna
in Titian's 'Assumption.' But in their boyhood and their prime of
youth, they acquire a fulness of sensuous vitality and a radiance that
are peculiar to Correggio. The lily-bearer who helps to support S.
Thomas beneath the dome of the cathedral at Parma, the groups of
seraphs who crowd behind the Incoronata of S. Giovanni, and the two
wild-eyed open-mouthed S. Johns stationed at each side of the
celestial throne, are among the most splendid instances of the
adolescent loveliness conceived by Correggio. Where the painter found
their models may be questioned but not answered; for he has made them
of a different fashion from the race of mortals: no court of Roman
emperor or Turkish sultan, though stocked with the flowers of
Bithynian and Circassian youth, have seen their like. Mozart's
Cherubino seems to have sat for all of them. At any rate they
incarnate the very spirit of the songs he sings.

As a consequence of this predilection for sensuous and voluptuous
forms, Correggio had no power of imagining grandly or severely.
Satisfied with material realism in his treatment even of sublime
mysteries, he converts the hosts of heaven into a 'fricassee of
frogs,' according to the old epigram. His apostles, gazing after the
Virgin who has left the earth, are thrown into attitudes so violent
and so dramatically foreshortened, that seen from below upon the
pavement of the cathedral, little of their form is distinguishable
except legs and arms in vehement commotion. Very different is Titian's
conception of this scene. To express the spiritual meaning, the
emotion of Madonna's transit, with all the pomp which colour and
splendid composition can convey, is Titian's sole care; whereas
Correggio appears to have been satisfied with realising the tumult of
heaven rushing to meet earth, and earth straining upwards to ascend to
heaven in violent commotion--a very orgasm of frenetic rapture. The
essence of the event is forgotten: its external manifestation alone is
presented to the eye; and only the accessories of beardless angels and
cloud-encumbered cherubs are really beautiful amid a surge of limbs in
restless movement. More dignified, because designed with more repose,
is the Apocalypse of S. John painted upon the cupola of S. Giovanni.
The apostles throned on clouds, with which the dome is filled, gaze
upward to one point. Their attitudes are noble; their form is heroic;
in their eyes there is the strange ecstatic look by which Correggio
interpreted his sense of supernatural vision: it is a gaze not of
contemplation or deep thought, but of wild half-savage joy, as if
these saints also had become the elemental genii of cloud and air,
spirits emergent from ether, the salamanders of an empyrean
intolerable to mortal sense. The point on which their eyes converge,
the culmination of their vision, is the figure of Christ. Here all the
weakness of Correggio's method is revealed. He had undertaken to
realise by no ideal allegorical suggestion, by no symbolism of
architectural grouping, but by actual prosaic measurement, by
corporeal form in subjection to the laws of perspective and
foreshortening, things which in their very essence admit of only a
figurative revelation. Therefore his Christ, the centre of all those
earnest eyes, is contracted to a shape in which humanity itself is
mean, a sprawling figure which irresistibly reminds one of a frog. The
clouds on which the saints repose are opaque and solid; cherubs in
countless multitudes, a swarm of merry children, crawl about upon
these feather-beds of vapour, creep between the legs of the apostles,
and play at bopeep behind their shoulders. There is no propriety in
their appearance there. They take no interest in the beatific vision.
They play no part in the celestial symphony; nor are they capable of
more than merely infantine enjoyment. Correggio has sprinkled them
lavishly like living flowers about his cloudland, because he could not
sustain a grave and solemn strain of music, but was forced by his
temperament to overlay the melody with roulades. Gazing at these
frescoes, the thought came to me that Correggio was like a man
listening to sweetest flute-playing, and translating phrase after
phrase as they passed through his fancy into laughing faces, breezy
tresses, and rolling mists. Sometimes a grander cadence reached his
ear; and then S. Peter with the keys, or S. Augustine of the mighty
brow, or the inspired eyes of S. John, took form beneath his pencil.
But the light airs returned, and rose and lily faces bloomed again for
him among the clouds. It is not therefore in dignity or sublimity that
Correggio excels, but in artless grace and melodious tenderness. The
Madonna della Scala clasping her baby with a caress which the little
child returns, S. Catherine leaning in a rapture of ecstatic love to
wed the infant Christ, S. Sebastian in the bloom of almost boyish
beauty, are the so-called sacred subjects to which the painter was
adequate, and which he has treated with the voluptuous tenderness we
find in his pictures of Leda and Danae and Io. Could these saints and
martyrs descend from Correggio's canvas, and take flesh, and breathe,
and begin to live; of what high action, of what grave passion, of what
exemplary conduct in any walk of life would they be capable? That is
the question which they irresistibly suggest; and we are forced to
answer, None! The moral and religious world did not exist for
Correggio. His art was but a way of seeing carnal beauty in a dream
that had no true relation to reality.

Correggio's sensibility to light and colour was exactly on a par with
his feeling for form. He belongs to the poets of chiaroscuro and the
poets of colouring; but in both regions he maintains the individuality
so strongly expressed in his choice of purely sensuous beauty.
Tintoretto makes use of light and shade for investing his great
compositions with dramatic intensity. Rembrandt interprets sombre and
fantastic moods of the mind by golden gloom and silvery irradiation,
translating thought into the language of penumbral mystery. Lionardo
studies the laws of light scientifically, so that the proper roundness
and effect of distance should be accurately rendered, and all the
subtleties of nature's smiles be mimicked. Correggio is content with
fixing on his canvas the [Greek: anêrithmon gelasma], the
many-twinkling laughter of light in motion, rained down through fleecy
clouds or trembling foliage, melting into half-shadows, bathing and
illuminating every object with a soft caress. There are no tragic
contrasts of splendour sharply defined on blackness, no mysteries of
half-felt and pervasive twilight, no studied accuracies of noonday
clearness in his work. Light and shadow are woven together on his
figures like an impalpable Coan gauze, aërial and transparent,
enhancing the palpitations of voluptuous movement which he loved. His
colouring, in like manner, has none of the superb and mundane pomp
which the Venetians affected; it does not glow or burn or beat the
fire of gems into our brain; joyous and wanton, it seems to be exactly
such a beauty-bloom as sense requires for its satiety. There is
nothing in his hues to provoke deep passion or to stimulate the
yearnings of the soul: the pure blushes of the dawn and the crimson
pyres of sunset are nowhere in the world that he has painted. But that
chord of jocund colour which may fitly be married to the smiles of
light, the blues which are found in laughing eyes, the pinks that
tinge the cheeks of early youth, and the warm yet silvery tones of
healthy flesh, mingle as in a marvellous pearl-shell on his pictures.
Both chiaroscuro and colouring have this supreme purpose in art, to
effect the sense like music, and like music to create a mood in the
soul of the spectator. Now the mood which Correggio stimulates is one
of natural and thoughtless pleasure. To feel his influence, and at the
same moment to be the subject of strong passion, or fierce lust, or
heroic resolve, or profound contemplation, or pensive melancholy, is
impossible. Wantonness, innocent because unconscious of sin, immoral
because incapable of any serious purpose, is the quality which
prevails in all that he has painted. The pantomimes of a Mohammedan
paradise might be put upon the stage after patterns supplied by this
least spiritual of painters.

It follows from this analysis that the Correggiosity of Correggio,
that which sharply distinguished him from all previous artists, was
the faculty of painting a purely voluptuous dream of beautiful beings
in perpetual movement, beneath the laughter of morning light, in a
world of never-failing April hues. When he attempts to depart from the
fairyland of which he was the Prospero, and to match himself with the
masters of sublime thought or earnest passion, he proves his weakness.
But within his own magic circle he reigns supreme, no other artist
having blended the witcheries of colouring, chiaroscuro,and faunlike
loveliness of form into a harmony so perfect in its sensuous charm.
Bewitched by the strains of the siren, we pardon affectations of
expression, emptiness of meaning, feebleness of composition,
exaggerated and melodramatic attitudes. There is what Goethe called a
demonic influence in the art of Correggio: 'In poetry,' said Goethe to
Eckermann, 'especially in that which is unconscious, before which
reason and understanding fall short, and which therefore produces
effects so far surpassing all conception, there is always something
demonic.' It is not to be wondered that Correggio, possessed of this
demonic power in the highest degree, and working to a purely sensuous
end, should have exercised a fatal influence over art. His successors,
attracted by an intoxicating loveliness which they could not analyse,
which had nothing in common with the reason or the understanding, but
was like a glamour cast upon the soul in its most secret
sensibilities, threw themselves blindly into the imitation of
Correggio's faults. His affectation, his want of earnest thought, his
neglect of composition, his sensuous realism, his all-pervading
sweetness, his infantine prettiness, his substitution of
thaumaturgical effects for conscientious labour, admitted only too
easy imitation, and were but too congenial with the spirit of the late
Renaissance. Cupolas through the length and breadth of Italy began to
be covered with clouds and simpering cherubs in the convulsions of
artificial ecstasy. The attenuated elegance of Parmigiano, the
attitudinising of Anselmi's saints and angels, and a general sacrifice
of what is solid and enduring to sentimental gewgaws on the part of
all painters who had submitted to the magic of Correggio, proved how
easy it was to go astray with the great master. Meanwhile no one could
approach him in that which was truly his own--the delineation of a
transient moment in the life of sensuous beauty, the painting of a
smile on Nature's face, when light and colour tremble in harmony with
the movement of joyous living creatures. Another demonic nature of a
far more powerful type contributed his share to the ruin of art in
Italy. Michelangelo's constrained attitudes and muscular anatomy were
imitated by painters and sculptors, who thought that the grand style
lay in the presentation of theatrical athletes, but who could not
seize the secret whereby the great master made even the bodies of men
and women--colossal trunks and writhen limbs--interpret the meanings
of his deep and melancholy soul.

It is a sad law of progress in art, that when the æsthetic impulse is
on the wane, artists should perforce select to follow the weakness
rather than the vigour, of their predecessors. While painting was in
the ascendant, Raphael could take the best of Perugino and discard the
worst; in its decadence Parmigiano reproduces the affectations of
Correggio, and Bernini carries the exaggerations of Michelangelo to
absurdity. All arts describe a parabola. The force which produces
them causes them to rise throughout their growth up to a certain
point, and then to descend more gradually in a long and slanting line
of regular declension. There is no real break of continuity. The end
is the result of simple exhaustion. Thus the last of our Elizabethan
dramatists, Shirley and Crowne and Killigrew, pushed to its ultimate
conclusion the principle inherent in Marlowe, not attempting to break
new ground, nor imitating the excellences so much as the defects of
their forerunners. Thus too the Pointed style of architecture in
England gave birth first to what is called the Decorated, next to the
Perpendicular, and finally expired in the Tudor. Each step was a step
of progress--at first for the better--at last for the worse--but
logical, continuous, necessitated.[11]

It is difficult to leave Correggio without at least posing the
question of the difference between moralised and merely sensual art.
Is all art excellent in itself and good in its effect that is
beautiful and earnest? There is no doubt that Correggio's work is in a
way most beautiful; and it bears unmistakable signs of the master
having given himself with single-hearted devotion to the expression of
that phase of loveliness which he could apprehend. In so far we must
admit that his art is both excellent and solid. Yet we are unable to
conceive that any human being could be made better--stronger for
endurance, more fitted for the uses of the world, more sensitive to
what is noble in nature--by its contemplation. At the best Correggio
does but please us in our lighter moments, and we are apt to feel that
the pleasure he has given is of an enervating kind. To expect obvious
morality of any artist is confessedly absurd. It is not the artist's
province to preach, or even to teach, except by remote suggestion. Yet
the mind of the artist may be highly moralised, and then he takes rank
not merely with the ministers to refined pleasure, but also with the
educators of the world. He may, for example, be penetrated with a just
sense of humanity like Shakspere, or with a sublime temperance like
Sophocles, instinct with prophetic intuition like Michelangelo, or
with passionate experience like Beethoven. The mere sight of the work
of Pheidias is like breathing pure health-giving air. Milton and Dante
were steeped in religious patriotism; Goethe was pervaded with
philosophy, and Balzac with scientific curiosity. Ariosto, Cervantes,
and even Boccaccio are masters in the mysteries of common life. In all
these cases the tone of the artist's mind is felt throughout his work:
what he paints, or sings, or writes, conveys a lesson while it
pleases. On the other hand, depravity in an artist or a poet
percolates through work which has in it nothing positive of evil, and
a very miasma of poisonous influence may rise from the apparently
innocuous creations of a tainted soul. Now Correggio is moralised in
neither way--neither as a good nor as a bad man, neither as an acute
thinker nor as a deliberate voluptuary. He is simply sensuous. On his
own ground he is even very fresh and healthy: his delineation of
youthful maternity, for example, is as true as it is beautiful; and
his sympathy with the gleefulness of children is devoid of
affectation. We have then only to ask ourselves whether the defect in
him of all thought and feeling which is not at once capable of
graceful fleshly incarnation, be sufficient to lower him in the scale
of artists. This question must of course be answered according to our
definition of the purposes of art. There is no doubt that the most
highly organised art--that which absorbs the most numerous human
qualities and effects a harmony between the most complex elements--is
the noblest. Therefore the artist who combines moral elevation and
power of thought with a due appreciation of sensual beauty, is more
elevated and more beneficial than one whose domain is simply that of
carnal loveliness. Correggio, if this be so, must take a comparatively
low rank. Just as we welcome the beautiful athlete for the radiant
life that is in him, but bow before the personality of Sophocles,
whose perfect form enshrined a noble and highly educated soul, so we
gratefully accept Correggio for his grace, while we approach the
consummate art of Michelangelo with reverent awe. It is necessary in
æsthetics as elsewhere to recognise a hierarchy of excellence, the
grades of which are determined by the greater or less
comprehensiveness of the artist's nature expressed in his work. At the
same time, the calibre of the artist's genius must be estimated; for
eminent greatness even of a narrow kind will always command our
admiration: and the amount of his originality has also to be taken
into account. What is unique has, for that reason alone, a claim on
our consideration. Judged in this way, Correggio deserves a place,
say, in the sweet planet Venus, above the moon and above Mercury,
among the artists who have not advanced beyond the contemplations
which find their proper outcome in love. Yet, even thus, he aids the
culture of humanity. 'We should take care,' said Goethe, apropos of
Byron, to Eckermann, 'not to be always looking for culture in the
decidedly pure and moral. Everything that is great promotes
cultivation as soon as we are aware of it.'

       *       *       *       *       *



_CANOSSA_


Italy is less the land of what is venerable in antiquity, than of
beauty, by divine right young eternally in spite of age. This is due
partly to her history and art and literature, partly to the temper of
the races who have made her what she is, and partly to her natural
advantages. Her oldest architectural remains, the temples of Paestum
and Girgenti, or the gates of Perugia and Volterra, are so adapted to
Italian landscape and so graceful in their massive strength, that we
forget the centuries which have passed over them. We leap as by a
single bound from the times of Roman greatness to the new birth of
humanity in the fourteenth century, forgetting the many years during
which Italy, like the rest of Europe, was buried in what our ancestors
called Gothic barbarism. The illumination cast upon the classic period
by the literature of Rome and by the memory of her great men is so
vivid, that we feel the days of the Republic and the Empire to be near
us; while the Italian Renaissance is so truly a revival of that former
splendour, a resumption of the music interrupted for a season, that it
is extremely difficult to form any conception of the five long
centuries which elapsed between the Lombard invasion in 568 and the
accession of Hildebrand to the Pontificate in 1073. So true is it that
nothing lives and has reality for us but what is spiritual,
intellectual, self-possessed in personality and consciousness. When
the Egyptian priest said to Solon, 'You Greeks are always children,'
he intended a gentle sarcasm, but he implied a compliment; for the
quality of imperishable youth belonged to the Hellenic spirit, and has
become the heritage of every race which partook of it. And this spirit
in no common degree has been shared by the Italians of the earlier and
the later classic epoch. The land is full of monuments pertaining to
those two brilliant periods; and whenever the voice of poet has spoken
or the hand of artist has been at work, that spirit, as distinguished
from the spirit of mediaevalism, has found expression.

Yet it must be remembered that during the five centuries above
mentioned Italy was given over to Lombards, Franks, and Germans.
Feudal institutions, alien to the social and political ideals of the
classic world, took a tolerably firm hold on the country. The Latin
element remained silent, passive, in abeyance, undergoing an important
transformation. It was in the course of those five hundred years that
the Italians as a modern people, separable from their Roman ancestors,
were formed. At the close of this obscure passage in Italian history,
their communes, the foundation of Italy's future independence, and the
source of her peculiar national development, appeared in all the
vigour and audacity of youth. At its close the Italian genius
presented Europe with its greatest triumph of constructive ability,
the Papacy. At its close again the series of supreme artistic
achievements, starting with the architecture of churches and public
palaces, passing on to sculpture and painting, and culminating in
music, which only ended with the temporary extinction of national
vitality in the seventeenth century, was simultaneously begun in all
the provinces of the peninsula.

So important were these five centuries of incubation for Italy, and so
little is there left of them to arrest the attention of the student,
dazzled as he is by the ever-living glories of Greece, Rome, and the
Renaissance, that a visit to the ruins of Canossa is almost a duty.
There, in spite of himself, by the very isolation and forlorn
abandonment of what was once so formidable a seat of feudal despotism
and ecclesiastical tyranny, he is forced to confront the obscure but
mighty spirit of the middle ages. There, if anywhere, the men of those
iron-hearted times anterior to the Crusades will acquire distinctness
for his imagination, when he recalls the three main actors in the
drama enacted on the summit of Canossa's rock in the bitter winter of
1077.

Canossa lies almost due south of Reggio d'Emilia, upon the slopes of
the Apennines. Starting from Reggio, the carriage-road keeps to the
plain for some while in a westerly direction, and then bends away
towards the mountains. As we approach their spurs, the ground begins
to rise. The rich Lombard tilth of maize and vine gives place to
English-looking hedgerows, lined with oaks, and studded with handsome
dark tufts of green hellebore. The hills descend in melancholy
earth-heaps on the plain, crowned here and there with ruined castles.
Four of these mediaeval strongholds, called Bianello, Montevetro,
Monteluzzo, and Montezano, give the name of Quattro Castelli to the
commune. The most important of them, Bianello, which, next to Canossa,
was the strongest fortress possessed by the Countess Matilda and her
ancestors, still presents a considerable mass of masonry, roofed and
habitable. The group formed a kind of advance-guard for Canossa
against attack from Lombardy. After passing Quattro Castelli we enter
the hills, climbing gently upwards between barren slopes of ashy grey
earth--the _débris_ of most ancient Apennines--crested at favourable
points with lonely towers. In truth the whole country bristles with
ruined forts, making it clear that during the middle ages Canossa was
but the centre of a great military system, the core and kernel of a
fortified position which covered an area to be measured by scores of
square miles, reaching far into the mountains, and buttressed on the
plain. As yet, however, after nearly two hours' driving, Canossa has
not come in sight. At last a turn in the road discloses an opening in
the valley of the Enza to the left: up this lateral gorge we see first
the Castle of Rossena on its knoll of solid red rock, flaming in the
sunlight; and then, further withdrawn, detached from all surrounding
objects, and reared aloft as though to sweep the sea of waved and
broken hills around it, a sharp horn of hard white stone. That is
Canossa--the _alba Canossa_, the _candida petra_ of its rhyming
chronicler. There is no mistaking the commanding value of its
situation. At the same time the brilliant whiteness of Canossa's
rocky hill, contrasted with the red gleam of Rossena, and outlined
against the prevailing dulness of these earthy Apennines, secures a
picturesque individuality concordant with its unique history and
unrivalled strength.

There is still a journey of two hours before the castle can be
reached: and this may be performed on foot or horseback. The path
winds upward over broken ground; following the _arête_ of curiously
jumbled and thwarted hill-slopes; passing beneath the battlements of
Rossena, whence the unfortunate Everelina threw herself in order to
escape the savage love of her lord and jailor; and then skirting those
horrid earthen _balze_ which are so common and so unattractive a
feature of Apennine scenery. The most hideous _balze_ to be found in
the length and breadth of Italy are probably those of Volterra, from
which the citizens themselves recoil with a kind of terror, and which
lure melancholy men by intolerable fascination on to suicide. For ever
crumbling, altering with frost and rain, discharging gloomy glaciers
of slow-crawling mud, and scarring the hillside with tracts of
barrenness, these earth-precipices are among the most ruinous and
discomfortable failures of nature. They have not even so much of
wildness or grandeur as forms, the saving merit of nearly all wasteful
things in the world, and can only be classed with the desolate
_ghiare_ of Italian river-beds.

Such as they are, these _balze_ form an appropriate preface to the
gloomy and repellent isolation of Canossa. The rock towers from a
narrow platform to the height of rather more than 160 feet from its
base. The top is fairly level, forming an irregular triangle, of which
the greatest length is about 260 feet, and the width about 100 feet.
Scarcely a vestige of any building can be traced either upon the
platform or the summit, with the exception of a broken wall and
windows supposed to belong to the end of the sixteenth century. The
ancient castle, with its triple circuit of walls, enclosing barracks
for the garrison, lodgings for the lord and his retainers, a stately
church, a sumptuous monastery, storehouses, stables, workshops, and
all the various buildings of a fortified stronghold, have utterly
disappeared. The very passage of approach cannot be ascertained; for
it is doubtful whether the present irregular path that scales the
western face of the rock be really the remains of some old staircase,
corresponding to that by which Mont S. Michel in Normandy is ascended.
One thing is tolerably certain--that the three walls of which we hear
so much from the chroniclers, and which played so picturesque a part
in the drama of Henry IV.'s penance, surrounded the cliff at its base,
and embraced a large acreage of ground. The citadel itself must have
been but the acropolis or keep of an extensive fortress.

There has been plenty of time since the year 1255, when the people of
Reggio sacked and destroyed Canossa, for Nature to resume her
undisputed sway by obliterating the handiwork of men; and at present
Nature forms the chief charm of Canossa. Lying one afternoon of May on
the crisp short grass at the edge of a precipice purple with iris in
full blossom, I surveyed, from what were once the battlements of
Matilda's castle, a prospect than which there is none more
spirit-stirring by reason of its beauty and its manifold associations
in Europe. The lower castle-crowded hills have sunk. Reggio lies at
our feet, shut in between the crests of Monte Carboniano and Monte
delle Celle. Beyond Reggio stretches Lombardy--the fairest and most
memorable battlefield of nations, the richest and most highly
cultivated garden of civilised industry. Nearly all the Lombard cities
may be seen, some of them faint like bluish films of vapour, some
clear with dome and spire. There is Modena and her Ghirlandina. Carpi,
Parma, Mirandola, Verona, Mantua, lie well defined and russet on the
flat green map; and there flashes a bend of lordly Po; and there the
Euganeans rise like islands, telling us where Padua and Ferrara nestle
in the amethystine haze Beyond and above all to the northward sweep
the Alps, tossing their silvery crests up into the cloudless sky from
the violet mist that girds their flanks and drowns their basements.
Monte Adamello and the Ortler, the cleft of the Brenner, and the sharp
peaks of the Venetian Alps are all distinctly visible. An eagle flying
straight from our eyrie might traverse Lombardy and light among the
snow-fields of the Valtelline between sunrise and sundown. Nor is the
prospect tame to southward. Here the Apennines roll, billow above
billow, in majestic desolation, soaring to snow summits in the
Pellegrino region. As our eye attempts to thread that labyrinth of
hill and vale, we tell ourselves that those roads wind to Tuscany, and
yonder stretches Garfagnana, where Ariosto lived and mused in
honourable exile from the world he loved.

It was by one of the mountain passes that lead from Lucca northward
that the first founder of Canossa is said to have travelled early in
the tenth century. Sigifredo, if the tradition may be trusted, was
very wealthy; and with his money he bought lands and signorial rights
at Reggio, bequeathing to his children, when he died about 945, a
patrimony which they developed into a petty kingdom. Azzo, his second
son, fortified Canossa, and made it his principal place of residence.
When Lothair, King of Italy, died in 950, leaving his beautiful widow
to the ill-treatment of his successor, Berenger, Adelaide found a
protector in this Azzo. She had been imprisoned on the Lake of Garda;
but managing to escape in man's clothes to Mantua, she thence sent
news of her misfortunes to Canossa. Azzo lost no time in riding with
his knights to her relief, and brought her back in safety to his
mountain fastness. It is related that Azzo was afterwards instrumental
in calling Otho into Italy and procuring his marriage with Adelaide,
in consequence of which events Italy became a fief of the Empire.
Owing to the part he played at this time, the Lord of Canossa was
recognised as one of the most powerful vassals of the German Emperor
in Lombardy. Honours were heaped upon him; and he grew so rich and
formidable that Berenger, the titular King of Italy, laid siege to his
fortress of Canossa. The memory of this siege, which lasted for three
years and a half, is said still to linger in the popular traditions of
the place. When Azzo died at the end of the tenth century, he left to
his son Tedaldo the title of Count of Reggio and Modena; and this
title was soon after raised to that of Marquis. The Marches governed
as Vicar of the Empire by Tedaldo included Reggio, Modena, Ferrara,
Brescia, and probably Mantua. They stretched, in fact, across the
north of Italy, forming a quadrilateral between the Alps and
Apennines. Like his father, Tedaldo adhered consistently to the
Imperial party; and when he died and was buried at Canossa, he in his
turn bequeathed to his son Bonifazio a power and jurisdiction
increased by his own abilities. Bonifazio held the state of a
sovereign at Canossa, adding the duchy of Tuscany to his father's
fiefs, and meeting the allied forces of the Lombard barons in the
field of Coviolo like an independent potentate. His power and
splendour were great enough to rouse the jealousy of the Emperor; but
Henry III. seems to have thought it more prudent to propitiate this
proud vassal, and to secure his kindness, than to attempt his
humiliation. Bonifazio married Beatrice, daughter of Frederick, Duke
of Lorraine--her whose marble sarcophagus in the Campo Santo at Pisa
is said to have inspired Niccola Pisano with his new style of
sculpture. Their only child, Matilda, was born, probably at Lucca, in
1046; and six years after her birth, Bonifazio, who had swayed his
subjects like an iron-handed tyrant, was murdered. To the great House
of Canossa, the rulers of one-third of Italy, there now remained only
two women, Bonifazio's widow Beatrice, and his daughter Matilda.
Beatrice married Godfrey, Duke of Lorraine, who was recognised by
Henry IV. as her husband and as feudatory of the Empire in the full
place of Boniface. He died about 1070; and in this year Matilda was
married by proxy to his son, Godfrey the Hunchback, whom, however,
she did not see till the year 1072. The marriage was not a happy one;
and the question has even been disputed among Matilda's biographers
whether it was ever consummated. At any rate it did not last long; for
Godfrey was killed at Antwerp in 1076. In this year Matilda also lost
her mother, Beatrice, who died at Pisa, and was buried in the
cathedral.

By this rapid enumeration of events it will be seen how the power and
honours of the House of Canossa, including Tuscany, Spoleto, and the
fairest portions of Lombardy, had devolved upon a single woman of the
age of thirty at the moment when the fierce quarrel between Pope and
Emperor began in the year 1076. Matilda was destined to play a great,
a striking, and a tragic part in the opening drama of Italian history.
Her decided character and uncompromising course of action have won for
her the name of 'la gran donna d'Italia,' and have caused her memory
to be blessed or execrated, according as the temporal pretensions and
spiritual tyranny of the Papacy may have found supporters or opponents
in posterity. She was reared from childhood in habits of austerity and
unquestioning piety. Submission to the Church became for her not
merely a rule of conduct, but a passionate enthusiasm. She identified
herself with the cause of four successive Popes, protected her idol,
the terrible and iron-hearted Hildebrand, in the time of his
adversity; remained faithful to his principles after his death; and
having served the Holy See with all her force and all that she
possessed through all her lifetime, she bequeathed her vast dominions
to it on her deathbed. Like some of the greatest mediaeval
characters--like Hildebrand himself--Matilda was so thoroughly of one
piece, that she towers above the mists of ages with the massive
grandeur of an incarnated idea. She is for us the living statue of a
single thought, an undivided impulse, the more than woman born to
represent her age. Nor was it without reason that Dante symbolised in
her the love of Holy Church; though students of the 'Purgatory' will
hardly recognise the lovely maiden, singing and plucking flowers
beside the stream of Lethe, in the stern and warlike chatelaine of
Canossa. Unfortunately we know but little of Matilda's personal
appearance. Her health was not strong; and it is said to have been
weakened, especially in her last illness, by ascetic observances. Yet
she headed her own troops, armed with sword and cuirass, avoiding
neither peril nor fatigue in the quarrels of her master Gregory. Up to
the year 1622 two strong suits of mail were preserved at Quattro
Castelli, which were said to have been worn by her in battle, and
which were afterwards sold on the market-place at Reggio. This habit
of donning armour does not, however, prove that Matilda was
exceptionally vigorous; for in those savage times she could hardly
have played the part of heroine without participating personally in
the dangers of warfare.

No less monumental in the plastic unity of his character was the monk
Hildebrand, who for twenty years before his elevation to the Papacy
had been the maker of Popes and the creator of the policy of Rome.
When he was himself elected in the year 1073, and had assumed the name
of Gregory VII., he immediately began to put in practice the plans for
Church aggrandisement he had slowly matured during the previous
quarter of a century. To free the Church from its subservience to the
Empire, to assert the Pope's right to ratify the election of the
Emperor and to exercise the right of jurisdiction over him, to place
ecclesiastical appointments in the sole power of the Roman See, and to
render the celibacy of the clergy obligatory, were the points he had
resolved to carry. Taken singly and together, these chief aims of
Hildebrand's policy had but one object--the magnification of the
Church at the expense both of the people and of secular authorities,
and the further separation of the Church from the ties and sympathies
of common life that bound it to humanity. To accuse Hildebrand of
personal ambition would be but shallow criticism, though it is clear
that his inflexible and puissant nature found a savage selfish
pleasure in trampling upon power and humbling pride at warfare with
his own. Yet his was in no sense an egotistic purpose like that which
moved the Popes of the Renaissance to dismember Italy for their
bastards. Hildebrand, like Matilda, was himself the creature of a
great idea. These two potent personalities completely understood each
other, and worked towards a single end. Tho mythopoeic fancy might
conceive of them as the male and female manifestations of one dominant
faculty, the spirit of ecclesiastical dominion incarnate in a man and
woman of almost super-human mould.

Opposed to them, as the third actor in the drama of Canossa, was a man
of feebler mould. Henry IV., King of Italy, but not yet crowned
Emperor, had none of his opponents' unity of purpose or monumental
dignity of character. At war with his German feudatories, browbeaten
by rebellious sons, unfaithful and cruel to his wife, vacillating in
the measures he adopted to meet his divers difficulties, at one time
tormented by his conscience into cowardly submission, and at another
treasonably neglectful of the most solemn obligations, Henry was no
match for the stern wills against which he was destined to break in
unavailing passion. Early disagreements with Gregory had culminated in
his excommunication. The German nobles abandoned his cause; and Henry
found it expedient to summon a council in Augsburg for the settlement
of matters in dispute between the Empire and the Papacy. Gregory
expressed his willingness to attend this council, and set forth from
Rome accompanied by the Countess Matilda in December 1076. He did not,
however, travel further than Vercelli, for news here reached him that
Henry was about to enter Italy at the head of a powerful army. Matilda
hereupon persuaded the Holy Father to place himself in safety among
her strongholds of Canossa. Thither accordingly Gregory retired before
the ending of that year; and bitter were the sarcasms uttered by the
imperial partisans in Italy upon this protection offered by a fair
countess to the monk who had been made a Pope. The foul calumnies of
that bygone age would be unworthy of even so much as this notice, if
we did not trace in them the ineradicable Italian tendency to cynical
insinuation--a tendency which has involved the history of the
Renaissance Popes in an almost impenetrable mist of lies and
exaggerations. Henry was in truth upon his road to Italy, but with a
very different attendance from that which Gregory expected.
Accompanied by Bertha, his wife, and his boy son Conrad, the Emperor
elect left Spires in the condition of a fugitive, crossed Burgundy,
spent Christmas at Besançon, and journeyed to the foot of Mont Cenis.
It is said that he was followed by a single male servant of mean
birth; and if the tale of his adventures during the passage of the
Alps can be credited, history presents fewer spectacles more
picturesque than the straits to which this representative of the
Cæsars, this supreme chief of feudal civility, this ruler destined
still to be the leader of mighty armies and the father of a line of
monarchs, was exposed. Concealing his real name and state, he induced
some shepherds to lead him and his escort through the thick snows to
the summit of Mont Cenis; and by the help of these men the imperial
party were afterwards let down the snow-slopes on the further side by
means of ropes. Bertha and her women were sewn up in hides and dragged
across the frozen surface of the winter drifts. It was a year
memorable for its severity. Heavy snow had fallen in October, which
continued ice-bound and unyielding till the following April.

No sooner had Henry reached Turin, than he set forward again in the
direction of Canossa. The fame of his arrival had preceded him, and
he found that his party was far stronger in Italy than he had ventured
to expect. Proximity to the Church of Rome divests its fulminations of
half their terrors. The Italian bishops and barons, less superstitious
than the Germans, and with greater reason to resent the domineering
graspingness of Gregory, were ready to espouse the Emperor's cause.
Henry gathered a formidable force as he marched onward across
Lombardy; and some of the most illustrious prelates and nobles of the
South were in his suite. A more determined leader than Henry proved
himself to be, might possibly have forced Gregory to some
accommodation, in spite of the strength of Canossa and the Pope's
invincible obstinacy, by proper use of these supporters. Meanwhile the
adherents of the Church were mustered in Matilda's fortress; among
whom may be mentioned Azzo, the progenitor of Este and Brunswick;
Hugh, Abbot of Clugny; and the princely family of Piedmont. 'I am
become a second Rome,' exclaims Canossa, in the language of Matilda's
rhyming chronicler; 'all honours are mine; I hold at once both Pope
and King, the princes of Italy and those of Gaul, those of Rome, and
those from far beyond the Alps.' The stage was ready; the audience had
assembled; and now the three great actors were about to meet.
Immediately upon his arrival at Canossa, Henry sent for his cousin,
the Countess Matilda, and besought her to intercede for him with
Gregory. He was prepared to make any concessions or to undergo any
humiliations, if only the ban of excommunication might be removed;
nor, cowed as he was by his own superstitious conscience, and by the
memory of the opposition he had met with from his German vassals, does
he seem to have once thought of meeting force with force, and of
returning to his northern kingdom triumphant in the overthrow of
Gregory's pride. Matilda undertook to plead his cause before the
Pontiff. But Gregory was not to be moved so soon to mercy. 'If Henry
has in truth repented,' he replied, 'let him lay down crown and
sceptre, and declare himself unworthy of the name of king.' The only
point conceded to the suppliant was that he should be admitted in the
garb of a penitent within the precincts of the castle. Leaving his
retinue outside the walls, Henry entered the first series of outworks,
and was thence conducted to the second, so that between him and the
citadel itself there still remained the third of the surrounding
bastions. Here he was bidden to wait the Pope's pleasure; and here, in
the midst of that bitter winter weather, while the fierce winds of the
Apennines were sweeping sleet upon him in their passage from Monte
Pellegrino to the plain, he knelt barefoot, clothed in sackcloth,
fasting from dawn till eve, for three whole days. On the morning of
the fourth day, judging that Gregory was inexorable, and that his suit
would not be granted, Henry retired to the Chapel of S. Nicholas,
which stood within this second precinct. There he called to his aid
the Abbot of Clugny and the Countess, both of whom were his relations,
and who, much as they might sympathise with Gregory, could hardly be
supposed to look with satisfaction on their royal kinsman's outrage.
The Abbot told Henry that nothing in the world could move the Pope;
but Matilda, when in turn he fell before her knees and wept, engaged
to do for him the utmost. She probably knew that the moment for
unbending had arrived, and that her imperious guest could not with
either decency or prudence prolong the outrage offered to the civil
chief of Christendom. It was the 25th of January when the Emperor
elect was brought, half dead with cold and misery, into the Pope's
presence. There he prostrated himself in the dust, crying aloud for
pardon. It is said that Gregory first placed his foot upon Henry's
neck, uttering these words of Scripture: 'Super aspidem et basiliscum
ambulabis, et conculcabis leonem et draconem,' and that then he raised
him from the earth and formally pronounced his pardon. The prelates
and nobles who took part in this scene were compelled to guarantee
with their own oaths the vows of obedience pronounced by Henry; so
that in the very act of reconciliation a new insult was offered to
him. After this Gregory said mass, and permitted Henry to communicate;
and at the close of the day a banquet was served, at which the King
sat down to meat with the Pope and the Countess.

It is probable that, while Henry's penance was performed in the castle
courts beneath the rock, his reception by the Pope, and all that
subsequently happened, took place in the citadel itself. But of this
we have no positive information. Indeed the silence of the chronicles
as to the topography of Canossa is peculiarly unfortunate for lovers
of the picturesque in historic detail, now that there is no
possibility of tracing the outlines of the ancient building. Had the
author of the 'Vita Mathildis' (Muratori, vol. v.) foreseen that his
beloved Canossa would one day be nothing but a mass of native rock, he
would undoubtedly have been more explicit on these points; and much
that is vague about an event only paralleled by our Henry II.'s
penance before Becket's shrine at Canterbury, might now be clear.

Very little remains to be told about Canossa. During the same year,
1077, Matilda made the celebrated donation of her fiefs to Holy
Church. This was accepted by Gregory in the name of S. Peter, and it
was confirmed by a second deed during the pontificate of Urban IV. in
1102. Though Matilda subsequently married Guelfo d'Este, son of the
Duke of Bavaria, she was speedily divorced from him; nor was there any
heir to a marriage ridiculous by reason of disparity of age, the
bridegroom being but eighteen, while the bride was forty-three in the
year of her second nuptials. During one of Henry's descents into
Italy, he made an unsuccessful attack upon Canossa, assailing it at
the head of a considerable force one October morning in 1092.
Matilda's biographer informs us that the mists of autumn veiled his
beloved fortress from the eyes of the beleaguerers. They had not even
the satisfaction of beholding the unvanquished citadel; and, what was
more, the banner of the Emperor was seized and dedicated as a trophy
in the Church of S. Apollonio. In the following year the Countess
opened her gates of Canossa to an illustrious fugitive, Adelaide, the
wife of her old foeman, Henry, who had escaped with difficulty from
the insults and the cruelty of her husband. After Henry's death, his
son, the Emperor Henry V., paid Matilda a visit in her castle of
Bianello, addressed her by the name of mother, and conferred upon her
the vice-regency of Liguria. At the age of sixty-nine she died, in
1115, at Bondeno de' Roncori, and was buried, not among her kinsmen at
Canossa, but in an abbey of S. Benedict near Mantua. With her expired
the main line of the noble house she represented; though Canossa, now
made a fief of the Empire in spite of Matilda's donation, was given to
a family which claimed descent from Bonifazio's brother Conrad--a
young man killed in the battle of Coviolo. This family, in its turn,
was extinguished in the year 1570; but a junior branch still exists at
Verona. It will be remembered that Michelangelo Buonarroti claimed
kinship with the Count of Canossa; and a letter from the Count is
extant acknowledging the validity of his pretension.

As far back as 1255 the people of Reggio destroyed the castle; nor did
the nobles of Canossa distinguish themselves in subsequent history
among those families who based their despotisms on the _débris_ of the
Imperial power in Lombardy. It seemed destined that Canossa and all
belonging to it should remain as a mere name and memory of the
outgrown middle ages. Estensi, Carraresi, Visconti, Bentivogli, and
Gonzaghi belong to a later period of Lombard history, and mark the
dawn of the Renaissance.

As I lay and mused that afternoon of May upon the short grass, cropped
by two grey goats, whom a little boy was tending, it occurred to me to
ask the woman who had served me as guide, whether any legend remained
in the country concerning the Countess Matilda. She had often,
probably, been asked this question by other travellers. Therefore she
was more than usually ready with an answer, which, as far as I could
understand her dialect, was this. Matilda was a great and potent
witch, whose summons the devil was bound to obey. One day she aspired,
alone of all her sex, to say mass; but when the moment came for
sacring the elements, a thunderbolt fell from the clear sky, and
reduced her to ashes.[12] That the most single-hearted handmaid of the
Holy Church, whose life was one long devotion to its ordinances,
should survive in this grotesque myth, might serve to point a satire
upon the vanity of earthly fame. The legend in its very extravagance
is a fanciful distortion of the truth.

       *       *       *       *       *



_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 grey-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 splendour 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 frescoes, its hangings all
in rags, its cobwebs of two centuries, its dust and mildew and
discoloured 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 6, 1495, for the onset, sounded the
_réveil_ 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 grey 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 mousetrap 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 8 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 25, Innocent VIII. died, and was succeeded
by the very worst Pope who has ever occupied S. 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 honourable prison. Virtual master in Milan, but
without a legal title to the throne, unrecognised 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 an usurper to maintain himself in his despotism which,
as we shall see, brought the French into Italy.

Venice, the neighbour 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 favour 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
equalisation of the burghers, and in the formation of a new
aristocracy of wealth. Prom 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 terrorise 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
secularised 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 favourites 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
Italianised 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 statecraft. 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 favour 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.[13]

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
civilisation. 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 700,000 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 vigour in the republics and the noxious tyranny
of the despots, analysing 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
this 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 granddaughter, 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 5, 1495, took up his quarters in the village of Fornovo. De
Comines reckons that his whole fighting force at this time did not
exceed 9,000 men, with fourteen pieces of artillery. Against him at
the opening of the valley was the army of the League, numbering some
35,000 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 toward 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 sharpshooters 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 350 men-at-arms,
3000 Switzers, 300 archers of the Guard, a few mounted crossbow-men,
and the artillery. Next came the Battle, and after this the rearguard.
At the time when the Marquis of Mantua made his attack, the French
rearguard 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 favoured 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 S. 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