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Title: Legends of Florence - Collected from the People, First Series
Author: Leland, Charles Godfrey, 1824-1903
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1895 David Nutt edition by David Price, email

                           Legends of Florence
                        Collected from the People

                              _And Re-told_
                         _Charles Godfrey Leland_
                            (_Hans Breitmann_)

                                * * * * *

                               First Series

                                * * * * *

                          _LONDON_: _DAVID NUTT_
                             270–71 _STRAND_

                  _Printed by_ BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                        _At the Ballantyne Press_


This book consists almost entirely of legends or traditions of a varied
character, referring to places and buildings in Florence, such as the
Cathedral and Campanile, the Signoria, the Bargello, the different city
gates, ancient towers and bridges, palaces, crosses, and fountains, noted
corners, odd by-ways, and many churches.  To all of these there are
tales, or at least anecdotes attached, which will be found as
entertaining to the general reader as they will be interesting, not to
say valuable, to the folklorist and the student of social history; but
here I must leave the work to speak for itself.

I originally intended that this should be entirely a collection of relics
of ancient mythology, with superstitions and sorceries, witchcraft and
incantations, or what may be called occult folk-lore, of which my work on
“Etruscan-Roman Remains in Popular Tradition” consists, and of which I
have enough additional material to make a large volume.  But having
resolved to add to it local legends, and give them the preference, I
found that the latter so abounded, and were so easily collected by an
expert, that I was obliged to cast out my occult folk-lore, piece by
piece, if I ever hoped to get into the port of publication, according to
terms with the underwriters, following the principle laid down by the
illustrious Poggio, that in a storm the heaviest things must go overboard
first, he illustrating the idea with the story of the Florentine, who,
having heard this from the captain when at sea in a tempest, at once
threw his wife into the raging billows—_perche non haveva cosa più grave
di lei_—because there was nought on earth which weighed on him so

There are several very excellent and pleasant works on Old Florence, such
as that portion devoted to it in the “Cities of Central Italy,” by A. J.
C. Hare; the “Walks about Florence,” by the Sisters Horner; “Florentine
Life,” by Scaife; and the more recent and admirable book by Leader Scott,
which are all—I say it advisedly—indispensable for those who would really
know something about a place which is unusually opulent in ancient,
adventurous, or artistic associations.  My book is, however, _entirely_
different from these, and all which are exclusively taken from authentic
records and books.  My tales are, with a few exceptions, derived directly
or indirectly from the people themselves—having been recorded in the
local dialect—the exceptions being a few anecdotes racy of the soil,
taken from antique jest-books and such bygone halfpenny literature as
belonged to the multitude, and had its origin among them.  These I could
not, indeed, well omit, as they every one refer to some peculiar place in
Florence.  To these I must add several which remained obscurely in my
memory, but which I did not record at the time of hearing or reading, not
having then the intention of publishing such a book.

It has been well observed by Wordsworth that minor local legends sink
more deeply into the soul than greater histories, as is proved by the
fact that romantic folk-lore spreads far and wide over the world,
completely distancing in the race the records of mighty men and their
deeds.  The magic of Washington Irving has cast over the Catskills and
the Hudson, by means of such tales, an indescribable fascination, even as
Scott made of all Scotland a fairyland; for it is indisputable that a
strange story, or one of wild or quaint adventure, or even of humour,
goes further to fix a place in our memory than anything else can do.
Therefore I have great hope that these fairy-tales of Florence, and
strange fables of its fountains, palaces, and public places—as they are
truly gathered from old wives, and bear in themselves unmistakable
evidences of antiquity—will be of real use in impressing on many memories
much which is worth retaining, and which would otherwise have been

The manner in which these stories were collected was as follows:—In the
year 1886 I made the acquaintance in Florence of a woman who was not only
skilled in fortune-telling, but who inherited as a family gift from
generations, skill in witchcraft—that is, a knowledge of mystical cures,
the relieving people who were bewitched, the making amulets, and who had
withal a memory stocked with a literally incredible number of tales and
names of spirits, with the invocations to them, and strange rites and
charms.  She was a native of the Romagna Toscana, where there still lurks
in the recesses of the mountains much antique Etrusco-Roman heathenism,
though it is disappearing very rapidly.  Maddalena—such was her name—soon
began to communicate to me all her lore.  She could read and write, but
beyond this never gave the least indication of having opened a book of
any kind; albeit she had an immense library of folk-lore in her brain.
When she could not recall a tale or incantation, she would go about among
her extensive number of friends, and being perfectly familiar with every
dialect, whether Neapolitan, Bolognese, Florentine, or Venetian, and the
ways and manners of the poor, and especially of witches, who are the
great repositories of legends, became in time wonderfully well skilled as
a collector.  Now, as the proverb says, “Take a thief to catch a thief,”
so I found that to take a witch to catch witches, or detect their
secrets, was an infallible means to acquire the arcana of sorcery.  It
was in this manner that I gathered a great part of the lore given in my
“Etruscan-Roman Remains.”  I however collected enough, in all conscience,
from other sources, and verified it all sufficiently from classic
writers, to fully test the honesty of my authorities.

The witches in Italy form a class who are the repositories of all the
folk-lore; but, what is not at all generally known, they also keep as
strict secrets an _immense_ number of legends of their own, which have
nothing in common with the nursery or popular tales, such as are commonly
collected and published.  The real witch-story is very often only a
frame, so to speak, the real picture within it being the _arcanum_ of a
long _scongiurazione_ or incantation, and what ingredients were used to
work the charm.  I have given numbers of these real witch-tales in my
“Etruscan-Roman Remains,” and a few, such as “Orpheus and Eurydice,”
“Intialo,” and “Il Moschone,” in this work.

Lady Vere de Vere, who has investigated witchcraft as it exists in the
Italian Tyrol, in an admirable article in _La Rivista_ of Rome (June
1894)—which article has the only demerit of being too brief—tells us that
“the Community of Italian Witches is regulated by laws, traditions, and
customs of the most secret kind, possessing special recipes for sorcery,”
which is perfectly true.  Having been free of the community for years, I
can speak from experience.  The more occult and singular of their secrets
are naturally not of a nature to be published, any more than are those of
the Voodoos.  Some of the milder sort may be found in the story of the
“Moscone, or Great Fly,” in this work.  The great secret for scholars is,
however, that these pagans and heretics, who are the last who cling to a
heathen creed out-worn in Europe—these outcast children of the Cainites,
Ultra-Taborites, and similar ancient worshippers of the devil, are really
the ones who possess the most valuable stores of folk-lore, that is to
say, such as illustrate the first origins of the religious Idea, its
development, and specially the evolution of the Opposition or Protestant

As regards the many legends in this book which do not illustrate such
serious research, it is but natural that witches, who love and live in
the Curious, should have preserved more even of them than other people,
and it was accordingly among her colleagues of the mystic spell that
Maddalena found tales which would have been long sought for elsewhere, of
which this book is a most convincing proof in itself; for while I had
resolved on second thought to make it one of simple local tales, there
still hangs over most—even of these—a dim, unholy air of sorcery, a witch
_aura_, a lurid light, a something eerie and uncanny, a restless
hankering for the broom and the supernatural.  Those tales are
Maddalena’s every line—I pray thee, reader, not to make them mine.  The
spirit will always speak.

Very different, indeed, from these are the contributions of Marietta
Pery, the _improvvisatrice_, though even she in good faith, and not for
fun, had a horseshoe for luck; which, however, being of an artistic turn,
she had elegantly gilded, and also, like a true Italian, wore an amulet.
She, too, knew many fairy tales, but they were chiefly such as may be
found among the _Racconti delle Fate_, and the variants which are now so
liberally published.  She had, however, a rare, I may almost say a
refined, taste in these, as the poems which I have given indicate.

I must also express my obligations to Miss Roma Lister, a lady born in
Italy of English parentage, who is an accomplished folk-lorist and
collector, as was shown by her paper on the _Legends of the Castelli
Romani_, read at the first meeting of the Italian Folk-Lore Society,
founded by Count Angelo de Gubernatis, the learned and accomplished
Oriental scholar, and editor of _La Rivista_.  I would here say that her
researches in the vicinity of Rome have gone far to corroborate what I
published in the “Etruscan-Roman Remains.”  I must also thank Miss Teresa
Wyndham for sundry kind assistances, when I was ill in Siena.

There is no city in the world where, within such narrow limit, Art,
Nature, and History have done so much to make a place beautiful and
interesting as Florence.  It is one where we feel that there has been
vivid and varied _life_—life such as was led by Benvenuto Cellini and a
thousand like him—and we long more than elsewhere to enter into it, and
know how those men in quaint and picturesque garb thought and felt four
hundred years ago.  Now, as at the present day politics and news do not
enter into our habits of thought more than goblins, spirits of fountains
and bridges, legends of palaces and towers, and quaint jests of friar or
squire, did into those of the olden time, I cannot help believing that
this book will be not only entertaining, but useful to all who would
study the spirit of history thoroughly.  The folk-lore of the future has
a far higher mission than has as yet been dreamed for it; it is destined
to revive for us the inner sentiment or habitual and peculiar life of man
as he was in the olden time more perfectly than it has been achieved by
fiction.  This will be done by bringing before the reader the facts or
_phenomena_ of that life itself in more vivid and familiar form.
Admitting this, the reader can hardly fail to see that the writer who
gathers up with pains whatever he can collect of such materials as this
book contains does at least some slight service to Science.

And to conclude—with the thing to which I would specially call
attention—I distinctly state that (as will be very evident to the
critical reader) there are in this book, especially in the second series,
which I hope to bring out later, certain tales, or anecdotes, or jests,
which are either based on a very slight foundation of tradition—often a
mere hint—or have been so “written up” by a runaway pen—and mine is an
“awful bolter”—that the second-rate folk-lorist, whose forte consists not
in finding facts but faults, may say in truth, as one of his kind did in
America: “Mr. Leland is throughout inaccurate.”  In these numerous
instances, which are only “folk-lore” run wild, as Rip Van Winkle, Sleepy
Hollow, and Heine’s Gods in Exile are legend, I have, I hope, preserved a
certain _spirit_ of truth, though I have _sans mercy_ sacrificed the
letter, even as the redcap goblins, which haunt old houses, are said to
be the ghosts of infants sacrificed by witches, or slain by their
mothers, in order to make _folletti_ or imps of them.

Now as for this reconstructing Hercules from a foot, instead of giving
the fragment, at which few would have glanced, the success consists in
the skill attained, and the approbation of the reader.  And with this
frank admission, that in a certain number of these tales the utmost
liberty has been taken, I conclude.

                                                   CHARLES GODFREY LELAND.

FLORENCE, _April_ 6, 1894.


THE THREE HORNS OF MESSER GUICCIARDINI                               1
THE PILLS OF THE MEDICI                                              6
THE LANTERNS OF THE STROZZI PALACE                                  17
THE GOBLIN OF LA VIA DEL CORNO                                      21
THE LEGEND OF THE CROCE AL TREBBIO                                  31
THE TWO FAIRIES OF THE WELL                                         36
THE STORY OF THE VIA DELLE SERVE SMARRITE                           41
THE BRONZE BOAR OF THE MERCATO NUOVO                                47
THE GHOST OF MICHEL ANGELO                                          59
THE APPARITION OF DANTE                                             62
LEGENDS OF LA CERTOSA                                               66
LEGENDS OF THE BRIDGES IN FLORENCE                                  74
THE BASHFUL LOVER                                                   85
LA FORTUNA                                                          87
THE STORY OF THE UNFINISHED PALACE                                  91
THE DEVIL OF THE MERCATO VECCHIO                                    98
SEEING THAT ALL WAS RIGHT                                          107
THE ENCHANTED COW OF LA VIA VACCHERECCIA                           109
THE WITCH OF THE PORTA ALLA CROCE                                  114
LEGENDS OF OR’ SAN MICHELE                                         122
THE WITCH OF THE ARNO                                              132
STORIES OF SAN MINIATO                                             141
BIANCONE, THE GIANT STATUE IN THE SIGNORIA                         152
THE RED GOBLIN OF THE BARGELLO                                     160
LEGENDS OF SAN LORENZO                                             167
LEGENDS OF THE PIAZZA SAN BIAGIO                                   174
THE SPIRIT OF THE PORTA SAN GALLO                                  176
HOW LA VIA DELLA MOSCA GOT ITS NAME                                188
THE ROMAN VASE                                                     194
THE UNFORTUNATE PRIEST                                             201
THE MYSTERIOUS FIG-TREE                                            205
IL PALAZZO FERONI                                                  211
LA VIA DELLE BELLE DONNE                                           219
THE WIZARD WITH RED TEETH                                          221
ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE                                               225
INTIALO: THE SPIRIT OF THE HAUNTING SHADOW                         237
CAIN AND HIS WORSHIPPERS                                           254


    “More plenty than the fabled horn
    Thrice emptied could pour forth at banqueting.”

                            —KEATS, _The Earlier Version of_ “_Hyperion_.”

    “Prosperity is often our worst enemy, making us vicious, frivolous,
    and insolent, so that to bear it well is a better test of a man than
    to endure adversity.”—GICCIARDINI, _Maxims_, No. 64.

I did not know when I first read and translated the following story,
which was obtained for me and written out by Maddalena, that it had any
reference to the celebrated historian and moralist, Guicciardini.  How I
did so forms the subject of a somewhat singular little incident, which I
will subsequently relate.

                              LE TRE CORNE.

“There was an elderly man, a very good, kind-hearted, wise person, who
was gentle and gay with every one, and much beloved by his servants,
because they always found him _buono ed allegro_—pleasant and jolly.  And
often when with them while they were at their work, he would say,
‘_Felice voi poveri_!’—‘Oh, how lucky you are to be poor!’  And they
would reply to him, singing in the old Tuscan fashion, because they knew
it pleased him:

    “‘O caro Signor, you have gold in store,
       With all to divert yourself;
    Your bees make honey, you’ve plenty of money,
       And victuals upon the shelf:
    A palace you have, and rich attire,
    And everything to your heart’s desire.’

“Then he would reply merrily:

    “‘My dear good folk, because you are poor
    You are my friends, and all the more,
    For the poor are polite to all they see,
    And therefore blessed be Poverty!’

“Then a second servant sang:

    “‘Oh bello gentile mio Signor’,
    Your praise of poverty ’d soon be o’er
    If you yourself for a time were poor;
    For nothing to eat, and water to drink,
    Isn’t so nice as you seem to think,
    And a lord who lives in luxury
    Don’t know the pressure of poverty.’

“Then all would laugh, and the jolly old lord would sing in his turn:

    “‘O charo servitor’,
       Tu parli tanto bene,
    Ma il tuo parlar
       A me non mi conviene.’ . . .

    “‘My boy, you answer well,
    But with false implication;
    For what to me you tell
    Has no true application;
    How oft I heard you say
    (You know ’tis true, you sinner!)
    “I am half-starved to-day,
    How I’ll enjoy my dinner!”
    Your hunger gives you health
    And causes great delight,
    While I with all my wealth
    Have not an appetite.’

“Then another servant sang, laughing:

    “‘Dear master, proverbs say,
       I have heard them from my birth,
    That of all frightful beasts
       Which walk upon the earth,
    Until we reach the bier,
       Wherever man may be,
    There’s nothing which we fear
       So much as poverty.’

“And so one evening as they were merrily improvising and throwing
_stornelli_ at one another in this fashion, the Signore went to his
street-door, and there beheld three ladies of stately form; for though
they were veiled and dressed in the plainest black long robes, it was
evident that they were of high rank.  Therefore the old lord saluted them
courteously, and seeing that they were strangers, asked them whither they
were going.  But he had first of all had them politely escorted by his
servants into his best reception-room. {3a}

“And the one who appeared to be the chief replied:

“‘Truly we know not where we shall lodge, for in all Florence there is, I
trow, not a soul who, knowing who we are would receive us.’

“‘And who art thou, lady?’ asked the Signore.  And she replied:

    “‘Io mi chiamo, e sono,
    La Poverta in persona,
    E queste due donzelle,
    Sono le mie sorelle,
    Chi voi non conoscete
    La Fame e la Sete!’

    “‘I am one whom all throw curse on.
    I am Poverty in person;
    Of these ladies here, the younger
    Is my sister, known as Hunger,
    And the third, who’s not the worst,
    Is dreaded still by all as Thirst.’

“‘Blessed be the hour in which ye entered my house!’ cried the Signore,
delighted.  ‘Make yourselves at home, rest and be at ease as long as you
like—_sempre sarei benglieto_.’

“‘And why are you so well disposed towards me?’ inquired Poverty.

“‘Because, lady, I am, I trust, sufficiently wise with years and
experience to know that everything must not be judged from the surface.
Great and good art thou, since but for thee the devil a beggar in the
world would ever move a finger to do the least work, and we should all be
in mouldy green misery.  Well hath it been said that ‘Need makes the old
woman trot,’ {3b} and likewise that _Poverta non guasta
gentilezza_—‘Poverty doth not degrade true nobility,’ as I can perceive
by thy manner, O noble lady.  Thou, Poverty, art the mother of Industry,
and grandmother of Wealth, Health, and Art; thou makest all men work; but
for thee there would be no harvests, yea, all the fine things in the
world are due to Want.’

“‘And I?’ said Dame Hunger.  ‘Dost thou also love me?’

“‘_Si_, _Dio ti benedicha_!’ replied the Signore.  ‘_La fame ghastiga il
ghiotto_’—‘Hunger corrects gluttony.

    “‘Hunger causes our delight,
    For it gives us appetite;
    For dainties without hunger sent
    Form a double punishment.’

‘Hunger is the best sauce.’  Thou makest men bold, for _chane affamato
non prezza bastone_—a hungry dog fears no stick.  Thou makest the
happiness of every feast.’

“‘_Ed io_, _Signore_?’ said Thirst.  ‘Hast thou also a good word for me?’

“‘_A Dio_, _grazie_!  God be praised that thou art.  For without thee I
should have no wine.  Nor do men speak in pity of any one when they say
in a wine-shop, “He is thirsty enough to drink up the Arno.”  I remember
a Venetian who once said, coming to a feast, “I would not take five gold
_zecchini_ for this thirst which I now have.”  And to sum it all up, I
find that poverty with want to urge it is better than wealth without
power to enjoy, and, taking one with another, the poor are honester and
have better hearts than the rich.’

“‘Truly thou art great,’ replied Poverty.  ‘_Gentile_, _buono_, _e
galantuomo a parlare_—gentle, good, and noble in thy speech.  In such
wise thou wilt ever be rich, for as thou art rich thou art good and
charitable.  And thou hast well said that Plenty comes from us, and it is
we who truly own the horn of plenty; and therefore take from me this horn
as a gift, and while thou livest be as rich as thou art good and wise!’

“‘And I,’ said Hunger, ‘give thee another, and while it is thine thou
shalt never want either a good appetite nor the means to gratify it.  For
thou hast seen the truth that I was not created to starve men to death,
but to keep them from starving.’

“‘And I,’ said Thirst, ‘give thee a third horn of plenty; that is, plenty
of wine and temperate desire—_e buon pro vi faccia_.  Much good may it do

“Saying this they vanished, and he would have thought it all a dream but
for the three horns which they left behind them.  So he had a long life
and a happy, and in gratitude to his benefactresses he placed on his
shield three horns, as men may see them to this day.”

                                * * * * *

When I received this legend, I did not know that the three horns on a
shield form the coat of arms of Messer Guicciardini, the historian, nor
had I ever seen them.  It happened by pure chance I went one day with my
wife and Miss Roma Lister, who is devoted to folk-lore, to make my first
visit to Sir John Edgar at his home, the celebrated old mediæval palazzo,
the Villa Guicciardini, Via Montugli.

On the way we passed the Church of the Annunciata, and while driving by I
remarked that there were on its wall, among many shields, several which
had on them a _single_ hunting-horn, but that I had never seen three
together, but had heard of such a device, and was very anxious to find
it, and learn to what family it belonged.

What was my astonishment, on arriving at the villa or palazzo, at
beholding on the wall in the court a large shield bearing the three
horns.  Sir John Edgar informed me that it was the shield of the
Guicciardini family, who at one time inhabited the mansion.  I related to
him the story, and he said, “I should think that tale had been invented
by some one who knew Guicciardini, the author, very well, for it is
perfectly inspired with the spirit of his writings.  It depicts the man
himself as I have conceived him.”

Then we went into the library, where my host showed me Fenton’s
translation of the “History” of Guicciardini and his “Maxims” in Italian,
remarking that the one which I have placed as motto to this chapter was
in fact an epitome of the whole legend.

I should observe, what did not before occur to me, that the family palace
of the Guicciardini is in the Via Guicciardini, nearly opposite to the
house of Machiavelli, and that it is there that the fairies probably
called, if it was in the winter-time.


    “When I upon a time was somewhat ill,
    Then every man did press on me a cure;
    And when my wife departed, all of them
    Came crowding round, commending me a spouse;
    But now my ass is dead, not one of them
    Has offered me another—devil a one!”—_Spanish Jests_.

    “_Tu vai cercando il mal_, _come fanno i Medici_”—“Thou goest about
    seeking evil, even as the Medici do, and of thee and of them it may
    be said, _Anagyram commoves_.”—_Italian Proverbs_, A.D. 1618.

The higher a tree grows, the more do petty animals burrow into its roots,
and displace the dirt to show how it grew in lowly earth; and so it is
with great families, who never want for such investigators, as appears by
the following tale, which refers to the origin of the Medicis, yet which
is withal rather merry than malicious.

                    D’UNO MEDICO CHE CURAVA GLI ASINI.

“It was long ago—so long, Signore Carlo, that the oldest olive-tree in
Tuscany had not been planted, and when wolves sometimes came across the
Ponte Vecchio into the town to look into the shop-windows, and ghosts and
witches were as common by night as Christians by day, that there was a
man in Florence who hated work, and who had observed, early as the age
was, that those who laboured the least were the best paid.  And he was
always repeating to himself:

    “‘Con arte e con inganno,
    Si vive mezzo l’anno,
    Con inganno, e con arte,
    Si vive l’altra parte.’

“Or in English:

    “‘With tricks and cleverness, ’tis clear,
    A man can live six months i’ the year,
    And then with cleverness and tricks
    He’ll live as well the other six.’

“Now having come across a recipe for making pills which were guaranteed
to cure everything, he resolved to set up for an universal doctor, and
that with nothing but the pills to aid.  So he went forth from Florence,
wandering from one village to another, selling his pills, curing some
people, and getting, as often happens, fame far beyond his deserts, so
that the peasants began to believe he could remedy all earthly ills.

“And at last one day a stupid contadino, who had lost his ass, went to
the doctor and asked him whether by his art and learning he could recover
for him the missing animal.  Whereupon the doctor gave him six pills at a
_quattrino_ (a farthing) each, and bade him wander forth thinking
intently all the time on the delinquent donkey, and, to perfect the
spell, to walk in all the devious ways and little travelled tracks,
solitary by-paths, and lonely _sentieri_, ever repeating solemnly,
‘_Asino mio_! _asino mio_!  _Tu che amo come un zio_!’

    “‘Oh my ass! my ass! my ass!
    Whom I loved like an uncle,
          Alas! alas!’

“And having done this for three days, it came to pass, and no great
wonder either, that he found Signore Somaro (or Don Key) comfortably
feasting in a dark lane on thistles.  After which he praised to the skies
the virtue of the wonderful pills, by means of which one could find
strayed cattle.  And from this dated the doctor’s success, so that he
grew rich and founded the family of the Medici, who, in commemoration of
this their great ancestor, put the six pills into their shield, as you
may see all over Florence to this day.”

                                * * * * *

There is given in the “Facezie” a story which may be intended as a jest
on this family.  It is as follows:

    “It happened once that a certain doctor or _medico_, who was by no
    means wanting in _temerita_ or bold self-conceit, was sent as
    ambassador to Giovanna la Superba, or Joanna the Proud, Queen of
    Naples.  And this Florentine Medico having heard many tales of the
    gallantries of the royal lady, thought he would try the chance, and
    thereby greatly please himself, and also the better advance his
    political aims.  Therefore, at the first interview, he told her that
    he was charged with a secret mission, which could only be confided to
    her ‘between four eyes,’ or in private.  So he was taken by her into
    a room, where he bluntly made a proposal of love. {8}

    “Then the Queen, not in the least discomposed, looking straight at
    him, asked if that was one of the questions or demands with which he
    had been charged by the Florentines.  At which he blushed like a beet
    and had no more to say, having learned that a bold beggar deserves a
    stern refusal.”

The name of the Medici naturally gave rise to many jests, and one of
these is narrated of Gonella, a famous _farceur_.  It is as follows:

    “One morning, at the table of the Grand Duke Lorenzo, there was a
    discussion as to the number and proportion of those who followed
    different trades and callings, one declaring that there were more
    clothmakers, another more priests than any others, till at last the
    host asked Gonella his opinion.

    “‘I am sure,’ said Gonella, ‘that there are more doctors than any
    other kind of people—_e non accade dubitarne_—and there is no use in
    doubting it.’

    “‘Little do you know about it,’ replied the Duke, ‘if you do not know
    that in all this city there are only two or three accredited

    “‘With how little knowledge,’ answered Gonella, ‘can a state be
    governed.  It seems, O Excellency, that you have so much to do that
    you do not know what is in your city, nor what the citizens do.’  And
    the result of the debate was a bet, and Gonella took every bet
    offered, his stakes being small and the others great—_A quattrino e
    quattrino si fa il fiorino_—Farthings to farthings one by one make a
    pound when all is done.

    “The next morning Gonella, having well wrapped up his throat and face
    in woollen stuff, stood, looking pitifully enough, at the door of the
    Duomo, and every one who passed asked him what was the matter, to
    which he replied, ‘All my teeth ache terribly.’  And everybody
    offered him an infallible remedy, which he noted down, and with it
    the name of him who gave it.  And then going about town, he made out
    during the day a list of three hundred prescribers, with as many

    “And last of all he went to the palace at the hour of supper, and the
    Grand Duke seeing him so wrapped up, asked the cause, and hearing
    that it was toothache, also prescribed a sovereign remedy, and
    Gonella put it with the name of the Duke at the head of the list.
    And going home, he had the whole fairly engrossed, and the next day,
    returning to the palace, was reminded of his bets.  Whereupon he
    produced the paper, and great was the laughter which it caused, since
    it appeared by it that all the first citizens and nobles of Florence
    were physicians, and that the Grand Duke himself was their first
    Medico.  So it was generally admitted that Gonella had won, and they
    paid him the money, with which he made merry for many days.”

This tale has been retold by many a writer, but by none better than by an
American feuilletoniste, who improved it by giving a number of the
prescriptions commended.  Truly it has been well said that at forty years
of age every man is either a fool or a physician.

I have another legend of the Medici, in which it is declared that their
armorial symbol is a key, and in which they are spoken of as wicked and
cruel.  It is as follows:

                                I MEDICI.

    “The Palazzo Medici is situated in the Borgo degli Albizzi, and this
    palace is called by the people _I Visacchi_ (_i.e._, figures or
    faces), because there are to be seen in it many figures of people who
    were when alive all witches and wizards, but who now live a life in
    death in stone.

    “The arms of the Medici bear a great key, and it is said that this
    was a sorcerer’s or magic key, which belonged to the master of all
    the wizards or to the queen of the witches.

    “And being ever evil at heart and cruelly wicked, the old Medici
    sought restlessly every opportunity to do wrong, which was greatly
    aided by the queen of the witches herself, who entered the family,
    and allied herself to one of it; others say she was its first
    ancestress.  And that being on her death-bed, she called her husband,
    or son, or the family, and said:

    “‘Take this key, and when I am dead, open a certain door in the
    cellar, which, through secret passages, leads to an enchanted garden,
    in which you will find all the books and apparatus needed to acquire
    great skill in sorcery, and thus thou canst do all the evil and enjoy
    all the crime that a great ruler can desire; spare not man in thy
    vengeance, nor woman in thy passion; he lives best who wishes for
    most and gets what he wants.’

    “Thus it came to pass that the Medici became such villains, and why
    they bear a key.”

Villains they may have been, but they were not so deficient in moral
dignity as a friend of mine, who, observing that one of the pills in
their scutcheon is blue, remarked that they were the first to take a blue

Since the above was written I have collected many more, and indeed far
more interesting and amusing legends of the Medici; especially several
referring to Lorenzo the Magnificent, which are not given by any writer
that I am aware of.  These will appear, I trust, in a second series.

    “A race which was the reflex of an age
    So strange, so flashed with glory, so bestarred
    With splendid deeds, so flushed with rainbow hues,
    That one forgot the dark abyss of night
    Which covered it at last when all was o’er.
    Take all that’s evil and unto it add
    All that is glorious, and the result
    Will be, in one brief word, the Medici.”


    “Est anus inferno, vel formidanda barathro,
    Saga diu magicis usa magisteriis,
    Hæc inhians ova gallina matre creatis.
    Obsipat assueto pharmaca mixta cibo,
    Pharmaca queis quæcunque semel gallina voratis,
    Ova decem pariat bis deciesque decem.”

                                     STEUCCIUS, _cited by_ P. GOLDSCHMIDT,
                   _Verworffener Hexen und Zauberadvocat_.  Hamburg, 1705.

    “E un figliuolo della gallina bianca.”—_Old Proverb_.

The Mercato Vecchio was fertile in local traditions, and one of these is
as follows:

                         LEGEND OF THE LANTERNS.

“There was in the Old Market of Florence an old house with a small shop
in it, and over the door was the figure or bas-relief of a pretty hen, to
show that eggs were sold there.

“All the neighbours were puzzled to know how the woman who kept this shop
could sell so many eggs as she did, or whence she obtained them, for she
was never seen in the market buying any, nor were they brought to her;
whence they concluded that she was a witch and an egg-maker, and this
scandal was especially spread by her rivals in business.  But others
found her a very good person, of kindly manner, and it was noted in time
that she not only did a great deal of good in charity, and that her eggs
were not only always fresh and warm, but that many persons who had drunk
them when ill had been at once relieved, and recovered in consequence.
And the name of this egg-wife was Furicchia.

“Now there was an old lady who had gone down in the world or become poor,
and she too had set up a shop to sell eggs, but did not succeed, chiefly
because everybody went to Furicchia.  And this made the former more
intent than ever to discover the secret, and she at once went to work to
find it out.

“Every morning early, when Furicchia rose, she went out of doors, and
then the hen carved over the door came down as a beautiful white fowl,
who told her all the slanders and gossip which people spread about her,
and what effort was being made to discover her secret.  And one day it

“‘There is the Signora who was once rich and who is now poor, and who has
sworn to find out thy secret how thou canst have so many eggs to sell,
since no one sees thee buy any, and how it comes that invalids and
bewitched children are at once cured by the virtue of those eggs.  So she
hopes to bring thee to death, and to get all thy trade.

“‘But, dear Furicchia, this shall never be, because I will save thee.  I
well remember how, when I was a little chicken, and the poultry dealer
had bought me, and was about to wring my neck—b’r’r’r!—I shudder when I
think of it!—when thou didst save my life, and I will ever be grateful to
thee, and care for thy fortune.

“‘Now I will tell thee what to do.  Thou shalt to-morrow take a pot and
fill it with good wine and certain drugs, and boil them well, and leave
it all hot in thy room, and then go forth, and for the rest I will
provide.  _Addio_, Furicchia!’  And saying this, the hen went back into
her accustomed place.

“So the next morning, Furicchia, having left the wine boiling, went forth
at ten o’clock, and she was hardly gone ere the Signora, her rival,
entered the place and called for the mistress, but got no answer.  Then
she went into the house, but saw nothing more than a vast quantity of
eggs, and all the while she heard the hen singing or clucking:

    “‘_Coccodé_!  Dear me!
    Where can Furicchia be?
    _Coccodé_!  Furicchia mine!
    Bring me quick some warm red wine!
    _Coccodé_!  Three eggs I have laid!
    _Coccodé_!  Now six for your trade.
    _Coccodé_!  Now there are nine,
    Bring me quickly the warm red wine!
    _Coccodé_!  Take them away;
    Many more for thee will I lay,
    And thou wilt be a lady grand,
    As fine as any in all the land;
    And should it happen that any one
    Drinks of this wine as I have done,
    Eggs like me she will surely lay;
    That is the secret, that is the way.
    _Coccodé_!  _Coccodé_!’

“Now the Signora heard all this, and knew not whence the song came, but
she found the pot of hot wine and drank it nearly all, but had not time
to finish it nor to escape before Furicchia returned.  And the latter
began to scold her visitor for taking such liberty, to which the Signora
replied, ‘Furicchia, I came in here to buy an egg, and being shivering
with cold, and seeing this hot wine, I drank it, meaning indeed to pay
for it.’  But Furicchia replied, ‘Get thee gone; thou hast only come here
to spy out my secret, and much good may it do thee!’

“The Signora went home, when she begun to feel great pain, and also, in
spite of herself, to cluck like a hen, to the amazement of everybody, and
then sang:

    “‘_Coccodé_!  Che mal di corpo!
    _Coccodé_!  Voglio fa l’uovo!
    E se l’uova non faro,
    Di dolore moriro.’

    “‘_Coccodé_!  What a pain in my leg!
    _Coccodé_!  I must lay an egg!
    And if my eggs I cannot lay,
    I shall surely die to-day.’

“Then she began to lay eggs indeed—_tante_, _tante_—till they nearly
filled all the room, and truly her friends were aghast at such a sight,
never having heard of such a thing before; but she replied, ‘Keep quiet;
it is a secret.  I have found out how Furicchia gets her eggs, and we
shall be as rich as she.’  And having laid her eggs, nothing would do but
she must needs hatch them, and all the time for many days she sat and
sat, clucking like a hen—_coccodé_! _coccodé_!—and pecking at crusts like
a hen, for she would not eat in any other way.  And so she sat and
shrivelled up until she became a hen indeed, and was never anything else,
and died one.  But when the eggs hatched, there came from them not
chicks, but mice, which ran away into the cellar, and so ends the story.”

                                * * * * *

This story greatly resembles one given by Peter Goldschmidt in “The
Witches’ and Sorcerers’ Advocate Overthrown,” published at Hamburg in
1705, and to the same as sung in Latin song by a certain Steuccius.  The
Italian tale is, however, far better told in every respect, the only
point in common being that a certain witch laid eggs by means of a
potion, which produced the same effect on a man.  It is the well-managed
play of curiosity, gratitude, and character which make Furicchia so
entertaining, and there is nothing in the heavy German tale like the
“Song of the Hen,” or _Coccodé_, which is a masterpiece of a juvenile
lyric.  The clucking and pecking at crusts of the old woman, as she
gradually passes into a hen, is well imagined, and also the finale of the
chickens turned to mice, who all run away.  One could make of it a play
for the nursery or the stage.

The Mercato Vecchio, in which the egg-wife dwelt, was a place of common
resort in the olden time, “when there was giving and taking of talk on
topics temporal:”

    “Where the good news fleetly flew,
    And the bad news ever true,
    Softly whispered, loudly told,
    Scalding hot or freezing cold.” {14}

This place is recalled by a story which is indeed to be found in the
facetiæ of the Florentine Poggio, yet which holds its own to this day in
popular tale-telling.  It is as follows:

    “It happened once when Florence was at war with the Duke of Milan,
    that a law was passed making it death for any one to speak in any way
    of peace.  Now there was a certain Bernardo Manetti, a man _di
    ingegno vivacissimo_, or an extremely ready wit, who being one day in
    the Mercato Vecchio to buy something or other (it being the custom of
    the Florentines of those times to go in person to purchase their
    daily food), was much annoyed by one of those begging friars who go
    about the roads, _alla questua_, collecting alms, and who stand at
    street-corners imploring charity.  And this brazen beggar, accosting
    Bernardo, said to him:

    “‘_Pax vobiscum_!  Peace be unto you!’

    “‘_A chi parlasti di pace_?—How darest thou speak to me of _peace_,
    thou traitor and enemy to Florence?’ cried Bernardo in well-assumed
    anger.  ‘Dost thou not know that by public decree thou may’st lose
    thy shaven head for mentioning the word?  And thou darest ask me for
    alms here in the open market-place, thou traitor to thy country and
    thy God!  _Apage_, _Satanas_—avaunt!—begone! lest I be seen talking
    to thee and taken for a conspirator myself!  _Pax_ indeed—pack off
    with you, ere I hand you over to the torturers!’

    “And so he rid himself of that importunate beggar.”

Apropos of the egg-wife, if chickens are apropos to eggs, there is a
merry tale of a certain priest, which will, I think, amuse the reader.
Like all good folk, the Florentines make fun of their neighbours, among
whom are of course included the people of Arezzo, and tell of them this

    “Long long ago, a certain Bishop Angelico convoked a Synod at Arezzo,
    summoning every priest in his diocese to be present; and knowing that
    many had slipped into very slovenly habits as regarded the sacerdotal
    uniform, made it a stern and strict order that every one should
    appear in _cappa e cotta_,’ {15} or in cloak and robe.

    “Now there was a priest who, though he kept a well-filled cellar, and
    a pretty servant-maid, and a fine poultry-yard, had none of these
    clerical vestments, and knew not where to borrow them for the
    occasion; so he was in great distress and _stavasi molto afflitto in
    casa sua_—sat in deep affliction in his home.  And his maid, who was
    a bright and clever girl, seeing him so cast down, asked him the
    cause of his grief, to which he replied that the Bishop had summoned
    him to appear at the Synod in _cappa e cotta_.

    “‘Oh, nonsense!’ replied the good girl.  ‘Is that all?  My dear
    master, you do not pronounce the words quite correctly, or else they
    have been badly reported to you.  It is not _cappa e cotta_ which the
    Bishop requires, for assuredly he has plenty of such clothes, but
    _capponi cotti_, ‘good roast capons,’ such as all bishops love, and
    which he knows he can get better from the country priests than from
    anybody.  And _grazie a Dio_! there is nobody in all Tuscany has
    better poultry than ours, and I will take good care that you give the
    Bishop of the very best.’

    “Now the priest being persuaded by the maid, really made his
    appearance at the Council bearing in a dish well covered with a
    napkin four of the finest roasted capons ever seen.  And with these
    he advanced _in pleno concilo_, in full assembly before the Bishop.
    The great man looked severely at the priest, and said:

    “‘Where are thy _cappa e cotta_?’

    “‘Excellenza, behold them!’ said the good man, uncovering the dish.
    ‘And though I say it, no better _capponi cotte_ can be had in all our

    “The Bishop and all round him gazed with breathless admiration on the
    fowls, so plump, so delicious, so exquisitely roasted, with lemons
    ranged round them.  It was just the hungry time of day, and, in
    short, the priest had made a blessed happy blunder, and one which was
    greatly admired.  There was general applause.

    “‘_Figlio mio_!’ said the Bishop with a smile, ‘take my blessing!
    Thou alone of all the ministers of our diocese didst rightly
    understand the spirit and meaning of an episcopal edict.’”


    “And what this man did was, as the proverb says, _mostrare altrui
    lucciole per laterne_—made him believe that fire-flies were
    lanterns—which means to deceive any one.”—_Italian Proverbs_.

As all visitors to Florence will have their attention called to the
Strozzi Palace, and its rings and lanterns, the following will probably
prove to them to be of interest:

    “The _campanelle_, or great iron rings, which are on the Strozzi
    Palace, were the result of rivalry with the Pitti family.

    “The Strozzi built their palace first, and then the Pitti said that
    it would only fill a corner of their own far greater building.  And
    when the latter was finished, the Strozzi, to be even with them,
    placed those magnificent _campanelle_ at the four corners, and then
    the great lanterns which are so exquisitely worked, and these were
    made by Niccolò il Grosso, a very ingenious but also very poor man,
    who, having begun the work, could not finish it for want of money.

    “One morning when this Niccolo was sitting on the stone bench of the
    palace, there came by an old man who was carrying some onions, and
    the artist begged a few of these to eat with his bread, telling him
    he had no money.  But the old man said, ‘Take them, and welcome, for
    a free gift, Niccolò.  Truly, it pains me to see an excellent artist
    like thee starving for want of proper patronage.  Now I will lend
    thee a round sum, which thou canst repay me when thou art in better

    “‘But tell me,’ inquired Niccolò, greatly amazed, ‘how dost thou know
    who I am?’

    “The old man replied, ‘I know thee, and that thou hast great genius
    (_una gran testa_), and I find thee utterly poor and unable to finish
    the Strozzi lanterns.

    “‘Now I wish to do thee a service.  Go, with these onions in thine
    hand, and stand there in the street till the Lords Strozzi go forth,
    and see thee with the vegetables, and then they will ask thee why
    thou dost not finish the lanterns.  And then thou shalt reply,
    “Signori, because I must sell onions, not being able otherwise to
    finish the lanterns, for truly all my art does not give me bread.”
    Then they will give thee money, and after that return to me.’

    “So it happened as the old man said: the Signori Strozzi, when they
    came forth, found Niccolò their artist selling onions, and gave him a
    good sum of money, and with that he went back to the old man.  And
    they gave him a great sum indeed, for he was to make the lanterns all
    of solid gold, so that the palace might be far finer than the Pitti.

    “The old man said, ‘Never mind paying me, but put an onion in your
    pocket and study it.’  And this he did, hence it comes that the tops
    of the lanterns are like onion sprouts.  And Niccolò seeing that he
    lived in a hard and cruel world, in order to be even with it, made
    the lanterns of iron, though the work which he put upon it was like
    jewellery, so fine was it, and then gilded the iron and passed the
    lanterns off on the Signori Strozzi for solid gold, and was soon
    heard of as being very far away from Florence, in company with the
    good old man who had put him up to the little game (_bel giuoco_).

    “But people say that after all the Strozzi were not so badly cheated,
    for those onion-top lanterns could not have been bought even in their
    time for their weight in gold, and that they are worth much more

It is needless to say that this ingenious tale owes its origin to the
iron lanterns having been at one time gilt.  These famous works of art
have been copied far and wide: had the Strozzi family taken out and
renewed the copyright for design on them, they might have found that the
gold was a very good investment, especially in these times, when a thing
of beauty brings in cash for ever.  One of the latest and prettiest
devices, to be seen in many shops, is a small iron night-lamp in
imitation of these Strozzi lanterns.

The im-moral, or at least the concluding sentence of the tale is, “_E
così Niccolò se ne fuggi a tasche piene_—And so Niccolò fled with his
pockets full of money.”  I spare the reader reflections on the history of
many bankers in Florence and Rome, who during the past two years followed
his example.

What is extremely interesting and original in this legend is the
declaration that Niccolò took the idea of the long and very singular
points on the lanterns from an onion.  It recalls the story of the
acanthus leaf and the basket which suggested the Ionic capital.  It was
understood by the narrator that the old man who gave “the tips” to
Niccolò was a wizard.

There was much more meaning attached to the lanterns and rings, such as
Niccolò made, than is generally known, as appears by the following

    “Among the striking features of the Florentine palaces are the
    handsome ornaments of bronze or wrought-iron which adorn the façades
    of many of them.  These were called _fanali_ or _lumière_, and were
    not, as one would naturally suppose, ornaments that a man might place
    on his house according to his individual taste, but they were the
    visible testimony of the public recognition of great deeds.  On
    festive occasions, these _fanali_ were provided with great pitch
    torches, whose crackling flames gave a merry aspect to the whole
    neighbourhood.  Amerigo Vespucci addressed the account of one of his
    voyages to the Gonfaloniere Piero Soderini, with whom he had formerly
    been on intimate terms, and the latter procured a decree of the
    Republic, in accordance with which _fanali_ were sent to the family
    palace of the Vespucci, and kept burning day and night for three

    “The most beautiful of all the Florentine _fanali_ . . . are those
    which adorn the corners of the famous Strozzi Palace.  They are of
    wrought-iron, and were made by a smith who enjoyed a local celebrity,
    not only on account of his masterly work, but also because he carried
    on his business on a strictly cash basis; nay, went further, and
    refused to work for any one who did not prepay, in part at least, for
    his order.  Thus he received the name of _Caparra_, or
    Earnest-money.”—_Florentine Life_, by W. B. Scaife, p. 58.

There is one thing in this legend which alone would seem to guarantee its
being an authentic or old tradition.  In it Niccolò appears as a man who
is eminently grasping, and who takes care to get his money in advance.
And he was in reality so noted for this, that, as Scaife declares, he
went further than dealing on a cash basis—and so got the nickname of
Caparra, or the Pledge—so well did he know the value of cash.  _Il martel
d’argento rompe le porte di ferro_, or—

    “A hammer of silver, as we see,
    Breaks the iron gates of poverty.”


    “Oh for one blast of that dread horn,
    On Fontarabian echoes borne,
    When Roland brave and Olivier,
    And every paladin and peer
       At Roncesvalles died.”—_Walter Scott_.

    “The Korrigan who ever wears a horn.”

The Via del Corno is a narrow street passing from the Via del Leone.  I
have found the following story in reference to the origin of its name,
which, if not authentic, is at least amusing and original:

                            LA VIA DEL CORNO.

“There was in what is now known as the Via del Corno an ancient palace,
which a long time ago was inhabited only by a certain gentleman and a
goblin. {21}

“Nor had he any servants, because of all who came, none remained more
than one day for fear of the _folletto_.  And as this spread far and
wide, people kept away from the Via del Corno after dark; but as this
also kept away thieves, and the goblin did all the house-work, the master
was all the better pleased.  Only on one point did the two differ, and
that was the point of morality.  Here the goblin was extremely strict,
and drew the line distinctly.  Several times, as was the custom in those
wicked days, the Signore attempted to introduce a lady-friend to the
palazzo, but the goblin all night long, when not busied in pulling the
sheets from the fair sinner, was industriously occupied in strewing
nettles or burrs under her, or tickling the soles of her feet with a pen;
and then anon, when, sinking to sleep, she hoped for some remission of
the tease, he would begin to play interminable airs on a horn.  It is
true that he played beautifully, like no earthly musician, but even
enchanting airs may be annoying when they prevent sleep.

“Nor did the lord fare the better, even when, inspired by higher motives,
he ‘would a-wooing go.’  For one lady or another had heard of the goblin,
and when they had not, it always happened that by some mysterious means
or other the match was broken off.

“Meantime the life led by the Signore was rather peculiar, as he slept
nearly all day, sallied forth for an hour or two to exercise, go to a
barber’s, make his small purchases, or hear the news, supped at a
_trattoria_, and then returning home, sat all night listening to the
goblin as he played divinely on the horn, or blew it himself, which he
did extremely well, toped and hob-nobbed with his familiar, who was a
great critic of wine, and, as the proverb says, ‘_Buon vino fiaba
lunga_—Good wine, long tales’—they told one another no end of merry and
marvellous stories; and as _il vin fa cantare_, it makes man sing, they
also sang duets, solos, and glees.  And when the weather was ill, or
chilly, or rainy, or too hot, they cured it with Chianti, according to a
medical prescription laid down in sundry rare old works:

    “Nebbia, nebbia, mattutina,
    Che ti levi la mattina?
    Questa tazza di buon vino,
    Fatta d’una marzamina,
    Contra te sia medecina!’

    “‘Cloudy sky i’ the morning early,
    What will make you vanish fairly?
    Ah! this goblet of good wine,
    Essence of the blessed vine,
    Shall be for thee a medicine!’

“Then they played chess, cards, cribbage, drole, écarté, Pope Joan, bo,
brag, casino, thirty-one, put, snip-snap-snorem, lift-em-up,
tear-the-rag, smoke, blind-hookey, bless-your-grand-mother, Polish-bank,
seven-up, beggar-my-neighbour, patience, old-maid, fright, baccarat,
_belle-en-chemise_, bang-up, howling-Moses, bluff, swindle-Dick,
go-it-rags, ombre or keep-dark, morelles, go-bang, goose, dominoes, loto,
_morra_ or push-pin.  And when extra hands were wanted they came, but all
that came were only fairy hands, short at the wrist, the goblin remarking
that it saved wine not to have mouths, _et cetera_.  Then they had long
and curious and exceedingly weighty debates as to the laws of the games
and fair play, not forgetting meanwhile to sample all the various wines
ever sung by Redi. {23}  So they got on, the Signore realising that one
near friend is worth a hundred distant relations.

“Now it befell one night that the goblin, having seen the Signore take
off a pint of good old strong Barolo very neatly and carefully, without
taking breath or winking, exclaimed with a long, deep sigh:

“‘Thou art a gallant fellow, a right true boon companion, and it grieves
me to the heart to think that thou art doomed to be drowned to-morrow.’

“‘Oh you be—doctored!’ replied the Signore.  ‘There isn’t water enough in
the Arno now to drown a duck, unless she held her head under in a
half-pint puddle.’

“The goblin went to the window, took a look at the stars, whistled and

“‘As I expected, it is written that you are to be drowned to-morrow,
unless you carry this horn of mine hung to your neck all day.

    “‘Quando ti trovi nel pericolo,
    Suona questo corno piccolo,
    E tu sarai salvato,
    Non sarai affogato!’

    “‘If thou find’st thyself forlorn,
    Blow aloud this little horn,
    And thou wilt be safe and sound,
    For with it thou’lt not be drowned.’

“Saying this, he solemnly handed the horn to the cavalier, drank off a
goblet of muscato, wiped his lips, bowed a ceremonious good-night, and,
as was his wont, vanished with dignity up the chimney.

“The gentleman was more troubled by this prediction than he liked to
admit.  I need not say that the next day he did not go near the Arno,
though it was as dry as a bone; nay, he kept out of a bath, and was
almost afraid to wash his face.

“At last he got the fancy that some enemies or villains would burst into
his lonely house, bind him hand and foot carry him far away, and drown
him in some lonely stream, or perhaps in the sea.  He remembered just
such a case.  We all remember just such cases when we don’t want to.
That was it, decidedly.

“Then he had a happy thought.  There was a little hiding-chamber,
centuries old, in the palazzo, known only to himself, with a concealed
door.  He would go and hide there.  He shouted for joy, and when he
entered the room, he leaped with a great bound from the threshold of the
door, down and over three or four steps, into the middle of the little

“Now he did not know that in the _cantina_ or cellar below this
hiding-place there was an immense _tino_, or vat, containing hundreds of
barrels of wine, such as are used to hold the rough wine ere it is drawn
off and ‘made;’ nor that the floor was extremely decayed, so that when he
came down on it with a bounce, it gave way, and he found himself in the
cellar over head and ears in wine.

“And, truly, for a minute he deemed that he was drowning in earnest.  And
the sides of the vat were so high that he could not climb out.  But while
swimming and struggling for life, he caught between his thumb and finger
at a nail in the side, and to this he held, crying as loud as he could
shout for aid.  But no one came, and he was just beginning to despair,
when he thought of the horn!

“It still hung from his neck, and pouring out the wine, he blew on it,
and there came forth such a tremendous, appalling, and unearthly blast as
he of himself could never have blown.  It rang far and wide all over
Florence, it was heard beyond Fiesole, it wakened the dead in old
Etrurian graves, for an instant, to think they had been called by Tinia
to meet the eleven gods; it caused all the _folletti_, _fate_, _diavoli_,
_strege_, and _maliardi_ to stop for an instant their deviltries or
delights.  For it was the Great Blast of the Horn of the Fairies, which
only plays second fiddle to the last trump. {24}

“And at that sound all Florence came running to see what was the matter.
The Grand Duke and his household came; the Council of the Eight burst
their bonds, and left the Palazzo Vecchio; everybody came, and they
fished out the Signore, and listened with awe to his tale.  The priests
said that the goblin was San Zenobio, the more liberal swore it was
Crescenzio, the people held to plain San Antonino.  The Signore became a
great man.

“‘My son,’ said the goblin to him in confidence the following evening,
‘as they sat over their wine,’ (here I follow the text of Maddalena),
‘this is our last night together.  Thou art saved, and I have fulfilled
my duty to thee.  Once I, too, was a man like thee, and in that life thou
didst save mine by rescuing me from assassins.  And I swore to watch over
thee in every peril, and bring thee to a happy end.’

    “‘Il momenta e arrivato;
    Addio, Via del Corno!
    Addio, palazzo, addio!
    Addio, padrone, nel altro mondo!’

    “‘The final hour has come for me;
    Street of the Horn, farewell to thee!
    Farewell, O palace, farewell, O street!
    My lord, in another world we’ll meet.’

“Then the goblin told the Signore that he would ere long contract a happy
marriage, and that it was for this that he had hitherto kept him from
forming alliances which would have prevented it; and that if in future he
should ever be in great need of assistance, to sound the horn, and he
would come to him, but that this must always be in the palace alone after
midnight.  And having said this he vanished.

“The Signore grieved for a long time at the loss of his goblin friend,
but he married happily, as had been predicted, and his life was long and
prosperous.  So he put the horn in his shield, and you may see it to this
day on the Church of Santa Maria Novella.  And so it was that the Via del
Corno got its name.”

                                * * * * *

“From which we may learn,” saith Flaxius, “that wherever a man is
appointed to be on a certain day, there will the man be found.  Therefore
do thou, O reader, so manage it that wherever thou art appointed to be,
thou canst _get well out of it_.  For even Fate smiles when it desires to
do so.”


    “_In illo tempore_—no—_in diebus illis_, che i frati sogliono
    percorrere il contado delle terre e delle città per far proviste alla
    barba degli scimuniti d’ogni genere pappatorio, vale dir di grano,
    formentone, legumi, mosto, cacio, olio, canape, lino, uova et
    cetera—un certo fra Zeffiro, se ne gira alla volta d’un villagio e
    tenevagli compagnia il suo ciucarello che carica gia a doppio
    sacchetto.”—_L’Asino e il suo Frate_, _Racconti Piacevoli_, 1864,

    “Und sie war gar sehr erstannet über die Adresse und List dieses
    Münchleins.”—_Lustige Thaten des Kloster-bruders Hannes von Lehnin_,
    A.D. 1589.

    “Monachus in claustro
    Non valet ova dua,
    Sed extra—bene valet triginta.”—_Rabelais_.

Among the monks of Santa Maria Novella in ancient days was one known as
Frate Giocondo, who was truly of the kind who are of little use at home,
or at any steady or reputable calling, but who was profitable enough when
scouring the country on the loose, blarneying and begging from the good
wives, giving counsel to the peasants, and profitable advice, while he
ate their chickens and drank their wine, chucking all the pretty girls
under their chins, or _sub silentio_, and making himself sociable,
edifying, amusing, or holy—according to circumstances.  Of whom it could
be truly said:

    “Monaco in convento
    Non vale niente,
    Ma fuori vale venti.”

    “Monk in monastery
    Is not worth a cherry;
    But abroad when sent, he
    Often is worth twenty.”

As a preaching friar of Saint Dominic, truly Brother Giocondo was not a
success, but as a beggar he beat all the Zoccoloni out of Rome, {27} and
that is saying a great deal.  For there never was a friar with such an
oiled and honeyed tongue, with which he could flatter and wheedle, tell
legends of the saints, witches, or goblins by the hour, give all the
gossip going; nor was he above selling his collections, or trading
donkeys, or taking a hand at a game of cards, or singing to a lute, or
even fiddling to a dance—so that, being a great, burly, handsome,
merry-eyed knave, he got on marvellously well in the world, his jests
being reported even in Siena.

Now one evening he was returning home to Santa Maria Novella _dalla
cercha_, “from the quest,” and found himself still a few miles from
Florence.  And good fortune had favoured him marvellously that day, for
his ass bore two panniers which were _ben carichi d’ogni sorta di grazia
di Dio_—“stuffed full with all sorts of mercies of God,” such as bags of
wheat, maize, wheat-meal, chickens, oil, cheese, butter, wine, truffles,
onions, geese, turnips, sausages, bread, ducks; in short, Signore, as I
said, there was _ogni sorta di grazia di Dio_, and enough to support a
poor family for a month.

Now, darkness coming on, and rain falling, the Friar stopped at a lonely
house, where he neither knew the people nor was known to them, and begged
for a night’s lodging.  The master of the place was a well-to-do person,
but a great knave, and no sooner had he perceived that the monk had such
a plentiful stock of provisions, than he saw his way to give all his
neighbours a splendid feast at no expense to himself, at which he could
not fail to relieve some of his guests of their money.

Now this rogue had a daughter who was _scaltra e bene affilata_—shrewd
and sharp as a razor, one who could teach cats to see in the dark, and
who had grown to villainy from her babyhood, even as a reed shoots
upwards.  And she only caught a wink from her good father, which glanced
off on to the load of the friar’s donkey, to understand the whole game,
and what was expected of her.

You must know, Signore Carlo, that the wench was very good-looking—bad
wine in a silver cup, pretty to look at, but vile to sup—and had all the
sweet, innocent, simple look of a saint, and she made up to Frate
Giocondo like a kitten to a child, which he took in no wise amiss, being
used to such conquests.  And who so flattering and fawning as they all
were on Brother Giocondo; how they laughed at his jests, and seemed to be
in the last agonies of delight; but winked at one another withal, for
there were six lusty brothers or cousins in the family, who, in case of
need, did the heavy dragging out, or advanced the last argument with

By-and-by, as the night wore on, the black-eyed baggage stole away and
hid herself in the room allotted to the Friar, though with no intention
to break the seventh—but that against stealing—as you will see.  For when
the good Giocondo went to bed, which he did in full dress, he knew not
that she was there.  And as soon as he began to snore, she tapped gently
on the wall three times, and then went and laid herself down softly by
the Friar, who did not awake.  At which all the band came bursting in
with torches and staves, and began to beat the victim, reviling and
cursing him for having deluded the poor child, so that there was a
fearful _fracasso_—a great riot—but they left the door open, through
which the pious Giocondo bolted, and none pursued, as they had already
secured his provisions.

Now Giocondo shrewdly noted this, and at once understood that he had been
as shrewdly robbed, and that by such a trick as left no door open to
return and claim his property.  So he quietly mounted his ass and rode
away, and returning to the convent, thought it all over, till he came to
a device to revenge himself.  For he was one of those who was never bit
by a wolf but what he had his skin.

So he let a long time pass by, and then went to work.  First of all he
got two jars, and paid a contadino to catch for him as many living vipers
as would fill them both, saying it was for the apothecary of his convent
to make _teriaca_ or Venetian treacle, which is a cure for serpents’
bites.  And then he disguised himself like a lord’s messenger, darkening
his face, and putting on long curling locks, with a bold impudent air,
with cloak and feather, sword and dagger; truly no one would ever have
known him.  And in this guise he went again to the _Albergo de’ Ladri_,
or Thieves’ Den, asking once more for lodging, which was cheerfully

Now the part which he played, and that to perfection, was that of a
foolish gasconading servant; nor had he been long in the house ere he
informed his host in confidence that he served a great lord who was in
love with a married lady in Florence, and to win her good graces had sent
her two jars full of honey or conserves, but that there was in each a
hundred crowns in gold, of which he was to privately inform the lady,
lest her husband should suspect the truth; adding artfully, “But i’
faith, if I were to steal the whole myself and run away, my lord would
never pursue me, so fearful is he lest the thing should be found out; and
even if I were to be robbed, one could do nothing.”

And as he said this he saw the knave give a wink to his daughter, and
knew very well what it meant, but pretended to take no notice of it.  So
all went as before, and the girl stole into his room and hid herself.
But he, who was prepared for everything, when he retired took from his
pocket two or three large screws and a screwdriver, and closed the great
strong door so that it would resist a hard assault, and left the window
open so that he could easily escape, and so went to bed.

Then the girl, when she thought he was asleep, gave the signal, and the
thieves tried to burst in, but could not.  And Friar Giocondo, jumping
up, gave the girl such a beating as she had never heard of, abusing her
all the time as a song to the accompaniment of the thrashing, till at
last, when he saw they were really coming in, he jumped through the
window, ran to the stable, and finding there a fine horse, saddled it in
haste and rode away like the wind.

The thieves were so intent on the jars that they paid no heed to anything
else, not even to the girl, who was raging mad at her father for having
exposed her to such danger.  So they got two deep plates, and opened both
jars at once to pour the honey out, when lo! there came swarming forth
the vipers, hissing, and squirming, and darting out their tongues like so
many devils.  At which sight they all fled in fear, the girl first, nor
did she stop till she got to Fiesole, where, in great terror, she
(fearing for her soul) told the whole story to everybody and the monks.

The thief went to the stable, but found his horse gone, and so had to
content himself with Giocondo’s donkey, on which, fearing the pursuit of
justice, he rode away, to be hanged somewhere else.  And the Abbot of
Santa Maria Novella cheerfully absolved Brother Giocondo for stealing the
horse—and accepted it as a graceful gift, or in recompense for the load
of provisions which had been lost.

    “Thus ’twas with all of them it sped,
    And the Abbot came out one horse ahead!”


    “The bell in the Bargello called the Montanara obtained the name of
    the _Campana delle Arme_ because it was the signal for citizens to
    lay aside their weapons and retire home.”—_Hare’s_ “_Cities of
    Central Italy_.”

    “Where towers are crushed, and temples fair unfold
    A new magnificence that vies with old,
    Firm in its pristine majesty hath stood
    A votive column.”—_Wordsworth_, “_Pillar of Trajan_.”

Very near to the Church of Santa Maria Novella is the small piazza or
open place of the _Croce al Trebbio_.  This is a column with a crucifix,
the whole being of beautiful proportions and of a strikingly romantic
character.  It is said to have been raised to commemorate a victory of
“that sanguinary fanatic Saint Peter Martyr” over the Paterini.  “The
Croce al Trebbio,” says Leader Scott, “of the year 1244, is a work of the
Pisan school, but whether it is by Niccolò or Giovanni Pisani, who were
in Florence about that epoch, there is nothing to show.  There was {31} a
curious Latin inscription in Gothic letters, which began: _Sanctus
Ambrosius cum Sancto Zenobio propter grande mysterium hanc crucem_—and
went on to say that it was _reconstructed_ by the bishops of Florence and
of Aquileia in August 1308.  It is evident that the connection of the
cross with Saint Peter Martyr is mere conjecture, the Italian authorities
say _che si crede_, ‘_believed_’ to be erected on the spot where a
victory was gained over the Paterini.  If this were so, where is the
mystery referred to in the inscription?”

The legend, which was after long inquiry recovered by my collector,
distinctly describes the _reconstruction_ of the cross, and as certainly
sets forth a _mysterium magnum_ with an apparition of the Virgin on this
very spot, which would have assuredly caused a pillar, if not a church,
to be erected in the thirteenth century.  The story of this mystery is as

                           LA CROCE AL TREBEIO.

“Where the _Croce al Trebbio_ now stands, was in very old times a great
palace occupied by one of the most ancient families of Florence.  And
when it died out, there came into the house three families, but none
could remain there, being so terrified with fearful sounds and an

“It was the custom in those days in Florence to ring a bell at ten
o’clock at night, which was a signal for every citizen to go home at
once; therefore, after that hour no one was seen in the streets except
police guards, military patrols, and riotous young men, whom the former
aimed at arresting.  It often happened that such irregular folk took
refuge in the old palazzo, but if they remained there one night, they had
enough of it, and never returned, so great was the horror which they were
sure to feel.

“The first occurrence which gave the place a bad name was as follows:
Some time after the death of the last of the old line of Signori who had
occupied the palace, and the three families spoken of had come into it,
on the first night at midnight they heard some one put a key in the
house-door, open the same with great noise, and come storming and
swearing up the stairs into the great dining-hall.  Then there entered a
tall and magnificently dressed gentleman, of very handsome and
distinguished appearance, but his face was deadly pale, his eyes had a
terrible gleam, and it seemed as if a light bluish flame flickered and
crept about him, ever rising and vanishing like small serpents.

“And entering, he began to scold and blaspheme in a diabolical manner, as
if at servants whom he was accustomed to have promptly at his call,
saying, ‘_Birbanti di servitori_—you scoundrelly waiters—you have not got
supper ready for me, nor laid the tables.’  Saying this, he seized on
plates and glasses, and dashing them down violently, broke them in mad
rage.  Then he entered the best bedroom in the house, where some one lay
asleep, and this man he maltreated and hurled forth, saying that the bed
was his own.

“And if after that any one dared to sleep in the old palazzo, he was
found there dead in the morning, or else lived but a few days.  So it
came to pass that no one would inhabit it; nay, all the houses round
about began to be deserted, and the whole neighbourhood regarded it as a
pest.  And from all this they were relieved by a marvellously strange
occurrence and a great miracle.

“There was a gentleman who was very pious, honourable, and brave, a good
man at every point, but wretchedly poor, so that he with his eight
children and wife had all been turned into the street, because he could
not pay his rent.

“Then in his distress he went to the city council and begged for some
kind of relief or employment; and they being much concerned at the time
about the haunted palazzo, knowing him to be a man who would face the
devil, with little to fear on account of his integrity, proposed to him
to occupy the building, adding that he and his family should every day be
supplied with food and wine gratis, and that if, as was generally
supposed, there was hidden treasure in the palace, and he could find it,
he should be welcome to keep it.

“To which this brave man willingly assented, and at once went his way to
the haunted palace.  But while on the road he obtained olive sprigs,
salt, and frankincense, also certain images of saints, and then with much
holy water sprinkled all the rooms, stairs, and cellars, praying withal.

“And the first night there was again heard the grating of the key in the
lock, the crash of the door, the rapid heavy footfall, and the spirit
appeared with the waving plume of flame on his splendid _beretta_ or cap,
when suddenly he was checked and could go no farther, because the hall
had been blessed, yes, and thoroughly.  Then the spectre began to bellow
and roar, and utter whistling screams and all horrible sounds, worse than
a wild beast.

“But the new master of the house did not let fear overcome him in the
least, and the next day he renewed the sprinkling and blessing, and
finding there was a chapel in the palace, he called in a priest, who
there read a mass for the soul of the ghost, so that he might rest in

“Now there was a beautiful little garden attached to the palace, and the
children of the new tenant were delighted to play in it.

“And in the middle of the garden they found a cross with a Christ on it,
and the cross had been shattered.  But the children took the pieces and
carried them one by one into the chamber where no one dared to sleep, and
there they put them piously together, and dressed a little altar before
it, and began to sing hymns.

“But while they were thus singing in their simple devotion, wishing to
aid their father, there was a knock at the door, and a lady entered whose
face was concealed in a veil, but who seemed to be weeping as she beheld
them, and she said, ‘Children, keep ever as you are; always be good and
love God, and He will love you!’

“Then she continued, ‘The master of this house was a gambler and a
blasphemer; when he lost money at gambling he would return home and beat
this image of Christ, till one night, being in a mad rage, he broke it
and threw it into the garden.’

“‘But soon after that he fell ill, and knowing that he was dying, he
buried all his treasure in the garden.  Love God, and you shall find it.
So he died, blaspheming and condemned.  Love God, and He will love you!’
And saying this, she vanished.

“The children, all astonished, ran to their father and mother, and told
them that a beautiful lady had visited them, and what she had said.

“Then they said to the children, ‘You must indeed be always good, for
that Lady who spoke to you was the Holy Virgin, who will always protect
you.’  And then the father called in a priest to say midnight mass at the
time when the spirit would appear.  And he came, and said, ‘I am he who
broke the cross, and for that I was damned!’  Then the priest began to
sprinkle holy water, with exorcisms, when all at once the accursed one
disappeared in a tremendous, over-whelming crash of thunder, and the
whole palace fell to gravel and dust—there was not left one stone
standing on the other, save the cross which the children had repaired,
which rose alone in the middle of the garden.

“Then the next day the good man dug away the rubbish by the cross, and
when this was removed, they found a mass of charcoal, and under this the

“Then the Signore, grown rich, had, to commemorate this, a beautiful
column built, on which he placed the cross, and this is known to this day
as the Croce al Trebbio, or the Crucifix of the Cross-roads.”

                                * * * * *

If the Croce al Trebbio really commemorates one of the most iniquitous
massacres which ever disgraced even the Church, then to find this tender
and graceful little tale springing up from it, reminds me of what I once
heard of a violet which was found growing in the Far West, and blooming
in an Indian’s skull.  The conception of the children playing at
worshipping, and yet half-worshipping, is very Italian.  I have seen
little boys and girls thus rig up a small chapel in the streets of Rome,
and go through the mass and other ceremonies with intense interest.

It may also be observed that in this, as in many other legends, charcoal
is found over a hidden treasure.  The folk-lore of coal in connection
with money is so extensive and varied, that one could write on it a small
book.  I believe that the two are synonyms in all canting jargons or

“Hence probably came,” remarks Flaxius, “the saying, ‘To haul one over
the coals,’ meaning to go over money-accounts with any one who has cause
to dread the ordeal.  Truly ’tis but a conjecture, yet I remember that in
my youth it was generally applied to such investigations.

    “‘And so ’twas held in early Christian time
    That glowing coals were a sure test of truth
    And holy innocence, as was full proved
    By Santa Agnatesis of the Franks,
    And fair Lupita of the Irish isle.’”

Since writing the foregoing I have found the whole of the ancient
inscription of the cross, as it was preserved by two chroniclers.  This
will be found in another chapter.


    “When looking down into a well,
    You’ll see a fairy, so they tell,
    Although she constantly appears
    With your own face instead of hers;
    And if you cry aloud, you’ll hear
    Her voice in the ringing echo clear;
    Thus every one unto himself
    May be a fairy, or an elf.”

    “And truly those nymphs and fairies who inhabit wells, or are found
    in springs and fountains, can predict or know what is to take place,
    as may be read in Pausanias, and this power they derive from their
    _habitat_, or, as Creuzer declares (_Symbolik_, part iv. 72), they
    are called Muses, inasmuch as they dwell in Hippocrene and Aganippe,
    the inspiring springs of the Muses.”—_On the Mysteries of Water_.
    FRIEDRICH (_Symbolik_).

Long after Christianity had come in, there were many places in the vast
edifice of society whence the old heathen deities refused to go out, and
there are even yet nooks and corners in the mountains where they receive
a kind of sorcerer’s worship as _folletti_.  A trace of this lingering in
a faith outworn, in nymphs, dryads, and _fata_, is found in the following

                         LE DUE NINFE DEL POZZO.

“There once lived in Florence a young nobleman, who had grown up putting
great faith in _fate_, _ninfe_, and similar spirits, believing that they
were friendly, and brought good fortune to those who showed them respect.
Now there was in his palazzo in the Via Calzaioli, at the corner of the
Condotta, a very old well or fountain, on which were ancient and worn
images, and in which there was a marvellous echo, and it was said that
two nymphs had their home in it.  And the Signore, believing in them,
often cast into the spring wine or flowers, uttering a prayer to them,
and at table he would always cast a little wine into water, or sprinkle
water on the ground to do them honour.

“One day he had with him at table two friends, who ridiculed him when he
did this, and still more when he sang a song praising nymphs and fairies,
in answer to their remarks.  Whereupon one said to him:

    “‘Truly, I would like to see
    An example, if ’t may be,
    How a fairy in a fountain,
    Or a goblin of the mountain,
    Or a nymph of stream or wood,
    Ever did one any good;
    For such fays of air or river,
    One might wait, I ween, for ever,
    And if even such things be,
    They are devils all to me.’

“Then the young Signore, being somewhat angered, replied:

    “‘In the wood and by the stream,
    Not in reverie or dream,
    Where the ancient oak-trees blow,
    And the murmuring torrents flow,
    Men whose wisdom none condemn
    Oft have met and talked with them.
    Demons for you they may be,
    But are angels unto me.’

“To which his friend sang in reply, laughing:

    “‘Only prove that they exist,
    And we will no more resist;
    Let them come before we go,
    With _ha_!_ ha_!_ ha_! and _ho_!_ ho_!_ ho_!’

“And as they sang this, they heard a peal of silvery laughter without,
or, as it seemed, actually singing in the hall and making a chorus with
their voices.  And at the instant a servant came and said that two very
beautiful ladies were without, who begged the young Signore to come to
them immediately, and that it was on a matter of life and death.

“So he rose and stepped outside, but he had hardly crossed the threshold
before the stone ceiling of the hall fell in with a tremendous crash, and
just where the young Signore had sat was a great stone weighing many
_quintale_ or hundredweights, so that it was plain that if he had not
been called away, in an instant more he would have been crushed like a
fly under a hammer.  As for his two friends, they had broken arms and cut
faces, bearing marks in memory of the day to the end of their lives.

“When the young Signore was without the door and looked for the ladies,
they were gone, and a little boy, who was the only person present,
declared that he had seen them, that they were wonderfully beautiful, and
that, merrily laughing, they had jumped or gone down into the well.

“Therefore it was generally believed by all who heard the tale that it
was the Fairies of the Well, or _Fonte_, who thus saved the life of the
young Signore, who from that day honoured them more devoutly than ever;
nor did his friends any longer doubt that there are spirits of air or
earth, who, when treated with pious reverence, can confer benefits on
their worshippers.

    “‘For there are fairies all around
    Everywhere, and elves abound
    Even in our homes unseen:
    They go wherever we have been,
    And often by the fireside sit,
    A-laughing gaily at our wit;
    And when the ringing echo falls
    Back from the ceiling or the walls,
    ’Tis not our voices to us thrown
    In a reflection, but their own;
    For they are near at every turn,
    As he who watches soon may learn.’

“And the young Signore, to do honour to the fairies, because they had
saved his life, put them one on either side of his coat-of-arms, as you
may see by the shield which is on the house at the corner of the Via

                                * * * * *

The authenticity of this legend, is more than doubtful, because it exists
elsewhere, as I have read it, being unable to give my authority; but
unless my memory deceives me, it goes back to classic times, and may be
found in some such work as that of Philostratus _de Vita Apollonii_ or
Grosius.  Neither am I well assured, to judge from the source whence I
had it, that it is current among the people, though no great measure of
credulity is here required, since it may be laid down as a rule, with
rarest exception, that there is no old Roman tale of the kind which may
not be unearthed with pains and patience among old Tuscan peasant women.
However, the _shield_ is still on the corner of the Via Calzaioli, albeit
one of the nymphs on it has been knocked or worn away.  Thus even _fates_
must yield in time to fate.

I have in a note to another legend spoken of the instinct which seems to
lead children or grown people to associate wells with indwelling fairies,
to hear a voice in the echo, and see a face in the reflection in the
still water.  Keats has beautifully expressed it in “Endymion”:

    “Some mouldered steps lead into this cool cell
    Far as the slabbed margin of a well,
    Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye
    Right upward through the bushes to the sky. . . .
    Upon a day when thus I watched . . . behold!
    A wonder fair as any I have told—
    The same bright face I tasted in my sleep
    Smiling in the clear well.  My heart did leap
    Through the cool depth. . . .
    Or ’tis the cell of Echo, where she sits
    And babbles thorough silence till her wits
    Are gone in tender madness, and anon
    Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone.”

“In which tale,” writes the immortal Flaxius, “there is a pretty
allegory.  Few there are who know why truth is said to be at the bottom
of a well; but this I can indeed declare to you.  For as a mirror was
above all things an emblem of truth, because it shows all things exactly
as they are, so the water in a well was, as many traditions prove,
considered as a mirror, because looking into it we see our face, which we
of course most commonly see in a glass, and this disk of shining water
resembles in every way a hand-mirror.  And for this reason a mirror was
also regarded as expressing life itself, for which reason people so
greatly fear to break them.  So in the Latin, _Velut in speculo_, and in
the Italian, _Vero come un specchio_—‘True as a mirror,’ we have the same
idea.  And a poet has written, ‘Mirrored as in a well,’ and many have
re-echoed the same pretty fancy.

“Which reminds me that in the Oberpfalz or Upper Palatinate maidens were
wont to go to a well by moonlight, and if on looking therein they saw
their own faces, they believed that they would soon be happily married.
But if a cloud darkened the moon and they saw nothing, then they would
die old maids.  But luckiest of all was it if they fancied they saw a
man’s face, for this would be the future husband himself.

“Now it befell that a certain youth near Heidelberg fell into a well, or
put himself there, when a certain maid whom he loved, came and looked in,
and believing that she saw the face of her destined spouse, went away in
full faith that the fairy of the well had taken his form, and so she
married him.  Which, if it be not true, is _ben trovato_.

“Truth is always represented, be it remembered, as holding a mirror.

“And note also that the hand-mirror and the well were strangely connected
in ancient times, as appears by Pausanias, who states that before a
certain temple of Ceres hung a _speculum_, which, after it had been
immersed in a neighbouring well or spring, showed invalids by reflection
whether they would live or die.  And with all this, the holding a mirror
to the mouth of an insensible person to tell whether the breath was still
in the body, seemed also to make it an indicator of life.”

    “Thus in life all things do pass,
    As it were, in magic glass.”


    “We all do know the usual way
    In which our handmaids go astray,
    But in this tale the situation
    Has a peculiar variation;
    How an old wizard—strange occurrence!
    Deluded all the girls in Florence,
    (It needs no magic now to do it),
    And how the maidens made him rue it,
    For having seized on him and stripped him,
    They tied him up and soundly whipped him.”

The author of “The Cities of Central Italy,” speaking of Siena, says that
“In its heart, where its different hill-promontories unite, is the Piazza
del Campo, lately—with the time-serving which disgraces every town in
Italy—called Vittorio Emanuele.”  And with the stupidity and bad taste
which seems to characterise all municipal governments in this respect all
the world over, that of Florence has changed most of the old names of
this kind, and in order to render the confusion more complete, has put
the new names just over the old ones, with the simple addition of the
word _Gia_ or “formerly.”  Whence came the legend current in the
Anglo-American colony, that a newly arrived young lady, not as yet beyond
the second lesson in Ollendorff, being asked where she lived, answered in
_Gia_ Street.  She forgot the rest of the name.

One of these gaping _gias_ is the Via del Parlascio _gia Via delle Serve
Smarrite_, or the street of the maidservants strayed away or gone astray.
Now Florence is famous for its pretty servant-girls, and if I may believe
a halfpenny work, entitled “Seven Charming Florentine Domestics,” now
before me, which is racy of the soil—or dirt—and appears to be written
from life [as accurate portraits of all the fascinating seven are given],
I opine that the damsel of this class who had never been, I do not say a
wife, but a waif and a stray, must be a phenomenal rarity.  Therefore it
was suggested to me that it was formerly in very ancient times the custom
to send all such stray cattle to the pound, that is, to dwell in this
street as a kind of Ghetto.  But the folly of this measure soon became
apparent when it was found that one might as well try to get all the cats
in Tuscany into a hand-basket, or all its flies—or fleas—under one
tumbler, as try to make a comprehensive menagerie of these valuable
animals, who were, however, by no means curiosities.  So the attempt was
abandoned, and thenceforth the maidens were allowed to stray wherever
they pleased, but under some slight supervision; whence it was said of
them that they were _le lucertole chi cominciano a sentir il
sole_—“fireflies which begin to see the sun”—a proverb which the learned
and genial Orlando Peschetti (1618) explains as being applicable to those
who, having been in prison and then set free, are still watched, but
which appears to me rather to refer to the suspected who are “shadowed”
before they are arrested.

But in due time I received from good authority an ancient legend of the
Via delle Serve Smarrite, in which the origin of the name is explained as

                        VIA DELLE SERVE SMARRITE.

“There was long ago, in what was afterwards called the Via delle Serve
Smarrite, or Stray Maid-Servants’ Street, a very ancient and immensely
large house, which was generally supposed to be vacant, and in which no
one cared to dwell, or even approach, since there were dreadful tales of
evil deeds done in it, and reports that it was a gathering-place for
witches, goblins, and _diavoli_.  The clanking of chains and peals of
horrid laughter rung from its chambers at midnight, blue and green fires
gleamed from its windows, and everybody all around had heard from
somebody else that the nightmares had there their special nest, from
which they sailed forth to afflict all Florence.

“Yet all this was a trick which was often played in those days, when
_gente non dabbene_ or evil folk and outlaws wanted to keep a house to
themselves, and there were no newspapers to publish every mystery.  For
there were a great many who went in there, but few who ever came out, and
these were all young and pretty servant-maids.  And the way it was
managed was this.  When such girls were sent to the market to buy
provisions, they always met there or elsewhere an old woman who pretended
to be extremely pious, {43} who, by using many arts and making small
gifts, and above all by subtle flatteries, persuaded them that service
was only fit for _gentaccia_ or the dregs of the people, and that,
beautiful and graceful as they were, they needed only live like ladies
for a little time at ease, and they would soon be fit to marry some
Signore, and that she herself would thus maintain them, hoping they would
pay her well for it all when once married.  And I need not say that the
trick generally succeeded.

“The house to which they were led was ugly and repulsive outside, but
within there were beautiful rooms of all kinds, magnificently furnished,
and the new-comers were promptly bathed, elegantly attired, and jewelled
from head to foot, and instead of serving, had maids given them as
attendants, and everything conceivable was done to make their life as
pleasant and demoralising among themselves as possible.  But in due time
they found out that a certain Signore was lord of the house and of
themselves, and that he gradually led them into the strangest and most
terrible orgies, and finally into witchcraft, after which one disappeared
mysteriously after the other, none knew whither, but as there were always
fresh arrivals to take their places, nobody heeded it.

“However, this mournful disappearance of pretty servant-maids became at
last so frequent and was so mysterious, that it began to be much talked
about.  Now there was a certain gentleman, a man himself of great
authority and intelligence, who had heard of these vanishments and hoped
to find out their cause.  And one night at a very late hour, when he was
passing by the mysterious house, he heard from it now and then sounds
like groans mingled with the clanking of chains, and saw red and blue and
green lights at the windows, but by keeping still he also distinguished
the sound of music and girls’ voices laughing and singing; and stealing
near in the darkness, and fearing no devils, he contrived to climb up to
a window, and pulling aside a curtain, peeped in, when he beheld plainly
enough a great many beautiful women in scant array, or a real dance of
witches, and being marvellously attracted by the sight of so many charms
so liberally displayed, he naturally desired to enter the gay party.

“And here chance favoured him beyond all hope; for on going to the door,
he found an old woman about to enter, to whom he gave a gold piece, and
begged her to tell him the true story of the house, and whether he could
enter it.  But what was his amazement to find in her his old
foster-mother of the country, whom he had not seen for many years, and
who loved him dearly.

“And she, being pressed, told him the whole story of the house, wherein
she was a servant, but that she had grown deadly tired of such evil ways,
and seeing such sin as went on there, though she was well paid, and said
if he would only give her a home, she would reveal all to justice.  And
she added that for the present he could freely join the girls who were
dancing, as the wizard, their master, was away that night.

“But when he entered, he was amazed at the splendour of the rooms and the
beauty of the women.  Now among these he found one who truly enchanted
him, and entering into conversation with her, found that she would gladly
escape with him, and that many others were inclined to leave, but dare
not show it for fear of the master.

“Then the Signore, addressing all the girls, told them that in a few
hours the guards or police would, by his orders, be in the house, and
advised them to at once seize on all the valuables on which they could
lay their hands, and pack up their bundles and depart, and that he
himself would write for every one a free pass to let her go with the
property.  And truly he had hardly spoken ere there began such a
plundering and pillaging, sacking and spoliation, as it would have done
your heart good to see, and which was like the taking of a rich town,
only that the marauders were all maidens.  Here was one rolling up silver
spoons, cups, anything she could get, in a shawl; there another filling a
bag with jewellery, and a silver ladle sticking out of her bosom or back;
anon a couple of Venuses fighting for a splendid garment, while a superb
Hebe ravished a golden goblet, and an enchanting Vesta, if not a vestal,
appropriated most appropriately a silver lamp.  Some pulled down the
curtains, others rolled up the costly Venetian rugs; they drank wine when
they were thirsty, and quarrelled and laughed and shrieked, as a parcel
of wild servant-girls in a mad frolic might be expected to do.  It was a
fine sight—‘one worthy of a great artist or De Goncourt,’ notes Flaxius.

“When lo! all at once there was an awful and simultaneous shriek as the
door opened, and the _Domine_—I mean the headmaster, wizard, or
sultan—entered, gazing like an astonished demon on the scene before his
eyes.  In a voice of thunder he asked the meaning of the scene, when he
found himself confronted by the intruding Signore, before whom his heart
run away like water when he recognised in him a man having very great
authority, with the police at his back.

“Now, servant-maids, however pretty they may be, are mostly _contadine_
with powerful muscles and mighty arms, and with one accord they rushed on
their late master, and soon overpowered him.  Then he was securely bound
with silken curtain ropes, and the new Signore, taking his place at a
great table, bade all the damsels range themselves at the sides in solemn
council, for the offender was now to be tried, condemned, and punished
too, should he be found guilty.

“The trial was indeed one of peculiar interest, and the testimony adduced
would have made the fortune of a French novelist, but space (if nothing
else) prohibits my giving it.  Suffice it to say that the wizard was
found guilty of taking unto himself an undue share of pretty
hand-maidens, a great sin considering the number of gallant soldiers and
other bachelors who were thereby defrauded of their dues.  But as he had
neither murdered nor stolen, it was decided to let him go and carry on
his games in some less Christian town, on condition that he would divide
what money he had in the house among the poor girls whom he had so
cruelly cajoled.

“And as this last sentence was plaintively pronounced, there was a deep
and beautiful sigh uttered by all the victims, followed by three cheers.
The master’s strong-box was at once hunted up, and its contents shared,
and indeed they were so considerable that the maidens one and all soon
married nobly and lived happily.”

                                * * * * *

The written story, with a pleasing instinct of Italian thrift, adds that
the conquering Signore purchased the property, in fact, the whole street,
at a very low figure, before the facts became known, and gave the place
the name of the _Via delle Serve Smarrite_, as it is still called by the
people, despite its new official christening.

    “Ye may break, ye may ruin the flask if ye will,
    But the scent of the brandy will hang round it still.”


    “Now among the Greeks, as with the Northern races, the boar was the
    special type of male generation, even as the frog expressed that of
    the female sex.  And therefore images of the boar were set in public
    places that fertility might be developed among women, for which
    reason they also wear, as among the Arabs, necklaces of silver
    frogs.”—_Notes on Symbolism_.

In front of the Mercato Nuovo, built by Cosimo I., stands a bronze copy
of an ancient boar, now in the Uffizzi Gallery.  It was cast by Pietro
Tacca, and is now a fountain.  The popular legend in relation to it is as

“In the market-place of Florence, which is called _Il Porcellino_,
because there is in it a fountain with a swine, there was anciently only
a spring of water and a pool, in which were many frogs, water-lizards,
shell-snails, and slugs.  These were round about, but in the spring
itself was a frog who was confined there because she had revealed that
her lover was a boar.

“This boar was the son of a rich lord, who, being married for a very long
time, had no children, and for this reason made his wife very unhappy,
saying that she was a useless creature, and that if she could not bear a
son she had better pack up and be off with herself, which she endured
despairingly and weeping continually, praying to the saints and giving
alms withal, all to bring forth an heir, and all in vain.

“One day she saw a drove of pigs go by her palace, and among them were
many sows and many more very little pigs.  Now among these, or at hand,
was a _fata_ or witch-spirit. {47}  And the lady seeing this said in the
bitterness of her heart, ‘So the very pigs have offspring and I none.  I
would I were as they are, and could do as they do, and bring forth as
they bring forth, and so escape all this suffering!’

“And the fairy heard this, and took her at her word; and, as you will
see, she cut her cloth without measuring it first, from which came a sad
misfit.  And soon after she was ill, and this being told to her husband,
he replied, ‘Good news, and may she soon be gone!’ but he changed his
tone when he heard that he was to have an heir.  Then he flew to her and
begged her pardon, and made great rejoicings.

“Truly there was horror and sorrow when in due time the lady, instead of
a human child, brought forth a boar-pig.  Yet the parents were so
possessed with the joy of having any kind of offspring that they ended by
making a great pet of the creature, who was, however, human in his ways,
and could in time talk with grace and ease. {48a}  And when he grew older
he began to run after the girls, and they to run away from him, screaming
as if the devil had sent him for them.

“There lived near the palace a beautiful but very poor girl, and with her
the young Boar fell desperately in love.  So he asked her parents for her
hand; but they, poor as they were, laughed at him, saying that their
daughter should never marry a swine.  But the young lady had well
perceived that this was no common or lazy pig, such as never gets a ripe
pear—_porco pigro non mangia pere mature_—as he had shown by wooing her;
and, secondly, because she was poor and ambitious, and daring enough to
do anything to become rich and great. {48b}

“Now she surmised that there were eggs under the chopped straw in this
basket, or more in the youth than people supposed; and she was quite
right, for on the bridal night he not only unclothed himself of silk and
purple and fine linen, but also doffed his very skin or boar’s hide, and
appeared as beautiful as a Saint Sebastian freshly painted.

“Then he said to her, ‘Be not astonished to find me good-looking at the
rate of thirty sous to a franc, nor deem thyself over-paid, for if we had
not wedded, truly I should have gone on pigging it to the end of my days,
having been doomed—like many men—to be a beast so long as I was a
bachelor, or till a beautiful maid would marry me.  Yet there is a
condition attached to this, which is, that I can only be a man as thou
seest me by night, for I must be a boar by day.  And shouldst thou ever
betray this secret to any one, or if it be found out, then I shall again
be a boar all the time for life, and thou turn into a frog because of too
much talking.

“Now as surely as that time and straw ripen medlars, as the saying is,
just so surely will it come to pass that a woman will tell a secret, even
to her own shame.  And so it befell this lady, who told it as a great
mystery to her mother, who at once imparted it under oath to all her dear
friends, who swore all their friends on all their salvations not to
breathe a word of it to anybody, who all confessed it to the priests.
How much farther it went God knows, but by the time the whole town knew
it, which was in one day of twenty-four hours, or ere the next morning,
the bride had become a frog who lived in the spring, and the bridegroom a
boar who every day went to drink at the water, and when there said:

    “‘Lady Frog! lo, I am here!
    He to whom thou once wert dear.
    We are in this sad condition,
    Not by avarice or ambition,
    Nor by evil or by wrong,
    But ’cause thou could’st not hold thy tongue;
    For be she shallow, be she deep,
    No woman can a secret keep;
    Which all should think upon who see
    The monument which here will be.’

“So it came to pass either that the boar turned into the great bronze
_maiale_ which now stands in the market-place, or else the people raised
it in remembrance of the story—_chi sa_—but there it is to this day.

“As for the Signora Frog, she comforted herself by making a great noise
and telling the tale at the top of her voice, having her brains in her
tongue—_il cervello nella lingua_, as they say of those who talk well yet
have but small sense.  And that which you hear frogs croaking all night
long is nothing but this story which I have told you of their ancestress
and the bronze boar.”

                                * * * * *

This is, in one form or the other, a widely spread tale.  As the voice of
the frog has a strange resemblance to that of man, there being legends
referring to it in every language, and as there is a bold and forward
expression in its eyes, {50} it was anciently regarded as a human being
who was metamorphosed for being too impudent and loquacious, as appears
by the legend of “Latona and the Lycian Boors” (Ovid, _Metamorph._, vi.
340).  The general resemblance of the form of a frog to that of man
greatly contributed to create such fables.

The classic ancient original of this boar may be seen in the Uffizzi
Gallery.  As the small image of a pig carried by ladies ensures that they
will soon be, as the Germans say, “in blessed circumstances,” or
_enceinte_ (which was all one with luck in old times), so the image of
the boar is supposed to be favourable to those ladies who desire olive
branches.  From all which it appears that in ancient times swine were
more highly honoured than at present, or, as Shelley sings:

             “We pigs
    Were blest as nightingales on myrtle sprigs,
    Or grasshoppers that live on noon-day dew.”


    “Bella di fronte e infino alle Calcagna,
    Con un corredo nobile e civile,
    In te risiede una cupola magna
    E superbo di Giotto il Campanile.”—_Giuseppe Moroni_.

    “Round as the O of Giotto, d’ye see?
    Which means as well done as a thing can be.”—_Proverb_.

Many have wondered how it came to pass that Virgil lived in tradition not
as a poet but as sorcerer.  But the reason for it is clear when we find
that in Florence every man who ever had a genius for anything owed it to
magic, or specially to the favour of some protecting fairy or _folletto_,
spirit or god.  Is a girl musical?  Giacinto or Hyacinth, the favourite
of Apollo, has given her music lessons in her dreams.  For the orthodox
there are Catholic saints with a specialty, from venerable Simeon, who
looks after luck in lotteries, to the ever-blessed Antony, who attends to
everything, and Saint Anna, _née_ Lucina, who inspires nurses.  And where
the saints fail, the _folletti_, according to the witches, take their
place and do the work far better.  Therefore, as I shall in another place
set forth, Dante and Michel Angelo have passed into the marvellous
mythology of goblins.  With them is included Giotto, as appears by the
following legend of “The Goblin of the Bell-Tower of Giotto.”


“Giotto was a shepherd, and every day when he went forth to pasture his
herd there was one little lamb who always kept near him, and appeared to
be longing to talk to him like a Christian.

“Now this lamb always laid down on a certain stone which was fast in the
ground (_masso_); and Giotto, who loved the lamb, to please it, lay down
also on the same stone.

“After a short time the lamb died, and when dying said:

    “‘Giotto, cosa non far ti
    Se mi senti parlarti,
    Ti voglio tanto bene
    E dove andrai,
    Io ti seguiro sempre
    In forma di folletto,
    E col mio volere
    Tu verrai un bravo scultore
    E insegne disegnatore.’

    “‘Giotto, be not astonished
    That I thus speak to thee;
    I have such love for thee,
    Wherever thou shalt go
    I will follow thee always
    In the form of a fairy,
    And through my favour
    Thou shalt become a great sculptor
    And artist.’

“And so it came to pass that Giotto was an able sculptor by the aid of
the lamb, and all that he did was due to the lamb which helped him.

“And when he died, the spirit of the lamb remained in the form of a
_folletto_ or fairy in the campanile, and it is still often seen there,
always with the spirit of Giotto.  Even in death their souls could not be

“When any one desires to ascend the tower, and his or her heart fails in
mounting the steps (_e che ha paura di salire_), the fairy below says:

    “‘Vade, vade, Signora!
    La vade su salgha,
    Non abbia paura,
    Ci sono io sotto.’

    “‘Go on, go on, Signora,
    Go up the stairs—oh go!
    Be not afraid, my lady!
    For I am here below.’

“Then the visitor hearing this believes it is one of the guides employed
(_inpiegati_), or one of the gentlemen or ladies who are ascending after.
And often when half-way up there comes a great puff of wind which blows
up their skirts (_fa gonfiare le sottane_) which causes great laughter,
and they think that this is only a common thing, and do not perceive that
it does not happen to others.

“And it is said that this fairy appears by night in the Piazza del Duomo,
or Cathedral Square, in different forms.”

                                * * * * *

The reason why Giotto is so popularly known as having been a shepherd is
that on the central tablet of the tower or campanile, facing the street,
there is a bas-relief of a man seated in a tent with sheep before him,
and this is naturally supposed to represent the builder or Giotto
himself, since it fills the most prominent place.  In a very popular
halfpenny chapbook, entitled “The Statues under the Uffizzi in Florence,
Octaves improvised by Giuseppe Moroni, called _Il Niccheri_ or the
Illiterate,” I find the following:


    “Voi di Mugello, nato dell’ interno,
    Giotto felice, la da’ Vespignano
    Prodigiose pitture in ogni esterno
    A Brescia, a Roma, Firenze e Milano,
    Nelle pietre, ne’ marmi nel quaderno,
    L’archittetura al popolo italiano.
    Da non trovare paragone simile,
    Vi basti, per esempio, il campanile.”

    “Thou of Mugello, born in Italy,
    Happy Giotto, gav’st to Vespignan
    Great pictures which on every front we see
    At Brescia, Rome, in Florence and Milan,
    In stone, in marble, and in poetry,
    And architecture, all Italian.
    Nothing surpassed thy wondrous art and power,
    Take for example, then, our great bell-tower.”

The fact that this is taken from a very popular halfpenny work indicates
the remarkable familiarity with such a name as that of Giotto among the


    “They do not speak as mortals speak,
    Nor sing as others sing;
    Their words are gleams of starry light,
    Their songs the glow of sunset light,
    Or meteors on the wing.”

I once begun a book—the ending and publishing of it are in the dim and
remote future, and perhaps in the limbo of all things unfinished.  It was
or is “The Experiences of Flaxius the Immortal,” a sage who dwells for
ever in the world, chiefly to observe the evolution of all things absurd,
grotesque, quaint, illogical—in short, of all that is strictly human.
And on him I bestowed a Florentine legend which is perhaps of great
antiquity, since there is a hint in it of an ancient Hebrew work by Rabbi
ben Mozeltoff or the learned Gedauler Chamar—I forget which—besides being
found in poetic form in my own great work on Confucius.

That money is the life of man, and that treasure buried in the earth is a
sin to its possessor, forms the subject of one of Christ’s parables.  The
same is true of all talent unemployed, badly directed, or not developed
at all.  The turning-point of evolution and of progressive civilisation
will be when public opinion and state interests require that every man
shall employ what talent he has, and every mere idler be treated as a
defaulter or criminal.  From this truly Christian point of view the many
tales of ghosts who walk in agony because of buried gold are strangely

                          FLAXIUS AND THE ROSE.

“Midnight was ringing from the cloister of San Miniato in Florence on the
hill above, and Flaxius sat by the Arno down below, on the bank by the
square grey tower of other days, known as the Niccolò, or _Torre delta
Trinità_, because there are in it three arches. . . .

“It was midnight in mid-winter, and a full moon poured forth all its
light over Florence as if it would fain preserve it in amber, and over
the olive groves as if they had become moss agates. . . .

[“‘Or I,’ quoth Flaxius, ‘a fly in hock.’]

“Yes, it was a clear, cold, Tuscan night, and as the last peal of bells
went out into eternity and faded in the irrevocable, thousands of spirits
of the departed began to appear, thronging like fireflies through the
streets, visiting their ancient haunts and homes, greeting, gossiping,
arranging their affairs just as the peasants do on Friday in the great
place of the Signoria, as they have done for centuries.

“Flaxius looked at the rolling river which went rushing by at his feet,
and said:

“‘_Arno mio_, you are in a tremendous hurry to get to the sea, and all
the more so because you have just had an _accessit_—a remittance of rain
from the mountain-banks.  _Buon pro vi faccia_—much good may it do you!
So every shopman hurries to become a great merchant when he gets some
money, and every farmer a signore, and every signore a great lord, and
every great lord a ruler at court and over all the land—_prorsum et
sursum_.  And when they get there—or when you get to the sea—then ye are
all swallowed up in greater lives, interests, and actions, and so the
rivers run for ever on, larger yet ever seeming less unto yourselves.
And so—_ad altiora tendunt omnes_—the flower-edged torrent and the
Florentine.’ . . .

“When he suddenly heard above his head a spirit voice, clear, sweet and
strange, ringing, not in words, but tones of unearthly music—of which
languages there are many among the Unearthlies, all being wordless songs
or airs suggesting speech, and yet conveying ideas far more rapidly.  It
was the Goblin of the Tower calling to him of the tower next beyond on
the farther hill, and he said:

“‘How many ghosts there are out to-night!’

“‘Yes; it is a fine night for ghosting.  Moonlight is mid-summer for
them, poor souls!  But I say, brother, who is yonder _frate_, the dark
monk-spectre who always haunts your tower, lingering here and there about
it?  What is the spell upon that _spirito_?’

“‘He is one to be pitied,’ replied the Goblin of the Trinità.  ‘He was a
good fellow while he lived, but a little too fond of money.  He was
afflicted with what doctors called, when I was young in Rome, the _amor
sceleratus habendi_.  So it came to pass that he died leaving a
treasure—_mille aureos_—a thousand gold crowns buried in my tower unknown
to any one, and for that he must walk the earth until some one living
wins the money.’

“Flaxius pricked up his ears.  He understood all that the spirits said,
but they had no idea that the man in a scholar’s robe who sat below knew

“‘What must a mortal do to get the gold?’ inquired the second goblin.

“‘Truly he must do what is well-nigh impossible,’ replied the Elf of the
Tower; ‘for he must, without magic aid—note that—bring to me here in this
month of January a fresh full-blown rose.’

“The voices were silent; a cloud passed over the face of the moon; the
river rushed and roared on; Flaxius sat in a Vandyke-brown study,
thinking how he could obtain peace and repose for the ghostly monk, and
also get the _pecuniam_.

“‘Here is,’ he thought, ‘_aliquid laborare_—something to be worked out.
Now is the time, and here is a chance—_ingirlandarsi di lauro_—to win the
laurel wreath.  A rose in January!  What a pity that it is not four
hundred years later, when people will have green-houses, and blue-nosed
vagabonds will be selling red roses all the winter long in the
Tornabuoni!  Truly it is sometimes inconvenient to be in advance of or
behind the age.

“‘_Eureka_!  I have it,’ he at last exclaimed, ‘by the neck and tail.  I
will _spogliar la tesoria_—rob the treasury and spoil the Egyptian—_si
non in errore versatus sum_—unless I am stupendously mistaken.  Monk! thy
weird will soon be dreed—thy penance prophesied will soon be o’er.’

“Saying this he went into the city.  And there the next day, going to a
fair dame of his acquaintance, who excelled all the ladies of all Italy
in ingenious needlework, he had made of silk a rose; and so deftly was it
done, that had it been put on a bush, you would have sworn that a
nightingale would have sung to it, or bee have sought to ravish it.

“Then going to a Venetian perfumer’s, the wise Flaxius had his flower
well scented with best attar of roses from Constantinople, and when
midnight struck he was at the tower once more calling to the goblin.

“‘_Che vuoi_?  What dost thou seek?’ cried the Elf.

“‘The treasure of the monk!’

“‘_Bene_!  Give me a rose.’

“‘_Ecco_!  There it is,’ replied Flaxius, extending it.

“‘_Non facit_—it won’t do,’ answered the goblin (thinking Flaxius to be a
monk).  ‘It is a sham rose artificially coloured, _murice tincta est_.’

“‘Smell it,’ replied Flaxius calmly.

“‘The _smell_ is all right, I admit,’ answered the guardian of the gold.
‘The perfume is delicious;’ here he sniffed at it deeply, being, like all
his kind, enraptured with perfume, ‘and that much of it is, I grant, the
real thing.’

“‘Now tell me,’ inquired Flaxius, ‘truly—_religiosè testimonium
dicere_—by thy great ancestress Diana and her sister-double Herodias and
her Nine Cats, by the Moon and the eternal Shadow, Endamone, and the word
which Bergoia whispered into the ear of the Ox, and the Lamia whom thou
lovest—what is it makes a man?  Is it his soul or his body?’

“‘Man of mystery and master of the hidden lore,’ replied the awe-struck
goblin, ‘it is his _soul_.’

“‘And is not the perfume of the rose its _soul_—that which breathes its
life, in which it speaks to fairies or to men?  Is not the voice in song
or sweetened words the perfume of the spirit, ever true?  Is not—’

“‘I give it up,’ replied the goblin.  ‘The priest may turn in now for a
long, long nap.  Here, take his gold, and _ne gioire tutto
d’allegrezza_—may you have a merry time with it.  There is a great deal
of good drinking in a thousand crowns; and if you ever try to _ludere
latrunculis vel aleis_, or shake the bones or dice, I promise you three
sixes.  By the way, I’ll just keep this rose to remember you by.
_Addio—a rivederlei_!’

“So the bedesman slept amid his ashes cold, and the good Flaxius, who was
a stout carl for the nonce, with a broad back and a great beard,
returned, bearing a mighty sack of ancient gold, which stood him in good
stead for many a day.  And the goblin is still there in the tower.”

“_Hæc fabula docet_,” wrote Flaxius as he revised the proof with a
red-lead pencil, for which he had paid a penny in the Calzolaio.  “This
tale teaches that in this life there is naught which hath not its ideal
side or inner soul, which may raise us to higher reflection or greater
profit, if we will but seek it.  The lower the man the lower he looks,
but it is all to his loss in the end.  Now every chapter in this book, O
my son—or daughter—may seem to thee only a rose of silk, yet do not stop
at that, but try to find therein a perfume.  For thou art thyself, I
doubt not, such a rose, even if thy threads (as in most of us) be
somewhat worn, torn, or faded, yet with a soul far better than many deem
who see thee only afar off.  And this my book is written for the perfume,
not the silk of my reader.  And there is no person who is better than
what the world deems him or her to be who will not find in it marvellous
comfort, solace, and satisfaction.”

Thus wrote Flaxius.

                                * * * * *

Since I penned the foregoing from memory, I have found the Italian text
or original, which had been mislaid for years.  In it the tale is
succinctly told within the compass of forty lines, and ends with these

    “‘Take the treasure, and give me the rose!’

    “And so the spirit gave him the treasure and took the rose, and the
    poor man went home enriched, and the priest to sleep in peace—_fra
    gli eterni_—among the eternals.”

I ought, of course, to have given scientifically only the text word for
word, but _litera scripta manet_—what is written remains, and Flaxius is
an old friend of mine, and I greatly desired to introduce him to my
readers.  And I doubt not that the reviewers will tell me if I have

    “Do a good deed, or aught that’s fit,
    You never again may hear of it;
    But make a slip, all will detect it,
    And every friend at once correct it!”


    “If I believed that spirits ne’er
    Return to earth once more,
    And that there’s naught unto them dear
    In the life they loved before;
    Then truly it would seem to me,
    However fate has sped,
    For souls there’s no eternity,
    And they and all are dead.”

It must have struck every one who has read the life of Michel Angelo,
that he was, like King James the First of England, “nae great gillravager
after the girls,” or was far from being susceptible to love—in which he
formed a great contrast to Raphael, and indeed to most of the Men of his
Time—or any other.  This appears to have impressed the people of Italy as
something even more singular than his works, for which reason he appears
in popular tradition as a good enough goblin, not without cheerfulness
and song, but as one given to tormenting enamoured couples and teasing
lady artists, whom he subsequently compliments with a gift.  The legend
is as follows:


“The spirit of Michel Angelo is seen mostly by night, in woods or groves.
The good man appears as he did in life, _come era prima_, ever walking
among trees singing poetry.  He amuses himself very much by teasing
lovers—_a dare noia agli amoretti_—and when he finds a pair who have
hidden themselves under leaves and boughs to make love, he waits till
they think they are well concealed, and then begins to sing.  And the two
feel a spell upon them when they hear his voice, and can neither advance
nor retreat.

“Then all at once opening the leafy covert, he bursts into a peal of
laughter; and the charm being broken, they fly in fear, because they
think they are discovered, and it is all nothing but the spirit of Michel
Angelo Buonarotti.

“When some lady-artist goes to sketch or paint, be it _al piazzale_, in
open places, or among the woods, it is his delight to get behind, and
cause her to blunder, scrawl, and daub (_fare degli scarabocchi_).  And
when the artist is angered, she will hear a loud peal of laughter; and if
this irritates her still more, she will hear a song, and yet not perceive
the singer.  And when at last in alarm she catches up her sketch, all
scrawled and spoiled, and takes to flight, she will hear the song
following her, and yet if she turns her head she will see no one
pursuing.  The voice and melody are always beautiful.  But it is
marvellously lucky to have this happen to an artist, for when she gets
home and looks at her sketch, she finds that it is neither scrawled nor
daubed, but most exquisitely executed in the style of Michel Angelo.”

                                * * * * *

It is marvellous how the teasing faun or Silvanus of the Romans has
survived in Tuscany.  I have found him in many forms, under many names,
and this is the last.  But why it should be Michel Angelo, I cannot
imagine, unless it be that his face and stump nose, so familiar to the
people, are indeed like that of the faun.  The _dii sylvestres_, with all
their endless mischief, riotry, and revelry, were good fellows, and the
concluding and rather startling touch that the great artist in the end
always bestows a valuable picture on his victim is really godlike—in a
small way.

It is remarkable as a coincidence, that Michel Angelo was himself during
life terribly annoyed and disturbed by people prying and speering about
him while painting—especially by Pope Leo—for whom he nevertheless
painted very good pictures.  It would almost seem as if there were an
echo of the event in the legend.  Legend is the echo of history.

“This legend,” remarks Flaxius, “may give a valuable hint to collectors.
Many people are aware that there are in existence great numbers of
sketchings and etchings attributed to Michel Angelo, Dürer, Raphael, Marc
Antonio, and many more, which were certainly executed long since those
brothers of the paint or pencil passed away.  May it not be that the
departed still carry on their ancient callings by the aid of new and
marvellous processes to us as yet unknown, or by what may be called
‘pneumato-gravure’?  Who knows?—’tis a great idea, my masters;—let us
pass on or _legit_ unto another legend!

    “‘Well I ween it may be true
    That afar in fairyland
    Great artists still pursue
    That which in life they knew,
    And practise still, with ever bettering hand,
    Sculpture and painting, all that charm can bring,
    While by them all departed poets sing.’”


    “Musa profonda dei Toscani, il Dante,
    Il nobil cittadin, nostro Alighieri,
    Alla filosofia ricco e brillante
    Purgò il linguaggio e corredò i pensieri;
    E nell’ opera sua fatto gigante
    A Campaldino nei primi guerrieri;
    Lui il Purgatorio, Paradiso e Inferno
    Fenomeno terren, poeta eterno!”

       —_Le Statue disotto gli Ufizi in Fireneze_.  _Ottave improvisate da
       Giuseppe Moroni detto Il Nicchieri_ (_Iliterato_).  Florence, 1892.

It has been boldly asserted by writers who should know better, that there
are no ghosts in Italy, possibly because the two only words in the
language for such beings are the equivocal ones of _spirito_ or spirit,
and _spettro_ or spectre—or _specter_, as the Websterians write it—which
is of itself appalling as a terrific spell.  But the truth is that there
is no kind of _spuk_, goblin, elf, fairy, gnome, or ouphe known to all
the North of Europe which was not at home in Italy since old Etruscan
days, and ghosts, though they do not make themselves common, are by no
means as rare as eclipses.  For, as may be read in my “Etruscan Roman
Legends,” people who will look through a stone with a hole in it can
behold no end of _revenants_, or returners, in any churchyard, and on
fine nights the seer can see them swarming in the streets of Florence.
Giotto is in the campanile as a gentle ghost with the fairy lamb, and
Dante, ever benevolent, is all about town, as appears from the following,
which was unexpectedly bestowed on me:

                      LO SPIRITO DI DANTE ALIGHIERI.

“When any one is passionately fond of poetry, he should sit by night on
the _panchina_ {63} in the piazza or square of Santa Croce or in other
places (_i.e._, those haunted by Dante), and having read his poetry,
pronounce the following:

    “‘Dante, che eri
    La gran poeta,
    Siei morto, ma vero,
    Il tuo spirito
    E sempre rimasto,
    Sempre per nostro
    Nostro aiuto.

    “‘Ti chiamo, ti prego!
    E ti scongiuro!
    A voler aiutarmi.
    Questa poesia
    Voglio imparare;
    Di più ancora,
    Non voglio soltanto
    Imparar la a cantare,
    Ma voglio imparare
    Di mia testa
    Poter le scrivere,
    E cosi venire
    Un bravo poeta.”

    “‘Thou Dante, who wert
    Such a great poet,
    Art dead, but thy spirit
    Is truly yet with us,
    Here and to aid us.

    “‘I call thee, I pray thee,
    And I conjure thee!
    Give me assistance!
    I would learn perfectly
    All of this poetry.
    And yet, moreover,
    I would not only
    Learn it to sing it,
    But I would learn too
    How I may truly
    From my head write it,
    And become really
    An excellent poet!’

“And then a form of a man will approach from around the statue (_da
canto_), advancing gently—_piano-piano_—to the causeway, and will sit on
it like any ordinary person, and begin to read the book, and the young
man who has invoked the poet will not fail to obtain his wish.  And the
one who has come from the statue is no other indeed than Dante himself.

“And it is said that if in any public place of resort or inn (_bettola_)
any poet sings the poems of Dante, he is always present among those who
listen, appearing as a gentleman or poor man—_secondo il
locale_—according to the place.

“Thus the spirit of Dante enters everywhere without being seen.

“If his poems be in the house of any person who takes no pleasure in
them, the spirit of the poet torments him in his bed (in dreams) until
the works are taken away.”

                                * * * * *

There is a simplicity and directness in this tradition, as here told,
which proves the faith of the narrator.  Washington Irving found that the
good people of East Cheap had become so familiar with Shakespearian
comedy as to verily believe that Falstaff and Prince Hal and Dame Quickly
had all lived, and still haunted the scenes of their former revels; and
in like manner the Florentine has followed the traditions of olden time
so closely and lovingly, that all the magnates of the olden time live for
him literally at the present day.  This is in a great measure due to the
fact that statues of all the celebrities of the past are in the most
public places, and that there are many common traditions to the effect
that all statues at certain times walk about or are animated.

One of the commonest halfpenny or _soldo_ pamphlets to be found on the
stand of all open-air dealers in ballads—as, for instance, in the
Uffizzi—is a collection of poems on the statues around that building,
which of itself indicates the interest in the past, and the knowledge of
poets and artists possessed by the common people.  For the poorest of
them are not only familiar with the names, and more or less with the
works, of Orcagna, Buonarotti, Dante, Giotto, Da Vinci, Raffaelle,
Galileo, Machiavelli, and many more, but these by their counterfeit
presentments have entered into their lives and live.  Men who are so
impressioned make but one bold step over the border into the fairyland of
faith while the more cultured are discussing it.

I do not, with some writers, believe that a familiarity with a few names
of men whose statues are always before them, and from whose works the
town half lives, indicates an indescribably high culture or more refined
nature in a man, but I think it is very natural for him to make legends
on them.  There are three other incantations given in another chapter,
the object of which, like this to Dante, is to become a poet.

“From which we learn that in the fairy faith,” writes Flaxius, with
ever-ready pen, “that poets risen to spirits still inspire, even in
person, neophytes to song.

    “‘Life is a slate of action, and the store
    Of all events is aggregated there
    That variegate the eternal universe;
    Death is a gate of dreariness and gloom,
    That leads to azure isles and beaming skies . . .
    Therefore, O spirit, fearlessly bear on.’”


    “‘Now when ye moone like a golden flowre,
       In ye sky above doth bloome,
    Ile lett doune a basket in that houre,
       And pull ye upp to my roome,
    And give mee a kisse if ’tis yes,’ he cryed;
       Ye mayden would nothing refuse;
    But held upp hir lippes—
       Oh I would I had beene
    Just thenn in that friar’s shoos.”

If we pass the Porta Romana, and keep on for three miles, we shall arrive
at the old Carthusian convent of La Certosa in Val d’Ema.  Soon after
passing “the village of Galluzzo, where the stream is crossed, we come to
an ancient gateway surmounted by a statue of Saint Laurence, _through
which no female could enter_ except by permission of the archbishop, and
out which no monk could pass.”  At least, it is so stated in a justly
famous English guide-book, though it does not explain how any “female”
could enter the saint, nor whether the female in question belonged to the
human species, or was fish, flesh, or red-herring.  I should, however,
incline to believe the latter is meant, as “herring” is a popular synonym
for a loose fish.

The Certosa was designed and built in the old Italian Gothic style by
Andrea Orcagna, it having been founded in the middle of the fourteenth
century by Niccolò Acciajuoli, who was of a great Florentine family, from
whom a portion of the Lung Arno is named.  The building is on a
picturesque hill, 400 feet above the union of the brooks called the Ema
and the Greve, the whole forming a charming view of a castled monastery
of the Middle Ages.

There is always, among the few monks who have been allowed to remain, an
English or Irish brother, to act as cicerone to British or American
visitors, and show them the interesting tombs in the crypt or
subterranean church, and the beautiful chapels and celebrated frescoes in
the church.  These were painted by Poccetti, and I am told that among
them there is one which commemorates or was suggested by the following
legend, which I leave the reader to verify, not having done so myself,
though I have visited the convent, which institution is, however,
popularly more distinguished—like many other monasteries—as a distillery
of holy cordial than for aught else:

                        AL CONVENTO DELLA CERTOSA.

“There was in this convent a friar called Il Beato Dyonisio, who was so
holy and such a marvellous doctor of medicine, that he was known as the
Frate Miraculoso or Miraculous Brother.

“And when any of the fraternity fell ill, this good medico would go to
them and say, ‘Truly thou hast great need of a powerful remedy, O my
brother, and may it heal and purify thy soul as well as thy body!’ {67}
And it always befell that when he had uttered this conjuration that the
patient recovered; and this was specially the case if after it they
confessed their sins with great devoutness.

“Brother Dyonisio tasted no food save bread and water; he slept on the
bare floor of his cell, in which there was no object to be seen save a
scourge with great knots; he never took off his garments, and was always
ready to attend any one taken ill.

“The other brothers of the convent were, however, all jolly monks, being
of the kind who wear the tunic as a tonic to give them a better—or
bitter—relish for secular delights, holding that it is far preferable to
have a great deal of pleasure for a little penitence than _per poco
piacer gran penitenza_—much penitence for very little pleasure.  In
short, they were just at the other end of the rope away from Brother
Dyonisio, inasmuch as they ate chickens, _bistecche_ or beef-steaks, and
drank the best wine, even on fast-days—_giorni di vigiglia_—and slept in
the best of beds; yes, living like lords, and never bothering themselves
with any kind of penance, as all friars should do.

“Now there was among these monks one who was a great _bestemmiatore_, a
man of evil words and wicked ways, who had led a criminal life in the
world, and only taken refuge in the disguise of a monk in the convent to
escape the hand of justice.  Brother Dyonisio knew all this, but said
nothing; nay, he even exorcised away a devil whom he saw was always
invisibly at the sinner’s elbow, awaiting a chance to catch him by the
hair; but the Beato Dyonisio was too much for him, and kept the devil
ever far away.

“And this was the way he did it:

“It happened one evening that this _finto frate_, or mock monk or feigned
friar, took it into his head, out of pure mischief, and because it was
specially forbidden, to introduce a _donna di mala vita_, or a girl of no
holy life, into the convent to grace a festival, and so arranged with
divers other scapegraces that the damsel should be drawn up in a basket.

“And sure enough there came next morning to the outer gate a fresh and
jolly black-eyed _contadina_, who asked the mock monk whether he would
give her anything in charity.  And the _finto frate_ answering sang:

    “‘You shall have the best of meat,
    Anything you like to eat,
    Cutlets, macaroni, chickens,
    Every kind of dainty pickings.
    Pasticcie and fegatelli,
    Salamé and mortadelle,
    With good wine, if you are clever,
    For a very trifling favour!’

“To which the girl replied:

    “‘Here I am, as here you see!
    What would’st thou, holy man, with me?’

“The friar answered:

    “‘When thou hear’st the hoots and howls
    At midnight of the dogs and owls,
    And when all men are sunk in sleep,
    And only witches watch do keep,
    Come ’neath the window unto me,
    And there thou wilt a basket see
    Hung by a rope as from a shelf,
    And in that basket stow thyself,
    And I alone will draw thee up,
    Then with us thou shalt gaily sup.’

“But the girl replied, as if in fear:

    “‘But if the rope should break away,
    Oh, then there’d be the devil to pay,
    Oh, holy father, first for thee—
    But most especially for me!
    For if by evil luck I’d cracked your
    Connecting cord, my limbs I’d fracture!’

“The friar sang:

    “‘The rope is good, as it is long,
    The basket’s tough, my arms are strong,
    Have thou no fear upon that score,
    T’as hoisted many a maid before;
    For often such a basket-full
    Did I into a convent pull,
    And many more I trust will I
    Draw safely up before I die.’

“And at midnight the girl was there walking beneath the windows awaiting
the hour to rise—_Ascensionem expectans_—truly not to heaven, nor from
any great liking for the monks, but for a great fondness for
roast-chickens and good wine, having in her mind’s eye such a supper as
she had never before enjoyed, and something to carry home with her.

“So at last there was a rustling sound above, as a window softly opened,
and a great basket came vibrating down below; and the damsel, well
assured, got into it like a hen into her nest, while the lusty friar
above began to draw like an artist.

“Now the _Beato frate_ Dyonisio, knowing all that passed round about by
virtue of his holy omniscience, determined to make manifest to the monks
that things not adapted to piety led them into the path of eternal

“Therefore, just as the basket-full of girl touched the window of the
convent, it happened by the virtue of the holy Dyonisio that the rope
broke and the damsel came with a _capi tombola_ somerset or first-class
tumble into the street; but as she, poor soul, had only sinned for a
supper, which she greatly needed and seldom got, she was quit for a good
fright, since no other harm happened to her.

“But it was far otherwise with the wicked monk, who had only come into
that holy monastery to stir up sin; for he, leaning too far over at the
instant, fell with an awful howl to the ground, where he roared so with
pain that all the other monks came running to see what was the matter.
And they found him indeed, more dead than alive, terribly bruised, yet in
greater agony of mind than of body, saying that Satan had tempted him,
and that he would fain confess to the Beato Dyonisio, who alone could
save him.

“Then the good monk tended him, and so exhorted him that he left his evil
ways and became a worthy servant of God, and the devil ceased to tempt
him.  And in due time Brother Dyonisio died, and as a saint they interred
him in the crypt under the convent, and the morning after his burial a
beautiful flower was found growing from his tomb, and so they sainted

“The fall of the girl was a scandal and cause of laughter for all
Florence, so that from that day the monks never ventured more to draw up
damsels in baskets.”

                                * * * * *

This story is so widely spread in many forms, that the reader can hardly
have failed to have heard it; in fact, there are few colleges where it
has not happened that a basket has not been used for such smuggling.  One
of the most amusing instances is of a damsel in New Haven, or Cambridge,
Massachusetts, who was very forgetful.  One day she said to a friend,
“You have no idea how wicked some girls are.  The other morning early—I
mean late at night—I was going by the college when I saw a girl being
drawn up in a basket by some students, when all at once the rope
broke—_and down I came_.”

In Germany, as in the East, the tale is told of a wooer who is drawn up
half-way in a basket and then let remain for everybody to behold.  In
Uhland’s Old Ballads there is one to this effect of Heinrich Corrade der
Schreiber im Korbe.  Tales on this theme at least need not be regarded as
strictly traditional.

There is another little legend attached to La Certosa which owes its
small interest to being told of a man who was one of the Joe Millers of
Italy in the days of the Medici.  It is a curious fact that humorists do
most abound and are most popular in great epochs of culture.

Domenico Barlacchi was a _banditore_—herald or public crier—of Florence,
commonly known as Il Barlacchia, who lived in the time of Lorenzo de’
Medici, and who, being _molto piacevole e faceto_, or pleasing and
facetious, as I am assured by an ancient yellow jest-book of 1636 now
before me, became, like Piovano Arlotto and Gonella, one of the famous
wits of his time.  It is worth noting, though it will be no news to any
folk-lorist, that in these flying leaves, or fleeting collections of
facetiæ, there are many more indications of familiar old Florentine life
than are to be gleaned from the formal histories which are most cited by
writers who endeavour to illustrate it.

    “One morning Barlacchia, with other boon companions, went to La
    Certosa, three miles distant from Florence, {71} where, having heard
    mass, they were taken over the convent by one of the friars, who
    showed them the convent and cells.  Of which Barlacchia said ’twas
    all very fine, but that he would like to see the
    wine-cellar—_sentendosi egli hauer sete_—as he felt great thirst
    sadly stealing over him.

    “To which the friar replied that he would gladly show them that part
    of the convent, but that unfortunately the Decano who kept the keys
    was absent.  [_Decano_, dean or deacon, may be rendered roughly in
    English as a dog, or literally of a dog or currish.]  To which
    Barlacchia replied, ‘Truly I am sorry for it, and I wish you were all
    _de’ cani_ or dogs!’

Times have changed, and whether this tale brought about the reform I
cannot say, but it is certain that the good monks at present, without
waiting to be asked, generally offer a glass of their famous cordial to
visitors.  Tastes may differ, but to mine, when it is old, the green
Certosa, though far cheaper, is superior to Chartreuse.

Another tale of Barlacchia, which has a certain theological affinity with
this story, is as follows:

    “A great illness once befell Barlacchia, so that it was rumoured all
    over Florence that he was dead, and great was the grieving thereover.
    But having recovered, by the grace of God, he went from his house to
    the palace of the Grand Duke, who said to him:

    “‘Ha! art thou alive, Barlacchia?  We all heard that thou wert dead.’

    “‘Signore, it is true,’ was his reply.  ‘I was indeed in the other
    world, but they sent me back again, and that for a mere trifle, which
    you forgot to give me.’

    “‘And what was that?’ asked the Duke.

    “‘I knocked,’ resumed Barlacchia, ‘at the gate of heaven, and they
    asked me who I was, what I had done in the world, and whether I had
    left any landed property.  To which I replied no, never having begged
    for anything.  So they sent me off, saying that they did not want any
    such poor devils about them—_non volevano là simile dapochi_.  And
    therefore, illustrious Signore, I make so bold as to ask that you
    would kindly give me some small estate, so that another time I may
    not be turned away.’

    “Which so pleased the magnificent and liberal Lorenzo that he
    bestowed on Barlacchia a _podere_ or farm.

    “Now for a long time after this illness, Barlacchia was very pale and
    haggard, so that everybody who met him (and he was well known to
    everybody) said, ‘Barlacchia, _mind the rules_’—meaning the rules of
    health; or else, ‘Barlacchia, look to yourself;’ or _regolati_! or
    _guardatevi_!—till at last he became tired with answering them.  So
    he got several small wooden rules or rulers, such as writers use to
    draw lines, and hung them by a cord to his neck, and with them a
    little mirror, and when any one said ‘_Regolati_’—‘mind the rules,’
    he made no reply, but looked at the sticks, and when they cried
    ‘_Guardatevi_!’ he regarded himself in the mirror, and so they were

This agrees with the sketch of Lorenzo as given by Oscar Browning in his
admirable “Age of the Condottieri,” a short history of Mediæval Italy
from 1409 to 1530:

    “Lorenzo was a bad man of business; he spent such large sums on
    himself that he deserved the appellation of the Magnificent.  He
    reduced himself to poverty by his extravagance; he alienated his
    fellow-citizens by his lust . . . and was shameless in the promotion
    of his private favourites.”

Yet with all this he was popular, and left a legendary fame in which
generosity rivals a love of adventure.  I have collected many traditions
never as yet published relating to him, and in all he appears as a _bon

“But verily when I consider that what made a gallant lord four hundred
years ago would be looked after now by the Lord Chancellor and the law
courts with a sharp stick, I must needs,” writes Flaxius, “exclaim with
Spenser sweet:

    “‘Me seemes the world is run quite out of square,
    For that which all men once did Vertue call,
    Is now called Vice, and that which Vice was hight
    Is now hight Vertue, and so used of all;
    Right now is wrong, and wrong that was, is right,
    As all things else in time are changed quight.’”


    “I stood upon a bridge and heard
       The water rushing by,
    And as I thought, to every word
       The water made reply.

    I looked into the deep river,
       I looked so still and long,
    Until I saw the elfin shades
       Pass by in many a throng.

    They came and went like starry dreams,
       For ever moving on,
    As darkness takes the starry beams
       Unnoted till they’re gone.”

There is something in a bridge, and especially in an old one, which has
been time-worn and mossed into harmony with surrounding nature, which has
always seemed peculiarly poetical or strange to men.  Hence so many
legends of devil’s bridges, and it is rather amusing when we reflect how,
as Pontifex, he is thus identified with the head of the Church.  Thus I
once, when attending law lectures in Heidelberg in 1847, heard Professor
Mittermaier say, that those who used the saying of “the divine right of
kings” as an argument reminded him of the peasants who assumed that every
old bridge was built by the devil.  It is, however, simply the arch,
which in any form is always graceful, and the stream passing through it
like a living thing, which forms the artistic attraction or charm of such
structures.  I have mentioned in my “Memoirs” that Ralph Waldo Emerson
was once impressed by a remark, the first time I met him, to the effect
that a vase in a room had the effect of a bridge in a landscape—at least,
he recalled it at once when I met him twenty years later.

The most distinguished bridge, from a legendary point of view, in Europe,
was that of Saint John Nepomuc in Prague—recently washed away owing to
stupid neglect; the government of the city probably not supporting, like
the king in the opera-bouffe of “Barbe Bleu,” a commissioner of bridges.
The most picturesque work of the kind which I recall is that of the Ponte
Maddalena—also a devil’s bridge—at the Bagni di Lucca.  That Florence is
not wanting in legends for its bridges appears from the following:


“He who passes after midnight on the Ponte Vecchio can always see a form
which acts as guard, sometimes looking like a beggar, sometimes like a
_guardia di sicurezza_, or one of the regular watchmen, and indeed
appearing in many varied forms, but generally as that of a watchman, and
always leaning on the bridge.

“And if the passer-by asks him any such questions as these: ‘Chi
siei?’—‘Cosa fai?’—‘Dove abiti?’—‘Ma vien’ con me?’  That is: ‘Who are
you?’—‘What dost thou do?’—‘Where is your home?’—‘Wilt with me come?’—he
seems unable to utter anything; but if you ask him, ‘Who am I?’ it seems
to delight him, and he bursts into a peal of laughter which is
marvellously loud and ringing, so that the people in the shops waking up
cry, ‘There is the goblin of the Ponte Vecchio at his jests again!’  For
he is a merry sprite, and then they go to sleep, feeling peaceably
assured that he will watch over them as of yore.

“And this he really does for those who are faithful unto him.  And those
who believe in spirits should say sincerely:

    “‘Spirito del Ponte Vecchio,
    Guardami la mia bottega!
    Guardami dagli ladroni!
    Guardami anche dalla strega!’

    “‘Spirit of the ancient bridge!
    Guard my shop and all my riches,
    From the thieves who prowl by night,
    And especially from witches!’

“Then the goblin ever keeps guard for them.  And should it ever come to
pass that thieves break into a shop which he protects, he lets them work
away till they are about to leave, when he begins to scream ‘_Al ladro_!_
al ladro_!’ and follows them till they are taken.

“But when the police have taken the thief, and he is brought up to be
interrogated, and there is a call for the individual who was witness
(_quando le guardie vanno per interrogare l’individuo che si e trovato
presente_), lo and behold he has always disappeared.

“And at times, when the weather is bad, he prowls about the bridge in the
form of a cat or of a he-goat, and should any very profane, abusive
rascal (_bestemmiatore_) come along, the spirit as a goat will go before,
running nimbly, when all at once the latter sinks into the earth, from
which flames play forth, to the great terror of the sinner, while the
goblin vanishes laughing.”

                                * * * * *

I have very little doubt that this guardian spirit of the bridge is the
same as Teramo, _i.e._, Hermes Mercury, who is believed in the Toscana
Romana to betray thieves when they commit murder.  But Mercury was also a
classic guardian of bridges.

This merry goblin of the Ponte Vecchio has a colleague not far away in
the _Spirito del Ponte alla Carraia_, the legend of which is as follows.
And here I would note, once for all, that in almost every case these
tales were written out for me in order to secure the greater accuracy,
which did not however always ensure it, since even Miss Roma Lister, who
is to the manor or manner born, often had with me great trouble in
deciphering the script.  For verily it seems to be a decree of destiny
that everything traditional shall be involved, when not in Egyptian or
Himaritic, or Carthaginian or Norse-Runic, at least in some diabolical
dialect, so anxious is the Spirit of the past to hide from man the things
long passed away.

                          AL PONTE ALLA CARRAIA.

“By the Arno, or under the Bridge alla Carraia, there lived once a
certain Marocchio, {77a} a _bestemmiatore_, or blasphemer, for he cursed
bitterly when he gained but little, being truly a _marocchio_, much
attached to money.  Even in dying he still swore.  And Marocchio had sold
himself to the devil, and hidden his money under a stone in the arch of
the bridge.  Yet though he had very poor relations and friends, he
confided nothing to them, and left _niente a nessuno_, ‘nothing to
nobody.’  Whence it came that after his death he had no rest or peace,
because his treasure remained undiscovered.

“Yet where the money lay concealed there was seen every night the form of
a goat which cast forth flames, and running along before those who passed
by, suddenly sunk into the ground, disappearing in a great flash of fire.

“And when the _renaioli_ or sand-diggers, {77b} thinking it was a real
goat, would catch it by the hair, it cast forth fire, so that many of
them died of fright.  And it often overthrew their boats and made all the
mischief possible.

“Then certain people thinking that all this indicated a hidden treasure,
sought to find it, but in vain; till at last one who was _più furbo_, or
shrewder than the rest, observed that one day, when the wind was worse
than usual, raising skirts and carrying away caps and hats, there was a
goat in all the hurly-burly, and that this animal vanished at a certain
spot.  ‘There I ween,’ he said, ‘lies money hid!’  And knowing that
midnight is the proper time or occasion (_cagione di nascosto tesoro_)
for buried hoards, he came at the hour, and finding the habitual goat
(_il solito chaprone_), he addressed him thus:

“‘If thou art a blessed soul, then go thy way in peace, and God be with
thee.  But if thou sufferest from buried treasure, then teach me how I,
without any fear, may take thy store, then thou mayst go in peace!  And
if thou art in torment for a treasure, show me the spot, and I will take
it home, and then thou’lt be at peace and grieve no more.’

“Then the goat jumped on the spot where the money was hidden and sank as
usual out of sight in fire.

“So the next day the young man went there and dug till he discovered the
gold, and the spirit of Marocchio was relieved.  But to this hour the
goat is seen now and then walking in his old haunt, where he sinks into
the ground at the same place.”

                                * * * * *

The legend of a goat haunting a bridge is probably derived from the
custom of sacrificing an animal to new buildings or erections.  These
were originally human sacrifices, for which, in later times, the animals
were substituted.  Hence the legends of the devil having been defrauded
out of a promised soul by driving a goat or cat over the bridge as a
first crosser.  The spirits of the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte alla Carraia
clearly indicate this origin.

The next legend on this subject is that of the Ponte alle Grazie, which
was built by Capo, the fellow-pupil of Arnolfo, under the direction of
Rubaconte, who filled the office of Podestà in 1235.  Five hundred years
are quite time enough to attract traditions in a country where they
spring up in five; and when I inquired whether there was any special
story attached to the Ponte alle Grazie, I was soon supplied with the

                          LE PONTE ALLE GRAZIE.

“When one passes under a bridge, or in halls of great palaces, or the
vault of a church, or among high rocks, if he calls aloud, he will hear
what is called the _echo_ of his voice.

“Yet it is really not his own voice which he hears, but the mocking
voices of spirits, the reason being that they are confined to these
places, and therefore we do not hear them in the open air, where they are
free.  But we can hear them clearly in great places enclosed, as, for
instance, under vaults, and far oftener in the country, because in
limited spaces their voices are confined and not lost.  And these are the
voices of people who were merry and jovial while on earth, and who now
take delight _a rifare il verso_, to re-echo a strain.

“But under the Ponte alle Grazie we hear the cry of the spirit of a girl.
She was very beautiful, and had grown up from infancy in constant
companionship with a youth of the neighbourhood, and so from liking as
children they went on to loving at a more advanced age, with greater
fondness and with deeper passion.

“And it went so far that at last the girl found herself with child, and
then she was in great trouble, not knowing how to hide this from her
parents.  _Sta beccata da una serpe_, as the proverb is; ‘she had been
stung by a serpent,’ and now began to feel the poison.  But the youth was
faithful and true, and promised to marry her as soon as he could possibly
arrange matters.  So she was quieted for a time.

“But she had a vilely false friend, and a most intimate one, in a girl
who, being a witch, or of that kind, hated her bitterly at heart, albeit
she knew well _portare bene la maschera_, how to wear the mask.

“Now the poor girl told this false friend that she was _enceinte_, and
that her lover would marry her; and the dear friend took her, as the
saying is, a trip to Volterra, during which a man was treated like a
prince and robbed or murdered at the end.  For she insinuated that the
marriage might fail, and meantime she, the friend, would consult witches
and _fate_, who would get her out of her troubles and make all right as
sure as the Angelus.  And the false friend went to the witches, but she
took them a lock of hair from the head of the lover to conjure away his
love and work harm.  And knowing what the bridal dress would be, she made
herself one like it in every detail.  And she so directed that the bride
on the wedding morning shut herself up in a room and see no one till she
should be sent for.

“The bride-to-be passed the morning in great anxiety, and while waiting
there received a large bouquet of orange-flowers as a gift from her
friend.  And these she had perfumed with a witch-powder.  And the bride
having inhaled the scent, fell into a deep sleep, or rather trance,
during which she was delivered of a babe, and knew nothing of it.  Now
the people in the house hearing the child cry, ran into the room, and
some one ran to the bridegroom, who was just going to be married to the
false friend, who had by aid of the witches put on a face and a false
seeming, the very counterpart of her he loved.

“Then the unfortunate girl hearing that her betrothed was being married,
and maddened by shame and grief, rushed in her bride’s dress through the
streets, and coming to the Bridge delle Grazie, the river being high,
threw herself into it and was drowned; still holding the bouquet of
orange-blossoms in her hand, she was carried on the torrent into death.

“Then the young man, who had discovered the cheat, and whose heart was
broken, said, ‘As we were one in life, so we will be in death,’ and threw
himself into the Arno from the same place whence she had plunged, and
like her was drowned.  And the echo from the bridge is the sound of their
voices, or of hers.  Perhaps she answers to the girls and he to the men;
anyhow they are always there, like the hymns in a church.”

                                * * * * *

There is a special interest in the first two paragraphs of this story, as
indicating how a person who believes in spirits, and is quite ignorant of
natural philosophy, explains phenomena.  It is precisely in this manner
that most early science was confused with superstition; and there is more
of it still existing than even the learned are aware of.

I know not whether echoes are more remarkable in and about Florence than
elsewhere, but they are certainly specially noticed in the local
folk-lore, and there are among the witches invocations to echoes, voices
of the wind, and similar sounds.  One of the most remarkable echoes which
I ever heard is in the well of the Villa Guicciardini, now belonging to
Sir John Edgar.  It is very accurate in repeating every sound in a manner
so suggestive of a mocking goblin, that one can easily believe that a
peasant would never doubt that it was caused by another being.  It
renders laughter again with a singularly strange and original effect.
Even when standing by or talking near this mystic fount, the echo from
time to time cast back scraps of phrases and murmurs, as if joining in
the conversation.  It is worth observing (_vide_ the story of the Three
Horns) that this villa once belonged to—and is, as a matter of course,
haunted by the ghost of—Messer Guicciardini, the great writer, who was
himself a faithful echo of the history of his country, and of the wisdom
of the ancients.  Thus into things do things repeat themselves, and souls
still live in what surrounded them.  I have not seen this mystic well
noticed in any of the Florentine guide-books of any kind, but its goblin
is as well worthy an interview as many better known characters.  Yea, it
may be that he is the soul of Guicciardini himself, but when I was there
I forgot to ask him if it were so?

I can, however, inform the reader as to the incantation which is needed
to call to the spirit of the well to settle this question.  Take a copy
of his “Maxims” and read them through; then drink off one glass of wine
to the health of the author, and, bending over the well, distinctly
cry—“Sei Messer Guicciardini, di cosi?”—strongly accentuating the last
syllable.  And if the reply be in the affirmative, you may draw your own
conclusions.  For those who are not Italianate, it will do quite as well
if they cry, “Guicciardini?  No or yes?”  For even this echo is not equal
to the Irish one, which to “_How do you do_?” replied, “Pretty well, I
thank you!”

There is a very good story of the Ponte alle Grazie, anciently known as
the Rubaconte, from the Podestà in whose year of office it was built,
told originally by Sachetti in his _Novelle_ and Manni, _Veglie
Piacevoli_, who drew it indeed from Venetian or Neapolitan-Oriental
sources, and which is best told by Leader Scott in “The Echoes of Old
Florence.”  It still lives among the people, and is briefly as follows,
in another form:


“There was once in Florence a Podestà or chief magistrate named
Rubaconte, and he had been chosen in the year 1236, nor had he been long
in office when a man called Bagnai, because he kept a public bath, was
brought before him on the charge of murder.

“And Bagnai, telling his tale, said: ‘This is the very truth—_ne favola
ne canzone di tavola_—for I was crossing the river on the little bridge
with a hand-rail by the Palazzo Mozzi, when there came riding over it a
company of gentlemen.  And it befell that I was knocked over the bridge,
and fell on a man below who was washing his feet in the Arno, and lo! the
man was killed by my dropping on him.’

“Now to the Podestà this was neither eggs nor milk, as the saying is, and
he could at first no more conclude on it than if one had asked him, ‘_Chi
nacque prima—l’uovo o la gallina_?’  ‘Which was born first—the hen or the
egg?’  For on one side the _bagnajolo_ was innocent, and on the other the
dead man’s relations cried for vengeance.  But after going from one side
of his brain to the other for five minutes, he saw ‘from here to the
mountain,’ and said:

“‘Now I have listened to ye both, and this is a case where one must—

    “‘Non giudicar per legge ni per carte,
    Se non ascolti l’un e l’altra parte.’

    “‘Judge not by law-books nor by chart,
    But look with care to either part.’

“‘And as it is said, “Berta must drink from her own bottle,” so I decree
that the _bagnaio_ shall go and wash his feet in the Arno, sitting in the
same place, and that he who is the first of his accusers shall fall from
the bridge on his neck, and so kill him.’

“And truly this settled the question, and it was agreed that the Podestà
was _piu savio de gli statuti_—wiser even than the law itself.

“But then Rubaconte did an even wiser thing, for he determined to have a
new bridge built in place of the old one, and hence came the Ponte alle
Grazie, ‘of which he himself laid the first foundation-stone, and carried
the first basket of mortar, with all due civic ceremony, in 1236.’ {82}

“But as it is said, ‘he who has drunk once will drink again,’ it came to
pass that Bagnai had to appear once more as accused before the Podestà.
One day he met a man whose donkey had fallen and could not rise.  ’Twas
on the Ponte Vecchio.

“The owner seized the donkey by the head, Bagnai caught him by the tail,
and pulled so hard that the tail came off!

“Then the contadino or _asinaio_ had Bagnai brought before the Podestà,
and claimed damages for his injured animal.  And Rubaconte decided that
Bagnai should keep the ass in his stable, and feed him well—until the
tail had grown again.

“As may be supposed, the _asinaio_ preferred to keep his ass himself, and
go no farther in the case.”

                                * * * * *

This ancient tale recalls that of Zito, the German magician conjuror,
whose leg was pulled off.  It is pretty evident that the donkey’s tail
had been glued on for the occasion.

I may here add something relative to the folk-lore of bridges, which is
not without interest.  I once asked a witch in Florence if such a being
as a spirit of the water or one of bridges and streams existed; and she

“Yes, there is a spirit of the water as there is of fire, and everything
else.  They are rarely seen, but you can make them appear.  _How_?  Oh,
easily enough, but you must remember that they are capricious, and appear
in many delusive forms. {83}

“And this is the way to see them.  You must go at twilight and look over
a bridge, or it will do if it be in the daytime in the woods at a smooth
stream or a dark pool—_che sia un poco oscuro_—and pronounce the
incantation, and throw a handful or a few drops of its water into the
water itself.  And then you must look long and patiently, always thinking
of it for several days, when, _poco à poco_, you will see dim shapes
passing by in the water, at first one or two, then more and more, and if
you remain quiet they will come in great numbers, and show you what you
want to know.  But if you tell any one what you have seen, they will
never appear again, and it will be well for you should nothing worse

“There was a young man at Civitella in the Romagna Toscana, and he was in
great need of money.  He had lost an uncle who was believed to have left
a treasure buried somewhere, but no one knew where it was.  Now this
nephew was a reserved, solitary youth, always by himself in lone places,
among ruins or in the woods—_un poco streghon_—a bit of a wizard, and he
learned this secret of looking into streams or lakes, till at last,
whenever he pleased, he could see swarms of all kinds of figures sweeping
along in the water.

“And one evening he thus saw, as in a glass, the form of his uncle who
had died, and in surprise he called out ‘Zio mio!’—‘My uncle!’  Then the
uncle stopped, and the youth said, ‘Didst thou but know how I am
suffering from poverty!’  When he at once beheld in the water his home
and the wood near it, and a path, and the form of his uncle passed along
the path to a lonely place where there was a great stone.  Then the uncle
pointed to the stone and vanished.  The next day the young man went
there, and under the stone he found a great bag of gold—and I hope that
the same may happen to all of us!

    “‘He who has sheep has wool in store;
    He who has mills hath plenty of flour;
    He who hath land hath these at call;
    He who has money has got them all.’”


    “She never told her love—oh no!
    For she was mild and meek,
    And his for her he dared not show,
    Because he hadn’t the cheek.
    ’Tis pity this should e’er be past,
    For, to judge by what all men say,
    ’Twere best such difference should last
    Unto our dying day.”

All who have visited Florence have noticed the Church of Santa Lucia in
the Via de’ Bardi, from the figure of the patron with two angels over the
door in Lucca della Robbia ware.  Of this place of worship there is in a
jest-book a droll story, which the reader may recall when he enters the

    “A young Florentine once fell desperately in love with a beautiful
    lady of unsullied character and ready wit, and so followed her about
    wherever she went; but he being sadly lacking in wit and sense, at
    all four corners, never got the nearer to her acquaintance, though he
    told all his friends how irresistible he would be, and what a
    conquest he would make, if he could only once get a chance to speak
    to her.  Yet as this lady prized ready wit and graceful address in a
    man above all things, it will be seen that his chance was thin as a
    strip of paper.

    “But one _festa_ the lady went to the Church of Santa Lucia in the
    Via dei Bardi, and one of the friends of the slow-witted one said to
    him, ‘Now is the lucky hour and blooming chance for you.  Go up and
    speak to her when she approaches the font to take holy water.’

    “Now the lover had prepared a fine speech for the lady, which he had
    indeed already rehearsed many times to his friends with great
    applause; but when it came to utter it to the lady a great and awful
    fear fell on him, the words vanished—vanished from his memory, and he
    was dumb as a dead ass.  Then his friend poking him in the ribs,
    whispered in his ear, ‘But say _something_, man, no matter what!’

    “So with a gasp he brought out at last, ‘Signora, I would fain be
    your humble servant.’

    “To which the lady, smiling, replied, ‘Well, I have already in my
    house plenty of humble servants, and indeed only too many to sweep
    the rooms and wash the dishes, and there is really no place for
    another. . . .’

    “And the young man turned aside with sickness in his heart.  His
    wooing for that holiday was o’er.”

This may be matched with the story of a bashful New England lover of the
olden time, for there are none such now-a-days:—

    “I don’t know how I ever got courage to do it; but one evening I went
    courting Miss Almira Chapin.

    “And when she came in, I sat for half-an-hour, and dared not say a
    word.  At last I made a desperate dash and got out, ‘Things are
    looking very green out of doors, Miss Almira.’

    “And she answered, ‘Seems to me they’re looking a great deal greener
    _in_ doors this evening.’

    “That extinguished me, and I retreated.  And when I was outside I
    burst into tears.”


    “One day Good Luck came to my home,
       I begged of her to stay.
    ‘There’s no one loves you more than I,
       Oh, rest with me for aye,’
    ‘It may not be; it may not be,
    I rest with no one long,’ said she.”

                                      —“_Witch Ballads_,” by C. G. LELAND.

The manner in which many of the gods in exile still live in Italy is very
fully illustrated by the following story:

“It is a hard thing sometimes now-a-days for a family to pass for noble
if they are poor, or only poor relations.  But it was easy in the old
time, Signore Carlo, easy as drinking good Chianti.  A signore had only
to put his shield with something carved on it over his window, and he was
all right.  He was noble _senza dubbio_.

“Now the nobles had their own noble stories as to what these noble
pictures in stone meant, but the ignoble people often had another story
just as good.  Coarse woollen cloth wears as well as silk.  Now you may
see on an old palazzo in the Via de’ Cerchi, and indeed in several other
places, a shield with three rings.  But people call them three wheels.
And this is the story about the three wheels.”

                               LA FORTUNA.

“There was a man, _tanto buono_, as good as could be, who lived in
squalid misery.  He had a wife and two children, one blind and another
_storpia_ or crippled, and so ugly, both—_non si dice_—beyond telling!

“This poor man in despair often wept, and then he would repeat:

    “‘The wheel of Fortune turns, they say,
    But for me it turns the other way;
    I work with good-will, but do what I may,
    I have only bad luck from day to day.’

“‘Yes, little to eat and less to wear, and two poor girls, one blind and
one lame.  People say that Fortune is blind herself, and cannot walk, but
she does not bless those who are like her, that is sure!’  And so he
wailed and wept, till it was time to go forth to seek work to gain their
daily bread.  And a hard time he had of it.

“Now it happened that very late one night, or very early one morning, as
one may say, between dark and dawn, he went to the forest to cut wood.
When having called to Fortune as was his wont—_Ai_! what was his surprise
to see—_tutta ad un tratto_—all at once, before his eyes, a gleam of
light, and raising his head, he beheld a lady of enchanting beauty
passing along rapidly, and yet not walking—on a rolling ball—_e
ciondolava le gambe_—moving her limbs—I cannot say feet, for she had
none.  In place of them were two wheels, and these wheels, as they
turned, threw off flowers from which there came delicious perfume.

“The poor man uttered a sigh of relief seeing this, and said:

“‘Beautiful lady, believe me when I say that I have invoked thee every
day.  Thou art the Lady of the Wheels of Fortune, and had I known how
beautiful thou art, I would have worshipped thee for thy beauty alone.
Even thy very name is beautiful to utter, though I have never been able
to couple it with mine, for one may see that I am not one of the
fortunate.  Yet, though thou art mine enemy, give me, I pray, just a
little of the luck which flies from thy wheel!

“‘Yet do not believe, I pray, that I am envious of those who are thy
favourites, nor that because thou art my enemy that I am thine, for if
thou dost not deem that I am worthy, assuredly I do not deserve thy
grace, nor will I, like many, say that Fortune is not beautiful, for
having seen thee, I can now praise thee more than ever.’

“‘I do not cast my favours always on those who deserve them,’ replied
Fortune, ‘yet this time my wheel shall assist thee.  But tell me, thou
man of honesty and without envy, which wouldst thou prefer—to be
fortunate in all things thyself alone, or to give instead as much good
luck to _two_ men as miserable as thou art?  If thou wilt gain the prize
for thyself alone, turn and pluck one of these flowers!  If for others,
then take two.’

“The poor man replied: ‘It is far better, lady, to raise two families to
prosperity than one.  As for me, I can work, and I thank God and thee
that I can do so much good to so many, although I do not profit by it
myself;’ and saying this, he advanced and plucked two flowers.

“Fortune smiled.  ‘Thou must have heard,’ she said, ‘that where I spend,
I am lavish and extravagant, and assuredly thou knowest the saying that
“Three is the lucky number,” or nine.  Now I make it a rule that when I
relieve families, I always do it by threes—_la spando à tre famiglie_—so
do thou go and pluck a flower for thyself!’

“Then the poor man, hearing this, went to the wheels, and let them turn
till a very large fine flower came forth, and seized it, whereat Fortune
smiled, and said:

“‘I always favour the bold.  Now go and sit on yonder bench till some one
comes.’  And saying this, she vanished.

“There came two very poor woodcutters whom he knew well.  One had two
sons, another a son and a daughter, and one and all were as poor and
miserable as could be.

“‘What has come over thee, that thou art looking so handsome and young,’
said one amazed, as he came up.

“‘And what fine clothes!’ remarked the second.

“‘It shall be so anon for ye both,’ replied the favourite of Fortune;
‘only take these flowers and guard them well.’

“Si, Signore, they sat down on the bench three beggars, and they rose
three fine cavaliers, in velvet and satin, with gold-mounted swords, and
found their horses and attendants waiting.  And when they got home, they
did not know their wives or children, nor were they known unto them, and
it was an hour before all was got right.  Then all went with them as if
it were oiled.  The first man found a great treasure the very first day
in his cellar—in fine, they all grew rich, and the three sons married the
three girls, and they all put the three wheels on their _scudi_.  One of
the wheels is the ball on which Fortune rolled along, and the other two
are her feet; or else the three men each took a wheel to himself.
Anyhow, there they are, pick and choose, Signore—_chi ha piú cervello_,
_l’usi_!—let him who has brains, brain!

“Now, it is a saying that _ogni fior non fa frutto_—every blossom doth
not bear a fruit—but the flowers of Fortune bear fruit enough to make up
for the short crop elsewhere.

“But there is some sense and use in such stories as these, Signore, after
all; for a poor devil who half believes—and very often quite believes in
them—gets a great deal of hope and comfort out of them.  They make him
trust that luck or fairies or something will give him a good turn yet
some day—_chi sa_?—and so he hopes, and truly, as they say that no pretty
girl is ever quite poor, so no man who hopes is ever really
broken—_grazie_, _Signore_!  I hope to tell you another story before

                                * * * * *

There is something in the making Fortune with _two_ heels for feet which
suggests a memory of skate-rollers.

I once published an article in the _Ethnologische Monatsheft_ of
Budapest, which set forth more fully the idea expressed in this tale,
that the popular or fairy tale is a source of comfort, or a Bible to the
poor, for it always teaches the frequently delusive, but always cheering
lesson that good-luck or fortune may turn up some day, even for the most
unfortunate.  The Scripture promises happiness for the poorest, or indeed
specially for the poorest in the next life; the fairy tale teaches that
Cinderella, the despised, and the youngest, humblest of the three, will
win fortune while here on earth.  It inspires hope, which is a great
secret of happiness and success.

To which the learned Flaxius annotates:

“It hath escaped the author—as it hath indeed all mankind—that as the
first syllable of Fortuna is _fort_ (Latin _fortis_), so the true
beginning of luck is strength; and if we are to understand by _una_,
‘one’ or ‘only,’ we may even believe that the name means strength alone
or vigorous will, in accordance with which the ancients declared that
‘Fortune favours the bold,’ and also _Fortuna contentionis studiosa
est_—‘Fortune delights in strife.’  Therefore she is ever fleeting in
this world.  _Fortuna simul cum moribus immutatur_, as Boethius hath it.”


    “‘Yes, you have cheated me,’ howled the devil to the architect.  ‘But
    I lay a curse upon your work.  It shall never be finished.’”—_Snow
    and Planche’s_ “_Legends of the Rhine_.”

All great and ancient buildings which were never finished have a legend
referring to their incompleteness.  There was one relative to the
Cathedral of Cologne, which may be found in Planche’s “Legends of the
Rhine,” and as there is a _palazzo non finito_ in Florence, I at once
scented an old story; nor was I disappointed, it being unearthed in due
time, and written out for me as follows:

                          IL PALAZZO NON FINITO.

“On the corner of the Via del Proconsole and the Borgo degli Albizzi
there is an unfinished palace.

“The great Signore Alessandro Strozzi had a friend who, when dying,
confided to him the care of his only son.  And it was a troublesome task,
for the youth was of a strange temper.  And a vast property was left to
the young man, his father imploring him not to waste it, and to live in
friendship with his guardian.

“But his father had hardly closed his eyes in death before this youth
began to act wildly, and above all things to gamble terribly.  And as the
saying is, _Il diavolo ha parte in ogni giuoco_—‘The devil has a hand in
every game,’ so he soon brought himself into company with the gamester.
Now, as you have heard, ’tis _la lingua o la bocca e quella che fa il

    “‘Every game, as it is sung,
    Is won by mouth, or else by tongue.’

“So this devil or imp by smooth talk succeeded in deceiving the young
heir, and leading him into a compact by which he was to achieve for the
Signore all the work which might be required of him for a hundred years,
no matter what it was, and then the heir must forfeit his soul.

“For some time the young man was satisfied with always winning at
gambling.  Yes, he ruined scores, hundreds, and piled up gold till he got
sick of the sight of cards.  You know the saying, ‘When the belly is full
the eyes are tired,’ and ‘A crammed dove hates to fly.’

“So for a while he kept the devil busy, bringing him a girl here, and
building him a tower there, sending him to India for diamonds, or setting
him at work to keep off storm and hail from his vineyards, which the
devil found hard work enough, I promise you, Signore, for then he had to
fight other devils and witches.  Then he put him at a harder job.  There
was a ghost of a _stregone_ or wizard who haunted his _palazzo_.  Now
such ghosts are the hardest to lay.

“‘_E niente_, _Signore_,’ said the devil.  ‘_E vi passarebbe un carro di
fieno_.  ’Tis nothing, my lord; one could drive a cartload of hay through
it.’ {92}  But the devil had a devil of a time to lay _that_ ghost!
There was clanking of chains and howling, and _il diavolo scatenato_ all
night long ere it was done.

“‘_E finito_, _Signore_,’ said the devil in the morning.  But he looked
so worn-out and tired, that the young man began to _think_.

“And he thought, ‘This devil of mine is not quite so clever as I
supposed.’  And it is a fact that it was only a _diavolino_—a small devil
who had thought the young man was a fool—in which he was mistaken.  A man
may have _un ramo di pazzo come l’olmo di Fiesole_—‘be a bit of a fool,’
but ‘a fool and a sage together can beat a clever man,’ as the saying is,
and both were in this boy’s brain, for he came of wizard blood.  So he
reflected, ‘Perhaps I can cheat this devil after all.’  And he did it.

“Moreover, this devil being foolish, had begun to be too officious and
consequential.  He was continually annoying the Signore by asking for
more work, even when he did not want it, as if to make a show of his
immense ability and insatiable activity.  Finally, beginning to believe
in his own power, he began to appear far too frequently, uncalled, rising
up from behind chairs abruptly in his own diabolical form, in order to
inspire fear; but the young lad had not been born in Carnival to be
afraid of a mask, as the saying is, and all this only made him resolve to
send his attendant packing.

    “‘Chi ha pazienza, cugino,
    Ha i tordi grassi a un quattrino.’

    “‘He who hath patience, mind me, cousin,
    May buy fat larks a farthing a dozen.’

“Now, amid all these dealings, the young signore had contrived to fall in
love with the daughter of his guardian, Alessandro Strozzi, and also to
win her affections; but he observed one day when he went to see her,
having the _diavolino_ invisible by his side, the attendant spirit
suddenly jibbed or balked, like a horse which stops before the door, and
refused to go farther.  For there was a Madonna painted on the outside,
and the devil said:

    “‘I see a virgin form divine,
    And virgins are not in my line;
    I’m not especially devout:
    Go thou within—I’ll wait without!’

“And the young man observing that his devil was devilishly afraid of holy
water, made a note of it for future use.  And having asked the Signore
Alessandro Strozzi for the hand of his daughter, the great lord
consented, but made it a condition that the youth should build for his
bride a palace on the corner of the Via del Proconsolo and the Borgo
degli Albizzi, and it must be ready within a year.  This he said because
in his heart he did not like the match, yet for his daughter’s love he
put this form upon it, and he hoped that ere the time would be out
something might happen to prevent the marriage.  _In fin che v’è fiato
v’è speranza_—while there is breath, Signore, there is hope.

“Now the young man having resolved to finish with his devil for good and
all, began to give him great hope in divers ways.  And one day he said to
the imp:

“‘Truly thou hast great power, but I have a mind to make a great final
game with thee.  _Ogni bel giuoco vuol durar poco_—no good game should
last long, and let us play this compact of ours out.  If thou canst build
for me a palace at the corner of the Via del Proconsolo and the Borgo
degli Albizzi, and finish it in every detail exactly as I shall order it,
then will I be thine, and thou need’st do no more work for me.  And if
thou canst not complete it to my taste, then our compact will be all
smoke, and we two past acquaintances.’

“Now it is said that to cook an egg to a turn, make a dog’s bed to suit
him exactly, or teach a Florentine a trick, _sono trè cose difficilé_—are
three very difficult things to do, and this contract for building the
palace on time with indefinite ornaments made the devil shake in his
shoes.  However, he knew that ‘Pippo found out how to stand an egg on its
end,’ {94} and where there’s a will there’s a way, especially when you
have ‘all hell to back you up’—_tutto l’inferno a spalleggiarvi_.

“So he built and built away, with one gang of devils disguised as workmen
by day, and another, invisible, by night, and everybody was amazed to see
how the palace rose like weeds after a rain; for, as the saying is, _mala
herba presto cresce_—‘ill weeds grow apace,’ and this had the devil to
water it.

“Till at last one day, when the six months were nearly up, the imp said
to the master:

“‘_Ebbene_, Signore, it is getting to the time for you to tell me how you
would like to have the palace decorated.  Thus far everything has been
done exactly as you directed.’

“‘Ah yes, I see—all done but the finishing.  Well, it may be a little
hard, but I promise you, on the word of a gentleman (_tra galant’ uomini
una parola e un instrumento_), that I will not ask you to do anything
which cannot be executed even by the artists of this city.’

“Now the devil was delighted to hear this (for he was afraid he might be
called on to work miracles unheard of), and so replied:

“‘_Top_! what man has done the devil can do.  I’ll risk the trick if you
swear that men can work it.’

“‘I swear!’

“‘And what is the finish?’

“‘Oh, very easy.  My wife who is to be is of a very pious turn, and I
want to please her.  Firstly, all the work must be equal in execution to
the best by the greatest masters—painting, sculpture, and gilding.’


“‘Secondly, the subjects.  Over the front door—_bisogna mettermi Gesu
Cristo onnipotente unitamente a Maria e il suo divin figlio_, _Padre_,
_Figlio e Spirito Santo_—that is, the Holy Family and Trinity, the Virgin
and Child.’

“‘Wha—wha—what’s that?’ stammered the devil, aghast.  ‘It isn’t fair
play—not according to the game.’

“‘On every door,’ continued the young man, raising his voice, and looking
severely at the devil, ‘the same subject is to be repeated on a thick
gold ground, all the ultramarine to be of the very best quality, washed
in holy water.’

“‘Ugh! ugh! ugh!’ wailed the devil.

“‘The roof is to be covered with the images of saints as pinnacles, and,
by the way, wherever you have a blank space, outside on the walls or
inside, including ceilings—just cover it with the same subjects—the
Temptation of Saint Antony or Saint—’

“‘Oh, go to the devil with your saints and gold grounds!’ roared the imp.
‘Truly I have lost this game; fishing with a golden hook is a fool’s
business.  There is the compact!’

“It was night—deep, dark night—there came a blinding flash of light—an
awful crash of indescribable unearthly sound, like a thunder-voice.  The
imp, taking the form of a _civetta_ or small owl, vanished through the
window in the storm-wind and rain, wailing, ‘_Mai finito_!’

“And it is said that to this day the small owl still perches by night on
the roof of the palace, wailing wearily—‘Unfinished! unfinished!’”

                                * * * * *

In no country in the world has unscrupulous vigorous intellect been so
admired as in Italy, the land of the Borgias and Machiavellis.  In the
rest of Europe man finds a master in the devil; in Italy he aims at
becoming the devil’s master.  This is developed boldly in the legend of
“Intialo,” to which I have devoted another chapter, and it appears as
markedly in this.  The idea of having an attendant demon, whom the
master, in the consciousness of superior intellect, despises, knowing
that he will crush him when he will, is not to be found, I believe, in a
single German, French, or any other legend not Italian.

If this be so, it is a conception well deserving study, as illustrating
the subtle and powerful Italian intellect as it was first analysed by
Macaulay, and is now popularly understood by such writers as Scaife. {96}
It is indeed a most unholy and unchristian conception, since it is quite
at war with the orthodox theology of the Church, as of Calvin and Luther,
which makes the devil the grand master of mankind, and irresistible
except where man is saved by a _special_ miracle or grace.

And it may also be noted from such traditions that folk-lore, when it
shall have risen to a sense of its true dignity and power, will not limit
itself to collecting variants of fairy tales to prove the routes of races
over the earth, but rise to illustrating the characteristic, and even the
æsthetic, developments of different stocks.  That we are now laying the
basis for this is evident.

Though the devil dared not depict lives and legends of the saints upon
the palace, he did not neglect to put his own ugly likeness there,
repeated above the four front windows in a perfectly appalling Gothic
style, which contrasts oddly with the later and severe character of the
stately building.  These faces are fiendish enough to have suggested the

It may here be mentioned that it was in the middle of the Borgo degli
Albizzi, near this palace, that that indefatigable corpse-reviver and
worker of miracles, San Zenobio, raised from the dead the child of a
noble and rich French lady.  “Then in that place there was put a pillar
of white marble in the middle of the street, as a token of a great

    “_Hæc fabula docet_—this fable teaches,” adds Flaxius the immortal,
    “that there was never yet anything left incomplete by neglect or
    incapacity or poverty, be it in buildings or in that higher
    structure, man himself, but what it was attributed to the devil.  If
    it had not been for the devil, what fine fellows, what charming
    creatures, we would all have been to be sure!  The devil alone
    inspires us to sin; _we_ would never have dreamed of it.  Whence I
    conclude that the devil is dearer to man, and a greater benefactor,
    than all the saints and several deities thrown in, because he serves
    as a scudaway scapegoat, and excellent excuse for the sins of all the
    orthodox of all time.  How horrible it would be were we all made unto
    ourselves distinctly responsible for our sins—our unfinished palaces,
    our good resolutions broken; and how very pleasant it is that it is
    all the devil’s fault, and not our own!  Oh my friends, did I believe
    as ye do—which I don’t—I would long ago have raised altars and
    churches to the devil, wherein I would praise him daily as the one
    who in spirit and in truth takes upon himself the sins of all the
    world, bearing the burden of our iniquities.  For saying which thing,
    but in other words, the best Christian of his age, Bishop Agobard,
    was hunted down well-nigh to death.  Thus endeth a great lesson!”


    “Have I not the magic wand, by means of which, having first invoked
    the spirit Odeken, one can enter the elfin castle?  Is not this a
    fine trot on the devil’s crupper?  Here it is—one of the palaces
    erected by rivals of the Romans.  Let us enter, for I hold a hand of
    glory to which all doors open.  Let us enter, _hic et nunc_, the
    palace fair. . . .  Here it was once on a Sabato of the Carnival that
    there entered four graceful youths of noble air.”—_Arlecchino alle
    Nozze di Cana_.

I very naturally made inquiry as to whether there was not a legend of the
celebrated bronze devil made by Giovanni di Bologna, which remained until
lately in the Mercato Vecchio, and I obtained the following, which is,
from intrinsic evidence, extremely curious and ancient.

                        IL DIAVOLO ALLA CAVOLAIA.

“On the corner of the Palace Cavolaia there were anciently four devils of
iron. {98}  These were once four gentlemen who, being wonderfully
intimate, had made a strange compact, swearing fidelity and love among
themselves to death, agreeing also that if they married, their wives and
children and property should be all in common.

“When such vows and oaths are uttered, the saints may pass them by, but
the devils hear them; they hear them in hell, and they laugh and cry,
‘These are men who will some day be like us, and here for ever!’  Such
sin as that is like a root which, once planted, may be let alone—the
longer it is in the ground, the more it grows.  _Terra non avvilisce
oro_—earth does not spoil gold, but even virtue, like friendship, may
grow into a great vice when it grows too much.

“As it happened in this case.  Well, the four friends were invited to a
great _festa_ in that fatal palace of the Cavolaia, and they all went.
And they danced and diverted themselves with great and beautiful ladies
in splendour and luxury.  As the four were all singularly handsome and
greatly admired, the ladies came _con grandi tueletti_—in their best
array, _sfarzose per essere corteggiate_—making themselves magnificent to
be courted by these gentlemen, and so they looked at one another with
jealous eyes, and indeed many a girl there would have gladly been wife to
them all, or wished that the four were one, while the married dames
wished that they could _fare i sposamenti_—be loved by one or all.
People were wicked in those days!

“But what was their surprise—and a fearful surprise it was—when, after
all their gaiety, they heard at three o’clock in the morning the sound of
a bell which they had never heard before, and then divine music and
singing, and there entered a lady of such superhuman beauty as held them
enchanted and speechless.  Now it was known that, by the strict rules of
that palace, the _festa_ must soon close, and there was only time for one
more dance, and it was sworn among these friends that every lady who
danced with one of them, must dance with all in succession.  Truly they
now repented of their oath, for she was so beautiful.

“But the lady advancing, pointed out one of the four, and said, ‘I will
dance with him alone.’

“The young signore would have refused, but he felt himself obliged,
despite himself, to obey her, and when they had danced, she suddenly
disappeared, leaving all amazed.

“And when they had recovered from the spell which had been upon them,
they said that as she had come in with the dawn and vanished with the
day, it must have been the Beautiful Alba, the enchanting queen of the

“The _festa_ lasted for three days, and every night at the same hour the
beautiful Alba reappeared, enchanting all so wonderfully, that even the
ladies forgot their jealousy, and were as much fascinated by her as were
the men.

“Now of the four friends, three sternly reproached the other for breaking
his oath, they being themselves madly in love; but he replied, and truly,
that he had been compelled by some power which he could not resist to
obey her.  But that, as a man of honour, so far as he could, he would
comply with the common oath which bound them.

“Then they declared that he should ask her if she loved him, and if she
assented, that he should inform her of their oath, and that she must
share her love with all or none—_altrimenti non avrebbe mai potuta

“Which he did in good faith, and she answered, ‘Hadst thou loved me
sincerely and fully, thou wouldst have broken that vile oath; and yet it
is creditable to thee that, as a man of honour, thou wilt not break thy
word.  Therefore thou shalt be mine, but not till after a long and bitter
punishment.  Now I ask thy friends and thee, if to be mine they are
willing to take the form of demons and bear it openly before all men.’

“And when he proposed it to his friends, he found them so madly in love
with the lady that they, thinking she meant some disguise, declared that
to be hers they would willingly wear any form, however terrible.

“And the fair Alba, having heard them, said, ‘Yes, ye shall indeed be
mine; more than that I do not promise.  Now meet me to-morrow at the
Canto dei Diavoli—at the Devil’s Corner!’

“And they gazed at her astonished, never having heard of such a place.
But she replied, ‘Go into the street and your feet shall guide you, and
truly it will be a great surprise.’

“And they laughed among themselves, saying, ‘The surprise will be that
she will consent to become a wife to us all.’

“But when they came to the corner, in the night, what was their amazement
to see on it four figures of devils indeed, and Alba, who said, ‘Now ye
are indeed mine, but as for my being yours, that is another matter.’

“Then touching each one, she also touched a devil, and said, ‘This is thy
form; enter into it.  Three of ye shall ever remain as such.  As for this
fourth youth, he shall be with ye for a year, and then, set free, shall
live with me in human form.  And from midnight till three in the morning
ye also may be as ye were, and go to the Palazzo Cavolaia, and dance and
be merry with the rest, but through the day become devils again.’

“And so it came to pass.  After a year the image of the chosen lover
disappeared; and then one of the three was stolen, and then another, till
only one remained.”

                                * * * * *

There is some confusion in the conclusion of this story, which I have
sought to correct.  The exact words are, “For many years all four
remained, till _one_ was stolen away, and that was the image of the young
man who pleased the beautiful Alba, who thus relieved him of the spell.”
But as there has been always only one devil on the corner, I cannot
otherwise reconcile the story with the fact.

I have said that this tale is ancient from intrinsic evidence.  Such
extravagant alliances of friendship as is here described were actually
common in the Middle Ages; they existed in England even till the time of
Queen Elizabeth.  In “Shakespeare and his Friends,” or in the “Youth of
Shakespeare”—I forget which—two young men are represented as fighting a
duel because each declared that he loved the other most.  There was no
insane folly of sentiment which was not developed in those days.  But
this is so foreign to modern ideas, that I think it could only have
existed in tradition to these our times.

There were also during the Middle Ages strange heretical sects, among
whom such communism existed, like the polyandria of the ancient Hindoos.
There may be a trace of it in this story.

Alba, Albina, or Bellaria, appear in several Tuscan traditions.  They are
forms of the Etruscan Alpan, the fairy of the Dawn, a sub-form of Venus,
the spirit of Light and Flowers, described in my work on “Etruscan Roman
Traditions.”  It may be remarked as an ingenious touch in the tale, that
she always appears at the first dawn, or at three o’clock, and vanishes
with broad day.  This distinguishes her from the witches and evil
spirits, who always come at midnight and vanish at three o’clock.

The readiness with which the young men consented to assume the forms of
demons is easily explained.  They understood that it meant only a
disguise, and it was very common in the Middle Ages for lovers to wear
something strange in honour of their mistresses.  The dress of a devil
would only seem a joke to the habitués of the Cavolaia.  It may be also
borne in mind that in other tales of Florence it is distinctly stated
that spirits confined in statues, columns, _et cetera_, only inhabit them
“as bees live in hives.”  They appear to sleep in them by day, and come
out at night.  So in India the saint or demon only comes into the relic
or image from time to time, or when invoked.

After I had written the foregoing, I was so fortunate as to receive from
Maddalena yet another legend of the bronze imp of Giovanni di Bologna,
which tale she had unearthed in the purlieus of the Mercato Vecchio.  I
have often met her when thus employed, always in the old part of the
town, amid towering old buildings bearing shields of the Middle Ages, or
in dusky _vicoli_ and _chiassi_, and when asked what she was doing, ’twas
ever the same reply, “_Ma_, _Signore Carlo_, there’s an old woman—or
somebody—lives here who knows a story.”  And then I knew that there was
going to be a long colloquy in dialect which would appal any one who only
knew choice Italian, the end of which would be the recovery, perhaps from
half-a-dozen _vecchie_, of a legend like the following, of which I would
premise that it was not translated by me, but by Miss Roma Lister, who
knew Maddalena, having taken lessons from her in the sublime art of
_battezare le carte_, or telling fortunes by cards, and other branches of
the black art.  And having received the manuscript, which was unusually
illegible and troublesome, I asked Miss Lister to kindly transcribe it,
but with great kindness she translated the whole, only begging me to
mention that it is given with the most scrupulous accuracy, word for
word, from the original, so far as the difference of language permitted.

           _The Imp of the Devil’s Corner and the Pious Fairy_.

“There was once a pious fairy who employed all her time in going about
the streets of Florence in the shape of a woman, preaching moral sermons
for the good of her hearers, and singing so sweetly that all who heard
her voice fell in love with her.  Even the women forgot to be jealous, so
charming was her voice, and dames and damsels followed her about, trying
to learn her manner of singing.

“Now the fairy had converted so many folk from their evil ways, that a
certain devil or imp—who also had much business in Florence about that
time—became jealous of the intruder, and swore to avenge himself; but it
appears that there was as much love as hate in the fiend’s mind, for the
fairy’s beautiful voice had worked its charm even when the hearer was a
devil.  Now, besides being an imp of superior intelligence, he was also
an accomplished ventriloquist (or one who could imitate strange voices as
if sounding afar or in any place); so one day while the pious fairy in
the form of a beautiful maiden held forth to an admiring audience, two
voices were heard in the street, one here, another there, and the first

    “‘Senti o bella una parola,
    Te la dico a te sola,
    Qui nessun ci puo’l sentire
    Una cosa ti vuo dire;
    Se la senti la stemperona,
    L’a un voce da buffona
    Tiene in mano la corona. {103}
    Per fare credere a questo o quella,
    Che l’e sempre una verginella.’

    “‘Hear, O lovely maid, a word,
    Only to thyself I’d bear it,
    For it must not be o’erheard,
    Least of all should the preacher hear it.
    ’Tis that, while seeming pious, she,
    Holding in hand a rosary,
    Her talk is all hypocrisy,
    To make believe to simple ears,
    That still the maiden wreath she wears.’

“Then another voice answered:

    “‘La risposta ti vuo dare,
    Senza farti aspettare;
    Ora di un bell’ affare,
    Te la voglio raccontare,
    Quella donna che sta a cantare,
    E una Strega di queste contrade,
    Che va da questo e quello,
    A cantarle indovinello,
    A chi racconta: Voi siete
    Buona donna affezionata.
    Al vostro marito, ma non sapete,
    Cie’ di voi un ’altra appasionata.’

    “‘Friends, you’ll not have long to wait
    For what I’m going to relate;
    And it is a pretty story
    Which I am going to lay before ye.
    That dame who singing there you see
    Is a witch of this our Tuscany,
    Who up and down the city flies,
    Deceiving people with her lies,
    Saying to one: The truth to tell,
    I know you love your husband well;
    But you will find, on close inspection,
    Another has his fond affection.’

“In short, the imp, by changing his voice artfully, and singing his
ribald songs everywhere, managed in the end to persuade people that the
fairy was no better than she should be, and a common mischief-maker and
disturber of domestic peace.  So the husbands, becoming jealous, began to
quarrel with their wives, and then to swear at the witch who led them
astray or put false suspicion into their minds.

“But it happened that the fairy was in high favour with a great saint,
and going to him, she told all her troubles and the wicked things which
were said of her, and besought him to free her good name from the
slanders which the imp of darkness had spread abroad (_l’aveva

“Then the saint, very angry, changed the devil into a bronze figure
(_mascherone_, an architectural ornament), but first compelled him to go
about to all who had been influenced by his slanders, and undo the
mischief which he had made, and finally to make a full confession in
public of everything, including his designs on the beautiful fairy, and
how he hoped by compromising her to lead her to share his fate.

“Truly the imp cut but a sorry figure when compelled to thus stand up in
the Old Market place at the corner of the Palazzo Cavolaia before a vast
multitude and avow all his dirty little tricks; but he contrived withal
to so artfully represent his passionate love for the fairy, and to turn
all his sins to that account, that many had compassion on him, so that
indeed among the people, in time, no one ever spoke ill of the _doppio
povero diavolo_, or doubly poor devil, for they said he was to be pitied
since he had no love on earth and was shut out of heaven.

“Nor did he quite lose his power, for it was said that after he had been
confined in the bronze image, if any one spoke ill of him or said, ‘This
is a devil, and as a devil he can never enter Paradise,’ then the imp
would persecute that man with strange voices and sounds until such time
as the offender should betake himself to the Palazzo della Cavolaia, and
there, standing before the bronze image, should ask his pardon.

“And if it pleased the Diavolino, he forgave them, and they had peace;
but if it did not, they were pursued by the double mocking voice which
made dialogue or sang duets over all their sins and follies and
disgraces.  And whether they stayed at home or went abroad, the voices
were ever about them, crying aloud or tittering and whispering or
hissing, so that they had no rest by day or night; and this is what
befell all who spoke ill of the Diavolino del Canto dei Diavoli.”

                                * * * * *

The saint mentioned in this story was certainly Pietro Martire or Peter
the Martyrer, better deserving the name of murderer, who, preaching at
the very corner where the bronze imp was afterwards placed, declared that
he beheld the devil, and promptly exorcised him.  There can be little
doubt that the image was placed there to commemorate this probably “pious

It is only since I wrote all this that I learned that there were formerly
_two_ of these devils, one having been stolen not many years ago.  This
verifies to some extent the consistency of the author of the legend, “The
Devil of the Mercato Vecchio,” who says there were four.

There is a very amusing and curious trait of character manifested in the
conclusion of this story which might escape the reader’s attention were
it not indicated.  It is the vindication of the “puir deil,” and the very
evident desire to prove that he was led astray by love, and that even the
higher spirit could not take away all his power.  Here I recognise beyond
all question the witch, the fortune-teller and sorceress, who prefers
Cain to Abel, and sings invocations to the former, and to Diana as the
dark queen of the _Strege_, and always takes sides with the heretic and
sinner and magian and goblin.  It is the last working of the true spirit
of ancient heathenism, for the fortune-tellers, and especially those of
the mountains, all come of families who have been regarded as enemies by
the Church during all the Middle Ages, and who are probably real and
direct descendants of Canidia and her contemporaries, for where this
thing is in a family it never dies out.  I have a great many traditions
in which the hand of the heathen witch and the worship of “him who has
been wronged” and banished to darkness, is as evident as it is here.

                                * * * * *

“Which indeed seems to show,” comments the learned Flaxius, “that if the
devil is never quite so black as he is painted, yet, on the other hand,
he is so far from being of a pure white—as the jolly George Sand boys,
such as Heine and Co., thought—that it is hard to make him out of any
lighter hue than mud and verdigris mixed.  _In medio tutissimus ibis_.
’Tis also to be especially noted, that in this legend—as in Shelley’s
poem—the Devil appears as a meddling wretch who is interested in small
things, and above all, as given to gossip:

    “The Devil sat down in London town
    Before earth’s morning ray,
    With a favourite imp he began to chat,
    On religion, and scandal, and this and that,
    Until the dawn of day.”


    “God keep us from the devil’s lackies,
    Who are the aggravating jackies,
    Who to the letter execute
    An order and exactly do’t,
    Or else, with fancy free and bold,
    Do twice as much as they are told,
    And when reproved, cry bravely, ‘Oh!
    I _thought_ you’d like it so and so.’
    From all such, wheresoe’er they be,
          _Libera nos_, _Domine_!’

The Porta a San Nicolò in Florence is, among other legends, associated
with a jest played by the famous Barlacchia on a friend, the story of
which runs as follows:

“It is an old saying that _la porta di dietro è quella che ruba la casa_
(it is the back gate which robs a house), and it was going back to the
gate of San Nicolò which robbed a man of all his patience.  This man had
gone with Barlacchia the jester from Florence to Val d’Arno, and on
returning they had stopped in the plain of Ripolo, where the friend was
obliged to delay for a time, while Barlacchia went on.  Now it was so
late that although Barlacchia was certain to reach the Porto a San Nicolò
in time to enter, it was doubtful whether the one who came later could do
so unless a word should be spoken in advance to the guard, who for
friendship or a fee would sit up and let the late-comer in.  Therefore
the friend said to the jester, ‘_Di gratia facesse sostenere la
porta_’—‘See that the gate is all right,’ or that all is right at the
bridge—meaning, of course, that he should make it right with the guardian
to let him in.

“And when Barlacchia came to the gate, he indeed asked the officer in
charge _se questi si sostengo_—whether it was all right, and if it stood
firmly, and was in no danger of falling, affirming that he was making
special inquiry at request of a friend who was commissioner of the city
gates and bridges, and obtained a paper certifying that the gate was in
excellent condition, after which he went home.

“Trotting along on his mule came the friend, who, believing that
Barlacchia had made it all right with the guard, had not hurried.  But he
found it was all wrong, and that ‘a great mistake had been made
somewhere,’ as the eel said when he was thrown into boiling hot oil
instead of cold water.  For he found the gate locked and nobody to let
him in, so that in a great rage he was obliged to go back to an inn which
was distinguished for nothing but its badness, _dove stette con gran
disagio quella notte_ (where he passed the night in great discomfort).

“And when morning came, he passed the gate, but stopped and asked whether
Barlacchia had been there the night before.  To which the guard answered,
‘Yes,’ and that he had been very particular in his inquiries as to
whether the doors were firm on their hinges, and if the foundations were
secure; on hearing which, the man saw that he had been sold, {108} and
going to the Piazza Signoria, and meeting Barlacchia, _gli disse rilevata
villania_, let him have abuse in bold relief and large proportion, saying
that it was infamous to snipe his equal in all things and better in most,
in such a low-flung manner, unbecoming a half-grown chimney-sweep, and
that if he did not respect himself too much to use improper or strong
language, he would say that Barlacchia was a dastardly blackguard and a
son of a priest.  To which Barlacchia remonstrated that he had performed
to perfection exactly what he had promised to do, yea, _a punto_, to the
very letter.

“Now by this time half Florence had assembled, and being delighted beyond
all measure at this racy dispute, insisted on forming a street-court and
settling the question _alla fresca_.  And when the evidence was taken,
and all the facts, which long in darkness lay, were brought full clearly
to the light of day, there was such a roaring of laughter and clapping of
lands that you would have sworn the Guelfs and Ghibellines had got at it
again full swing.  But the verdict was that Barlacchia was acquitted
without a stain on his character.

“_Hæc fabula docet_,” comments Flaxius, “that there be others besides
Tyll Eulenspiegel who make mischief by fulfilling laws too literally.
And there are no people in this world who contrive to break the Spirit of
Christianity so much as those who follow it simply to the Letter.”


    “On Dunmore Heath I also slewe
       A monstrous wild and cruell beaste
    Called the Dun Cow of Dunmore plaine,
       Who many people had opprest.”

                                                —_Guy_, _Earl of Warwick_.

The Via Vacchereccia is a very short street leading from the Signoria to
the Via Por San Maria.  _Vaccherricia_, also _Vacchereccia_, means a cow,
and is also applied scornfully to a bad woman.  The following legend was
given to me as accounting for the name of the place.  A well-known Vienna
beerhouse-restaurant, Gilli and Letta’s, has contributed much of late
years to make this street known, and it was on its site that, at some
time in “the fabled past,” the building stood in which dwelt the witch
who figures in the story.

                           LA VIA VACCHERECCIA.

“There lived long ago in the Via Vacchereccia a poor girl, who was,
however, so beautiful and graceful, and sweet in her manner, that it
seemed to be a marvel that she belonged to the people, and still more
that she was the daughter of the woman who was believed to be her mother,
for the latter was as ugly as she was wicked, brutal, and cruel before
all the world, and a witch in secret, a creature without heart or

“Nor was the beautiful Artemisia—such being the name of the girl—in
reality her daughter, for the old woman had stolen her from her parents,
who were noble and wealthy, when she was a babe, and had brought her up,
hoping that when grown she could make money out of her in some evil way,
and live upon her.  But, as sometimes happens, it seemed as if some
benevolent power watched over the poor child, for all the evil words and
worse example of the witch had no effect on her whatever.

“Now it happened that Artemisia in time attracted the attention and love
of a young gentleman, who, while of moderate estate, was by no means
rich; and he had learned to know her through his mother, an admirable
lady, who had often employed Artemisia, and been impressed by her beauty
and goodness.  So it happened that the mother favoured the son’s suit,
and as Artemisia loved the young man, it seemed as if her sufferings
would soon be at an end, for be it observed that the witch treated the
maid at all times with extraordinary cruelty.

“But it did not suit the views of the old woman at all that the girl on
whom she reckoned to bring in much money from great protectors, and whom
she was wont to call the cow from whom she would yet draw support, should
settle down into the wife of a small noble of moderate means.  So she not
only scornfully rejected the suit, but scolded and beat Artemisia with
even greater wickedness than ever.

“But there are times when the gentlest natures (especially when supported
by good principles and truly good blood) will not give way to any
oppression, however cruel, and Artemisia, feeling keenly that the
marriage was most advantageous for her, and a great honour, and that her
whole heart had been wisely given, for once turned on the old woman and
defied her, threatening to appeal to the law, and showing that she knew
so much that was wicked in her life that the witch became as much
frightened as she was enraged, well knowing that an investigation by
justice would bring her to the bonfire.  So, inspired by the devil, she
turned the girl into a cow, and shut her up in a stable in the courtyard
of the house, where she went every day two or three times to beat and
torture her victim in the most fiendish manner.

“Meanwhile the disappearance of Artemisia had excited much talk and
suspicion, as it followed immediately after the refusal of the old woman
to give her daughter to the young gentleman.  And he indeed was in sad
case and great suffering, but after a while, recovering himself, he began
to wonder whether the maid was not after all confined in the Via
Vacchereccia.  And as love doubles all our senses and makes the deaf
hear, and, according to the proverb, ‘he who finds it in his heart will
feel spurs in his flanks,’ so this young man, hearing the old woman
spoken of as a witch, began to wonder whether she might not be one in
truth, and whether Artemisia might not have been _confinata_ or enchanted
into some form of an animal, and so imprisoned.

“And, full of this thought, he went by night to the house, where there
was an opening like a window or portal in the courtyard, and began to

    “‘Batte le dodici a una campana,
    Si sente appena dalla lontana.

    “‘Se almeno la voce potessi sentire,
    Della mia bella che tanto deve soffrire.’

    “‘Midnight is striking, I hear it afar,
    High in the heaven shines many a star.

    “‘And oh that the voice of the one I could hear,
    Who suffers so sadly—the love I hold dear.

    “‘Oh stars, if you’re looking with pity on me,
    I pray you the maid from affliction to free!’

“As he sang this, he heard a cow lowing in the courtyard, and as his mind
was full of the idea of enchantment, his attention was attracted to it.
Then he sang:

    “‘If enchanted here you be,
    Low, but gently, _one_, _two_, _three_!
    Low in answer unto me,
    And a rescue soon you’ll see.’

“Then the cow lowed three times, very softly, and the young man,
delighted, put to her other questions, and being very shrewd, he so
managed it as to extract with only yea and nay all the story.  Having
learned all this, he reflected that to beat a terrier ’tis well to take a
bulldog, and after much inquiry, he found that there dwelt in Arezzo a
great sorcerer, but a man of noble character, and was, moreover,
astonished to learn from his mother that this _gran mago_ had been a
friend of his father.

“And being well received by the wise man, and having told his story, the
sage replied:

“‘Evil indeed is the woman of whom you speak—a black witch of low degree,
who has been allowed, as all of her kind are, to complete her measure of
sin, in order that she may receive her full measure of punishment.  For
all things may be forgiven, but not cruelty, and she has lived on the
sufferings of others.  Yet her power is of a petty kind, and such as any
priest can crush.

“‘Go to the stable when she shall be absent, and I will provide that she
shall be away all to-morrow.  Then bind verbena on the cow’s horns, and
hang a crucifix over the door, and sprinkle all the floor with holy water
and incense, and sing to the cow:

    “‘The witch is not thy mother in truth,
    She stole thee in thy early youth,
    She has deserved thy bitterest hate,
    Then fear not to retaliate;
    And when she comes to thee again,
    Then rush at her with might and main;
    She has heaped on thee many a scorn,
    Repay it with thy pointed horn.’

“‘And note that there is a _halter_ on the cow’s neck, and this is the
charm which gives her the form of a cow, but it cannot be removed except
in a church by the priest.’

“And to this he added other advice, which was duly followed.

“Then the next day the young man went to the stable, and did all that the
wise man had bid, and hiding near, awaited the return of the witch.  Nor
had he indeed long to wait, for the witch, who was evidently in a great
rage at something, and bore a cruel-looking stick with an iron goad on
the end, rushed to the courtyard and into the stable, but fell flat on
the floor, being overcome by the holy water.  And the cow, whose halter
had been untied from the post, turned on her with fury, and tossed and
gored her, and trampled on her till she was senseless, and then ran full
speed, guided by the young man, to the Baptistery, into which she
entered, and where there was a priest awaiting her.  And the priest
sprinkled her with holy water, and took the halter from her neck, and she
was disenchanted, and became once more the beautiful Artemisia.

“And this done, the young man took the halter, and hurrying back to the
stable, put it about the neck of the witch, who at once became a cow
without horns, or such as are called ‘the devil’s own.’  And as she,
maddened with rage, rushed forth, attacking everybody, all the town was
soon after her with staves, pikes, and all their dogs, and so they hunted
her down through the Uffizzi and along Lung’ Arno, all roaring and
screaming and barking, out into the country, for she gave them a long run
and a good chase, till they came to a gate of a _podere_, over which was
a Saint Antony, who, indignant that she dared pass under him, descended
from his niche, and gave her a tremendous blow with his staff between the
horns, or where they would have been if she had possessed them.
Whereupon the earth opened and swallowed her up, amid a fearful flashing
of fire, and a smell which was even worse than that of the streets of
Siena in summer-time—which is often so fearful that the poorer natives
commonly carry fennel (as people do perfumed vinaigrettes in other
places) to sniff at, as a relief from the horrible odour.

“And when all this was done, the _mago_ revealed to the maiden that her
parents, who were still living, were very great and wealthy people, so
that there was soon a grand reunion, a general recognition, and a happy

    “‘Maidens, beware lest witches catch you;
    Think of the Via Vacchereccia;
    And tourists dining in the same,
    Note how the street once got its name.’”


    “If any secret should sacred be,
    Though it guarded the life of a family,
    And any woman be there about,
    She will die but what she will find it out;
    And though it hurried her soul to—well—
    That secret she _must_ immediately tell.”

                                         —_Sage Stuffing for Young Ducks_.

There are in Italy, as elsewhere, families to whom a fatality or
tradition is attached.  The following is a curious legend of the kind:


“There was a very old Florentine family which lived in a castle in the
country.  The elder or head of this family had always one room in which
no one was ever allowed to enter.  There he passed hours alone every day,
and woe to any one who dared disturb him while there.  And this had been
the case for generations, and no one had ever found out what the secret
was.  This was, of course, a great vexation to the ladies of the
family—_perche la donna e sempre churiosa_—women being always

“And most inquisitive of all was a niece of the old man, who had got it
into her head that the secret was simply a great treasure which she might
obtain.  Therefore she resolved to consult with a certain witch, who
would tell her what it was, and how she could enter the mysterious room.
This sorceress lived hard by the Porta alla Croce, for there are always
many witches in that quarter.

“The witch, who was a very large tall woman, made the niece go with her
to an isolated small house, and thence along a path, the lady in advance.
While so doing, the latter turned her head to look behind her, and at
that instant heard the cry of a _civetta_ or small owl.  The witch
exclaimed, ‘My dear lady, what you wish for will hardly be granted; I
fear there is a great disaster awaiting you.’

“Then they went into a field, and the fortune-teller produced a goblet of
coloured glass, and called to the swallow, which is a bird of good omen,
and to the small owl, which forebodes evil, and said, ‘Whichever shall
alight first on the edge of this cup will be a sign to you of success or

“But the first which came and sat upon the cup was the owl.

“Then the witch said, ‘What there is in that room I cannot reveal, for it
disturbs my soul far too much.  But I know that the number of that room
is thirteen, and you can infer for yourself what that portends; and more
I cannot tell you, save that you should be extremely careful and keep a
cheerful heart—otherwise there is great trouble awaiting you.’

“But the lady returned home in a great rage at her disappointment, and
all the more resolved to enter the room.  Then all the family finding
this out, reproached her, and urged her not to be so distracted; and she,
being obstinate, only became the more determined; for she was furious
that she could not force an old man to reveal a secret which had been
handed down for many generations, and which could only be confided to
one, or to the eldest, when the old man should die.

“And at last her evil will or mania attained such command over her, that
she resolved to kill all the family one by one, till the succession of
the secret should come to her.  And so, after boiling deadly herbs with
care, she made a strong subtle poison.  And by this means she put to
death her parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and all the family,
without remorse, so resolved was she to master the secret.

“The last to perish was her grandfather, and calling her to his bedside
he said, ‘We have all died by thy hand; we who never did thee any harm;
and thou hast felt no remorse.  This thou didst to gain a treasure, and
bitterly wilt thou be disappointed.  Thy punishment will begin when thou
shalt learn what the thing was so long hidden: truly there was sorrow
enough therein, without the misery which thou hast added to it.  That
which thou wilt find in the chamber is a skull—the skull of our earliest
ancestor, which must always be given to the care of the eldest
descendant, and I now give it to thee.  And this thou must do.  Go every
morning at seven o clock into the room and close the windows.  Then light
four candles before the skull.  In front of it there lies a great book in
which is written the history of all our family, my life and thine; and
see that thou do this with care, or woe be unto thee!’

“Therewith the old man died, and scarcely had he departed ere she called
an old woman who was allied and devoted to the family, and in a rage told
her all the secret.  The old woman reproved her, saying that she would
bring punishment on herself.  But, without heeding this, the lady ran to
the chamber, entered, and seeing the skull, gave it a kick and hurled it
from the window, far below.

“But a minute after she heard a rattling sound, and looking at the
window, there the skull was grinning at her.  Again she threw it down,
and again it returned, and was with her wherever she went; day after day,
waking or sleeping, the skull was always before her eyes.

“At last fear came over her, and then horror, and she said to the old
woman, ‘Let us go to some place far, far away, and bury the skull.
Perhaps it will rest in its grave.’  The old woman tried to dissuade her,
and they went to a lonely spot at a great distance, and there they dug
long and deep.

“Dug till a great hole was made, and the lady standing on the edge
dropped the skull into it.  Then the hole spread into a great pit, flame
rose from it—the edge crumbled away—the guilty woman fell into the fire,
and the earth closed over it all, and there was no trace left of her.

“The skull returned to the castle and to its room; people say it is there
to this day.  The old woman returned too, and being the last remote
relation, entered into possession of the property.”

                                * * * * *

There is perhaps not one well-educated person in society in England who
has not had the opportunity to remark how very much any old family can
succeed in being notorious if it can only once make it known that it has
an hereditary _secret_.  Novels will be written on it, every member of it
will be pointed out everywhere, and people who do not know the name of a
sovereign in Europe can tell you all about it and them.  And the number
is not small of those who consider themselves immensely greater because
they have in some way mastered something which they are expected to keep
concealed.  I could almost believe that this “’orrible tale” was composed
as a satire on family secrets.  But I believe that she who told it firmly
believed it.  _Credo quia absurdum_ would not be well understood among
humble folk in Italy.

                                * * * * *

“To this I may add,” writes Flaxius, “that there is an English legend of
a certain skull which always returned to a certain window in a tower.
_Apropos_ of which there is a poem called _The Student and the Head_ in
‘Hans Breitmann in Germany’ (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1895), prefaced by
a remark to the effect that the subject is so extensive as to deserve a
book—instancing the head of the physician Douban in the ‘Arabian Nights,’
with that of Orpheus, which spoke to Cyrus, and that of the priest of
Jupiter, and another described by Trallianus, and the marvellously
preserved head of a saint in Olaf Tryggvason’s Saga, and the Witch’s Head
of Rider Haggard, with many more, not to speak of the talking Teraphim
heads, and Friar Bacon’s bust.  With which a thoroughly exhaustive list
should include the _caput mortuum_ of the alchemists

    “‘And the dead-heads of the Press.’”


    “_Columna Florentina_.—Prope Sanctæ Trinitatis ædem ingens et
    sublimis columna erecta, cujus in fastigio extat justitia.  Eam
    erexit Cosmus Magnus Dux, cui per urbem deambulanti, illic de
    victoria renunciatum fuit quam Malignani Marchio in Senarum finibus
    anno 1555 contra Petrum Strozium obtinuit.”—_Templum Naturæ
    Historicum_, Darmstadt, 1611.

    “Vesti una Colonna,
    Le par una donna.”—_Italian Proverb_.

The central spot of Florence is the grand column of granite which stands
in the middle of the Piazza di Santa Trinità, in the Via Tornabuoni,
opposite the Palazzo Feroni.  It was brought from the Baths of Caracalla
in Rome, and erected in 1564 by Cosimo I., “in commemoration of the
surrender of Siena in 1554, and of the destruction of the last liberties
of Florence by the victory at Monte Murlo, 1537, over those whom his
tyranny had driven into exile, headed by Filippo and Piero Strozzi.  It
is surmounted by a statue of ‘Justice’ in porphyry, by _Ferruci_,” says
Murray’s Guide-Book—the Italian declares it to be by _Taddi_, adding that
the column was from the Baths of Antoninus, and was a gift to Cosimo I.
from Pius IV.

There is a popular legend that once on a time a poor girl was arrested in
Florence for having stolen a chain, a bracelet, or some such article of
jewellery of immense value.  She was thrown into prison, but though there
was collateral or indirect evidence to prove her guilt, the stolen
article could not be found.  Gossip and rumour constituted ample grounds
for indictment and trial, and torture did the rest in the pious times
when it was generally taught and believed that Providence would always
rescue the innocent, and that everybody who came to grief on the gallows
had deserved it for something or other at some time, and that it was all

So the girl was executed, and almost forgotten.  When a long time after,
some workman or other was sent up to the top of the column of the Piazza
Trinità, and there found that a jackdaw or magpie had built a nest in the
balance or scales held by Justice, and in it was the missing jewel.

This is an Italian form of “The Maid and the Magpie,” known the world
over from ancient times.  The scales suggest a droll German story.  There
was in front of a certain palace or town-hall, where all criminals were
tried, a statue of Justice holding a pair of scales, and these were not
cast solid, but were a _bonâ fide_ pair of balances.  And certain low
thieves having been arrested with booty—whatever it was—it was discovered
that they had divided it among themselves very accurately, even to the
ounce.  At which the magistrate greatly marvelling, asked them how they
could have done it so well, since it had appeared that they had not been
in any house between the period of the theft and their arrest.  Whereupon
one replied: “Very easily, your Honour, for, to be honourable, honest,
and just as possible, we weighed the goods in the scales of Justice
itself, here on the front of the _Rath-haus_.”

It is for every reason more probable that the bird which stole the jewel
of the column was a jackdaw than a magpie, and it is certainly fitter
that it should have been thus in Florence.  “It is well known,” says Oken
in his “Natural History” (7 B. Part I. 347), “that the jackdaw steals
glittering objects, and carries them to its nest.”  Hence the ancient
legend of Arne, who so greatly loved gold, that she sold her native isle
Siphnos to Minos, and was for that turned by the gods into a daw (Ovid’s
“Metamorphoses,” vii. 466).  As a mischief-making, thieving, and
chattering bird of black colour, the jackdaw was naturally considered
evil, and witches, or their imps, often assumed its form.  In fact, the
only really good or pious bird of the kind on record known to me, is the
jackdaw of Rheims sung by Ingoldsby Barham.

According to Kornmannus, the column was placed where it now stands,
because Cosimo was in the Piazza Trinità when he heard the news of the
surrender of Siena.

                                * * * * *

After I had written the foregoing legend, I found the following:

                       LA COLONNA DI SANTA TRINITÀ.

“The pillar di Santa Trinità was in times a meeting-place for fairies
(_Fate_), whither they went afoot or in their carriages.  At the base of
the column there was a great stone, and there they exchanged greetings or
consulted about their affairs.  They were all great ladies, of kindly
disposition.  And when it came that any one was cast into the city
prison, they inquired into the affair, and then a _fate_ would go as a
magistrate in disguise and question the accused.  Now they always knew
whether any one spoke the truth, and if the prisoner did so, and was
deserving mercy, they delivered him; but if he lied, they left him to be
hanged, with a _buon pro vi faccia_!—Much good may it do you!

“Of evenings they assembled round the rock at the foot of the column in a
great company, and had great merriment and love-making.  Then in the
crowd a couple would descend, or one after another into their vaults
below, and then come again, often taking with them mortals who were their
friends or favourites.

“Their chief was a matron who always held a pair of scales.  Now when
they were to judge the fate of any one, they took with great care the
earth from one of his footprints, and weighed it most scrupulously, for
thereby they could tell whether in his life he had done more good or
evil, and it was thus that they settled the fate of all the accused in
the prisons.

“And it often came to pass that when prisoners were young and handsome,
these _fate_ or fairy-witches took them from their cells in the prison
through subterranean ways to their vaults under the Trinità, and passed
the time merrily enough, for all was magnificent there.

“But woe unto those, no matter how handsome they might be, who betrayed
the secrets and the love of the _fate_.  Verily they had their reward,
and a fine long repentance with it, for they were all turned into cats or
mice, and condemned to live in the cellars and subterranean passages of
the old Ghetto, which is now destroyed—and a nasty place it was.  In its
time people often wondered that there were so many cats there, but the
truth is that they were all people who had been enchanted by those who
were called in olden time _le Gran Dame di Firenze_—the Great Ladies of

“And the image holding the scales is called _la Giustizia_, but it really
represents the Matrona, or Queen of the Fate, who of old exercised such
strict justice with her scales in Florence.”

                                * * * * *

This is, I am confident, a tradition of great antiquity, for all its
elements are of a very ancient or singularly witch-like nature.  In it
the _fate_ are found in their most natural form, as _fates_, weighing
justice and dealing out rewards and punishments.  Justice herself appears
naïvely and amusingly to the witches as Queen of the _Fate_, who are
indeed all spirits who have been good witches in a previous life.

What is most mystical and peculiarly classic Italian is the belief that
the earth on which a human being has trod can be used wherewith to
conjure him.  This subject is treated elsewhere in my “Etruscan Roman

The great stone at the base of the column was a kind of palladium of the
city of Florence.  There are brief notices of it in many works.  It would
be curious if it still exists somewhere and can be identified.

    “A great palladium, whose virtues lie
    In undefined remote antiquity;
    A god unformed, who sleeps within a stone,
    Which sculptor’s hand as yet has never known;
    Brought in past ages from some unknown shore;
    Our fathers worshipped it—we know no more.”


    “The spirit of Antiquity, enshrined
    In sumptuous buildings, vocal in sweet song,
    In pictures speaking with heroic tongue,
    And with devout solemnities entwined.”

                                                  —WORDSWORTH, “_Bruges_.”

Or’ San Michele is a very beautiful church in the Italian Gothic style in
the Via Calzaioli.  It was originally a market or stable below and a barn
or granary above, whence some derive its name from _Horreum Sancti
Michaelis_, and others from the Italian _Orto_, a garden, a term also
applied to a church-congregation.  “The statues and decorations on the
exterior are among the best productions of the Florentine school of
sculpture.”  As that of Saint Eloy or San Eligio, the blacksmith, with
great pincers at an anvil, in a sculpture representing a horse being
shod, is the most conspicuous on the façade, the people have naturally
concluded that the church was originally a stable or smithy.  The legend
of the place is as follows:

                        LA CHIESA OR’ SAN MICHELE.

“This was originally a stable and coach-house (_rimessa_), and there was
a hayloft above.  Every night the horses were heard to neigh, and in the
morning they were found all curried and well managed, and no one knew who
did it; but none of the grooms ever shed any tears over it that ever I
heard of.

“Now, the master of the place had a son, a priest named Michele, who was
so holy that he worked many miracles, so that all began to call him a
saint.  And after he died he appeared to his parents in a dream, and told
them that the stable and barn should be transformed into a church, and
that he would read mass therein thrice a day.

“But his parents wished to have him buried under the altar of a church
which was on their estate in the country, but the saint did not wish to
be buried there.

“One day one of the grooms of the stable found that a horse could not
move a foot, so he ran to call the _manescalco_, or blacksmith, who led
the horse to his forge.  And when he took the hoof to examine it, lo! it
came off at the joint and remained in his hand.  Then the smith said that
the horse should be killed, because he was now worthless.  But the horse
struck his stump on the hoof, and the latter joined itself to his leg as
firmly as ever it had been.  But in doing this the old shoe fell off,
whence it comes to this day that whoever finds an old horse-shoe gets
luck with it.

“When the smith had shod the horse anew, he tried to lead it back into
the stable, but it refused to enter.  Then it was plain that this was a
miracle worked by San Michele.  So they removed all the horses and hay
from the building, and made of it the fine church which is now called _La
Chiesa di Or’ San Michele_.”

                                * * * * *

There is a vast mass of tradition extant relative to the Horse, enough to
make a large volume, and in it there is a great deal which is so nearly
allied to this story as to establish its antiquity.  Karl Blind has found
an old Norse spell, in which, by the aid of Balder and Odin, the lameness
of a horse’s ankle or pastern joint can be cured.  There is another
version of this story, which runs as follows:

                        THE SMITH AND SAINT PETER.

“It is a good thing in this world to be bold and have a good opinion of
one’s self; yes, and to hold your head high—but not so high as to bend
over backwards—else that may happen to you which befell the celebrated
cock of Aspromonte.”

“And what happened to him?”

“Only this, Signore—he was so cocky, and bent his head so far backwards,
that his spurs ran into his eyes and blinded him.  Now, the cock reminds
me of Saint Peter, and too much cheek of the _ferrajo spacciato_, or the
saucy smith, who wanted to equal him.

“It happened once that the Lord and Saint Peter came to a forge, and the
smith was about to lead a horse from the stable to the anvil to shoe him.
Saint Peter said:

“‘Thou hast boasted that thou art the best smith in the world, and canst
work such wonders in shoeing as man never beheld.  Canst thou not shoe
this horse without taking him to the forge?’

“‘Neither thou, nor I, nor any man can do it,’ replied the smith.

“Saint Peter took the hoof in his left hand, gave it a rap with the side
of his right across the joint, and the hoof fell off.  Then Saint Peter
carried it to the anvil, fastened a new shoe on it, returned and put it
on the horse again, who stamped with it as if nothing had happened.

“Now the smith, like all boasters, was a great fool, and he only thought
that this was something which he had not learned before, and so cried
boldly, ‘Oh, that is only the Bolognese manner of taking hoofs off and
putting them on—we do it much better here in Florence!’  So he seized the
horse’s hoof, and with one blow of a hatchet cut it off.

“‘And now put it on again,’ said Saint Peter.  The smith tried, but it
would not stick.

“‘The horse is bleeding to death rapidly,’ remarked the Saint.

“‘I believe,’ said the smith ruefully, ‘that I am a fool in folio.’

“‘_Più matto che un granchio_—as crazy as a crawfish,’ solemnly added one
of his assistants.

“‘_Pazzo a bandiera_—as wild and witless as a flapping flag,’ quoth

“‘_Matto di sette cotte_—an idiot seven times baked,’ chimed in Saint

“‘A _campanile_—a church bell-tower of a fool,’ contributed his wife, who
had just come in.

“The poor horse continued to bleed.

“‘You are like the mouse,’ added a neighbour, ‘who thought because he had
dipped the end of his tail in the meal, that he owned and could run the

“‘The Florentine method of shoeing horses,’ remarked Saint Peter gravely,
‘does not appear to be invariably successful.  I think that we had better
recur to mine.’  And with this he put the hoof to the ankle, and
_presto_! the miracle was wrought again.  That is the story.  In most
cases, Signore, _un pazzo gitta una pietra nel pozzo_—a fool rolls a rock
into a well which it requires a hundred wise men to get out again.  This
time a single sage sufficed.  But for that you must have the Lord at your
back, as Saint Peter had.”

“Why do they say, as foolish as a crawfish or lobster?” I inquired.

“Because, Signore, the _granchio_, be he lobster or crawfish, carries his
head in the _scarsella_, which is a hole in his belly.  Men who have
their brains in their bellies—or gluttons—are generally foolish.  But
what is the use of boasting of our wisdom?  He who has neither poor men
nor fools among his relations was born of the lightning or of thunder.”

                                * * * * *

There is another story current among the people, though it is in print,
but as it is a merry one, belonging truly enough to the folk-lore of
Florence, I give it as it runs:

“You have heard of Piovano Arlotto, who made this our town so lively long
ago.  It was rich then, indeed.  There are more flowers than florins in
Florence now: _ogni fior non fa frutto_—all flowers do not bear fruit.

“Well, it happened one day that Piovano, having heard a good story from
Piero di Cosimo de’ Medicis, answered with another.  Now the tale which
Messer Piero di Cosimo told was this:

“Once there lived in Florence a poor shoemaker, who went every morning to
the Church of San Michele Berteldi—some say it was at San Bartolommeo,
and maybe at both, for a good story or a big lie is at home anywhere.

“Well, he used to pray before a John the Baptist in wood, or it may have
been cast in plaster, or moulded in wax, which was on the altar.  One
morning he prayed scalding hot, and the _chierico_—a boy who waits on the
priest, who was a young rascal, like all of his kind—overheard him say:
‘Oh, Saint John, I pray thee make known to me two things.  One is whether
my wife is good and true to me, and the other what will become of my only

“Then the mass-boy, who had hidden himself behind the altar, replied in a
soft, slow, strange voice: ‘Know, my son, that because thou hast long
been so devout to me, thou shalt be listened unto.  Return hither
to-morrow, and thou wilt be answered; and now go in peace.’

“And the shoemaker, having heard this, verily believed that Saint John
had spoken to him, and went his way with great rejoicing.  So, bright and
early the next morning, he was in the church, and said: ‘Saint John, I
await thy reply.’

“Then the mass-boy, who was hidden as before, replied: ‘Oh, my son, I am
sorry to say that thy wife is no better than she should be—_ha fatto
fallo con più d’uno_—and everybody in Florence except thee knows it.’

“‘And my son?’ gasped the shoemaker.

“‘_He will be hung_,’ replied the voice.

“The shoemaker rose and departed abruptly.  In the middle of the church
he paused, and, without a sign of the cross, and putting on his cap, he
cried: ‘What sort of a Saint John are you, anyhow?’

“‘Saint John the Baptist,’ replied the voice.

“‘_Sia col malanno e con la mala Pasque che Iddio ti dia_!—Then may the
Lord give you a bad year and a miserable Easter-tide!  You never utter
aught save evil, and it was for thy evil tongue that Herod cut thy head
off—and served thee right!  I do not believe a word of all which thou
hast told me.  I have been coming here every day for twenty-five years,
and never asked thee for anything before; but I will make one more vow to
thee, and that is—never to see thy face again.’

“And when Messer Cosimo had ended, Piovano Arlotto replied:

“‘One good turn deserves another.  It is not many years ago since a poor
_farsettajo_, or doublet-maker, lived in Florence, his shop being close
to the Oratorio di Orto San Michele, {126} and every morning he went to
worship in the church, and lit a candle before a picture representing
Christ as a child disputing with the Doctors, while his mother enters
seeking him.

“‘And after he had done this daily for more than twenty-five years, it
happened that his little son, while looking on at a game of ball, had a
tile fall on his head, which wounded him terribly.  The doctors being
called in, despaired.

“‘The next morning the poor tailor went to his devotions in Or’ San
Michele, bearing this time, instead of a farthing taper, a great
wax-candle; and kneeling, he spoke thus: “_Dolce Signor mio Gesù Cristo_,
I beg thee to restore my son to health.  Thou knowest that I have
worshipped thee here for twenty-five years, and never asked for anything
before, and thou thyself can best bear witness to it.  This my son is all
my happiness on earth, and he was also most devoted to thee.  Should he
be taken away, I would die in despair, and so I commend myself to three!”

“‘Then he departed, and coming home, learned that his son had died.

“‘The next morning, in grief and anger, he entered Orto San Michele, and,
without any candle, he went directly to the picture, and, without
kneeling, broke forth in these words: “_Io ti disgrazio_—I dislike,
disown, and despise thee, and will return here no more.  Five-and-twenty
years have I worshipped thee and never asked for anything before, and now
thou dost refuse me my request.  If I had only gone to the great crucifix
there, I daresay I should have got all I wanted; but this is what comes
of trusting to a mere child, for, as the proverb says, _Chi s’impaccia
con fanciulli_, _con fanciulli si ritrova_—he who troubles himself with
children will himself be treated as a child.’”

                                * * * * *

It is worth remarking, as regards the tone and character of this tale,
that such freedom was commonest when people were most devout.  The most
sceptical critics generally agree that these stories of Piovano Arlotto
are authentic, having been dictated by him, and that he had a very
exceptional character in his age for morality, honesty, and truth.  He
himself declared, without being contradicted, that he was the only priest
of whom he knew who did not keep a mistress; and yet this story is simply
an average specimen of the two hundred connected with his name, and that
they in turn are identical in character with all the popular wit and
humour of the time.

Regarding the image of the Holy Blacksmith, Saint Eligius or Eloi, the
authors of “Walks in Florence” say that it is attributed to Nanni di
Banco, and is meagre and stiff, but has dignity, which accords admirably
with the character of most saints, or their ideals.  It is evident that
the _bon roi_ Dagobert was considered as the type of all that was free
and easy—

    “Le bon roi Dagobert
    Mettait son culotte a l’envers.”

Therefore he is contrasted with the very dignified Saint Eloy, who was
(like the breeches) quite the reverse, declining to lend the monarch two
sous, which Dagobert had ascertained were in the holy man’s possession.
“The bas-relief below,” continue the critics cited, “is more certainly by
the hand of Nanni.  It records a miracle of Saint Eloy, who one day, when
shoeing a restive horse which was possessed by a demon, and was kicking
and plunging, cut off the animal’s leg to fasten the shoe, and having
completed his task, made the sign of the cross and restored the severed
limb.”  I regret to say that this was written without careful reference
to the original.  It was not the _leg_ of the horse which was severed,
nor a limb, but only the hoof at the pastern joint.

There is yet another explanation of this bas-relief, which I have
somewhere read, but cannot now recall—more’s the pity, because it is the
true one, as I remember, and one accounting for the presence of the
female saint who is standing by, evidently invisibly.  Perhaps some
reader who knows Number Four will send it to me for a next edition.

It is worth noting that there is in Innsbruck, on the left bank of the
Inn, a blacksmith’s shop, on the front of which is a very interesting
bas-relief of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, representing Saint
Peter or Eligius with the horse in a smithy.

There is another statue on the exterior of this church, that of Saint
Philip, by the sculptor Nanni de Banco, concerning which and whom I find
an anecdote in the _Facetie Diverse_, A.D. 1636:

    “Now, it befell in adorning the church of Or’ San Michele in
    Florence, that _I Consoli d’Arte_ (Art Directors of Florence) wanting
    a certain statue, wished to have it executed by Donatello, a most
    excellent sculptor; but as he asked fifty _scudi_, which was indeed a
    very moderate price for such statues as he made, they, thinking it
    too dear, refused him, and gave it to a sculptor _mediocre e
    mulo_—indifferent and mongrel—who had been a pupil of Donatello; nor
    did they ask him the price, supposing it would be, of course, less.
    Who, having done his best, asked for the work eighty scudi.  Then the
    Directors in anger explained to him that Donatello, a first-class
    sculptor, had only asked fifty; but as he refused to abate a single
    _quattrino_, saying that he would rather keep the statue, the
    question was referred to Donatello himself, who at once said they
    should pay the man _seventy_ scudi.  But when they reminded him that
    he himself had only asked fifty, he very courteously replied,
    ‘Certainly, and being a master of the art, I should have executed it
    in less than a month, but that poor fellow, who was hardly fit to be
    my pupil, has been more than half a year making it.’

    “By which shrewd argument he not only reproached them for their
    meanness and his rival for incapacity, but also vindicated himself as
    an artist.”

This is the story as popularly known.  In it Nanni is called Giovanni,
and it is not true that he was an unworthy, inferior sculptor, for he was
truly great.  There is another legend of Or’ San Michele, which is thus
given by Pascarel, who, however, like most writers on Florence, is so
extravagantly splendid or “gushing” in his description of everything,
that untravelled readers who peruse his pages in good faith must needs
believe that in every church and palazzo there is a degree of picturesque
magnificence, compared to which the Pandemonium of Milton, or even the
Celestial City itself as seen by Saint John, is a mere cheap Dissenting
chapel.  According to him, Or’ San Michele is by right “a world’s wonder,
and a gift so perfect to the whole world, that, passing it, one should
need say (or be _compelled_ to pronounce) a prayer for Taddeo’s soul.”
Which is like the dentist in Paris, who proclaimed in 1847 that it was—

          “Presque une crime
    De ne pas crier, ‘_Vive_ Fattet!’”

The legend, as told by this writer, and cited by Hare, is as follows:

    “Surely nowhere in the world is the rugged, changeless, mountain
    force of hewn stone piled against the sky, and the luxuriant,
    dream-like poetic delicacy of stone carven and shaped into leafage
    and loveliness, more perfectly blended and made one than where San
    Michele rises out of the dim, many-coloured, twisting streets, in its
    mass of ebon darkness and of silvery light.

    “The other day, under the walls of it, I stood and looked at its
    Saint George, where he leans upon his shield, so calm, so young, with
    his bared head and his quiet eyes.

    “‘That is our Donatello’s,’ said a Florentine beside me—a man of the
    people, who drove a horse for hire in the public ways, and who
    paused, cracking his whip, to tell this tale to me.  ‘Donatello did
    that, and it killed him.  Do you not know?  When he had done that
    Saint George he showed it to his master.  And the master said, “It
    wants one thing only.”  Now this saying our Donatello took gravely to
    heart, chiefly because his master would never explain where the fault
    lay; and so much did it hurt him, that he fell ill of it, and came
    nigh to death.  Then he called his master to him.  “Dear and great
    one, do tell me before I die,” he said, “what is the one thing my
    statue lacks?”  The master smiled and said: “Only speech.”  “Then I
    die happy,” said our Donatello.  And he—died—indeed, that hour.’

    “Now I cannot say that the pretty story is true—it is not in the
    least true; Donatello died when he was eighty-three, in the Street of
    the Melon, and it was he himself who cried, ‘Speak then—speak!’ to
    his statue, as it was carried through the city.  But whether true or
    false, this fact is surely true, that it is well—nobly and purely
    well—with a people when the men amongst it who ply for hire on its
    public ways think caressingly of a sculptor dead five hundred years
    ago, and tell such a tale, standing idly in the noonday sun, feeling
    the beauty and the pathos of it all.”

Truly, in a town half of whose income is derived from art-hunting
tourists, and where every vagabond offers himself, in consequence, as a
cicerone, it is no sign that “all is well—nobly and purely well—with a
people,” because a coachman who had been asked which was Donatello’s
Saint George by about five hundred English “fares,” and nearly as many
American young ladies—of whom many of the latter told him all they knew
about it—should have picked up such a tale.  In fact, while I have been
amazed at the _incredible_ amount of legend, superstitious traditions,
and incantations existing among the people, I have been struck by their
great ignorance of art, and all pertaining to it; of which, were it worth
while, I could cite convincing and amusing instances.

    “But as regards a vast proportion of the ‘sweet and light’ writing on
    the Renaissance and on Italy which is at present fashionable,” writes
    Flaxius, “I am reminded of the ‘esthetic axe’ems’ of an American
    writer, the first of which were:

    “‘Art is a big thing.  Always bust into teers wen you see a pictur.’

    “‘Bildins and churches arn’t of no account unless they drive you
    clean out of your census.’”


    “Il spirito usci dal fiume a un tratto,
    E venne come Dio l’aveva fatto,
    E presentando come un cortegiano
    Alla donna gentil la destra mano,
    ‘Scusate,’ disse si io vengo avanti
    E se vi do la mano sensa guanti.”—_Paranti_.

The following, as a French book of fables says, is “a poem, or rather
prose rhymed:”

    “Two pretty maids one morning sat by the rushing stream.  It murmured
    glittering in the sun; it seemed to sing as on it run, enchanting
    while a wantoning, as in a merry dream.

    “Said one unto the other: ‘I wish, and all in truth, that the
    glorious dancing river were as fine and brave a youth.  Its voice is
    like an angel’s, its drops of light like eyes so bright are beautiful
    I wis.  Oh, ne’er before, on sea or shore, did I love aught like

    “A voice came from the river: ‘For a love thou hast chosen me;
    henceforward, sweet, for ever thine own love I will be.  Wherever
    there is water, of Florence the fairest daughter, by night or day or
    far away, thou’lt find me close by thee.’

    “She saw bright eyes a shining in dewdrops on her path—she returned
    unto the palace, she entered in a bath.  ‘How the water doth caress
    me; ’tis embracing me, I vow!  _M’abbracia_, _mi baccia_—my lover has
    me now.  Since fate has really willed it, then to my fate I bow.’

    “Seven years have come and vanished, seven years of perfect bliss.
    Whenever she washed in water, she felt her lover’s kiss.  She washed
    full oft, I ween; ’twas plain to be seen there was no maid in
    Florence who kept herself so clean.

    “Little by little, as summer makes frogs croak in a ditch, there
    spread about a rumour that the damsel was a witch.  They showed her
    scanty mercies; with cruelty extreme, with blows and bitter curses,
    they cast her in the stream.  ‘If she be innocent, she’ll sink, so
    hurl her from the Arno’s brink; if guilty, she will swim!’

    “Up rose from the sparkling river a youth who was fair to see.  ‘I
    have loved thee, and for ever thine own I’ll truly be.’  He took her
    in his arms; she felt no more alarms.  ‘Farewell to you all!’ sang
    she; ‘a fish cannot drown in the water; now I am a fish, you know—the
    Arno’s loving daughter.  _Per sempre addio_!’”

The foregoing is not literal, nor do I know that it is strictly
“traditional;” it is a mere short tale or anecdote which I met with, and
put into irregular metre to suit the sound of a rushing stream.  I take
the liberty of adding to it another water-poem of my own, which has
become, if not “popular,” at least a halfpenny broadside sold at divers
street-stands by old women, the history whereof is as follows:—I had
written several ballads in Italian in imitation of the simplest
old-fashioned lyrics, and was anxious to know if I had really succeeded
in coming down to the level of the people, for this is a very difficult
thing to do in any language.  When I showed them to Marietta Pery, she
expressed it as her candid opinion that they were really very nice
indeed, and that I ought for once in my life to come before the public as
a poet.  And as I, fired by literary ambition, at last consented to
appear in this _rôle_, Marietta took a ballad, and going to E. Ducci, 32
Via Pilastri, who is the Catnach of Florence (I advise collectors of the
really curious to buy his _soldo_ publications), made an arrangement
whereby my song should appear as a broadside, the lady strictly
conditioning that from among his blocks Signore Ducci should find a ship
and a flying bird to grace the head and the end of the lyric.  But as he
had no bird, she took great credit to herself that for five francs she
not only got a hundred copies, but also had specially engraved for the
work and inserted an object which appears as flying to the right hand of
the ship.  The song was as follows:

_Nuova Canzonetta di_ CHARLES GODFREY LELAND.

    Era una bella strega
    Che si bagnava alla riva;
    Vennero i pirati
    Lei presero captiva.

    Il vento era in poppa
    Sull’ onde la nave ballò
    La donna lacrimante
    Al capitan parlò.

    “O Signor capitano!
    O Capitano del mar!
    Darò cento ducati,
    Se tu mi lasci andar.”

    “Non prenderò cento ducati,
    Tu costi molto più
    Io ti vendrò al Sultano,”
    Disse il Capitano,
    “Per mille zecchini d’oro
    Vi stimi troppo giù.”

    “Non vuoi i cento ducati
    Ebben tu non gli avrai,
    Ho un’ amante amato
    Non mi abbandona mai.”

    Essa sedè sul ponte
    Principiò a cantar,
    “Vieni il mio amante,”
    Da lontano il vento
    Si mette a mugghiar.

    Forte e più forte
    La tempesta ruggio,
    Gridava il capitano:
    “Io credo che il tuo amante
    E il vento che corre innante,
    Ovvero il diavolo.”

    Forte e più forte
    La procella urlò,
    “Sono rocce davanti,
    E il vento vien di dietro
    Benvenuto sei tu mio amante!”
    La bella donna cantò.

                  [Picture: A sailing ship with flying bird]

    “Vattene al tuo amante
    All’ inferno a cantar!”
    Disse il Capitano
    E gettò la donna fuori,
    Della nave nel mar.

    Ma come un gabbiano
    Sull’ onde essa voló.
    “O mio Capitano,
    Non sarai appiccato,
    Ma sarai annegato:
    Per sempre addio!”

The Beautiful Witch.

    A pretty witch was bathing
    In the sea one summer day;
    There came a ship with pirates,
    Who carried her away.

    The ship due course was keeping
    On the waves as they rose and broke;
    The lovely lady, weeping,
    Thus to the captain spoke:

    “O Signor Capitano!
    O captain of the sea!
    I’ll give you a hundred ducats
    If you will set me free.”

    “I will not take a hundred,
    You’re worth much more, you know;
    I will sell you to the Sultan
    For a hundred gold sequins;
    You set yourself far too low.”

    “You will not take a hundred—
    Oh well! then let them be,
    But I have a faithful lover,
    Who, as you may discover,
    Will never abandon me.”

    Upon the windlass sitting,
    The lady began to sing:
    “Oh, come to me, my lover!”
    From afar a breeze just rising
    In the rigging began to ring.

    Louder and ever louder
    The wind began to blow:
    Said the captain, “I think your lover
    Is the squall which is coming over,
    Or the devil who has us in tow.”

    Stronger and ever stronger
    The tempest roared and rang,
    “There are rocks ahead and the wind dead aft,
    Thank you, my love,” the lady laughed;
    And loud to the wind she sang.

    “Oh, go with your cursèd lover,
    To the devil to sing for me!”
    Thus cried the angry rover,
    And threw the lady over
    Into the raging sea.

    But changing to a seagull,
    Over the waves she flew:
    “Oh captain, captain mine,” sung she,
    “You will not swing on the gallows-tree,
    For you shall drown in the foaming sea—
    Oh captain, for ever adieu!”

I must in honesty admit that this my _début_ as an Italian poet was not
noticed in any of the reviews—possibly because I did not send it to
them—and there were no indications that anybody considered that a new
Dante had arisen in the land.  It is true, as Marietta told me with much
delight, that the printer, or his foreman, had declared it was a very
good song indeed; but then he was an interested party.  And Marietta also
kindly praised it to the skies (after she had corrected it); but then
Marietta was herself a far better poet than I can ever hope to be, and
could afford to be generous.

The reader will pardon me if I avail myself of the opportunity to give
another Italian ballad which I wrote on a theme which I also picked up in

Il Giardino d’Amore, o La Figlia del Re, e il Contino Stregone.

    Era un giovine Contino,
    Di tutto il paese il fior,
    Aveva un bel giardino,
    Il bel giardin d’amor.

    “Chi batte alla mia porta?”
    Domanda il bel Contin’.
    “Son la figlia del re,
    Vo vedere il tuo giardin’?”

    “Entra pur nel mio giardino,
    O bella figlia del re,
    Purchè tu non tocchi niente,
    A ciò che dentro v’e!”

    Entrata nel giardino,
    La bella figlia del re,
    Non vidde colà niente,
    Che fiori e foglie.

    Le foglie eran d’argento,
    Di oro ogni fior,
    I frutti eran’ gemmi,
    Nel bel giardin d’amor.

    Sedi sulla panchetta,
    Sotto il frascame la;
    Che vissi nel sentiero?
    Un bell’ anello c’era.

    Non seppe che il Contino,
    Fu stregone appostator;
    Non seppe che l’anello,
    Era lo stesso signor.

    Ella ando nel suo letto,
    Con l’anello nella man’,
    Non ’n sospetto che la trasse
    Sul dito un giovàn.

    Svegliato da un bacino,
    Tra la mezzanotte e tre;
    Si trovò il bel Contino
    Accanto alla figlia del re.

    Credo che fu ben contenta
    Con la cosa come era;
    Come molte donne sarebbero
    Con tal stregoneria.

    Portar dei gioielli,
    A de’ sposi il fior;
    Il di un di-amante,
    La notte un bel signor.

    D’avere un bel diamante
    Piace ognuno, si;
    Ma meglio e un amante
    Quando non ha più il _di_.

    Chi scrisse questa canzone
    Un gran Contino è,
    Anch ’egli il stregone
    Ch’ amava la figlia del re.

The Garden of Love, or The King’s Daughter and the Wizard Count.

    There was a Count of high degree,
    All others far above;
    He had a garden fair to see,
    ’Twas called the Garden of Love.

    “Now who is knocking at my gate?
    Who is it that makes so free?”
    “Oh, I am the daughter of the king,
    And your garden I would see!”

    “Oh, come into my garden,
    Fair daughter of the king!
    Look well at all that’s growing,
    But touch not anything!”

    She entered in the garden,
    The princess young and fair,
    She looked it all well over,
    Yet nothing but trees were there.

    But every leaf was of silver,
    The flowers of gold; in the grove
    The fruits were gems and jewels
    In the beautiful Garden of Love.

    She sat beneath the foliage,
    The daughter of the king;
    What shone in the path before her?
    A beautiful diamond ring!

    She knew not that the County
    Was a wizard wondrous wise;
    She did not know that the diamond
    Was the wizard in disguise.

    And when at night, fast sleeping,
    The diamond ring she wore,
    She never dreamed that her finger
    Was bearing a young signor.

    Awakened by his kisses
    As she heard the midnight ring,
    There was the handsome wizard
    By the daughter of the king.

    I ween she was well contented,
    As many dames would be,
    If they could be enchanted
    With just such sorcery.

    To have not only a jewel,
    But a husband, which is more,
    All day a dazzling diamond,
    And by night a bright signor!

    Who was it wrote this ballad
    About this loving pair?
    He was the Count and wizard
    Who won the princess fair.


    “The picturesque height of San Miniato, now the great cemetery of the
    city which dominates the Arno from the south, has an especial
    religious and saintly interest.  The grand Basilica, with its
    glittering ancient mosaic, shines amid the cypresses against the sky,
    and whether it gleams in the sunlight against the blue, or is cut in
    black on the primrose sky of twilight, it is equally
    imposing.”—“_Echoes of Old Florence_,” _by_ LEADER SCOTT.

To the old people of Florence, who still see visions and dream dreams,
and behold the wind and the stars at noonday (which latter thing I have
myself beheld), the very ancient convent of San Miniato, “the only one in
Tuscany which has preserved the ancient form of the Roman basilica,” and
the neighbourhood, are still a kind of Sleepy Hollow, where witches fly
of nights more than elsewhere, where ghosts or _folletti_ are most
commonly seen, and where the _orco_ and the nightmare and her whole
ninefold disturb slumbers _a bel agio_ at their easiest ease, as appears
by the following narrative:

                        SAN MINIATO FRA LE TORRE.

“This is a place which not long ago was surrounded by towers, which were
inhabited by many witches.

“Those who lived in the place often noticed by night in those towers,
serpents, cats, small owls, and similar creatures, and they were alarmed
by frequently seeing their infants die like candles blown out—_struggere
i bambini come candele_; nor could they understand it; but those who
believed in witchcraft, seeking in the children’s beds, often found
threads woven together in forms like animals or garlands, and when
mothers had left their children alone with the doors open, found their
infants, on returning, in the fireplace under the ashes.  And at such
times there was always found a strange cat in the room.

“And believing the cat to be a witch, they took it, and first tying the
two hind-paws, cut off the fore-claws (_zampe_, claws or paws), and said:

    “‘Fammi guarire
    La mia creatura;
    Altrimenti per te saranno
    Pene e guai!’

    “‘Cure my child,
    Or there shall be;
    Trouble and sorrow
    Enough for thee!’

“This happened once, and the next day the mother was sitting out of doors
with her child, when she saw a woman who was her intimate friend at her
window, and asked her if she would not wash for her her child’s clothes,
since she herself was ill.  But the other replied: ‘I cannot, for I have
my hands badly cut.’

“Then the mother in a rage told this to other women whose children had
been bewitched or died.

“Then all together seized the witch, and by beating her, aided with
knives crossed, and whatever injuries they could think of, subdued her
and drenched her under a tower with holy water.  And the witch began to
howl, not being able to endure this, and least of all the holy water!

“When all at once there came a mighty wind, which blew down the
witch-tower, and carried away the witch, and killed all the uncanny
animals which dwelt in the ruins.  And unbelievers say that this was done
by an earthquake; but this is not true, for the witches were really the
cause (_chagione_) of its overthrow.

“And though many old things are destroyed and rebuilt, there are many
cats still there which are assuredly witches.

“And in the houses thereabout people often perceive and see spirits, and
if any one will go at night in the Piazza San Miniato fra le Torri,
especially where those old things (_chose vecche_) were cleared away, he
will see sparks of fire (_faville di fuocho_) break out, and then flames;
and this signifies that some diabolical creature or animal is still
confined there which needs relief (_che a bisogna di bene_), or that in
that spot lies a treasure which requires to be discovered.”

                                * * * * *

I consider this as very interesting, because I most truthfully guarantee
that this specimen of witch-lore was written in good faith and firm
belief, and is not at all, like most of the tales gleaned or gathered
now-a-days, taken from people who got them from others who perhaps only
half believed in them.  She who wrote it has no more doubt that
witch-cats prowl, and that wild-fire hisses forth from evil spirits in
durance pent ’neath the soil of San Miniato, than that the spirit of the
Arno appears as “a small white hand pointing tremulously upwards.”

There is given in the _Facetiæ_ of Piovano Arlotto, which is considered a
truthful record of the adventures of its subject, a tale relative to San
Miniato which cannot here be deemed out of place.  It is as follows:

                         LA TESTA DI SAN MINIATO.

“There was in Florence a poor and learned gentleman—_savio e da bene_,
who was a good friend of Piovano Arlotto, who was also good to him, since
he had often aided the former with money, meal, and many other things,
and indeed without such help he could hardly have fed his family; for he
had fourteen sons and daughters, and though the proverb says _Figliuoli_,
_mioli_, _’lenzuoli non sono mai troppi in una casa_—there are never too
many children, glasses, or linen sheets in a house, this good man found
indeed that he had too many of the former.

“Now to help dire need, this gentleman tried to buy on credit two bales
of cloth, one wherewith to clothe his family, and the other to sell in
order to make some money.  To do this, he needed some one to be his
security, and he had recourse to Piovano Arlotto, who willingly agreed to
pay the manufacturer in case the friend who gave his note could not meet
it.  Now he found that the manufacturer had sadly cheated the purchaser
in the measure or quantity, fully one-half, as was also evident to many
others; however, as matters stood, he was obliged to let it pass.

“As things were thus, the poor gentleman died and passed away from this
_misera vita_ or sad life, and Piovano was in deep grief for his loss,
and as much for the poor orphans.

“When the note fell due, the manufacturer went to Piovano Arlotto and
asked for his money, saying that he only demanded what was justly due to

“And after a few days’ delay, he paid the man two-thirds of the sum, and
ten florins for the time and trouble, and said he would not give a
farthing more.  Then the dealer begun to dun him, but he evaded every
demand.  Then the merchant employed a young man, eighteen years of age,
who had not his equal in Florence to collect debts.  And this youth set
to work in earnest to get from the priest the sum of about twenty-eight
gold florins, still due from the account.

“In a few days he had attacked Piovano a hundred times with the utmost
impudence, in the market, in the public squares, on the streets at home,
and in the church, without regard to persons present, at all times, and
in every aggravating way, until the priest conceived a mortal hatred of
the dun, and turned over in his head many ways to get rid of him.

“At last he went one day to the Abbot of San Miniato or Monte, and said
to him: ‘_Padre reverendo_, I seek your paternal kindness to relieve a
very distressing case in which I am concerned.  I have a nephew who is
possessed by the devil, one into whom an evil spirit has entered, and who
has a monomania that I owe him money, and is always crying to me
everywhere, ‘When are you going to pay me?  I want twenty-eight florins.’
’Tis a great pity, for he is a fine young man, and something really ought
to be done to cure him.  Now I know that the holy relic which you
possess, the worthy head of the glorious and gracious San Miniato, has
such a virtue, that, if it be once placed on the head of this poor youth,
’twill certainly cure him.  Would you so contrive, in any way, to put it
on him some time this week?’

“The Abbot answered, ‘Bring him when you will.’

“Piovano thanked him and said: ‘I will bring him on Saturday, but when he
shall be here, I pray you be at the gate with seven or eight strong men,
that he may not escape; for you know, holy father, that these demoniacs
are accustomed to rage when they see relics and hear prayers, and it will
be specially so with this poor youth, who is young and vigorous—yea, it
may be that ’twill be necessary to give him sundry cuffs and kicks, so
terrible is the power of Satan—_lupus esuriens_.  Do so, I pray, without
fearing to hurt my feelings—nay, it would be a great pleasure to me, so
heartily do I desire to see him cured.’

“The Abbot answered, ‘Bring him here, my son, and I will see that all is
rightly done.’

“Piovano returned, saying to himself:

    “‘Chi vuol giusta vendetta,
    In Dio la metta.’

“‘Leave vengeance to the Lord, or to his ministers—_videlicet_, the monks
of San Miniato.  Which I will do.’

“On Friday he went to the merchant who had sold the cloth, and said: ‘As
for this which I owe you, it is all rubbish.  You cheated the man who
gave you the note out of half the cloth—you know it, and I can prove it.
However, to avoid further trouble and litigation, I am willing to pay
all, but you must allow time for it.  _Dura cosa e l’aspettare_—’tis hard
to wait, but harder still to have nothing to wait for.  The monks of San
Miniato owe me for forty cords of wood, which is to be paid for at the
end of two years, and then you shall have your money.’

“This sounded like ‘for ever and a day’ to the creditor, and in a rage he
had recourse to his collector, who on Saturday morning went to San
Miniato.  When he arrived, he had to wait till the grand mass was over,
to the great vexation of the young man, and meanwhile eight powerful
monks with long staves had grouped themselves about the door, awaiting a
little healthy exercise.

“And mass being over, the dun hastened up to the Abbot, who, taking him
by the hand, said: ‘Oh, my son, put thy trust in God and in San Miniato
the blessed; pray that he may take this evil conceit from thy head,’ and
with this much more, till the young man grew impatient and said:

“‘Messer Abbot, to-day is Saturday, and no time for sermons.  I have come
to know what you are going to do about this debt of Piovano of
twenty-eight florins, and when it will be paid?’

“Then the Abbot, hearing, as he expected, the demand for money, began to
exhort and exorcise.  And the youth began to abuse the Abbot with all
kind of villanies, and finally turned to depart; but the Abbot caught him
by the cloak, and there was a fight.  Then came the eight monks, who
seizing him, chastised him lustily, and bound him with cords, and bearing
him into the sacristy, sprinkled him with holy water, and incensed him
indeed—and then set the holy head of San Miniato on his head—he thinking
they were all mad as hatters.  Then they exorcised the evil spirits in
him—‘_Maledicti_!_ excommunicati et rebelles—sitis in pæna æternali nulla
requies sit in vo-o-o-bis si statim non eritis obedientes_, _præceptis
me-e-e-e-is_!’—until the youth had to give in, and beg the Abbot’s
pardon, and being released, fled as for dear life.

“But he met outside Piovano Arlotto, who said to him: ‘Thou hast had a
dainty drubbing, my son, but there is plenty more where that came
from—_non v’e nè fin_, _ne fondo_—there is neither end nor bottom to it.
Now go to thy master, and say that if he goes further in this business he
will fare worse than thou hast done.’

“The youth, returning to Florence, told the tale to his employer, and how
Piovano Arlotto had declared if they dunned him any more he would do his
best to have them drubbed to death.  So they dropped the matter—like a
hot shot.

“Everybody in Florence roared with laughter for seven days—_sparsa la
piacevolezza per Firenze_, _vi fu che ridere per setti giorni_—that is to
say, everybody laughed except one clothmaker and his collector, and if
they smiled, ’twas sour and bitterly—the smile which does not rise above
the throat—the merriment like German mourning grim.  And as for the young
man, he had to leave Florence, for all of whom he would collect money
told him to go to—the monks of San Miniato!”

                                * * * * *

There was a curious custom, from which came a proverb, in reference to
this monastery, which is thus narrated in that singular work, _La Zucca
del Doni Fiorentino_ (“The Pumpkin of Doni the Florentine”):

    “There is a saying, _E non terrebbe un cocomere all’erta_—He could
    not catch a cucumber if thrown to him.  Well, ye must know, my
    masters and gallant signors, that our Florentine youth in the season
    of cucumbers go to San Miniato, where there is a steep declivity, and
    when there, those who are above toss or roll them down to those
    below, while those below throw them up to those above, just as people
    play at toss-and-pitching oranges with girls at windows.  So they
    keep it up, and it is considered a great shame and sign of feebleness
    (_dapocaggine_) not to be able to catch; and so in declining the
    company of a duffer one says: ‘I’ll have nothing to do with him—he
    isn’t able to catch a cucumber.’

    “It is one of the popular legends of this place that a certain
    painter named Gallo di San Miniato was a terribly severe critic of
    the works of others, but was very considerate as regarded his own.
    And having this cast at him one day, and being asked how it was, he
    frankly replied: ‘I have but two eyes wherewith to see my own
    pictures, but I look at those of others with the hundred of Argus.’”

And indeed, as I record this, I cannot but think of a certain famous
critic who is so vain and captious that one must needs say that his head,
like a butterfly’s, is all full of little _i’s_.

    “And this tale of two optics reminds me of the story of Messer
    Gismondo della Stufa, a Florentine of Miniato, who once said to some
    friends: ‘If I had devoted myself to letters, I should have been
    twice as learned as others, and yet ye cannot tell why.’  Then some
    guessed it would have been due to a good memory, while others
    suggested genius, but Messer Gismondo said: ‘You are not there yet,
    my children; it is because I am so confoundedly cross-eyed that I
    could have read in two books at once.’”

In the first legend which I narrated, the fall of the tower is attributed
to witchcraft or evil spirits.  In the very ancient frescoes of San
Miniato there is one in which the devil causes a wall or tower to fall
down and crush a young monk.  What confirms the legend, or its antiquity,
is that the original bell-tower of San Miniato actually fell down in
1499.  The other then built was saved from a similar fate by the genius
of Michael Angelo Buonarotti, who built a bank of earth to support it.

    “_Hæc fabula_ of the head of San Miniato,” wrote the immortal Flaxius
    on the proof, “teaches that he who would get round a priest in small
    trickery must arise uncommonly early—nay, in most cases ’twould be as
    well not to go to bed at all—especially when dunning is ‘on the tap.’
    Concerning which word _dun_ it is erroneously believed in England to
    have been derived from the name of a certain Joseph Dunn, who was an
    indefatigable collecting bailiff.  But in very truth ’tis from the
    Italian _donare_, to give oneself up to anything with ardour—to stick
    to it; in accordance with which, _donar guanto_, or to give the
    glove, means to promise to pay or give security.  And if any
    philologist differs from me in opinion as to this, why then—_let_ him
    diff!  Which magnanimously sounding conclusion, when translated
    according to the spirit of most who utter it, generally means:

    “Let him be maledict, excommunicate, and damnated _ad inferos—in
    sæcula sæculorum_!—twice over!”


    “He who speaks from a window or a pulpit, or the top of a good name
    or any high place, should speak wisely, if he speak at all, unto
    those who pass.”

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore “remounts,” as the Italians say, or
can be traced back to 700 A.D., but it was enlarged and renewed by the
architect Bueno in the twelfth century, and according to Pitré it was the
germ of a new style of architecture which we find much refined
(_ringentilata_) in Santa Maria del Fiore.  “There were, regarding its
bell-tower, which no longer exists, many tales and curious anecdotes,
which might form a part of a fine collection of local legends.”  There is
still to-day on the wall above the little side-door facing the Via de’
Conti, a much worn head of stone, coming out of a round cornice, which is
in all probability the one referred to in the following legend:

“There was once a condemned criminal being carried along to execution,
and on the way passed before the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  One of
the friars put his head out of a little round window, which was just
large enough for it to pass through, and this was over the entrance on
the lesser side of the church, facing the Via de’ Conti.  As the
condemned passed by the friar said:

    “‘Date gli da bere, ’un morira mai.’
    “‘Give him a drink and he never will die.’

“To which the condemned replied:

    “‘E la testa di costì tu ’un la levrai’.
    “‘And thy head shall stick where it is for aye.’

“And so it came to pass that they could not get the head of the friar
back through the hole, so there he died.  And some say that after they
got the body out they carried his likeness in stone and put it there in
the little round window, in remembrance of the event, while others think
that it is the friar himself turned to stone—_chi sa_?”

                                * * * * *

The conception of a stone head having been that of a person petrified for
punishment is of the kind which would spring up anywhere, quite
independently of tradition or borrowing; hence it is found the world
over.  That ideas of the kind may be common, yet not in common, nor yet
uncommon, is shown by the resemblance of the remark of the friar:

    “Give him a drink and he never will die,”—

which was as much as to say that inebriation would cause him to forget
his execution—to a verse of a song in “Jack Sheppard”:

          “For nothing so calms,
          Our dolorous qualms,
    And nothing the transit to Tyburn beguiles,
    So well as a drink from the bowl of Saint Giles.”

There is a merrier tale, however, of Santa Maria Maggiore, and one which
is certainly far more likely to have occurred than this of the petrified
_pater_.  For it is told in the ancient _Facetiæ_ that a certain
Florentine nobleman, who was a jolly and reckless cavalier, had a wife
who, for all her beauty, was _bisbetica e cattiva_, capricious and
spiteful, malicious and mischievous, a daughter of the devil, if there
ever was one, who, like all those of her kind, was very devout, and went
every day to confession in Santa Maria Maggiore, where she confessed not
only her own sins, but also those of all her neighbours.  And as she
dwelt with vast eloquence on the great wickedness of her husband—having a
tongue which would serve to sweep out an oven, or even a worse place
{150}—the priest one day urged the husband to come to confession,
thinking that it might lead to more harmony between the married couple.
With which he complied; but when the priest asked him to tell what sins
he had committed, the cavalier answered, “There is no need of it, Padre;
you have heard them all from my wife many a time and oft, and with them a
hundred times as many which I never dreamed of committing—including those
of all Florence.”

It was in the first Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, which stood on the
site of the present, that San Zenobio in the fourth century had walled
into the high altar an inestimable gift which he had received from the
Pope.  This was “the two bodies of the glorious martyrs Abdon and Sennen,
who had been thrown unto wild beasts, which would not touch them,
whereupon they were put to death by swords in the hands of viler human
beasts.”  I may remark by the way, adds the observant Flaxius, that
relics have of late somewhat lost their value in Florence.  I saw not
long ago for sale a very large silver casket, stuffed full of the remains
of the holiest saints, and the certificates of their authenticity, and I
was offered the whole for the value of the silver in the casket—the
relics being generously thrown in!  And truly the mass of old bones,
clay, splinters, nails, rags with blood, bits of wood, dried-up eyes, _et
cetera_, was precisely like the Voodoo-box or conjuring bag of an old
darkey in the United States.  But then the latter was heathen!  “That is
a _very_ different matter.”


    “_Fons Florentinus_.—In foro lympidas aquas fons effundit marmoreis
    figuris Neptuni et Faunorum ab Amanate confectis.”—_Templum Naturæ
    Historicum_.  HENRICI KORNMANNI, A.D. 1614.

The most striking object in the most remarkable part of Florence is the
colossal marble Neptune in the Fountain of the Signoria, by Ammanati,
dating from 1575.  He stands in a kind of car or box, drawn by horses
which Murray declares “are exceedingly spirited.”  They are indeed more
so than he imagined, for according to popular belief, when the spirit
seizes them and their driver, and the bronze statues round them, they all
go careering off like mad beings over the congenial Arno, and even on to
the Mediterranean!  That is to say, that they did so on a time, till they
were all petrified with their driver in the instant when they were
bounding like the billows, which are typified by white horses.

Neptune has, however, lost his name for the multitude, who simply call
him the Biancone, or Great White Man; and this is the legend (given to me
in writing by a witch), by which he is popularly known:

                      BIANCONE, THE GOD OF THE ARNO.

“Biancone was a great and potent man, held in great respect for his
grandeur and manly presence, a being of tremendous strength, and the true
type of a magician, {152} he being a wizard indeed.  In those days there
was much water in the Arno, {153} and Biancone passed over it in his car.

“There was then in the Arno a witch, a beautiful girl, the _vera dea_ or
true goddess of the river, in the form of an eel.  And Biancone finding
this fish every day as he drove forth in his chariot, spurned it away
_con cattivo garbo_—with an ill grace.  And one day when he had done this
more contemptuously than usual, the eel in a rage declared she would be
revenged, and sent to him a smaller eel.  But Biancone crushed its head
(_le stiaccio il chapo_).

“Then the eel appeared with a little branch of olive with berries, and

    “‘Entro in questa carozza,
    Dove si trove l’uomo,
    L’uomo il più potente,
    Che da tutti e temuto;
    Ed e un uomo grande,
    E grande, e ben vero;
    Ma il gran dio del Arno,
    Il potente Biancone,
    Non sara il solo potente;
    Vi sara una piccola pesce,
    Una piccola anguilla;
    Benche piccola la sia;
    Fara vedere la sua potenza
    Tu Bianconé, a mi,
    Le magie, e siei mezzo stregone
    Io una piccola anguillina,
    Sono una vera fata,
    E sono la Fata dell Arno,
    Tu credevi d’essere
    Il solo dio d’Arno,
    Ma ci, no, io che sono
    La regina, e la vera,
    Vera dea qui del Arno.’

    “‘Lo, I enter in this chariot!
    Where I find the man of power,
    Who is feared by all before him,
    And he is a mighty being,
    Great he is, there’s no denying;
    But the great god of the Arno,
    The so powerful Biancone,
    Is not all alone in power;
    There’s a little fish or eel, who,
    Though but little, has the power,
    Mighty man, to make thee tremble!
    Biancone, thou art only
    Unto me as half a wizard;
    I, a little eel of the Arno,
    Am the fairy of the river;
    Thou didst deem thyself its ruler;
    I deny it—for I only
    Am the queen and the true goddess—
    The true goddess of the Arno.’

“Having said this, she touched with the twig of olive the little eel whom
Biancone had killed, and repeated while touching it:

    “‘Anguillina che dal Grande
    Siei stata stiacciata,
    Io con questo ramoscello
    Ti faccio in vita tornare,
    E al Grande, io, del Arno
    Tutto il mio pensiero,
    Tutto posso raccontare.’

    “‘I, little eel, who by the mighty
    Man hast been to death delivered,
    Do call thee back unto the living!
    Wake thee with this twig of olive!
    Now unto this Biancone,
    Thou who art too of the Arno,
    Shalt speak out thy mind and freely.’

“Then the little eel, resuscitated and influenced by the goddess of the
Arno, said:

    “‘Biancone, tu che siei
    Il potente dio dell’ Arno,
    L’anguilla discacciata,
    Che tu ai discacciata,
    E di te inamorata,
    E di te più potente,
    E se tu la discaccerai,
    Ti giura la vendetta,
    E si vendichera. . . .’

    “‘Biancone, Biancone!
    Thou great spirit of the Arno,
    Lo, the eel by thee despised
    Turns again with love unto thee:
    She surpasses thee in power;
    If she is by thee rejected,
    She will vow revenge upon thee,
    And will be avengèd truly.’

“Biancone replied:

    “‘Io non voglio amar donne,
    Sia pure d’una bellezza
    Da fare a cecare,
    Ma per me non mi fa niente,
    Non voglio amare donne,
    Sara per bellezza una
    Gran persona, ma non vero,
    Per potenza, per che più,
    Più potente di me non
    Vi e alcun . . . ’

    “‘I seek not the love of women.
    Thou art of a dazzling beauty;
    Unto that I am indifferent;
    I seek not the love of ladies.
    Thou may’st be full great in beauty,
    Not in power, for in power
    I shall ever be the greater.’

“Then the eel arose {155} and said:

    “‘Biancone, or guardami,
    Guarda mi bene perche più,
    Non mi vedrai vedermi,
    E se mi vedrai,
    Non mi potrai toccare,
    Dici che più potente
    Di te non cé nessuno,
    Ma sa io la prima,
    Mia potenza e quella
    Di vederti inamorato,
    Di me vere inamorato,
    Ma che ora sono io,
    Che ti discaccio per la tua,
    Al te si guardami mi vedi.’

    “‘Biancone, now regard me,
    Look well at me now, for never,
    Wilt thou ever more behold me,
    Or if thou behold’st me, touch me,
    And thou say’st that thou hast power,
    And that none can rival with thee.
    Thou shalt learn that I am stronger,
    For I’ve power to make thee love me,
    But ’tis I who now reject thee,
    If thou doubtest—now behold me!’

“And then, instead of an eel, appeared a maid of dazzling beauty, and
Biancone sought to embrace her, but could not, and said:

    “‘Contentami una volta
    Sola, o dea dell’ Arno;
    Lascia che ti abbraci
    Una volta sola, o dea.’

    “‘For a single time content me,
    Lovely goddess of the Arno;
    Let me but for once embrace thee,
    Yield to me I pray, O fairy!’

“But the goddess of the Arno replied:

    “‘Una donna più potente
    Di te, non si lascia
    Vincere da uno superbo;
    Tuo pari mi basta di
    Far ti vedere, che c’e
    Persona ancora di te
    Più potente . . .  Ora io
    Mi voglio vendi care per che,
    Tu mi ai discacciata,
    Tante volte, ed ora invece
    Tu saresti bene contento
    Di abbraciarmi anche,
    Anche or per una volta,
    Ma no.  Addio Biancone!’

    “‘A woman who has greater power
    Than thine will surely not be conquered
    Merely by pride in outward seeming,
    But now, in brief, I will content me
    By proving mine the greater power;
    I seek to avenge myself upon thee,
    Since of old thou didst despise me
    Many times, but now wouldst gladly,
    Though it were but for once, embrace me—
    Farewell for ever, Biancone!’

“And Biancone fled, but he always bore the beautiful goddess in his mind,
and could not forget her, so he too meditated a vengeance.

“But the vengeance of a woman strikes more powerfully than that of a man.

“One day when Biancone was passing over the Arno in his chariot, with all
his attendants, he thought he saw the eel engaged in forming the basin of
a fountain (_vasca_), and bear it away in a car, she herself being in it,
{156} and it was covered with glass; but in the time that he thought (or
dreamed) that he saw this, the eel appeared and said:

    “‘Il momenta della mia vendetta
    E arrivato, e ti giuro
    Giuro che la mia vendetta
    E potente, or Turanna,
    Mia regina delle Fate,
    E dea dell Arno, commanda
    Che questa carroza sprafondi,
    E che tu e la tua servitu,
    Non vi potrete salvare.’

    “‘Now the time to wreak my vengeance
    Has arrived, and I swear thee
    That my vengeance shall be fearful,
    Very great, because my sovereign,
    Turanna, queen of all the fairies,
    Orders that thy chariot
    Shall be firmly fixed for ever,
    And that thou and all thy following
    Never more canst hope for rescue.’

“Then she sang again:

    “‘Confino i tuoi servitori,
    Quelli che ti aiut avanno
    A discacciar sui, o
    Diventare della forma,
    Mezze bestie, mezzi uomini,
    E tu o Biancone,
    Che tanto grande siei,
    Ti confino a stare sempre,
    Sempre ritto e non potrete
    Mai ragionare, ne camminare
    Solo quando sara luna,
    Luna piena, passero io
    Ti vedro, e mi vedrai,
    Ma parlarmi non potrai.

    “‘Quando sara luna piena,
    E che sara una notte,
    Che sara mezza nuvola,
    E mezza serena s’enderai,
    Della tua carozza nei,
    Nei momenti che la Luna
    Resta sotto le nuvole,
    E cosi potrei favellare,
    Con tutte le statue, che ai
    Attorno, allor tua carozza,
    E col mio permesso potrai
    Andare anche dai tuoi amici!’

    “‘I hereby compel thy servants,
    Those who aided thee, to vanish,
    Or take forms half brute, half human. {158}
    As for thee, O Biancone!
    Thou who art so tall and stately,
    Thou shalt stand erect for ever,
    Without power to speak or wander,
    Only when the full moon shining
    Falls upon thee, I will pass thee,
    I shall see thee; thou will see me,
    Without power to address me!

    “‘When the moon in full is shining,
    Yet when clouds begin to gather;
    Half in light and half in darkness,
    Thou may’st only in the moment
    When the moon is overclouded,
    Leave thy chariot, and have converse
    With the statues who are round thee,
    Then thou may’st, by my permission,
    Go among thy friends, then only.’”

                                * * * * *

I may here explain to the reader that this tale with its elaborate
invocations is not current as here given among the _people_.  Such forms
and formulas are confined to the witches, who, as in all countries, are
the keepers of mysterious traditions.  All that is generally heard as
regards this subject is, that when the full moon shines on Biancone at
midnight, he becomes animated, and walks about the Signoria conversing
with the other statues.

The Neptune was, with horses and all, produced by Bartolommeo Ammanati
between 1564 and 1565.  It has a certain merit of grandeur, but in lesser
degree is like its neighbour Cacus, by Baccio Bandinelli, which Benvenuto
Cellini justly regarded as resembling a mere bag of fat.  When Michael
Angelo saw the Neptune he exclaimed: “Ammanato!  Ammanato! che bel blocco
che hai sciupato!”—“Ammanato, what a fine block of marble thou hast

The Italians say that the satyr at the corner of the Palazzo Vecchio is a
copy, because the original was stolen one night in January in 1821, “and
is now one of the finest bronzes in the British Museum of London.”  It
may be so; there was a great deal of fine stealing in those days.  I
suspect, however, that the truth is that as these images return to life
now and then, the satyr availed himself of his revivification to set
forth on his travels, and coming to London and finding good company in
the British Museum, settled down there.  But truly, when I think of the
wanton and heartless destruction of beautiful and valuable old relics
which has gone on of late years in Florence, to no earthly purpose, and
to no profit whatever, I feel as if all the tales of such things being
stolen or sold away to foreign museums were supremely silly, and as if it
were all just so much saved from ruin—in case the tales are true.

    “_Hæc fabula docet_,” wrote Flaxius, “a strange lesson.  For as it
    was anciently forbidden to make images, because it was an imitation
    of God’s work; and secondly, because men believed that spirits would
    enter into them—even so doth it become all novel-writers, romancers,
    and poets, to take good heed how they portray satyrs, free-love
    nymphs, and all such deviltry, because they may be sure that into
    these models or types there will enter many a youthful soul, who will
    be led away thereby to madness and ruin.  Which is, I take it, the
    most practical explanation for commandment, which hath been as yet
    set _coram populo_.”


    “Lord Foulis in his castle sat,
    And beside him old Red-cap sly;
    ‘Now tell me, thou sprite, who art mickle of might,
    The death which I shall die?’”

                                             —SCOTT’S _Border Minstrelsy_.

The Bargello has been truly described as one of the most interesting
historical monuments of Florence, and it is a very picturesque type of a
towered mediæval palace.  It was partly burned down in 1322, and rebuilt
in its present form by Neri di Fioravanti, after which it served as a
prison.  Restored, or modernised, it is now a museum.  As I conjectured,
there was some strange legend connected with it, and this was given to me
as follows:

                            IL FOLLETTO ROSSO.

“The Red Goblin is a spirit who haunts the Bargello, or was there of old
in the prisons, _nelle carceri_, and he always foretold to every prisoner
what his sentence would be before it was pronounced.

“He always appeared in the cell of the condemned, and first lighting a
candle, showed himself all clad in red, and said to the prisoner:

    “‘Piangi, piangi, ma piangi forte,
    E prepararti che e giunta
    L’ora della tua morte.’

    “‘Weep, oh weep full many a tear;
    Make ready; thy hour for death is near.’

“Then if the prisoner replied boldly:

    “‘Anima chi siei!
    Ti pregò di volermi aiutare
    A liberarmi dalla morte!’

    “‘Spirit, whoe’er thou be,
    I beg thee now for aid;
    From death pray set me free!’

Then the goblin would burst into a laugh and say:

    “‘Non piangere, ridi, ridi!
    Ma ride sempre, e spera
    Che io ti aiutera!’

“But if the prisoner had replied badly, or cursed, or said ‘_Vai al
diavolo_!’ or ‘_Che il diavolo ti porti_!’—then there were heard dreadful
sounds, such as frightened all the prisoners and assistants, and the
goblin vanished crying:

    “‘Woe, woe, and woe to thee!
    For thou soon shalt punished be;
    Away be led, to lose your head,
    There is no hope for thee!’

“And after that the man might well despair.  Yet the Red Goblin was a
jolly sprite when not crossed, and made great sport for the prisoners,
who all knew him.  He went into every cell, and would tell wild tales,
and relate to every one all that he, the prisoner, had done since he was
a boy, and how he came to be locked up, and what would be the end of it,
and told all this with such peals of laughter that the most unhappy were
fain to laugh with him.

“Then the assistants and the director hearing such sounds, thought it was
the prisoners rioting, but could not detect them. {161a}  And the spirit
relieved many innocent men from punishment, and especially visited those
condemned to wear the iron collar or _gogna_, which was fastened to a
post, but at the Bargello it was on the Campanile outside, in sight of
all the people. {161b}

“Now there was a young man in the prison who was good at heart, and
deeply repented that he had done wrong, and now feared that he indeed was
in the power of Satan, and destined to be in prison for all this life and
in _inferno_ all the next.

“And when he was thus sunk in misery one night, he heard him, and was in
great alarm, but it said, ‘Fear not, for I am the protecting spirit of
the prisoners in the Bargello, and have come to free thee; put thy trust
in me and I will save thee!’

“Then he told the youth how he was to act, and bade him say certain
things when examined, and follow closely all the goblin would whisper to
him; but whether it was his fault or his failure, he missed every point
and went wrong in his replies, the end being that he was condemned to
prison for life.  Truly it went to his heart to think that while he lived
he should always see the sun looking like a chess-board, {162} and
bitterly reflected on the proverb:

    “‘Ne a torto nè a ragione,
    Non ti lasciar metter prigione.’

    “‘Whether you’re right or wrong, my man,
    Keep out of prison as long as you can.’

“But it went most bitterly to his heart to think that he had by his own
stupidity and want of study lost the chance of freedom.  And for some
time the Red Goblin never came near him.  But at last the prisoner heard
him call, and then the spirit said, ‘Now thou see’st to what a pass thy
neglect of my advice has brought thee.  Truly _il diavolo non ti
tenterebbe_—the devil takes no pains to tempt such a fool as thou, for he
knows that he will get him without the trouble of asking.  And yet I will
give thee one more chance, and this time be thou wide awake and remember
that _a buona volontà_, _non manca facoltá_—where there’s a will there’s
a way.’

“Now there was a great lord and mighty man of the state who had been in
the Bargello, and greatly comforted by the Red Goblin, who now went unto
this Signore, speaking so well of the young man that the latter ere long
had a new trial.  And this time, I warrant you, he studied his case like
a lawyer; for _asino punto_, _convien che trottè_—when an ass is goaded
he must needs trot—and the end thereof was that he trotted out of prison,
and thence into the world, and having learned repentance as well as the
art of watching his wits and turning them to account, prospered mightily,
and to his dying day never forgot to pray for the Red Goblin of the

                                * * * * *

There have been other spirits which haunted prisons; there was one in the
Bastile, and the White Ladies of Berlin and Parma are of their kind.
This of the Bargello is certainly the household sprite with the red cap,
in a short shirt, who was very well known to the Etruscans and Romans,
and afterwards to the Germans, the _Lutin_ of the French castles, the
Robin Goodfellow of England, and the Domovoy of the Russians.  His
characteristics are reckless good nature mingled with mischief and
revenge; but he is always, when not thwarted, at heart a _bon garçon_.
Of the Bargello I have also the following anecdotes or correlative


“Truly I will not swear that this is a story of the Bargello, for I am
very particular as to truth, Signore, but I will swear that ’tis of a
prison in Florence, and that when it happened the Bargello was the only
prison there.  And it runs thus: Giorgio, whoever he was, had killed a
man, and as the law ran in his case, in those strange days, he could not
be executed till he had confessed or owned the deed.  And he would not

“Now there was a lawyer, _un notaio_, _ò chi che si fosse_ (or whoever he
was), who declared that he would bring to pass with a trick what justice
had not been able to do with torture.  So going to the prison, he called
for wine, and when they had drunk deep he cried heartily:

“‘_Orsú_, _Giorgio_, _stiamo un poco allegri_, _cantiam qualche
cosa_’—‘Come now, Giorgio, let’s be merry and sing something!’

“‘_Come ti piace_’—‘As you please,’ quoth Master Giorgio.  ‘You sing one

“So the notary began, touching a lute:

    “‘Giorgi hà morto l’huomo.’
    “‘Giorgio once killed a man.’

“To which Giorgio, who was sharp as a razor, added:

    “‘Così non canta Giorgio.’
    “‘But it was not thus that Giorgio sang.’

“So it passed into a proverb, meaning as much as _Così non dico io_—I
don’t say that; or _Così non l’intendo io_—I don’t see it in that light.
And so the notary found that you cannot see Verona from the top of every

“And there is another story of a prisoner, who had long curling hair in
the old Florentine style.  Hair, Signore, like charity, may cover much
sin.  Now this man, after he had been a while in the Bargello, got his
sentence, which was to have his ears cropped off.  But when the _boia_ or
hangman came to do the job, he found that the man had had his ears cut
off smooth long before.  Whence came the proverb:

    “‘Quel che havea mozzi gli orecchi,
    E’ci sara de gli arreticati.’

    “‘He whose ears had been cut away,
    Fooled another, or so they say.’

Which is a proverb to this day, when a man finds that somebody has been
before him.

“And it may have been that Donatello, the great sculptor, was in the
Bargello when he said, ‘_E’rise a me ed io riso à lui_’—‘He laughs at me,
and I do laugh at him.’  Donatello was _in quistione_, or in trouble with
the law, and in prison, for having killed one of his pupils.  The Marquis
di Ferrara asked him if he was guilty.  But Donatello had already
received from the Marquis a license to slay any one in self-defence, and
so he made that answer.”

                        A LEGEND OF THE BARGELLO.

“One day a young man, who had been gaming and lost, threw some dirt at an
image of the Virgin in one of the numerous shrines in the city, blaming
her for his bad luck.  He was observed by a boy, who reported it to the
authorities, and was soon arrested.  Having confessed that he did it in a
rage at having lost, he was hanged the same night from one of the windows
of the Bargello.” {164}

                                * * * * *

Thereby adding another ghost or _folletto_ to those who already haunt the
place.  It should be noted that according to Italian witch-lore a ghost
is never simply the spirit of the departed as he _was_, but a spirit
transformed.  A witch becomes a _fata_, good or bad, and all men
something more than they were.

Among other small legends or tales in which the Bargello is referred to,
I find the following, of which I must first mention that _debito_ in
Italian means not only debt but duty, and that _fare un debito_ is not
only to get into debt, but to do what is just, upright, and honourable.

    “It happened once, long ago, that a certain good fellow was being
    escorted, truly not by a guard of honour, but by several
    bum-bailiffs, to the Bargello, and met a friend who asked him why he
    was in custody.  To which he replied, ‘Other men are arrested and
    punished for crime or villainy, but I am treated thus for having
    acted honourably, _per aver fatto il debito mio_.’

    “And it happened to this same man that after he had been entertained
    for a time at the public expense in that _gran albergo_, or great
    hotel, the Bargello, that the Council of Eight, or the public
    magistracy, gave him a hearing, and told him that he must promptly
    pay the debt which he owed, which was one of fifty _scudi_ or crowns.
    To which he replied that he could not.  Then the chief of the Eight
    said, ‘We will find out a way to make you pay it, be sure of that.’
    To which he answered, ‘_De gratia_, _Signore_, while you are about
    it, then, make it a hundred, for I have great need just now of
    another fifty crowns.’”

Prisoners in the Bargello, as elsewhere, were subject to the most
appalling injustice and cruelty.  Thus we are told of Cosimo di Medici,
when he was doing all in his power to assassinate or poison Piero
Strozzi, that he was always very circumspect as regarded the venom, “and
did not use it till he had studied the effects and doses on condemned
prisoners in the Bargello.”  But “condemned prisoners” here means
doubtless those who were simply condemned to be made the subjects of such
experiments, as may be supposed, when we learn that Cosimo obtained the
recipe of making up a poison from Messer Apollino, secretary of Piero
Luigi, by _torturing_ him.  It was thus they did in good old pious times.
Poisoning, as a most familiar and frequent thing, even in England, did
not pass out of practice, even in politics, until that great beginning of
a moral era, the Reformation.

“_Hæc fabula docet_,” wrote the good and wise Flaxius on the revise,
“that as a _Zoccolone_ friar is the best priest for a peasant, so even a
_buon diavolo_, or jolly devil, or a boon blackguard who knows his men,
is, perhaps, generally the best guide for certain kinds of rough sinners,
often setting them aright in life where a holy saint would be _inter
sacrem et saxum_, or in despair.  As for poisoning, I fear _that_ cup,
far from passing away, is, under another form, passed round far more
frequently now than it ever was.  For François Villon declared that lying
gossip, tittle-tattle, and second-hand slander were worse than poison
(which simply kills the body), and this with infinite refinement prevails
far more in modern society (being aided by newspapers) than it ever did
of yore anywhere.  _This_ is the poison of the present day, which has
more _veneficæ_ to spread it than the Locustan or Borgian venoms ever
found.  Now for a merrier tale!”

    “If all that’s written, talked or sunge
       Must be of the follies of menne,
    ’Twere better that no one moved his tongue,
       Or that none could use a penne.

    “Jog on, jog on the footpath-waye,
       And cheerily jump the stile;
    A merry heart goes all the daye,
       A sad one tires in a mile!”


    “Pazienza, paziendum!
    Disse il diavolo a Sant Antonium.”

    “A scratching he heard and a horrible groan,
    As of hundreds of cats with mollrowing and moan:
    ‘Oh!’ said he to himself, ‘sure the devil is come.’”

                                                —_Mr. Jones and the Cats_.

The celebrated Church of San Lorenzo is a grand museum of art, even among
the many of its kind in Florence.  It was originally a Roman Christian
basilica, built by the matron Giuliana, which edifice was consecrated
A.D. 373 by Saint Ambrose, and called the Basilica Ambrosiana.  It was
partially rebuilt by Brunelleschi in 1435, and completed with sad
alteration, and finished by Antonio Manetti.  As is well known, or has
been made known by many great poets, it contains the grandest statuary by
Michael Angelo in its monuments of Lorenzo de’ Medici and his uncle

This church served as a sanctuary in the olden time, and of this there is
a tale told in the old collections of facetiæ, which, though trifling, is
worth recalling as connected with it.

                               IL DEBITORE.

“Messer Paolo dell’ Ottonaio, a Canon of San Lorenzo in Florence, a
cheerful and facetious man, found a certain citizen one of his friends,
who had taken refuge as a debtor in the church; and the latter stood in
sorrowful and pensive attitude, having in no wise the appearance of one
who had found a treasure, or who was going to be married, or to dine with
the Duke, or anything of the kind.

“‘Man, what aileth thee?’ cried the Canon.  ‘Has thy wife beaten thee, or
the cat broken thy best crockery, or thy favourite housemaid run away?’

“‘What I have,’ replied the poor man, ‘is ten times worse than all that
put together.’  And so, _havendo caro di sfogarsi_, being glad to relieve
himself, he told Messer Paolo all his sorrows, wailing that his
creditors, having taken all his property, threatened his person, swearing
that they would put him in the _Stinche_, which was so horrible a prison
that it was infamous even then all the world over as an _inferno_ where
every one confined at once became _infermo_, or a hell which made men
ill, and that, being in despair, he would have taken his own life had he
not come across a charming book on patience which had consoled him.

“Messer Paolo asked him whether the creditors had been paid in full.

“‘Alas, no!’ replied the debtor; ‘not one half; nor will they ever get
the rest, for I have naught.’

“‘In that case,’ answered the Canon, ‘it seems to me that it is your
creditors and not you who should read that charming book, since it is
evident that, as they are to have nothing till the Greek Kalends, or on
Saint Never’s day, that they must have patience whether they will or no.’

“Well, as the saying is, _Pazienza vince scienza_ (Patience beats
knowledge), and _Chi ha pazienza vede le sue vendette_ (Wait long enough
and you’ll get your revenges), the Canon got for the poor man money
enough to make a composition with his creditors, and he, having
expectations which they knew not of, compounded with them for five per
cent., on conditions written, that he should pay all up ‘as he earned
more money.’

“And so he was set free, and it befell on a day that some relation died
and left him a fortune, whereupon his creditors summoned him to pay his
old debts, which he refused to do.  Then they cited him before the
Council as a fraudulent debtor, but he replied by showing his quittance
or agreement, and declared that he was only obliged to pay out of his
_earnings_, and that he had inherited his money and not earned it.
Whereupon there was great dispute, and one of the creditors who had shown
himself most unfeeling and inhuman protested that to get money in any way
whatever was to _guadagnare_ (a gain by labour), since it was labour even
to put it in one’s pocket.  Now, this man had a handsome wife, who, it
was generally known, greatly enriched her husband by dishonouring him, at
which he willingly winked.

“Whereupon the debtor asked the magistrate if an ox carried off a bundle
of hay on his horns, which had by chance been stuck into it, he could be
said to have earned it by honest labour?  At which there was such a roar
of laughter, and so many cries of ‘No! no! no!’ that the court went no
further, and acquitted the culprit.”

                                * * * * *

There is an odd bit of folklore attached to this church.  As may be
supposed, and as I have frequently verified, “the idle repetition of vain
words,” as the heathen do, or prayers in a language which people do not
understand, generally lead to most ridiculous perversions of the unknown
tongue.  A popular specimen of this is the _Salve Regina delle Ciane
Fiorentine di San Lorenzo_, or the “_Salve Regina_ of the Florentine
women of the lower class, as given in San Lorenzo.”  _Ciana_ is given by
Barretti as a specially Florentine word.

                             LA SALVE REGINA.

“Sarvia della Regina, dreco la Misericordia, vita d’un cieco, spezia
nostra, sarvia tua, te chiamao esule, fili e vacche!

“Ate sospirao, i’ gemeo fetente in barca e lacrima la valle.

“L’ la eggo educata nostra, _illons in tus_.

“Misericordia se’ cieli e in ossi e coperte, e lesine benedette, frutti,
ventri, tubi, novi, posti cocche, esilio e tende!

“O crema, o pia, o dorce virgola Maria!—Ammenne!”

                                * * * * *

This is perfectly in the spirit of the Middle Ages, of which so much is
still found in the cheapest popular Italian literature.  I have elsewhere
mentioned that it was long before the Reformation, when the Church was at
the height of her power, that blasphemies, travesties of religious
services, and scathing sarcasms of monkish life reached their extreme,
and were never equalled afterwards, even by Protestant satirists.  The
_Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum_ of Hütten and Reuchlin was an avowed
caricature by an enemy.  The revelations of monkish life by Boccaccio,
Cintio, Arlotto, and a hundred other good Catholics, were a thousand
times more damaging than the _Epistolæ_, because they were the
unconscious betrayals of friends.

Since writing the foregoing, I have obtained the following, entitled,
_The Pater Noster of the Country People in the Old Market_, or,


“Pate nostro quisin celi sanctifice tuore nome tumme; avvenia regno
tumme; fia te volunta stua, in celo en terra.

“Pane nostro cotediano da nobis sodie, e dimitti nobis debita nostra,
sicutte ette nos dimittimus debitori nostri, sette ananossie in due
casse, intenzione sedie nosse e mulo.—Amenne!”

                                * * * * *

There is, however, this great difference in the two prayers here given,
that the _Salve Regina_ is intended for a jest, while the paternoster is
given as actually taken down from a _ciana_, and is rather a specimen of
dialect than a _jeu d’esprit_.  The following _Ave Maria_ is also
serious, and simply a curiosity of language:—

                               L’AVE MARIA.

“Avemmaria grazia piena, dominò teco beneditta e frustris, e mulieri
busse e benedetti fruttus ventris tui eiusse!

“Santa Maria Materdei, ora pro nobisse, pecatoribusse, tinche, tinona,
mortis nostrisse.—Ammenne!”

                                * * * * *

These specimens of Italianised Latin are not so grotesque as some which
were written out for me in all seriousness by a poor woman.  A specimen
of the latter is given in my work on “Etruscan-Roman Traditions.”

Last of all, there came to me a small tale of little value, save that it
professes to account for the reason why so many cats have ever flourished
and been nourished in the cloister of San Lorenzo, these felines being,
indeed, in a small way among the lions of Florence.  It is as follows:—

                         I GATTI DI SAN LORENZO.

“In the cloisters of San Lorenzo there are many cats, and every evening
people may be seen who go there to feed them, among whom are many old men
and women.  But these cats were long ago themselves human, that is to
say, they were once all wizards and witches, who bear their present form
for punishment of an evil deed.

“There was once a very wealthy and powerful family in Florence, at the
head of which was a gentleman and lady who had an only daughter, in whom
was all their love and hope.  Among their servants in a higher position
was an old woman, who was very vindictive and easily offended, so that
she could brood over deadly revenge for years for the least affront, and
she fancied she had a great many, because when she had neglected her duty
at times she had been scolded by her mistress or master.

“Now this old woman knew that death or disaster to the daughter would
drive the parents mad; and so having recourse to witchcraft, she put into
the drink of the young lady a decoction, the result of which was that she
began to waste away, growing weaker and paler, without feeling any pain.

“Then her parents, in great fear, consulted the best physicians, who did
no good, for indeed it was a case beyond their skill.  And at last,
beginning to believe that there was something unearthly in it all, they
sent for an old woman who cured by occult art. {171}  And when she came
she looked steadily at the girl, then frowned and shook her head, and
asked for a ribbon or cord, no matter what, so that it were one which the
young lady had worn about her waist.  With this she measured accurately
the height of the patient from head to foot, and then the width from hand
to hand, it being desirous that the arms be of equal length; but there
was the disproportion of the thickness of a piece of money.  Then the
witch said:

“‘This is none of my affair as regards the cure.  Your daughter is
bewitched, and I can indeed make the witch appear, but to beat her and
compel her to remove the spell depends on you alone.’

“Now they, suspecting the old servant, sent for her, but she had
disappeared and could not be found.  Then the doctress took a caldron,
and put into it hot water and the undergarments of the girl and certain
herbs, and boiled them all together, singing an incantation, and, taking
a knife, sharpened it on the table, whetting it on the chemise of the
young lady.

“Then the old servant woman appeared at the door, against her will,
forced by the power of the spell, in an agony of rage and bitterness; but
she was at once seized and beaten, whereupon she consented to unbewitch
the girl, who speedily recovered.

“Now Florence was at that time fearfully afflicted with evil witches, who
defied all authority, and spread disease and death far and wide; but this
affair of the bewitched lady being made known, both priests and laymen
rose up in wrath, and the sorceress fled for sanctuary to the cloisters
of San Lorenzo.

“Then to save their lives the _Strege_ made a compromise with the
priests, and it was agreed that they should no longer live as witches, or
do any harm, but all live and die as cats in the cloister, where they
should be regularly fed, and exist in peace.  Which agreement has been
duly carried out to this day, and among these cats are many who were once
witches in human form hundreds of years ago.”

                                * * * * *

This narrative is not so much a story as an account of the manner in
which bewitchment is undone by another witch.  The reader will find the
incantations in the chapter entitled “The Spell of the Boiling Clothes,”
in my work on “Etruscan-Roman Remains.”  One of the most serious riots
which has occurred in Milan for many years took place March 3, 1891, when
the populace tortured terribly and tried to kill a witch, who had, it was
believed, been detected by this spell.

                                * * * * *

“_Hæc fabula docet_,” adds the wise Flaxius, “this story suggests a
reason why a certain kind of ladies of ecclesiastical proclivities are
always called tabbies.  And that there is something in it I can well
believe, knowing one who, when she calls her rector or bishop ‘_De-ar
man_!’ does so in a manner which marvellously suggests the purring of a
cat.  And the manner in which the tabby pounces on the small birds, mice,
and gold-fish of others—_i.e._, their peccadilloes, and small pets or
pleasures, which in good faith do her no harm—seems like literally
copying the feline—upon line. . . .

“Oh! ye who visit the cloister, and see the cats, think well on this
legend, and especially on the deep identity of witches with tabbies!

“And for a moral, note that, with all their sins, what the witches and
cats aimed at above all things was _food_, with which they have remained
content, according to the exquisite lyric by the divine Shelley, p. 661,
Dowden’s edition:—

    “‘This poor little cat
       Only wanted a rat,
    To stuff out its own little maw,
       And it were as good
       Some people had such food
    To make them _hold their jaw_.’”


    “For by diabolical art he assumed varied forms, even the human, and
    deceived people by many occult tricks.”—FROMANN, _Tractatus de
    Fascinatione_, 1675.

This is a slight tale of light value, and not new, but it has assumed
local colour, and may amuse the reader.

“It was a great art of witches and sorcerers of old to give a man or
woman by art the appearance of another person, and this they called
‘drawing white lines with charcoal,’ and there is many a fine tale about
it.  Now it was about the time when Berta spun and owls wore silk cloaks
that a Signore Nannincino lived in the old Piazza San Biagio.  He had
many small possessions in Florence, but the roast chickens of the supper,
or his great piece, was an estate in the country called the Mula a
Quinto, for which all his relations longed, like wolves for a fat sheep.
And Nannincini, being sharp to a keen edge, and knowing how to lend water
and borrow wine, had promised this estate in secret to everybody, and got
from them many a gratification, and supped and dined with them for years,
yet after this died without leaving a will.

“Then six of his relations assembled and resolved to secure the property,
though they invoked the devil.  And to aid them they took a certain scamp
named Giano di Selva, who somewhat resembled the departed Nannincino, and
he, calling in a witch of his acquaintance, was made by sorcery to look
as much like the defunct as two beads of the same rosary.  So Nannincino
was removed and Giano put in his place, where he lay still for an hour,
and then began to show signs of life.  And after a time he called for a
notary and began to make his will.  First he left a house to one, and his
sword to another, and so on, till it came to the Mula a Quinto.

“‘And who shall have the Mula a Quinto, dear good uncle?’ asked a nephew.

“‘That,’ replied the dying man, ‘I leave to my good friend, the only true
friend I ever had, the noblest of men—’

“‘But what is his _name_?’ asked the nephew.

“‘Giano di Selva,’ gasped the dying man.  And it was written down by the
notary, and the will was signed, and the signer died immediately after.
All their shaking could not revive him.

“The tale ends with these words: _E così ingannati gli ingannatori_,
_rimase Giano herede del podere_—And thus the biters being bit, d’ye see,
Giano took a handsome property.”

“And does his ghost still promenade the palace?”

“To oblige you, Signore, for this once—_place a lei il comandare_—it
does.  The ghost walks—always when the rent fails to come in, and there
is no money in the treasury—_cammina_, _cammina per un fil di
spada_—walks as straight as an acrobat on a rope.  But I cannot give you
a walking ghost of a rascal to every house, Signore.  If all the knaves
who made fortunes by trickery were to take to haunting our houses in
Florence, they would have to lie ten in a bed, or live one hundred in a
room, and ghosts, as you know, love to be alone.  _Mille grazie_, Signore
Carlo!  This will keep _our_ ghost from walking for a week.”

“Of which remark here made that ‘_the ghost doth walk_,’” comments the
sage Flaxius, “when money is forbidden unto man (which is so commonly
heard in theatrical circles when the weekly salary is not paid), I have
no doubt that it comes from the many ancient legends which assign a
jealous guardian sprite to every hoard.  And thus in Spenser’s wondrous
‘Faerie Queene’ the marvellous stores in Mammon’s treasury, ‘embost with
massy gold of glorious guifte,’ were watched by

    “‘An ugly feend more fowle than dismall day;
    The which with monstrous stalk behind him stept,
    And ever as he went dew watch upon him kept.’

“The which quotation is in its turn otherwise curious since it gave, I
doubt not, the original suggestion to Coleridge of the verse wherein
mention is made in simile of one who walks in tear and dread, and dares
not turn his head—

    “‘For well he knows a griesly fiend
    Doth close behind him tread.’

“‘More or less accurately, my masters, more or less.’  ‘’Tis sixty years
since’—I read the original.”


    “And both the undying fish that swim
    Through Bowscale Tarn did wait on him:
    The pair were servants of his eye
    In their immortality;
    They moved about in open sight,
    To and fro, for his delight.”

                                  —WORDSWORTH, _Poems of the Imagination_.

The reader should never at once infer that a legend is recent because it
is attached to a new place.  Spirits and traditions are like the goblin
of Norse tale, who moved with the family.  The family changed its home to
get rid of him, but on the way the elf popped his head out and remarked,
“_Wi flütten_” (“We’re flitting” or moving).  The ghost of Benjamin
Franklin long haunted the library which he had founded in Philadelphia,
and when the library or books were transferred to a new building, the
ghost went with them and his statue.  And in like manner the legend of
the religious person, male or female, who is also a _fish_ has travelled
over many lands, till it came to the _vasca_ or basin of the Porto San
Gallo.  Thus Leonard Vair, in his charming _Trois Livres des Charmes_,
_Sorcelages ou Enchantemens_, Paris, 1583, tells us that “there is a
cloister in Burgundy, by which there is a pond, and in this pond are as
many fish as there be monks in the cloister.  And when one of the fish
swims on the surface of the water and beats with its tail, then one of
the monks is ever ill.”  But there is a mass of early Christian or
un-Christian folklore which identifies “Catholic clergy-women” with fish,
even as Quakers are identified in Philadelphia with shad.  In Germany all
maids just in their teens are called _Backfisch_, that is, pan-fish or
_fritures_, from their youth and liveliness, or delicacy.  We may read in
Friedrich that the fish is a common Christian symbol of immortality,
which fully accounts for all legends of certain of them living for ever.
The story which I have to tell is as follows:—


“In this fountain-basin is found a pretty little fish, which is always
there, and which no one can catch, because it always escapes with great
_lestezza_ or agility.

“And this is the queen of all the other fish, or else the Spirit of the

“This spirit, while on earth, was a beautiful girl who loved an official,
and he fell ill and was in the military hospital.

“The parents of the maid opposed her marriage with this official, though
he was so much in love with her that it and anxiety had made him ill.
Then the maid became a nun so that she might be near him in illness, and
nurse him in his last moments, which indeed came to pass, for he died,
nor did she long survive him.

“Then her mother, who had magic power (_essendo stata una fata_ {177}),
regretted having opposed her daughter’s love and that of the young man,
since it had caused the death of both.  And to amend this she so
enchanted them that by night both became _folletti_ or spirits haunting
the hospital, while by day the maid becomes a little fish living in the
fountain.  But when seen by night she appears as a pretty little nun
(_una bella monachina_), and goes to the hospital to nurse the invalids,
for which she has, indeed, a passion.  And if any one of them observes
her, he feels better, but in that instant she vanishes, and is in the
arms of her lover.  But sometimes it happens that he becomes jealous of a
patient, and then he vexes the poor man in every way, twitching off his
covering, and playing him all kinds of spiteful tricks.”

                                * * * * *

It is otherwise narrated, in a more consistent, and certainly more
traditionally truthful manner, that both the lovers are fish by day and
_folletti_ by night.  This brings the legend to close resemblance with
the undying fish of Bowscale Tarn, recorded in Wordsworth’s beautiful
song at the feast of Brougham Castle in the “Poems of the Imagination.”

                                * * * * *

“’Tis worth noting,” pens the observant Flaxius on this, “that in days of
yore fish, feminines, and fascination were considered so inseparable that
Dr. Johannes Christian Fromann wrote a chapter on this mystical trinity,
observing that music was, as an attractor, connected with them, as shown
by dolphins, syrens, Arions, and things of that sort.  And he quoted—yea,
in the holy Latin tongue—many instances of fishers who entice their finny
prey by playing flutes:

    “‘Which thing I doubted till I saw that Doubt
       Pursued, its refutation oft begets,
    When in America I once found out
       That shad were caught by means of castin’ nets!’”


    “Were I ten times as tedious, I would find it in my heart to bestow
    it all on you.”—_Dogberry_.

This little tale is told by the Florentine Poggio, who was born in 1380
and died in 1459, yet lived—in his well-known _Facezie_.  But as it ever
was and is a folk-story, independently of the great jester, I think it
worthy of a place in this collection.

“There was once a podestà sent from Rome to govern Florence, and truly he
was of that kind who to a farthing’s worth of sense have ten ducats’
value in self-conceit; for if vanity could have kept a man warm, he never
would have had need to buy blankets.  And this was most shown in his
belief that he was a great orator, though he was so intolerably stupid
and slow that his speeches were like the post-rider of Giordano, who in
good weather sometimes got as far as five miles a day.

“Now he was to be inducted into office in the Cathedral, in the presence
of the _priori_, or notables of the city of Florence, and so begun a
discourse in which he first of all described how great a man he had been
as senator in Rome, and what he had done, and what everybody else
connected with him had done, and all the details of his departure from
the Eternal City; and then depicted a banquet given to him at Sutro, and
so went on, telling everything about everybody, till, after several hours
of terribly tiresome discourse, he had got no farther than Siena.

“Now by this time, as Poggio words it, ‘This excessive length of
wearisome narration had so exhausted his auditors that they began to fear
that the entire day would be spent on the road,’ and at last, as the
shades of night began to fall, one who was present rose and said:

“‘Monsignore, I beg you to remember that it is growing late, and you must
really get on a little faster in your journey, for if you are not in
Florence to-day, the gates will be shut, and unless you get here in time
you will not be allowed to enter, and thus you will miss being ordained,
and cannot enter on your office.’

“Which having heard, the man of many words promptly concluded his speech
by saying that he was really in Florence.”

                                * * * * *

Southey, in “The Doctor,” has narrated a number of instances of tedious
discourse, but none, I think, quite equal to this.

There is a shadow under every lamp, a devil’s chapel close by every
church, and even of the venerable and holy Duomo of Florence there are
such tales as the following:

                          LA MESSA DE’ VILLANI.

“If there is any faith to be put in old stories and ancient books, even
the ladies and gentleman, to say nothing of priests, used such language
in their ordinary conversation, in good old Medici times, as would not be
heard among any but the lowest people now-a-days.  Well, as the saying

    “‘Ne di tempo, nè di Signoria,
    Non ti dar malinconia.’

    “‘Fret not thyself for time long past away,
    For weather, nor for what the great may say.’

“Well, it happened one morning in Florence that a _gentil donna_, who, I
take it, was more _donna_ than truly _gentil_, whatever her rank may have
been, meeting at the door of the Duomo a very ordinary and rough figure
of her acquaintance, who had only made himself look more vulgar by new
and gaudy clothes, asked him as he came out:

“‘Is the Cads’ Mass {180} over already?’

“To which he, in nowise put out, promptly replied:

“‘Yes, Madonna, and that of the Demireps is just going to begin; {181}
only hurry, and you’ll be there in time with the rest of ’em!’

“And that lifted him to celebrity, for in those famous days a small joke
often made a great reputation.  Ah!  Signore—a great many of us have been
born into this world four hundred years too late—more’s the pity!
However, the lady learned the truth of the old proverb, ‘_Guardati del
villan_, _quando hà la camicia bianca_’—‘Look out for a vulgar fellow
when he has a clean shirt on,’ for then he thinks himself fine enough to
say anything saucy.

“And there is yet another story of the same sort, Signore; indeed, I
think that while the world lasts there will always be a few of them left
for steady customers, under the counter, like smuggled goods in Venice;
and it is this: It befell once that a Florentine fell in love with a
lady, who was like her mother, _come il ramo al tronco s’assomiglia_—‘as
the bough to the tree, or very much worse than she ought to be;’ for the
dear mamma was like the Porta San Niccolò, only not so well famed.

“However, the gentleman wedded her, never heeding the proverb:

    “‘Let every wooer be afraid
    To wed a maiden not a maid;
    For sooner or later, as ’tis said,
    She’ll turn again unto her trade.’

“However, in this case the proverb got the lie, for the lady after she
was married behaved with great propriety, and yet was often reminded that
she had better have repented before she sinned than after; for many would
not speak to her, for all her wealth, till she was well convinced that
_Che profitta ravedersi dopo il fatto_?

    “‘When the deed has once been done,
    What is the use of repenting, my son?’

“So it befell one morning that the poor soul was praying in the Cathedral
or Duomo, as many another poor sinner had done before her (doubtless on
the same spot), when a noble lady, who had never been found out in any
naughtiness (some people are certainly very lucky in this world, Signore
Carlo!), came by, and seeing the penitent, drew in her robe, turned up
her nose, and retreated as if the other had the plague.  To which the
Magdalen replied, in a sad but firm voice, ‘Madonna, you need not be
afraid to touch me, for I assure you that the malady (of which I have, I
trust, been thoroughly cured) attacks none save those who wish to have

                                * * * * *

When standing in the Cathedral, the visitor may remember that here Santo
Crescenzio, who died in 424, once wrought a miracle, thus recorded in his
“Life” of the fourteenth century:

    “A poor man had come into the Cathedral and saw no light (_i.e._, was
    blind), and going to where Saint Crescentius was, implored him with
    great piety that he would cause the light to return unto him.  And
    being moved to pity, he made the sign of the cross in the eyes of the
    blind man, and incontinently the light was restored unto him.  Saint
    Crescentius did not wish this to be made known, and pretended to know
    nothing about it, but he could not conceal such miracles.”

Of which the immortal Flaxius remarks, that “it is singular that so many
saints who wished to keep their miracles unknown had not the forethought
to make silence a condition of cure.  Also, that of all the
wonder-working once effected by the holy men of the Church, the only gift
now remaining to them is the miraculous power of changing sons and
daughters into nephews and nieces; the which, as I am assured, is still
as flourishing as ever, and permitted as a proof of transubstantiation.”
Thus it is that simple heretics deride holy men.  And Flaxius is, I bid
ye note, a sinner, in whose antique, unsanctified derision I most
assuredly do take no part, “it being in bad form in this our age to
believe or disbelieve in anything,” and therefore in bad style to laugh
at aught.

It may be worth recalling, when looking out on the Cathedral Square, that
it was here that San Zenobio performed another great miracle, recorded in
all his lives, but most briefly in the poetical one:

    “Then did he raise an orphan from the dead,
    The only son of a poor widow, he,
    A cart with oxen passing o’er his head,
    Died in the Duomo Square in misery;
    But though all crushed, the Saint restored his life,
    And, well and gay and bright as stars do shine,
    He went to his mother, and the pious wife
    Gave thanks to God for mercy all divine.”

Which being witnessed, says the _Vita San Zenobii_, all who were present
began to sing, “_Gloria tibi Domine qui mirabilia per servos tuos in
nobis operari dignatus es_, _gloria sit tibi-i et laus in
sæcu-la—sec-u-lo-o-o-rum_, _A-men_.

Which, if they sung it as I heard it sung yesterday in the Cathedral of
Siena, must have had an extremely soporific effect, lulling all others to
sleep, and causing them to see beatific visions beyond all belief.  I had
in my boyhood a teacher named Professor Sears C. Walker, who was wont to
tell how he had once heard in a rural New England village a church
congregation sing:

    “Before thy throne the angels bow-wow-wow-ow!”

But to hear the _bow-wow_ in perfection, one must go to Rome.  A pack in
full cry or a chorus of owls is nothing to it.  But let us pass on to a
fresh story.


    “He found such strange enchantment there,
    In that garden sweet and rare,
    Where night and day
    The nightingales still sing their roundelay,
    And plashing fountains ’neath the verdure play,
    That for his life he could not thence away;
    And even yet, though he hath long been dead,
    ’Tis said his spirit haunts the pleasant shade.”

                                               —_The Ring of Charlemagne_.

A great showman, as I have heard, once declared that in establishing a
menagerie, one should have the indispensable lion, an _obligato_
elephant, a requisite tiger, an essential camel, and imperative monkeys.
One of the “indispensable lions” of Florence is the Boboli Gardens,
joining the Pitti Palace, which, from their careful preservation in their
original condition, give an admirable idea of what gardens were like in
an age when far more was thought of them than now as places of habitual
resort and enjoyment, and when they entered into all literature and life.
Abraham à Santa Clara once wrote a discourse against gardens, as making
life too happy or simple, basing his idea on the fact that sin originated
in the Garden of Eden.

The Boboli Gardens were planned by Il Tribolo for Cosimo di Medici.  The
ground which they occupy is greatly varied, rising high in some places,
from which very beautiful views of Florence, with its “walls and
churches, palaces and towers,” may be seen.  Of their many attractions
the guide-book remarks poetically in very nearly the following words:—

    “Its long-embowered walks, like lengthened arbours,
    Are well adapted to the summer’s sun;
    While statues, terraces, and vases add
    Still more unto its splendour.  All around
    We see attractive statues, and of these
    A number really are restored antiques,
    And many by good artists; best of all
    Are four by mighty Michel Angelo,
    Made for the second Julius, and meant
    To decorate his tomb.  You see them at
    The angles of the grotto opposite
    The entrance to the gardens.  Of this grot
    The famous Redi sang in verse grotesque:

    “Ye satyrs, in a trice
       Leave your low jests and verses rough and hobbly,
    And bring me a good fragment of the ice
       Kept in the grotto of the Garden Boboli.
                With nicks and picks
                Of hammers and sticks,
                Disintegrate it
                And separate it,
                Break it and split it,
                Splinter and slit it!
    Till at the end ’tis fairly ground and rolled
    Into the finest powder, freezing cold.”

There are also, among the things worth seeing, the Venus by Giovanni of
Boulogne (called di Bologna); the Apollo and Ceres by Baccio Bandinelli;
the group of Paris carrying off Helen by V. de’ Rossi, and the old Roman
fountain-bath and obelisk.  The trees and flowers, shrubbery and
_boschetti_, are charming; and if the reader often visits them, long
sitting in the sylvan shade on sunny days, he will not fail to feel that
strange enchantment which seems to haunt certain places, and people them
with dreams, if not with elves.

The fascination of these dark arbours old, and of the antique gardens,
has been recognised by many authors, and there are, I suppose, few
visitors to Florence who have not felt it and recalled it years after in
distant lands as one recalls a dream.  Therefore, I read with interest or
sympathy the following, which, though amounting to nothing as a legend,
is still valuable as setting forth the fascination of the place, and how
it dates even from him who gave the Boboli Gardens their name:

                           IL GIARDINO BOBOLI.

“The Boboli Garden is the most beautiful in Europe.

“Boboli was the name of the farmer who cultivated the land before it was
bought by Cosimo de’ Medici and his wife Eleanora.

“After he had sold the property he remained buried in grief, because he
had an attachment for it such as some form for a dog or a cat.  And so
great was his love for it that it never left his mind, nor could he ever
say amen to it; for on whatever subject he might discourse, it always
came in like one who will not be kept out, and his refrain was, ‘Well,
you’ll see that my place will become _il nido degli amori_ (the nest of
loves), and I myself after my death will never be absent from it.’  His
friends tried to dissuade him from thinking so much of it, saying that he
would end by being lunatic, but he persevered in it till he died.

“And it really came to pass as he said; for soon after his death, and
ever since, many have on moonlight nights seen his spirit occupied in
working in the gardens.”

                                * * * * *

The story is a pretty one, and it is strangely paralleled by one narrated
in my own Memoirs of the old Penington mansion in Philadelphia, the
gardens of which were haunted by a gentle ghost, a lady who had lived
there in her life, and who was, after her death, often seen watering the
flowers in them by moonlight.  And thus do—

          “printless footsteps fall
    By the spots they loved before.”

The second legend which I recovered, relating to the Boboli Gardens, is
as follows:

                        LE DUE STATUE E LA NINFA.

“There are in the Boboli Gardens two statues of two imprisoned kings, and
it is said that every night a beautiful fairy of the grotto clad in white
rises from the water, emerging perfectly dry, and converses with the
captive kings for one hour, going alternately from one to the other, as
if bearing mutual messages, and then returns to the grotto, gliding over
the ground without touching the grass with her feet, and after this
vanishes in the water.”

“This tale is, as I conceive,” writes the observant Flaxius, “an
allegory, or, as Petrus Berchorius would have called it, a
_moralisation_, the marrow whereof is as follows: The two captive kings
are Labour and Capital, who have, indeed, been long enchained, evil
tongues telling each that the other was his deadly foe, while the fairy
is Wise Reform, who passes her time in consoling and reconciling them.
And it shall come to pass that when the go-betweens or brokering
mischief-makers are silenced, then the kings will be free and allied.”

    “Then indeed, as you may see,
    All the world will happy be!”

_Vivat Sequenz_!  Now for the next story.


   “Puer—abige Muscas!”

                                                   —_Cicero de Orat._, 60.

The following story contains no new or original elements, as it is only
an ordinary tale of transformation by witchcraft, but as it accounts for
the origin of the name of a street in Florence I give it place:—

                           LA VIA DELLA MOSCA.

“This is the way that the Via della Mosca, or the Street of the Fly, got
its name.  There once dwelt in it, in a very old house, a family which,
while of rank, were not very wealthy, and therefore lived in a retired
manner.  There were father, mother, and one daughter, who was wonderfully
beautiful—_un vero occhio di sole_.

“And as the sun hath its shadow, so there was a living darkness in this
family in a _donna di servizio_, a servant woman who had been many years
with them, who had a daughter of her own, who was also a beauty of a
kind, but as dark as the other was fair; the two were like day and night,
and as they differed in face, so were they unlike in soul.  For the young
signora had not a fault in her; she would not have caused any one pain
even to have her own way or please her vanity, and they say the devil
will drop dead whenever he shall meet with such a woman as _that_.
However, he never met with this young lady, I suppose, because he is
living yet.  And the young lady was so gentle of heart that she never
said an ill word of any one, while the maid and her mother never opened
their mouths save for gossip and slander.  And she was so occupied with
constant charity, and caring for poor children, and finding work for poor
people, that she never thought about her own beauty at all, and when
people told her that _chi nasce bella_, _nasce maritata_ (Whoever is born
pretty is born to be married), she would reply, ‘Pretty or ugly, there
are things more important in life than weddings.’

“And so far did she carry this, that she gave no heed at all to a very
gallant and handsome yet good-hearted honourable wealthy young gentleman
who lived in a palazzo opposite, and who, from watching and admiring her,
had ended by falling desperately in love.  So he made a proposal of
marriage to her through her parents, but she replied (having had her
mind, in truth, on other things) that she was too much taken up with
other duties to properly care for a husband, and that her dowry was not
sufficient to correspond to his wealth, however generous he might be in
dispensing with one.  And as she was as firm and determined as she was
gentle and good, she resolutely kept him at arm’s length.  But firmness
is nothing against fate, and he ‘who runs away with nimble feet, in the
war of love at last will beat.’ {189}

“Now, if she was indifferent to the young signore, the dark maid-servant
was not, for she had fallen as much in love with him as an evil, selfish
nature would permit her, and she planned and plotted with her mother by
night and by day to bring about what she desired.  Now, the old woman,
unknown to all, was a witch, as all wicked women really are—they rot away
with vanity and self-will and evil feelings till their hearts are like
tinder or gunpowder, and then some day comes a spark of the devil’s fire,
and they flash out into witches of some kind.

“The young signore had a great love for boating on the Arno, which was a
deeper river in those days; he would often pass half the night in his
boat.  Now, the mother and daughter so contrived it that the young
signorina should return very late on a certain night from visiting the
poor, accompanied by the old woman.  And when just in the middle of the
Ponte Vecchio the mother gave a whistle, and lo! there came a sudden and
terrible blast of wind, which lifted up the young lady and whirled her
over the bridge into the rushing river underneath.

“But, as fate would have it, the young man was in his boat just below,
and fortune fell down to him, as it were, from heaven; for seeing a form
float or flit past him in the water and the darkness, he caught at it and
drew it into the boat, and truly Pilate’s wife was not so astonished when
the roast capon rose up in the dish and crowed as was this boatman at
finding what he had fished up out of the stream.

“There is a saying of a very unlucky contrary sort of man that _casco in
Arno ed arse_ (He fell in the Arno and burnt himself).  But in this case,
by luck, the falling of the young lady into the river caused her heart to
burn with love, for so bravely and courteously and kindly did the young
signore behave, conveying her promptly home without a sign of love-making
or hint of the past, that she began to reconsider her refusal, and the
end thereof was a betrothal, by which the mother and daughter were
maddened to think that they had only hastened and aided what they had
tried to prevent.

“Now, it is true that bad people put ten times as much strong will and
hard work into their evil acts as good folk do into better deeds, because
the latter think their cause will help itself along, while the sinners
know perfectly well that they must help themselves or lose.  So the witch
only persevered the more, and at last she hit on this plan.  With much
devilish ado she enchanted a comb of thorns, so that whoever was combed
with it would turn into a fly, and must remain one till the witch bade
the victim assume his or her usual form.

“Then on the bridal morn the old woman offered to comb out the long
golden locks of the young lady, and she did so, no other person being
present, so she began her incantation:

    “‘Earthly beauty fade away,
    Maiden’s form no longer stay,
    For a fly thou shalt become,
    And as a busy insect hum,
    _Buzz-uz-uz_ about the room!

    “‘Ope thine eyes and spread thy wings,
    Pass away to insect things.
    Now the world will hate thee more
    Than it ever loved before
    When it hears thy ceaseless hum,
    _Buzz-uz-uz_ about the room!’

“And hearing this, the bride sank into a deep sleep, during which she
changed into a fly, and so soared up to the ceiling and about the room,
buzzing indeed.

“Now, with all her cleverness, the witch had missed a stitch in her
sorcery, for she had not combed hard enough to _draw blood_, being afraid
to wake the maid; hence it came to pass that instead of a small common
fly she became a very large and exquisitely beautiful one, with a head
like gold, a silver body, and beautiful blue and silver wings like her
bridal dress.  And she was not confined to buzzing, for she had the power
to sing one verse.  However, when the change took place, the old woman
rushed from the room screaming like mad, declaring that her young
mistress was a witch who had turned into a fly as soon as she had touched
her with a consecrated comb which had been dipped in holy water, and to
this she added many lies, as that a witch to avoid the holy sacrament of
marriage always changed her form, and that she had always suspected the
signorina of being a witch ever since she had seen her fly in the wind
over the Arno to the young signore.

“But when they went to look at the fly, and found it so large and
beautiful, they were amazed, nor were they less astonished when they
heard it begin to buzz with a most entrancing strangely sweet sound, and
then sing:—

    “‘Be ye not amazed that I
    Am enchanted as a fly,
    Evil witchcraft was around me,
    Evil witches’ spells have bound me:
    Now I am a fly I know,
    But woe to her who made me so!’

“And when the young signore stretched out his hand, the fly came buzzing
with joy and lighted like a bird on his finger, and this she did with
great joy whenever any of the poor whom she had befriended came to see
her, and so she behaved to all whom she had loved.  And when it was
observed that the fly had no fear of holy things, but seemed to love
them, all believed in her song.

“Till one day the young signore, calling all the family and friends
together, said: ‘This is certainly true, that she who was to have been my
wife is here, turned into a fly.  And as for her being a witch, ye can
all see that she fears neither holy water nor a crucifix.  But I believe
that these women here, her nurse and daughter, have filled our ears with
lies, and that the nurse herself is the sorceress who hath done the evil
deed.  Now, I propose that we take all three, the fly, the mother, and
daughter, and hang the room with verbena, which I have provided, and
sprinkle the three with much holy water, all of us making the _castagna_
and _jettatura_, and see what will come of it.’

“Then the two witches began to scream and protest in a rage, but as soon
as they opened their mouths, holy water was dashed into their faces,
whereat they howled more horribly than ever, and at last promised, if
their lives should be spared in any manner, to tell the whole truth, and
to disenchant the bride.  Which they forthwith did.

“Then those present seized the witches, and said: ‘Your lives shall
indeed be spared, but it is only just that ere ye go ye shall be as
nicely combed, according to the proverb which says, “Comb me and I’ll
comb thee!”’

“Said and done, but the combing this time drew blood, and the mother and
daughter, shrinking smaller and smaller, flew away at last as two vile
carrion-flies through the window.

“And as the story spread about Florence, every one came to see the house
where this had happened, and so it was that the street got the name of
the _Via della Mosca_ or Fly Lane.”

                                * * * * *

There is a curious point in this story well worth noting.  In it the
sorceress lulls the maiden to sleep before transforming her, that is,
causes her death before reviving her with a comb of thorns.  Now, the
thorn is a deep symbol of death—naturally enough from its dagger-like
form—all over the world wherever it grows.  As Schwenck writes:

    “In the Germanic mythology the thorn is an emblem of death, as is the
    nearly allied long and deep slumber—the idea being that death kills
    with a sharp instrument which is called in the Edda the sleep-thorn,
    which belongs to Odin the god of death.  It also occurs as a person
    in the Nibelungen Lied as Högni, Hagen, ‘the thorn who kills
    Siegfried.’  The tale of Dornröschen (the sleeping beauty), owes its
    origin to the sleep-thorn, which is, however, derived from the
    death-thorn, death being an eternal sleep.”

This is all true, and sleep is like death.  But the soothing influence of
a comb produces sleep quite apart from any association with death.

Apropos of flies, there is a saying, which is, like all new or eccentric
sayings, or old and odd ones revived, called “American.”  It is, “There
are no flies on him,” or more vulgarly, “I ain’t got no flies on _me_,”
and signifies that the person thus exempt is so brisk and active, and
“flies round” at such a rate, that no insect has an opportunity to alight
on him.  The same saying occurs in the _Proverbi Italiani_ of Orlando
Pescetti, Venice, 1618, _Non si lascia posar le mosche addosso_ (He lets
no flies light on him).

When I was a small boy in America, the general teaching to us was that it
was cruel to kill flies, and I have heard it illustrated with a tale of
an utterly depraved little girl of three years, who, addressing a poor
fly which was buzzing in the window-pane, said:

“Do you love your Dod, ’ittle fy?”

“Do you want to _see_ your Dod, ’ittle fy?”

“Well” (with a vicious jab of the finger), “you SHALL!”

And with the last word the soul of the fly had departed to settle its
accounts in another world.  Writing here in Siena, the most fly-accursed
or Beelzebubbed town in Italy, on July 25th, being detained by illness, I
love that little angel of a girl, and think with utter loathing and
contempt of dear old Uncle Toby and his “Go—go, poor fly!”  True, I agree
with him to his second “go,” but there our sentiments diverge—the reader
may complete the sentence for himself—out of Ernulphus!

On which the wise Flaxius comments as follows on the proof with his red

    “It hath been observed by the learned that the speed of a fly, were
    he to make even a slight effort to go directly onwards, would be from
    seventy to eighty miles an hour, during which transit he would find
    far more attractive food, pleasanter places wherein to buzz about,
    and more beautiful views than he meets with in this humble room of
    mine, wherein I, from hour to hour, do with a towel rise and slay his
    kind.  Oh, reader! how many men there are who, to soaring far and
    wide in life amid honeyed flowers and pleasant places, prefer to buzz
    about in short flights in little rooms where they can tease some one,
    and defile all they touch as domestic gossips do—but, ’tis enough!
    _Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur_!”


    “From Tuscan Bellosguardo
    Where Galileo stood at nights to take
    The vision of the stars, we have found it hard,
    Gazing upon the earth and heavens, to make
    A choice of beauty.”—ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.

Bellosguardo is an eminence on a height, crowned with an ancient,
castle-like monastery, from which there is a magnificent view of
Florence.  It is a haunted legendary spot; _fate_ and witches sweep round
its walls by night, while the cry of the _civetta_ makes music for their
aërial dance, and in the depths of the hill lie buried mystic treasures,
or the relics of mysterious beings of the olden time, and the gnome of
the rocks there has his dwelling in subterranean caves.  Of this place I
have the following legend from Maddalena:

                             IL VASO ROMANO.

“There was, long ago, in the time of Duke Lorenzo di Medici, a young
gardener, who was handsome, clever, and learned beyond the other men of
his kind, a man given somewhat to witchcraft and mysteries of ancient
days, for he had learned Latin of the monks and read books of history.

“And one day when he was working with his companions in the garden of
Bellosguardo, taking out stones, they came to an old Roman vase, which
the rest would fain have broken to pieces as a heathenish and foul thing,
because there was carved on it the figure of a beautiful Pagan goddess,
and it was full of the ashes of some dead person.  But the young man
suddenly felt a great passion, a desire to possess it, and it seemed as
if something said to him, ‘_Con questo vaso ciè un mistero_.’

    “‘Mine own in truth that vase shall ever be,
    For there is in it some strange mystery.’

“So he begged for it, and it was readily granted to him.  And looking at
it, he perceived that it was carved of fine marble, and that the figure
on it was that of a beautiful nymph, or a Bellaria flying in the air, and
there came from the ashes which it held a sweet odour of some perfume
which was unknown to him.  Now as he had, _sentito ragionare tanto di
fate_, heard much talk of supernatural beings, so he reflected: ‘Some
_fata_ must have dwelt here in days of old, and she was here buried, and
this vase is now as a body from which the spirit freely passes, therefore
I will show it respect.’

“And so he hung round the neck of the vase a wreath of the most beautiful
and fragrant roses, and draped a veil over it to shield it from dust, and
set it up under cover in his own garden, and sang to it as follows:

    “‘Vaso! o mio bel vaso!
    Di rose ti ho contornato.
    La rosa e un bel fior,
    Più bello e il suo odor.”

    “‘Vase, oh lovely vase of mine!
    With roses I thy neck entwine;
    The rose is beautiful in bloom,
    More beautiful its sweet perfume,
    The finest rose above I place,
    To give the whole a crowning grace,
    As thou dost crown my dwelling-place
    Another rose I hide within,
    As thou so long hast hidden been,
    Since Roman life in thee I see,
    Rosa Romana thou shalt be!
    And ever thus be called by me!
    And as the rose in early spring
    Rises to re-awakening,
    Be it in garden, fair, or plain,
    From death to blooming life again,
    So rise, oh fairy of the flowers,
    And seek again these shady bowers!
    Come every morning to command
    My flowers, and with thy tiny hand
    Curve the green leaf and bend the bough,
    And teach the blossoms how to blow;
    But while you give them living care,
    Do not neglect the gardener;
    And as he saved your lovely urn,
    I pray protect him too in turn,
    Even as I this veil have twined,
    To guard thee from the sun and wind:
    Oh, Fairy of the Vase—to you,
    As Queen of all the Fairies too,
    And Goddess of the fairest flowers
    In earthly fields or elfin bowers,
    To thee with earnest heart I pray,
    Grant me such favour as you may.’ {196}

“Then he saw slowly rising from the vase, little by little, a beautiful
woman, who sang:

    “‘Tell me what is thy desire,
    Oh youth, and what dost thou require?
    From realms afar I come to thee,
    For thou indeed hast summoned me,
    With such sweet love and gentleness,
    That I in turn thy life would bless,
    And aye thy fond protectress be.
    What would’st thou, youth, I ask, of me?’

“And the young man replied:

    “‘Fair lady, at a glance I knew,
    Thy urn and felt thy spirit too,
    And straight the yearning through me sped,
    To raise thee from the living dead;
    I felt thy spell upon my brow,
    And loved thee as I love thee now.
    Even as I loved unknown before,
    And so shall love thee evermore,
    And happiness enough ’twould be
    If thou would’st ever live with me!’

“Then the spirit replied:

    “‘A debt indeed to thee I owe,
    And full reward will I bestow;
    The roses which thou’st given me
    With laurel well repaid shall be;
    Without thy rose I had not risen
    Again from this my earthly prison,
    And as it raised me to the skies,
    So by the laurel thou shalt rise!’

“The youth answered:

    “‘Every evening at thy shrine
    Fresh roses, lady, I will twine;
    But tell me next what ’tis for fate
    That I must do, or what await?’

“The fairy sang:

    “‘A mighty mission, youth, indeed
    Hast thou to fill, and that with speed,
    Since it depends on thee to save
    All Florence from a yawning grave,
    From the worst form of blood and fire,
    And sword and conflagration dire.
    Thou dost the Duke Lorenzo know;
    Straight to that mighty leader go!
    The Chieftain of the Medici,
    And tell him what I tell to thee,
    That he is compassed all about
    With armed enemies without,
    Who soon will bold attack begin,
    Linked to conspiracy within;
    And bid him ere the two have crossed,
    To rise in strength or all is lost,
    Ring loud the storm-bell in alarms,
    Summon all Florence straight to arms:
    Lorenzo knows well what to do.
    Take thou thy sword and battle too!
    And in the fray I’ll look to thee:
    Go forth, my friend, to victory.’

“Then the young man went to the Duke Lorenzo, and told him, with words of
fire which bore conviction, of the great peril which threatened him.
Then there was indeed alarming and arming, and a terrible battle all
night long, in which the young man fought bravely, having been made
captain of a company which turned the fight.  And the Grand Duke,
impressed by his genius and his valour, gave him an immense reward.

“So he rose in life, and became a _gran signore_, and one of the Council
in Florence, and lord of Bellosguardo, and never neglected to twine every
day a fresh wreath of roses round the Roman vase, and every evening he
was visited by the fairy.  And so it went on well with him till he died,
and after that the spirit was seen no more.  The witches say that the
vase is, however, somewhere still in Florence, and that while it exists
the city will prosper; but to call the fairy again it must be crowned
with roses, and he who does so must pronounce with such faith as the
gardener had, the same incantation.”

                                * * * * *

What is remarkable in the original text of this tale is the rudeness and
crudeness of the language in which it is written, which is indeed so
great that its real spirit or meaning might easily escape any one not
familiar with such composition.  But I believe that I have rendered it
very faithfully.

There seems to be that, however, in Bellosguardo which inspires every
poet.  Two of the most beautiful passages in English literature, one by
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and another by Hawthorne, describe the views
seen from it.  The castle itself is deeply impressed on my memory, for
during the past nine months I have never once raised my eyes from the
table where I write without beholding it in full view before me across
the Arno, even as I behold it now.

I cannot help observing that the mysterious sentiment which seized on the
hero of this tale when he found his virgin relic, was marvellously like
that which inspired Keats when he addressed his Ode to a Grecian Urn:

    “Thou still unravished bride of quietness!
    Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
    Sylvan historian who canst thus express
    A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
    What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape?”

That which I have here given is truly a leaf-fringed legend, for it is
bordered with the petals of roses and embalmed with their perfume, and
one which in the hands of a great master might have been made into a
really beautiful poem.  It came near a very gay rhymer at least in the
Duke Lorenzo de’ Medici, whose songs, which were a little more than free,
and rather more loose than easy, were the delight and disgrace of his
time.  And yet I cannot help rejoicing to meet this magnificent patron of
art and letters at so late a day in a purely popular tale.  There are
_men_ of beauty who are also a joy for ever, as well as things, and
Lorenzo was one of them.

It is worth noting that just as the fairy in this tale reveals to Lorenzo
that Florence is threatened by enemies, just so it happened that unto
Saint Zenobio, standing rapt in divine contemplation in his cavern, it
was announced that the same city was about to be assailed by cruel
barbarians, who, as Sigbert relates in his Chronicle of 407 A.D., were
the two hundred thousand Goths led by Radagasio into Italy.  But they
were soon driven away by the Saint’s prayers and penitence.  It would be
curious if one legend had here passed into another:

    “So visions in a vision live again,
    And dreams in dreams are wondrously transfused;
    Gold turning into grey as clouds do change,
    And shifting hues as they assume new forms.”

Apropos of Saint Zenobio of Florence, I will here give something which
should have been included with the legend of the Croce al Trebbio, but
which I obtained too late for that purpose.  It would appear from the
_Iscrizioni e Memorie di Firenze_, by F. Bigazzi (1887), that the
_pillar_ of the cross was really erected to commemorate a victory over
heretics, but that the cross itself was added by the Saints Ambrosio and
Zenobio, “on account of a great mystery”—which mystery is, I believe,
fully explained by the legend which I have given.  The inscription when
complete was as follows:


A slightly different reading is given by Brocchi (_Vite de’ Santi
fiorentini_, 1742).

“Of which saint, be it observed,” writes Flaxius, “that there is in
England a very large and widely extended family, or _stirps_, named
Snobs, who may claim that by affinity of name to Zenobio they are
lineally or collaterally his descendants, even as the Potts profess
connection with Pozzo del Borgo.  But as it is said of this family or
_gens_ that they are famed for laying claim to every shadow of a shade of
gentility, it may be that there is truly no Zenobility about them.  Truly
there are a great many more people in this world who are proud of their
ancestors, than there ever were ancestors who would have been proud of
them.  The number of whom is as the sands of the sea, or as Heine says,
‘more correctly speaking, as the mud on the shore.’

    “‘The which, more eath it were for mortall wight,
    To sell the sands or count the starres on hye;
    Or ought more hard, then thinke to reckon right . . .
    Which—for my Muse herselfe now tyred has,
    Unto another tale I’ll overpas.’”


             “Fear and trembling Hope,
    Silence and Foresight—Death the Skeleton,
    And Time the Shadow.”—WORDSWORTH.

    “If God were half so cruel as His priests,
    It would go hard, I ween, with all of us.”

I have elsewhere remarked that there is—chiefly about the Duomo—a group
of small streets bearing the dismal names of Death, Hell, Purgatory,
Limbo, Crucifixion, Our Lady of Coughing (_delle Tosse_), The (last) Rest
of Old Age, Gallows Lane (_Via della Forca_), The Tombs, The Way of the
Discontented, {201} Dire Need, Small Rags, Fag-End or Stump, Bad Payers,
and finally, the Via dello Scheletro, or Skeleton Street.  To which there
belongs, as is appropriate, a melancholy legend.

                         LA VIA DELLO SCHELETRO.

“There once dwelt in what is now called the Street of the Skeleton a
priest attached to the Cathedral, who was in every respect all that a
good man of his calling and a true Christian should be, as he was pious,
kind-hearted, and charitable, passing his life in seeking out the poor
and teaching their children, often bringing cases of need and suffering
to the knowledge of wealthier friends—which thing, were it more
frequently done by all, would do more to put an end to poverty than
anything else.

   “‘But he who is in everything most human
   May highest rise and yet the lowest fall;
   And when a brave kind heart meets with _the_ woman,
   Our greatest duties seem extremely small,
   And those which were the first became the least:
   Even so it happened to this gentle priest.

   “‘In the old dwelling where he had his home,
   Which otherwise had been most drear and dull
   At morn or eve did oft before him come
   A girl as sweet as she was beautiful;
   Full soon they learned that both in head and heart
   Each was to each the very counterpart.

   “‘There is in every soul of finer grain
   A soul which is in self a soul apart,
   Which to itself doth oft deep hid remain,
   But leaps to life when Love awakes the heart.
   Then as a vapour rises with the sun,
   And blends with it, two souls pass into one.

   “‘And so it came that he would sometimes kiss
   Her lovely face, nor seemed it much to prove
   That they in anything had done amiss.
   Until, one night, there came the kiss of Love, {202}
   Disguised in friendly seeming like the rest—
   Alas! he drove an arrow to her breast.

   “‘Then came the glow of passion—new to both—
   The honeymoon of utter recklessness,
   When the most righteous casts away his oath,
   And all is lost in sweet forgetfulness,
   And life is steeped in joy, without, within,
   And rapture seems the sweeter for the sin.

   “‘Then came in its due course the sad awaking
   To life and its grim claims, and all around
   They found, in cold grim truth, without mistaking,
   These claims for them did terribly abound;
   And the poor priest was brought into despair
   To find at every turn a foe was there.

   “‘To know our love is pure though passionate,
   And have it judged as if both foul and base,
   Doth seem to us the bitterness of fate;
   Yet in the world it is the usual case.
   By it all priests are judged—yea, every one—
   Never as Jesus would Himself have done.

   “‘Because the noblest love with passion rings,
   Therefore men cry ’tis _all_ mere sexual sense,
   As if the rose and the dirt from which it springs
   Were one because of the same elements:
   Therefore ’tis true that, of all sins accurst,
   Is Gossip, for it always tells the worst.

   “‘So Gossip did its worst for these poor souls.
   The bishop made the priest appear before him,
   And, as a power who destiny controls,
   Informed him clearly he had hell before him,
   And if he would preserve the priestly stole, {203a}
   Must leave his woman—or else lose his soul!

   “‘Now had this man had money, or if he,
   Like many of his calling, had been bold
   With worldly air, then all this misery
   Might have been ’scaped as one escapes the cold
   By putting on a sheepskin, warm and fine;
   But then hypocrisy was not his line.

   “‘His love was now a mother, and the truth
   Woke in him such a deep and earnest love,
   That he would not have left her though in sooth
   He had been summoned by the Power above;
   And so the interdict was soon applied,
   But on that day both child and mother died.

   “‘She, poor weak thing, could not endure the strain,
   So flickered out, and all within a day;
   And then the priest, without apparent pain,
   Began mysteriously to waste away,
   And, shadow-like and silent as a mouse,
   Men saw him steal into, or from, the house.

   “‘And thinner still and paler yet he grew,
   With every day some life from him seemed gone,
   And all aghast, though living, men still knew
   He had become a literal skeleton;
   And so he died—in some world less severe
   Than this to join the one he held so dear. {203b}

   “‘Yet no one knew when ’twas he passed away
   Out of that shadowy form and ’scaped life’s power,
   For still ’twas seen beneath the moon’s pale ray,
   Or gliding through the court at twilight hour.
   But there it still is seen—and so it came
   The Via del Scheletro got its name.’”

There is not a word of all this which is “Protestant invention,” for
though I have poetised or written up a very rude text, the narrative is
strictly as I received it.  There is one point in it worth noticing, that
it is a matter of very general conviction in Italy that in such matters
of Church discipline as are involved in this story, it is the small flies
who are caught in the web, while the great ones burst buzzing through it
without harm, or that the weak and poor (who are very often those with
the best hearts and principles) are most cruelly punished, where a bold,
sensual, vulgar _frate_ makes light of and easily escapes all

There is something sadly and strangely affecting in the conception of a
simply good and loving nature borne down by the crush of the world and
misapplied morality—or clerical celibacy—into total wretchedness—a
diamond dissolved to air.  One in reading this seems to hear the sad
words of one who thought his own name was written in water:

    “I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
    Upon the skirts of human nature dwelling
    Alone.  I chant alone the holy mass,
    While little signs of life are round me kneeling,
    And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
    And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
    Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
    And thou art distant in Humanity!”


    “In every plant lie marvellous mysteries,
    In every flower there is a dream divine;
    The fig-tree bears the measure of a life,
    And, as it leaves or fruits, our lives do pass,
    And all things in each other subtly blend.”

    “Ha chiappato il fico—_ficum capit_.”—_Old Proverbs_.

    “Quidam itidem medium digitum ostendunt, idque in Hispania adhuc
    dicitur fieri, et FICA appellator, hic illudendi actus, de quo Eryc.
    Puteanus, _loc. cit._, p. 70.”—_Curiosus Amuletorum Spectator_, D.
    Wolf, 1692.

The following tale is, for reasons which I will subsequently explain, one
of the most remarkable which I have collected:

                             LA VIA DEL FICO.

“There stood formerly in the Via del Fico a very ancient palace with a
garden, in which there grew a fig-tree which was said to have grown of
itself, or without ever having been planted.  This tree bore much fruit
of great beauty.

“But however proud the owner of the tree was of its beauty, or however
much he might desire to have its fruit, something always strangely
occurred to prevent its being enjoyed.  For when any one was about to
pluck it, there suddenly appeared a great black dog, who, seizing men or
women by their garments, dragged them away, beginning to howl and bay.
{205}  And then they hurried away and let the figs alone, in order to
make the dog cease his terrible unearthly baying; for it is believed to
be an omen of death when a dog utters such sounds, it being such a
presage of disaster as when a _civetta_ or small owl hoots on the roof.

“However, it sometimes happened that the dog did not come, but those who
took and ate the figs fared just as badly all the same.  For they soon
began to feel ill and suffer dire pains, and when they had gone into
their bedrooms and laid down, there always entered a beautiful girl clad
in white, who began to whirl round (_a girarsi_) or spin, making all the
time a great buzzing sound, until horror came over them, which when she
perceived, she vanished.

“And many tried also to lop off boughs from the fig-tree, but they were
found the second night replaced by a perfect new growth with fully ripe
fruit.  And it was not the least marvel of the tree that it was always in
full leaf, with abundance of ripe figs on it, even in winter, when there
was snow on the ground.

“One day men digging in the garden found a tablet of stone or metal on
which was inscribed:

    “‘Il fico rispettate
    E non la toccate,’
    E non cercate
    Neppure mangiarne.’

    “‘Respect the tree, and let it be,
    From branch to root, nor touch its fruit!
    Of itself the tree did grow,
    From a dog who long ago,
    Enchanted by the fairies’ power,
    Was buried here in mystic hour;
    Therefore we bid you let it stand,
    And if you follow the command
    You will be happy all your days,
    But woe to him who disobeys!’

“Now, the owner of the palazzo and garden was a man who had no faith in
old legends, or love for such mysteries as these, and so he said, ‘It is
time to put an end to all this superstition, and I am determined to at
once see whether all my prosperity depends on a fig-tree; so do you cut
it down and tear it up, root and branch, utterly.’

“This was at once done by the labourers, but, while doing so, they heard
sounds as of wailing and great lamenting in the earth beneath them.  And
when they, astonished, asked the signore to listen to the voices, he
replied, ‘Away with your superstitions; we will see this time whether the
tree will grow or return again.’

“Truly it did not return, but passed away for ever, and with it all the
property and prosperity of the lord.  For in time he had to sell all he
had, and, losing what he got, died in poverty.  Then those who had to go
in the street where his palace had been would say, ‘_Andiamo nella Via
del Fico_,’ just as they say, ‘_Andar per la Via de’ Carri_,’ but meaning
to ‘go in the way of what is worthless or poverty-stricken,’ and so it
was that the street came by its name.”

                                * * * * *

This strange tale, which is evidently of great antiquity, and deeply
inspired with real witch tradition, has, indeed, nothing in common with
the pretty fairy stories which are so generally presented as constituting
the whole of popular narrative folklore.  It was not made nor intended to
serve as a pleasing tale for youth, but to embody certain ideas which the
witch-teacher explained to the pupil.  The first of these is, that the
_fig-tree_ planted under certain circumstances became a kind of Luck of
Eden Hall to its possessor.  This story comes from the Etruscan-Roman
land, where traditions have been preserved with incredible fidelity.  In
the olden time Tarquin the Elder planted a fig-tree in a public place in
Rome, and it was a matter of common faith that this tree would flourish
for ever if undisturbed, and that on it depended the prosperity and
preservation of the city. {207}  And in India, the motherland of Greek
and Roman mythology, it was believed that whenever one of certain ancient
fig-trees died, that the reigning family would pass away.  The opinion
was widely spread that the fig-tree was above all others the one of life
and destiny.  In the Bagvatgeta, Krishna says of himself: “I am the
spirit, the beginning, the middle, and the end of creation.  I am as the
_Aswatha_ (_pipal _or Indian fig) among trees.”  Hence it came that many
Christians believed that the Tree of Life in Eden was not an apple but a
fig-tree.  The traditions which establish the fig-tree as being above all
others one on whose existence that of individuals, families, and states
depended, are extremely numerous and varied.  “It was,” remarks Alt, “not
only a symbol of fertility, but an emblem of ever-renewed and
never-extinguished _vitality_, and one of eternity, the resurrection, and
of the transmigration of the soul.”  On the celebrated altar in Ghent,
the Tree of Life is represented as a fig-tree (Menzel, _Christliche
Symbolik_, i. 277).  This universal belief explains why the fig-tree
determines the duration and destiny of lives and families.

It may have struck the reader as singular that those who eat of the
forbidden figs are punished by the visit of a beautiful girl who whirls
around with a buzzing sound till they are overcome by awe.  Here be it
noted first of all, that the fig, like the pear, is exactly the shape of
a top, even the stem representing the peg.  Now, in ancient Latin
witchlore or sorcery, extraordinary magic power, or even sanctity, was
attached to everything which made a humming or buzzing sound.  It was
supposed, when properly made, with certain incantations or instruments,
to be capable of throwing people into a trance.  Chief among these
instruments was the top.  Thus Horace begs Crattidia to stop the
enchantment of the buzzing top (Ode xv. Book v.).

On this subject I find the following in _Diavoli e Streghe_, by Dr. A.
Zangolini, 1864:

    “The _rombo_ {208} is an instrument not unlike the _trottola_ or
    peg-top of our boys, called in Latin _turbo_, and in common language
    also _paléo_.  It was believed that with it in witchcraft a lover
    could have his head turned with passion, or that he would be turned
    at will while it spun.  The same held true of other disks
    (tee-totums) of wood, iron, or copper.”

This idea was extended to the hum of spinning-wheels, which aided the
conception of the Fates, and the thread of life, to the buzzing of bees
and flies, and many other variations of such sounds.  Mr. Andrew Lang has
in an admirable paper shown that the _bull-roarer_ has been regarded as
so sacred among certain savages that women, or the profane, were not
allowed to touch it.  A bull-roarer is so easily constructed, that it is
remarkable how few people are familiar with it.  Take a common stick, say
six inches in length, tie a cord three feet long to one end, and,
grasping the other, whirl it round, with the result of astonishing all to
whom it is not familiar by its sound:

    “First it is but a gentle hum,
       Like bird-song warbling in the trees,
    Then like a torrent it doth foam,
       And then a wild and roaring breeze.”

When vigorously spun, it may be heard of a calm evening for a mile, and
its effect is then indescribably—I will not say, as most novelists here
would, “_weird_,” for I do not know that it prophesies anything, but it
is certainly most suggestive of something mysterious.

Therefore the bayadere, with her spinning _pas seul_ and buzzing
_romore_, who appears to the eater of the figs, is the magic top in
person, her form being taken from the fig.  The connection of the
enchanted dog with the tree is not so clear, but it may be observed that
there is a vast mass of tradition which makes the black dog a _chthonic_,
that is, a subterranean or under-earthly symbol, and that in this story
he comes out of the earth.  This animal was a special favourite of
Hecate-Diana of the world below, the queen of all the witches.

There is a vast quantity of folklore in reference to the fig as an emblem
of fertility, reproduction, and sensual affinity, and, on the other side,
of its being an emblem often used in proverbs to express the very
contrary, or trifling value, worthlessness, and poverty.  Thus, the
barren fig-tree of the New Testament had a deep signification to all who
were familiar with these poetic and mystic “correspondences.”  The reader
has probably observed that in this story there is, as in a parable, a
strong intimation of symbolism, or as if more were meant than meets the

“Remains to be said,” that the putting the thumb between the index and
middle finger, which was regarded with awe by the Romans as driving away
evil spirits, was called “making the fig,” or _far la castagna_, to make
the chestnut—in Latin, _medium ostendere digitum_.  The same sign as the
fig to drive away devils became a deadly insult when made at any one, as
if he were a wizard and accursed.  It had also a jeering and indecent
meaning.  It has been said that the fig, as a synonym for anything
worthless, originated from the great abundance and cheapness of the fruit
in Greece, but this is very unsatisfactory, since it would apply as well
to olives or grain.

                                * * * * *

“This tale doth teach,” notes the learned Flaxius, “as regards the
folklore of the black dog, that in this life most things are good or bad,
as we take them.  For the black dog, Monsieur, of Cornelius Agrippa (like
that in Faust) was a demon, albeit his pupil, Wierus, records that he
himself knew the animal well, but never supposed there was aught of the
goblin in it.  And this same Wierus has mentioned (_loc. cit._, p. m.
325), that one of the things which most terrify the devil and all his
gang is the blood of a black dog splashed on the wall.  So in ancient
symbolism death meant life, the two being correlative, and in witchcraft
the spell of the frog and many more are meant to do deadly harm, or great
good, according to the way in which they are worked.  Wherein lies an
immense moral lesson for ye all.  Remember, children—

    “‘There is no passion, vice, or crime,
       Which truly, closely understood,
    Does not, in the full course of time,
       Do far less harm than good.’”


    “Ah me! what perils do environ
    The man who meddles with cold iron!
    Thus sang great Butler long ago,
    In Hudibras, as all men know;
    But in this story you will see
    How Iron was sold by irony.”

One of the most picturesque mediæval palaces in Florence is that of the
Feroni, and its architectural beauty is greatly enhanced by its fine
situation at the head of the Tornabuoni on the Piazza della Trinità, with
the magnificent column of the Medicis just before its gate.  According to
Italian authority, “this palace may be called, after those of the
Prætorio (_i.e._, Bargello) and the Signoria, the most characteristic
building of its epoch in Florence.  It is said to have been built by
Arnolfo di Cambio.  It once belonged to the Spini, from whom it passed to
the Feroni.”  When I was in Florence in 1846–47, this palace was the best
hotel in Florence, and the one in which I lived.  There have been great
“restorations” in the city since that time, but very few which have not
been most discreditably and foolishly conducted, even to the utter
destruction of all that was truly interesting in them; as, for instance,
“the house of Dante, torn down within a few years to be rebuilt, so that
now not one stone rests upon another of the original;” and “Santa Maria
Novella, where the usual monkish hatred of everything not _rococo_ and
trashy has shown itself by destroying beautiful work of earlier times, or
selling it to the Kensington Museum, setting up a barbarously gilt
gingerbread high altar, and daubing the handsome Gothic sacristy with
gaudy colours.”  To which the author of Murray’s “Guide-Book for Central
Italy” adds, that “perhaps on the whole list of ecclesiastical
restorations there does not exist a more deplorable instance of monastic
vandalism than has been perpetrated here by the architect Romoli”—a
remark which falls unfortunately very far short of the truth.  Such ruin
is wrought _everywhere_ at present; witness the beautiful Fonte Gaja,
“the masterpiece of Jacopo della Quercia in Siena (1402), which, since
the change of Government, was not ‘restored,’ but _totally destroyed and
carted away_, a miserable modern copy having been recently set up in its
place” (Hare, “Cities of Central Italy”), all of which was probably done
to “make a job” for a favoured builder.  “But what can you expect,” adds
a friend, “in a country where it is common to cover a beautiful dry stone
wall with plaster, and then paint it over to resemble the original
stone,” because, as I was naïvely told, “the rough stone itself looks
_too cheap_”?  Anybody who has lived long in Italy can add infinitely to
such instances.  The Palazzo Feroni has, however, suffered so little, for
a wonder, from restoration, and still really looks so genuinely old, that
it deserves special mention, and may serve as an excuse for my remarks on
the manner in which ancient works are destroyed so _con amore_ by monks
and modern municipalities.  I may here note that this building is, in a
sense, the common rendezvous for all the visitors to Florence, chiefly
English and Americans, since in it are the very large circulating library
and reading-rooms of Vieusseux. {212}

There is, of course, a legend attached to the Palazzo Feroni, and it is
as follows:

                            IL PALAZZO FERONI.

“The Signore Pietro, who afterwards received the name Feroni, was a very
rich man, and yet hated by the poor, on whom he bestowed nothing, and not
much liked by his equals, though he gave them costly entertainments; for
there was in all the man and in his character something inconsistent and
contradictory, or of _corna contra croce_—‘the horns against the cross,’
as the proverb hath it, which made it so that one never knew where to
have him:

    “‘Un, al monte, e l’altro al pian,
    Quel che, è oggi, non è doman.’

    “‘On the hill in joy, in the dale in sorrow—
    One thing to-day, and another to-morrow.’

“For to take him at every point, there was something to count off.  Thus
in all the city there was no one—according to his own declaration—who was

Richer or more prosperous,

Or who had enjoyed a better education,

Or who had such remarkable general knowledge of everything taking place,

Or more of a distinguished courtier,

Or one with such a train of dependants, and people of all kinds running
after him,

Or more generally accomplished,

Or better looking—

“And finally, no one so physically strong, as he was accustomed to boast
to everybody on first acquaintance, and give them proofs of it—he having
heard somewhere that ‘physical force makes a deeper impression than
courtesy.’  But all these fine gifts failed to inspire respect (and here
was another puzzle in his nature), either because he was so tremendously
vain that he looked down on all mortals as so many insects, and all
pretty much alike as compared to himself, or else from a foolish
carelessness and want of respect, he made himself quite as familiar with
trivial people as with anybody. {213}

“One evening the Signore Pietro gave a grand ball in his palace, and as
the guests came in—the beauty and grace and courtly style of all Italy in
its golden time—he half closed his eyes, lazily looking at the brilliant
swarm of human butterflies and walking flowers, despising while admiring
them, though if he had been asked to give a reason for his contempt he
would have been puzzled, not having any great amount of self-respect for
himself.  And they spun round and round in the dance. . . .

“When all at once he saw among the guests a lady, unknown to him, of such
striking and singular appearance as to rouse him promptly from his idle
thought.  She was indeed wonderfully beautiful, but what was very
noticeable was her absolutely ivory white complexion, which hardly seemed
human, her profuse black silken hair; and most of all her unearthly large
jet-black eyes, of incredible brilliancy, with such a strange expression
as neither the Signore Pietro nor any one else present had ever seen
before.  There was a power in them, a kind of basilisk-fascination allied
to angelic sweetness—fire and ice . . . _ostra e tramontan_—a hot and
cold wind.

“The Signore Pietro, with his prompt tact, made the lady’s paleness a
pretence for addressing her.  ‘Did she feel ill—everything in the house
was at her disposition—

    “‘Servants, carpets, chairs and tables,
    Kitchen, pantry, hall and stables,
    Everything above or under;
    All my present earthly plunder,
    All too small for such a wonder.’

“The lady, with a smile and a glance in which there was not the slightest
trace of being startled or abashed, replied:

    “‘’Tis not worth while your house to rifle,
    _O mio Signor_, for such a trifle.
    ’Tis but a slight indisposition,
    For which I’ll rest, by your permission.’

“The Signore Pietro, as an improvisatore, was delighted with such a ready
answer, and remarking that he was something of a doctor, begged
permission to bring a soothing cordial, admirable for the nerves, which
he hoped to have the honour of placing directly in that fairy-like hand.
. . .  The Signore vanished to seek the _calmante_.

“The guests had begun by this time to notice this lady, and from her
extremely strange appearance they gathered round her, expecting at first
to have some sport in listening to, or quizzing, an eccentric or a
character.  But they changed their mind as they came to consider her—some
feeling an awe as if she were a _fata_, and all being finally convinced
that whoever she was she had come there to _sell_ somebody amazingly
cheap, nor did they feel quite assured that they themselves were not
included in the bargain.

“The Signore Pietro returned with the soothing cordial; he had evidently
not drunk any of it himself while on the errand, for there was a massive
chased iron table inlaid with gold and silver in his way, and the mighty
lord with an angry blow from his giant arm, like one from a blacksmith’s
No. 1 hammer, broke it, adding an artisan-like oath, and knocked it over.
Flirtation had begun.

“‘Did you hurt yourself, Signore?’ asked the lady amiably.

“‘Not I, indeed,’ he replied proudly.  ‘A Stone is my name, but it ought
to have been Iron, lady, for I am hard as nails, a regular Ferrone or big
man of iron, and all my ancestors were Ferroni too; ah! we are a strong
lot—at your service!’  Saying this he handed the cup to the lady, who
drank the potion, and then, instead of giving the goblet back to the
Signore Pietro, as he expected, meaning to gallantly drink off _les doux
restes_, she beckoned with her finger and an upward scoop of her hand to
the table, which was lying disconsolately on its back with its legs
upwards, like a trussed chicken waiting to be carved, when lo! at the
signal it jumped up and came walking to her like a Christian, its legs
moving most humanly, and yet all present were appalled at the sight, and
the Signore gasped—

“‘I believe the devil’s in it!’

“The lady composedly placed the draught on the table and smiled
benevolently.  There was something in that angelic smile which made the
Signore feel as if he had been made game of.  In a rage he rushed at the
table, which reared up on its hind legs and showed fight with its
forepaws, on which there were massy round iron balls, as on the other
extremities.  Truly it was a desperate battle, and both combatants
covered themselves with dust and glory.  Now the table would put a ball
well in, and the Signore would counter, or, as I may say, cannon or
cannon-ball it off; and then they would grapple and roll over and over
till the Signora called them to time.  At last the lord wrenched all the
cannon-balls off from the table, which first, making a jump to the
ceiling, came down in its usual position, while the balls began dancing
on it like mad.

“At such a sight all present roared with laughter, and it was observed
that the lady, no longer pale, flushed with merriment like a rose.  As
for Signore Pietro he was red as a beet, and heaved out that he had been
_canzonato_ or quizzed.

“‘Truly yes,’ replied the lady; ‘but henceforth you shall have a name,
for to do you justice you are as hard as iron, and Iron you shall be
called—Big Iron Ferrone—and cannon-balls shall be your coat-of-arms, _in
sæcula sæculorum_.  By edict of the Queen of the Fairies!’

“Now at this all the love in the Signore Pietro concentrated itself in
his heart, passed into his tongue, and caused him to burst forth in song
in the following _ottava_, while the music accompanied:

    “‘Quando vedo le femmine rammone,
    Mi sento andare il cuore in convulsione,
    Hanno certe facette vispe e sane,
    Da fare entrare in sen la tentazione,
    Oh donnina!  Non siate disumana!
    Di Pietro abbiate compassione!
    Scusante la modestia se l’e troppo
    Di questi personali non sene poppo.’

    “‘When I behold thy all too lovely features,
    I feel my heart in soft convulsions heaving,
    Thou art the most entrancing of all creatures,
    I tell you so in sooth, without deceiving,
    In fact there is no beauty which can beat yours;
    And Pietro loves you, lady, past believing;
    In breasts like cannon-balls there’s naught to blame;
    But oh!  I hope your heart’s not like the same!’

“But as this exquisite poem concluded with an immense sigh, there
appeared before them a golden and pearl car, in which the fairy entered,
and rising sailed away through a great hole in the ceiling, which opened
before and closed behind her, Signore Pietro remaining _a bocca aperta_,
gaping with opened jaws, till all was o’er.

“‘Well!’ exclaimed the master, ‘she gave me the slip, but we have had a
jolly evening of it, and I’m the first man who ever fought an iron table,
and I’ve got a good idea.  My name is now Feroni—the Big Iron Man—ladies
and gentlemen, please remember, and cannon-balls are in my

                                * * * * *

I have naturally taken some liberty as regards mere text in translating
this tale, in order to render the better the spirit of the original; but
not so much as may be supposed, and spirit and words are, on the whole,
accurately rendered.

The reader is not to suppose that there are any traces of true history in
this fairy tale.  I am very greatly indebted to Miss Wyndham of Florence
(who has herself made collections in folk-lore), for investigating this
subject of the Feroni family, with the following result—it being premised
that it had occurred to the lady that the “cannon-balls” or Medicean
pills, or pawnbroker’s sign, whatever it was, had been attributed by
mistake to the Feroni.  Miss Wyndham, after consulting with authority,
found that the Feroni themselves had not the balls, but, owing probably
to transfer of property, there is found on their palaces the Alessandri
shield, on which the upper half and lower left quarter contain the Medici
spheres.  She also sent me this extract from the old work, _Marietta di

    “The Feroni family, originally named from Balducci da Vinci, and of
    peasant origin, owes its fortune to Francesco, son of Baldo di Paolo
    di Ferone, a dyer of Empoli.  Going as a merchant to Holland, he
    accumulated a large fortune.  Made known to Cosimo III. (just called
    to the Grand Duchy) by his travels, he was called to Florence.  In
    1673 he was made citizen of Florence, in 1674 he was elected senator,
    and in 1681 appointed Marquis of Bellavista.  He left a colossal
    fortune, which has been kept up by his heirs to the present day.  His
    grandson Guiseppe was made cardinal in 1753.

    “Their arms are an arm mailed in iron, holding a sword, and above it
    a golden lily in a blue field.”

This extract is interesting, as showing how a family could rise by
industry and wealth, even in one generation, by the work of a single man,
to the highest honours in Florence.  And it is very remarkable that some
impression of the origin of this vigorous artisan and merchant, of
peasant stock, is evident in the tale.  He is there clever and strong,
but vulgar and familiar, so that he was not personally liked.  He remains
standing open-mouthed, like a comic actor, when the fairy vanishes.  In
fact the whole tale suggests the elements of a humorous melodrama or
operetta, a _bourgeois gentilhomme_.

    “And should it come to pass that any read
    This tale in Viesseux, his library,
    In the Feroni palace, let them think
    That, even in the rooms where they do read,
    The things which I have told once came to pass—
    Even so the echo ever haunts the shrine!”


    “The church of San Gaetano, on the left of the Via Tornabuoni, faces
    the Palazzo Antinori, built by Giuliano di San Gallo.  Opposite is
    the Via delle Belle Donne, a name, says Leigh Hunt, which it is a
    sort of tune to pronounce.”—HARE, _Cities of Central Italy_.

The name of this place is suggestive of a story of some kind, but it was
a long time before I obtained the following relative to the Street of
Pretty Women:

“In the Via delle Belle Donne there was a very large old house in which
were many lodgers, male and female, who, according to their slender
means, had two rooms for a family.  Among these were many very pretty
girls, some of them seamstresses, others corset-makers, some milliners,
all employed in shops, who worked all day and then went out in the
evening to carry their sewing to the _maggazini_.  And it was from them
that the street got its name, for it became so much the fashion to go and
look at them that young men would say, ‘_Andiamo nella Via delle Belle
Donne_,’—‘Let us go to the Street of the Pretty Women;’ so it has been
so-called to this day.

“And when they sallied forth they were at once surrounded or joined by
young men, who sought their company with views more or less honourable,
as is usual.  Among these there was a very handsome and wealthy signore
named Adolfo, who was so much admired that he might have had his choice
of all these belles, but he had fixed his mind on one, a beautiful
blonde, who was, indeed, the fairest among them all.  She had large black
eyes, with quick glances, beautiful light hair in masses, and was always
dressed simply, yet with natural elegance.  She had long avoided making
acquaintance among men, and she now shunned Adolfo; but at last he
succeeded, after many difficulties, in becoming acquainted, and finally
won her heart—the end of it all being the old story of a poor girl ruined
by a gay and great signor, left a mother, and then abandoned.

“For four years she lived alone, by her work, with her child, who grew up
to be a very beautiful boy.  Then he, noting that other children had
parents, asked her continually, ‘Mamma, where is my papa?’

“He gave her no rest, and at last she went to Adolfo and asked him what
he would do for their child.

“He laughed at her, and said, ‘Nothing.  That folly is all over.

“Then, in a wild passion of rage at seeing her child so despised, she
stabbed him to the heart, and escaped unseen and undiscovered.

“Then, when the boy asked her again:

    “‘Cara madre, cara madre,
    Dove e lo mio padre?’

    “‘Mother dear, tell to me
    Where may my father be?’

“She replied:

    “‘Darling son, thy sire is dead,
    Lying in an earthen bed;
    Dead he ever will remain,
    By my dagger he was slain.
    Had he but been kind to thee,
    Living still he yet would be;
    Other sorrows I forgave,
    With my dirk I dug his grave. {220}

This is but a commonplace story, yet it is such as finds more currency
among the people, and particularly among girls, than many a better one.
There is a strong touch of nature, and especially of Italian nature, in
the concluding lines.


             “And dost thou fear to greet
    The Dead with me.  They graced our wedding sweet.”

                                —MOORE, _The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan_.

The following ballad may be classed as Florentine, since it was in
Florence that I heard it sung, but it is not attached to any particular
place.  It is one of those compositions which are either sung or simply
recited, and quite as often intoned in a manner which is neither singing
nor speaking.  In such chant, when a rhyme happens to fall in by chance,
the utmost is made of it by dwelling on the word or drawling it out.
Sometimes, as in the following, there are verses of four lines each, but
only the concluding line of every verse rhymes, _i.e._, with the
preceding last line of the previous stanza:

                      IL STREGHONE COI DENTI ROSSI.

   “C’era un gran signore
   Che una bella figlia aveva,
   Far la felice lo credeva,
   Col far la maritar.

   “‘Babbo, no’voglio marito,
   Prendo uno soltanto,
   Se si uomo coi dente rossi,
   Di famelo trovar.’

   “‘Figlia, non e possibile
   A me mi strazzi il cuor
   Avanti di morire
   Vo farti tranquillo il cuor.’

   “Un giorno allor comparvi,
   Un giovane assai bello,
   E denti rossi li teneva,
   La sua figlia, Amelia,
   ‘Mi dica dove ella.’

   “‘Io lo vo sposare,
   E con me la vo’ portare.’
   ‘Dimmi dove la porti,
   Giovane sconosciuto,
   La mia figlia no ti rifiuto,
   Coi denti rossi lo vuol sposar?’

   “Sposa la siora Amelia,
   E se la porta via.
   La casa dove sia,
   Questo poi non lo sa.

   “La porta in una capanna,
   Di foglie, legno, e fieno,
   ‘Ortello fa sapere,
   Se vuoi saper chi sono.

   “‘Io sono un’ streghone,
   Te’l giuro in verita,
   La notte a mezzanotte
   Io ti faccio levar.

   “‘Ti porto al camposanto,
   A sotterar i morti;
   E se tu vuoi mangiar,
   Quel sangue, bella mia,
   Tu l’ai da succiar.’

   “La giovana disperata,
   Piange, grida e si dispera,
   Ma rimedio più non v’era
   Anche lei una strega,
   Toccava diventar.”


   “There was a grand signore
   Who had a daughter fair;
   He longed to see her happy,
   And wished that she were wed.

   “‘Oh, father! I would not marry,
   I have vowed to have for my husband
   One with teeth as red as coral.
   Oh! find him for me,’ she said.

   “‘My daughter, it is not possible,
   You wring and pain my heart.
   Ere I die and pass away
   I would fain be at peace,’ said he.

   “One day there appeared before her
   A knight of goodly seeming,
   His teeth were red as coral.
   Said the beautiful Amelia,
   ‘There is the spouse for me.’

   “‘I will marry her,’ said the knight,
   ‘And bear her with me away.’
   ‘Tell me where wilt thou take her,
   Thou strange and unknown man.
   I do not refuse her to thee,
   But whither wilt thou roam?’

   “He married fair Amelia,
   And carried her far away.
   “Where is the house thou dwell’st in?
   And say where is thy home?’

   “He took her to a cabin,
   All leaves and sticks and hay,
   ‘My true name is Ortello.
   To-night, at the hour of midnight,
   I will carry thee away.

   “‘I will bear thee to the graveyard
   To dig up the newly dead;
   Then if thou hast thirst or hunger
   Thou mayst suck the blood of the corpses,’
   To her the Sorcerer said.

   “She wept in desperate sorrow,
   She wrung her lily hand,
   But she was lost for ever,
   And in the witches’ band.”

This was, and is, a very rude ballad; its moral appears to be that
feminine caprice and disregard of parental love must be punished.  It is
very remarkable as having to perfection that Northern or German element
which Goethe detected in a Neapolitan witch-song given in his Italian
journey. {224}  It has also in spirit, and somewhat strangely in form,
that which characterises one of Heine’s most singular songs.  It
impresses me, as I was only yesterday impressed in the Duomo of Siena at
finding, among the wood-carvings in the choir, Lombard grotesques which
were markedly Teutonic, having in them no trace of anything Italian.

    “Quaint mysteries of goblins and strange things,
    We scarce know what—half animal half vine,
    And beauteous face upon a toad, from which
    Outshoots a serpent’s tail—the Manicore,
    A mixture grim of all things odd and wild,
    The fairy-witch-like song of German eld.”


             “Wherever beauty dwells,
    In gulf or aerie mountains or deep dells,
    Thou pointest out the way, and straight ’tis won,
    Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death.”


    “Silvestres homines sacer interpres que Deorum
    Cædibus et victu deterruit ORPHEUS.
    Dictus ob hoc lenire tigres, rabidosque Leones.”


It may have happened to the reader, in his travels, to trace in some
majestic mountain-land, amid rocky ravines, that which was, perhaps, in
prehistoric times a terrible torrent or a roaring river.  I mean, indeed,
such a furious flood as is now unknown on earth, one which tore away the
highest hills like trifles, melting them in a minute to broad alluvials,
and ground up the grandest granite cliffs to gravel-dust, even as a
mighty mill grates grain to flour.

You trace the course of the ancient river which when young vaulted the
valley, which it had made, on either side with overhanging precipices,
which now bend like silent mourners over its grave.  And it seems to be
dead and buried for ever.

Yet it may chance that, looking more deeply into its course to see if,
perhaps, some flakes of antique gold are not to be found in the bed of
the old water-course, you hear deep in some rocky crevice far below, and
out of sight, the merry gurgle or voice-like murmur of a spring or unseen
rivulet which indicates that the river of ancient days is not quite lost
in the land.  Unsuspected, like the sapphire serpent of Eastern legend,
that diamond-clear rivulet has wound its mysterious course deep in the
earth for ages, and, following its sound, you may come to some place
where it again leaps forth into sunlight—little, indeed, yet ever
beautiful.  It is almost touching to see that diminished rill creeping
timidly round the feet of giant boulders which it once rent in sport from
the mighty rocks, and rolled into what were for it in its whilom power,
mere marbles.  It is small now, and very obscure, yet it lives and is
ever beautiful.

Such a stream, which I traced yesterday in an ancient gorge in the heart
of the Apennines, where the grey tower of Rocca looks down on the
mysterious Ponte del Diavolo of the twelfth century—the most picturesque
bridge in Italy—forcibly reminds me of the human stream of old tradition
which once, as marvellous mythology or grand religion, roared and often
raged over all this region, driving before it, and rending away, all the
mighty rocks of human will, now tearing down and anon forming stupendous
cliffs of observances, and vast monoliths of legend and faith.  Such were
the Etruscan and early Roman cults, which drove before them and engulfed
irresistibly all the institutions of their time, and then disappeared so
utterly that men now believe that the only remaining record of their
existence is in their tombs or rocky relics of strange monuments.

But by bending low to earth, or seeking among the people, we may hear the
murmur of a hidden stream of legend and song which, small and shrunken as
it may be, is still the veritable river of the olden time.  Many such
streams are running in many lands, and that full openly on the earth’s
surface, but this to which I specially refer is strangely occult and
deeply hidden, for to find it we must seek among the _strege_ and
_stregoni_, or witches and sorcerers, who retain as dark secrets of their
own, marvellous relics of the myths of the early ages.  These are, in
many cases, so strangely quaint and beautiful that they would seem to
have kept something of an original perfume which has utterly perished in
the dried flowers of tradition preserved in books, or even by poets.

This seems to me to be the case with the incantation to Orpheus, which is
now before me, written in rude dialect, which indicates, so to speak, the
depth of the earth from which it was taken.  I had asked the woman who
gave it to me whether she knew such a name as that of Orpheus or Orfeo,
as connected with music.  This was the reply which I received:


_Scongiurazione a Orfeo per suonare bene uno Zuffolo_.  This is the
invocation to Orpheus for him who would fain become a good player on the
shepherd’s pipe. {227}


   “Ogni giorno io mi metto
   Questo zuffolo a suonare,
   Per poterlo bene inparare,
   E a preso dei maestri
   Per potermi fare insegnare,
   Ma non so come mi fare,
   Nella testa non mi vuole entrare,
   A che partito mi devo apigliare:
   Io non so come mi fare;
   Ma tu Orfeo che siei tanto chapace
   Per lo zuffolo, e il violino,
   Suoni bene pur lo organino,
   La chitarra e il mandolino,
   La gran cassa, il trombone,
   Suoni bene lo clarino,
   E non ’ce uno strumento
   Che tu Orfeo tu non sia
   Chapace di bene suonare,
   Per la musicha siei molto bravo,
   E tu ai ogni potenza,
   Che da diavoli siei protetto,
   Dunque insegnami come fare,
   Questo zuffolo va scongiurare,
   Per poter bene suonare,
   Questo zuffolo lo prendo,
   Sotto terra io lo metto,
   E tre giorni ce lo fo stare,
   A fine che tu Orfeo,
   Bene tu me lo facci a suonare;
   Che tanto siei amante
   Di suonare sarai amante,
   Pur d’insegnare per quanto
   Ai soferto la tua _Auradice_,
   Dal inferno non potere levare,
   Ma vollo lei a preghare,
   Che ti aiuti questo zuffolo volere suonare,
   E tu che sempre e di musicha,
   Siei chapace che fino
   Le bestie ti vengono ascoltare,
   Orfeo! Orfeo! ti prego;
   Orfeo! volermi insegnare
   Questo zuffolo bene suonare,
   E appena suonero,
   Il maestro musicho Orfeo ringraziero,
   E a tutti sempre faro,
   Sapere a chi mi a dato,
   Questo talento che le stato,
   Orfeo dal inferno lo scongiurato,
   E per la musicha o tanto,
   Pasione al mio zuffolo a dato,
   Lezione e lo zuffolo e un strumento
   Che ne son tanto inamorato
   Che dai miei vecchi era molto ramentato,
   E sempre mi dicevano,
   Se dinparar lo non siei chapace,
   Orfeo devi scongiurare;
   E cosi io faro,
   E Orfeo preghero!”


   “Every day I try, and yet
   I cannot play the flageolet;
   Many masters I have sought,
   Naught I learned from all they taught;
   I am dull, ’tis very true,
   And I know not what to do
   In this strait, unless it be,
   Great Orpheus, to come to thee;
   Thou who the greatest skill didst win,
   On flageolet and violin,
   Who play’st the organ, pealing far,
   The mandolin and the guitar,
   Thou wak’st the clarion’s stirring tone,
   The rattling drum and loud trombone;
   On earth there is no instrument,
   Whate’er it be, to mortals sent,
   Enchanting every sense away,
   Which thou, O Orpheus! canst not play;
   Great must thy skill in music be,
   Since even the demons favour thee;
   And since on this my heart is set,
   Enchant, I pray, this flageolet,
   And that its tones may sweetly sound,
   I bury it beneath the ground;
   Three days shall it lie hidden thus,
   Till thou, O mighty Orpheus!
   Shalt wake in it by magic spell
   The music which thou lov’st so well.
   I conjure thee by all the woe
   Which grieved thy soul so long ago!
   And pain, when thy _Auradice_
   From the dark realm thou couldst not free,
   To grant me of thy mighty will
   That I may play this pipe with skill,
   Even as thou hast played before;
   For, as the story runs, of yore,
   Whenever thou didst wake its sound,
   The forest beasts came raptured round.
   Orpheus! Orpheus!  I pray,
   Orpheus! teach me how to play!
   And when sweet music forth I bring,
   On every chord thy name shall ring,
   And every air which charms shall be
   A hymn of thanks, great lord, to thee!
   And unto all I’ll make it known,
   I owe it all to thee alone,
   And of the wondrous skill I’ll tell,
   Which mighty Orpheus won from hell.
   And by the music, and the power,
   Of passion in me, from this hour
   Henceforth in this sweet instrument
   I shall be ever well content;
   For now, I do remember well,
   What ’twas my father oft would tell,
   That all who would learn music thus
   Must conjure mighty Orpheus,
   Even as I have done to-day,
   So I to him will ever pray.”

To which the manuscript adds in prose:

    “Thus the peasants do when they do not succeed in playing the
    shepherd’s pipe, which they esteem beyond any other instrument.”

To any one who fully feels and understands what is meant to be conveyed
by this incantation—and a great deal is expressed by passionate singing
and a deep thrilling intonation which the text does not give—my
translation will appear to be quite accurate.  But, in any case, no
scholar or poet can deny that there is in it a strange depth of classic
feeling, or of old Roman romance, not strained at second-hand through
books, but evidently drawn from rude antiquity, which is as fresh in its
ring as it is marvellous.

It may be observed as exquisitely curious that in this incantation the
peasant who wishes to become a skilled performer on the flageolet _buries
it for three days in the ground_, invoking Orpheus by what the spirit
suffered in losing Eurydice, and subsequently distinctly declaring that
he won or conjured his great musical power from Hades, which means that
by the penance and loss, and his braving the terrors of the Inferno, he
gained _skill_.  This is a mighty element of the myth in all its forms,
in all ages, in every country.  The burying the instrument for three days
probably typifies the three days during which Orpheus was in hell.

It may be observed that Eurydice has become _Auradice_ in the
incantation, in which there is probably an intimation of _Aura_, a light
wind or zephyr.  Air is so naturally associated with music.  This, by a
very singular coincidence, yet certainly due to mere chance, recalls the
invocation to the Spirit of the Air, given by Bulwer in “The Last Days of

    “Spectre of the viewless air,
    Hear the blind Thessalian’s prayer,
    By Erichtho’s art that shed
    Dews of life when life was fled,
    By lone Ithaca’s wise king,
    Who could wake the crystal spring
    To the voice of prophecy
    _By the lost Eurydice_!
    Summoned from the shadowy throng,
    At the muse-son’s magic song:
    Come, wild Demon of the Air,
    Answer to thy votary’s prayer.”

It is indeed very remarkable that in the call to the God of Music, who is
in certain wise a spirit of the air, as in that to the Spirit of the Air
himself, both are invoked:

    “By the lost Eurydice!”

If it could be shown that Bulwer owed this poem and allusion to any
ancient work or tradition, I should be tempted to believe that the
popular invocation was derived from some source in common with the
latter.  There is indeed a quaint naïve drollery in the word
_Aura_dice—“Air-tell!” or “Air-declare!” which adapts it better to the
spirit of Bulwer’s poem, in which the air is begged to tell something,
than to the Orphean or Orphic spell.  It may be that the Orphic oracles
were heard in the voice of the wind, apropos of which latter there is a
strange Italian legend and an incantation to be addressed to all such
mystic voices of the night, which almost seems re-echoed in “Lucia”:

    “Verrano a te sull’ aure,
    I miei sospiri ardenti,
    Udrai nell mar che mormora
    L’eco de miei lamenti!”

It is worth observing that this tradition, though derived from the
Romagna, was given to me in Florence, and that one of the sculptures on
the Campanile represents Orpheus playing the pipe to wild beasts.  It is
said that in the Middle Ages the walls of churches were the picture-books
of the people, where they learned all they knew of Bible legends, but not
unfrequently gathered many strange tales from other sources.  The
sculptors frequently chose of their own will scenes or subjects which
were well known to the multitude, who would naturally be pleased with the
picturing what they liked, and it may be that Orpheus was familiar then
to all.  In any case, the finding him in a witch incantation is
singularly in accordance with the bas-relief of the Cathedral of
Florence, which again fits in marvellously well with Byron’s verse:

    “Florence! whom I will love as well
    As ever yet was said or sung,
    Since Orpheus sang his spouse from hell,
    Whilst thou art fair and I am young.

    “Sweet Florence! those were pleasant times,
    When worlds were staked for ladies’ eyes.
    Had bards as many realms as rhymes,
    Thy charms might raise new Antonies!”

True it is that _this_ Florence seems to have had dazzling eyes and
ringlets curled; and it is on the other hand not true that Orpheus sang
his spouse from hell—he only tried to do it.  And it is worth noting that
one of the commonest halfpenny pamphlets sold in Florence, which is to be
found at every public stand, is a poem called “Orpheus and Eurydice.”
This fact alone renders it less singular that such classical incantations
should exist.

The early Christians, notwithstanding their antipathy to heathen symbols,
retained with love that of Orpheus.  Orpheus was represented as a gentle
youth, charming-wild beasts with the music of the pipe, or as surrounded
by them and sheep; hence he was, like the Good Shepherd, the favourite
type of Christ.  He had also gone down into shadowy Hades, and returned
to be sacrificed by the heathen, unto whose rites he would not conform.

Miss Roma Lister found traces of Orpheus among the peasantry about Rome,
in a pretty tradition.  They say that there is a spirit who, when he
plays the _zufolo_ or flageolet to flocks, attracts them by his music and
keeps them quiet.

    “Now there were certain shepherd families and their flocks together
    in a place, and it was agreed that every night by turns, each family
    should guard the flocks of all the rest.  But it was observed that
    one mysterious family all turned in and went to sleep when their turn
    came to watch, and yet every morning every sheep was in its place.
    Then it was found that this family had a spirit who played the
    _zufolo_, and herded the flock by means of his music.”

The name is wanting, but Orpheus was there.  The survival of the soul of
Orpheus in the _zufolo_ or pipe, and in the sprite, reveals the mystic
legend which indicates his existing to other times.  In this it is said
that his head after death predicted to Cyrus the Persian monarch that he
too would be killed by a woman (_Consule Leonic_, _de var. histor._, lib.
i. cap. 17; _de Orphei Tumulo in monte Olympo_, &c., cited by _Kornmann
de Miraculis Mortuorum_, cap. 19).  The legend of Orpheus, or of a living
wife returning from another world to visit an afflicted husband, passed
to other lands, as may be seen in a book by Georgius Sabinus, _in Notis
ad Metamorp_.  _Ovidii_, lib. x. _de descensu Orphei ad Inferos_, in
which he tells how a Bavarian lady, after being buried, was so moved by
her husband’s grief that she came to life again, and lived with him for
many years, _semper tamen fuisse tristem ac pallidem_—but was always sad
and pale.  However, they got on very well together for a long time, till
one evening _post vesperi potum_—after he had taken his evening
drink—being somewhat angry at the housemaid, he scolded her with unseemly
words.  Now it was the condition of his wife’s coming back to life and
remaining with him that he was never to utter an improper expression (_ut
que deinceps ipse abstineret blasphemis conviciandi verbis_).  And when
the wife heard her husband swear, she disappeared, soul and body, and
that in such a hurry that her dress (which was certainly of fine old
stiff brocade) was found standing up, and her shoes under it.  A similar
legend, equally authentic, may be found in the “Breitmann Ballads,” a
work, I believe, by an American author.  On which subject the learned
Flaxius remarks that “if all the men who swear after their evening
refreshments were to lose their wives, widowers would become a drug in
the market.”

Of the connection between _aura_ as air, and as an _air_ in music, I have
something curious to note.  Since the foregoing was written I bought in
Florence a large wooden cup, it may be of the eleventh century or
earlier, known as a _misura_, or measure for grain, formerly called a
_modio_, in Latin _modus_, which word has the double meaning of measure
for objects solid or liquid, and also for music.  Therefore there are on
the wooden measure four female figures, each holding a musical
instrument, and all with their garments blowing in one direction, as in a
high wind, doubtless to signify _aura_, Italian _aria_, air or melody.
These madonnas of the four _modes_ are rudely but very gracefully
sketched by a bold master-hand.  They represent, in fact, Eurydice

There is a spirit known in the Toscana Romagna as _Turabug_.  He is the
guardian of the reeds or canes, or belongs to them like the ancient
Syrinx.  There is a curious ceremony and two invocations referring to
him.  Ivy and rue are specially sacred to him.  One of these two
invocations is solely in reference to playing the _zufolo_, partly that
the applicant may be inspired to play well, and secondly, because the
spirit is supposed to be attracted by the sound of the instrument.  The
very ancient and beautiful idea that divinities are invoked or attracted
by music, is still found in the use of the organ in churches.

A large portion of the foregoing on Orpheus formed, with “Intialo,” the
subject of a paper by me in Italian, which was read in the Collegio
Romana at Rome at the first meeting of the Italian _Societa Nazionale per
le Tradizioni Popolari Italiani_, in November 1893.  Of which society I
may here mention that it is under the special patronage of her Majesty
Margherita the Queen of Italy, who is herself a zealous and accomplished
folklorist and collector—“special patronage” meaning here not being a
mere figurehead, but first officer—and that the president is Count Angelo
de Gubernatis.

I believe that the establishment of this society will contribute vastly
to shake in Italy the old-fashioned belief that to be a person of the
_most_ respectable learning it is quite sufficient to be thoroughly
acquainted with a few “classic” writers, be they Latin, French, or
Italian, and that it is almost a crime to read anything which does not
directly serve as a model or a copy whereby to “refine our style.”  As
regards which the whole world is now entering on a new renaissance, the
conflict between the stylists and the more liberally enlightened having
already begun.

But Orpheus, with the ecclesiastical witch-doctors, was soon turned into
a diabolical sorcerer; and Leloyer writes of him: “He was the greatest
wizard who ever lived, and his writings boil over with praises of devils
and filthy loves of gods and mortals, . . . who were all only devils and

That Eve brought death and sin into the world by eating one apple, or a
fig, or orange, or Chinese nectarine, or the fruit of the banana tree, or
a pear, a peach, or everything pomological, if we are to believe all
translators of the Bible, coincides strongly with the fact that Eurydice
was lost for tasting a pomegranate.  “Of the precise graft of the
espalier of Eden,” says the author of the ‘Ingoldsby Legends,’
“Sanchoniathon, Manetho, and Berosus are undecided; the best informed
Talmudists have, however . . . pronounced it a Ribstone pippin,” Eve
being a rib.  The ancients were happy in being certain that their apple
was one of Granada.

    “_Hæc fabula docet_,” writes our Flaxius, “that mysteries abound in
    every myth.  Now, whether Orpheus was literally the first man who
    ever went to hell for a woman I know not, but well I ween that he was
    not the last, as the majority of French novelists of the present day
    are chiefly busy in proving, very little, as it seems to me, either
    to the credit of their country or of themselves.  But there are
    others who read in this tale a dark and mysterious forewarning to the
    effect that ladies _à la mode_ who fall in love with Italian
    musicians or music-masters, and especially those who let themselves
    and their fortunes be _sifflées_ (especially the fortunes), should
    not be astonished when the fate of Eurydice befalls them.  Pass on,
    beloved, to another tale!

    “‘Walk on, amid these mysteries strange and old,
          The strangest of them all is yet to come!’”


    “O ombra che dalla luce siei uscita,
    Misuri il passo al Sole, all’uom la vita.”

    “Umbram suam mètuere.”

    La vostra ombra vi avrà fatto paura.”

                                                       —_Filippo Pananti_.

    “There is a feeling which, perhaps, all have felt at times; . . . it
    is a strong and shuddering impression which Coleridge has embodied in
    his own dark and supernatural verse that Something not of earth is
    behind us—that if we turned our gaze backward we should behold that
    which would make the heart as a bolt of ice, and the eye shrivel and
    parch within its socket.  And so intense is the fancy, that _when_ we
    turn, and all is void, from that very void we could shape a spectre
    as fearful as the image our terror had foredrawn.”—BULWER, _The

The resemblance and the relation of the shadow to the body is so
strangely like that of the body to the soul, that it is very possible
that it first suggested the latter.  It is born of light, yet is in
itself a portion of the mystery of darkness; it is the facsimile of man
in every outline, but in outline alone; filled in with uniform sombre
tint, it imitates our every action as if in mockery, which of itself
suggests a goblin or sprite, while in it all there is something of self,
darkling and dream-like, yet never leaving us.  It is only evident in
brightest hours, like a skeleton at an Egyptian feast, and it has neither
more nor less resemblance to man than the latter.  Hence it came that the
strange “dwellers by the Nile” actually loved both shade and death by
association, and so it happened that

                “Full many a time
    They seemed half in love with easeful Death;
    Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,”

while they made of the cool shadow a portion of the soul itself, or
rather one of the seven or eight entities of which man consisted, these
being—_Khat_, a body; _Ba_, the spirit; _Khon_, the intelligence;
_Khaïbit_, _the shadow_; _Ren_, the name; _Ka_, eternal vitality; _Ab_,
the heart; and _Sahn_, the mask or mummy.

It is extremely interesting to consider, in connection with this Egyptian
doctrine, the fact, illustrated by every writer on Etruscan antiquity,
that these ancient dwellers in Italy, when they represented the departed,
or the dead, as living again on a tomb, added to the name of the deceased
the word _Hinthial_.  This I once believed meant simply a ghost or
spirit.  I had no other association with the name.

I inquired for a long time if there was any such name as _Hintial_ for a
ghost among the people, and could not find it.  At last my chief agent
succeeded in getting from sources to me unknown, but, as in all cases,
partly from natives of the Toscana Romagna, or Volterra, and at different
times, very full information regarding this mysterious being, which I
combine as follows:


“This is a spirit in human form who shows himself in any shadow, {238}
and diverts himself by inspiring terror in a sorcerer, or in any one who
has committed a crime.  He causes a fearful shadow to be ever present to
the man, and addresses him thus:

                          _Il domone al Stregone_.

   “Vile—tu non potrai
   Avere mai bene—avrai
   Sempre la mia ombra
   In tua presenza, e saro
   Vendicato . . . {239}

   “Tu non potrai giammai
   Essere solo, che l’ombra
   Mia ovunque andrai
   Ti seguira: tu non potrai
   Essere mai solo, tu sarai
   Sempre in mio potere!

   “Al mio incantesimo non avrai
   Ne pace ne bene, al mio
   Incanto tu tremerai,
   Te e tutta la casa dove ti troverai,
   Se sei in mezzo alla strada,
   Tu tremerai—
   Te e tutta la terra!

   “Al mio volere tu andrai
   Come cane alla pagliaio,
   Alla voce del suo maestro;
   Tu me vorrai
   Vedere, e non mi vedrai,
   Mi sentirai—
   Vedrai sola la tua ombra.

   “Tu sei cattivo e scelerato,
   Tu sei avelenato,
   Nel cuore e nell anima,
   E più bene non avrai,
   Sei avelenato nel cuore,
   E nell anima, vai,
   Tu siei maladetto;
   E il spirito sempre ti seguira
   Ovunque tu vada!”


                       _The Demon to the Sorcerer_.

   “Wretch! long lost in wickedness,
   Thou shalt ne’er have happiness;
   Though to distant lands thou’lt flee,
   Still my shadow thou shalt see,
   And I will revengèd be.

   “Solitude thou ne’er shalt know,
   Where thou goest my shade shall go,
   And wherever thou mayst fly
   Still the shadow will be by—
   Ne’er alone at any hour,
   And for ever in my power.

   “By my spell thou ne’er shalt know
   Peace or joy on earth below,
   At my charm a deadly fear
   Shall seize on all men standing near;
   Thou shalt tremble in thy home,
   Or if thou abroad shouldst roam,
   Shivering with fear thou’lt be,
   And the earth shall shake with thee.

   “At my bidding thou must stir,
   And hasten as the vilest cur
   Must hasten when his master calls,
   And leave his straw amid the stalls;
   And if thou wouldst gaze on me,
   Still my form thou shalt not see;
   Thou shalt feel when I am here,
   Feel me in thy deadly fear,
   Yet only see thy shadow near.

   “Thou art vile and wicked too,
   Thou art poisoned through and through;
   In thy heart and in thy soul,
   Cursedness is in the whole,
   In thy soul and in thy heart,
   Poison steeped in every part.
   Cursed ever! now, depart!
   Yet wherever thou shalt flee
   I will ever follow thee!

“Then this man will be in terror, and he will ever see the shadow before
him by day and by night, and thus he will have no peace, and yet this is
all the time the spirit of Intialo.

“Now, when he is thus tormented for some past misdeed, and he feels
himself haunted, as it were, by the shadow of the one whom he has
wronged, when he finds at last that he is not pursued, indeed, by it, but
by Intialo, then he shall repeat the Exorcism:

                       _Scongiurazione di Intialo_.

   “Intialo!  Intialo! che quando
   Una persona ai preso,
   O per seguitare le ingombri
   Le ingombri sempre la cammina.

   “Intialo! Intialo! se libero
   Il passo mi lascerai meglio
   Per te sara, se non mi verrai
   Lasciare ti faccio sapere
   Tu sarai sempre in mio potere.

   “Intialo! Intialo! ti faccio sapere,
   Se metto in opera
   La mia scongiurazione,
   Non ti lasciero più bene avere,
   E ogni mi a chiamata
   Ti faro correre
   Come chane al pagliaio.

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   Ti faccio sapere
   Che tu pensi a fare
   Il tuo dovere,
   Se ancora mi viene a tormentare
   Muso di porco tu possa diventare.

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   Tu siei furbo e maligno,
   Ma io me ne infischio,
   Perche io sono di te,
   Molto più maligno.

   “Intialo! Intialo! ti prego
   Di non mi più tormentare
   Se vuoi aver bene,
   Se no ti acquisterai
   Delle pene—e questo sara
   Il tuo guadagno.

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   Con tutta la tua furberia,
   Non sai ancora
   Che io son protetto
   Da una bella stregha
   Che mi adora.

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   Se più ne vuoi sapere
   Vieni sta sera,
   Vièni a mezza notte,
   Viene di dove sei,
   Te lo faro vedere,
   Vieno sotto ’quel noce
   E tu lo vedrai.

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   La mezza notte in punto,
   Noi l’abbiamo,
   E ti vedo (vedro) appogiato
   Al noce che credi di vedere,
   Vedere l’ombra mia,
   E vedi l’ombra tua stessa!

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   Dentro al mio seno
   Quattro cose tengo,
   Che mi fanno vedere,
   E non son veduto,
   Ellera, pane,
   Sale e ruta,
   E la mia buona fortuna.

   “Intialo! Intialo!
   Non ti voglio dire,
   Perche io voglio
   Andare a dormire;
   Ma solo ti ho fatto
   Ti ho fatto vedere
   Che non son’ in poter tuo,
   Ma tu siei in mio potere.”

                        _The Exorcism of Intialo_.

   “Intialo! it is known
   When thou followest any one,
   Be the victim whom he may,
   Thou art ever in his way.

   “Intialo—hear! if free
   Thou wilt leave the road to me,
   Better for thee shall it be;
   If thou wilt not, from this hour
   I will hold thee in _my_ power.

   “Intialo! thou shalt learn
   That I’m wizard in my turn;
   All the power of sorcery
   So about thee I will throw—
   All around, above, below—
   That thou shalt accursed be,
   Held in fear and agony,
   And as a dog shalt follow me.

   “Intialo! thou shalt know
   What thou art ere thou canst go;
   If thou comest here again
   To torment or give me pain,
   As thou’dst make a dog of me,
   I will make a swine of thee.

   “Intialo! sorry cheat,
   Filled with hate from head to feet,
   Be malignant if you will,
   I am more malignant still.

   “Intialo! for thy sake
   I pray thee no more trouble take
   To torment me, for thy gain
   Will only be thy greater pain,
   For so cursed thou shalt be
   That I needs must pity thee.

   “Intialo! now, confess
   That with all thy craftiness
   Thou didst not know what now I tell,
   That I am protected well
   By a lovely witch, and she
   Is mightier far, O fiend! than thee.

   “Intialo! ere we go,
   If thou more of me wouldst know,
   Come at midnight—I shall be
   ’Neath the witches’ walnut tree,
   And what I shall make thee see
   I trow will be enough for thee.

   “Intialo! in that hour
   Thou shalt truly feel my power,
   And when thou at last shalt ween
   That on the witches’ tree I lean,
   Then to thee it shall be known
   That my shadow is thine own.

   “Intialo! everywhere
   With me magic charms I bear,
   Ivy, bread and salt and rue,
   And with them my fortune too.

   “Intialo! hence away,
   Unto thee no more I’ll say;
   Now I fain would go to sleep,
   See that thou this warning keep.
   I am not in power of thine,
   But thou truly art in mine.”

I had the belief, derived from several writers, that _Hinthial_ in
Etruscan meant simply a ghost or _revenant_—the apparition of some one
dead.  But on mentioning my discovery of this legend to Professor Milani,
the Director of the Archæological Museum in Florence, and the first of
Etruscan scholars, he astonished me by declaring that he believed the
word signified a _shadow_, and that its real meaning in its full
significance had apparently been marvellously preserved in this
witch-tradition.  Too little is known as yet of the old Etruscan language
to decide with certainty as to anything in it, but should this opinion of
Professor Milani be sustained, it will appear that at least one word of
the mysterious tongue has existed till now in popular tradition.

There will be very few of my readers who will not be struck, as I was,
with the remarkable resemblance of the terrible curse uttered by Intialo
to the invocation in Byron’s tragedy of “Manfred.”  It is like it in
form, spirit, and, in many places, even in the very words.  That there
was, however, no knowledge of the English poem by the Italian witch-poet,
and therefore no imitation, is plain from intrinsic evidence.  As the
question is interesting, I will here give the Incantation from “Manfred”:


   “When the moon is on the wave,
      And the glow-worm in the grass,
   And the meteor on the grave,
      And the wisp on the morass;
   When the falling stars are shooting,
   And the answered owls are hooting,
   And the silent leaves are still
   In the shadow of the hill,
   Shall my soul be upon thine
   With a power and with a sign.

   “Though thy slumber may be deep,
   Yet thy spirit shall not sleep;
   There are shades which shall not vanish,
   There are thoughts thou canst not banish;
   By a power to thee unknown
   Thou canst never be alone;
   Thou art wrapt as with a shroud,
   Thou art gathered in a cloud,
   And for ever shalt thou dwell
   In the spirit of this spell.

   “Though thou see’st me not pass by,
   Thou shalt feel me with thine eye,
   As a thing that, though unseen,
   Must be near thee, and hath been;
   And when in that secret dread
   Thou hast turned around thy head,
   Thou shalt marvel I am not
   As thy shadow on the spot,
   And the power which thou dost feel
   Shall be what thou must conceal.

   “And a magic voice and verse
   Hath baptized thee with a curse,
   And a spirit of the air
   Hath begirt thee with a snare;
   In the wind there is a voice
   Shall forbid thee to rejoice;
   And to thee shall night deny
   All the quiet of her sky;
   And the day shall have a sun
   Which shall make thee wish it done.

   “From thy false tears I did distil
   An essence which hath strength to kill;
   From thy own heart I then did wring
   The black blood in its blackest spring;
   From thy own smile I snatched the snake,
   For there it coiled as in a brake;
   From thy own lip I drew the charm
   Which gave all these their chiefest harm;
   In proving every poison known,
   I found the strongest was thine own.

   “By thy cold breast and serpent smile,
   By thy unfathomed depths of guile,
   By that most seeming virtuous eye,
   By thy shut soul’s hypocrisy,
   By the perfection of thine art,
   Which passed for human thine own heart;
   By thy delight in others’ pain,
   And by thy brotherhood of Cain,
   I call upon thee, and compel
   Thyself to be thy proper hell!

   “And on thy head I pour the vial
   Which doth devote thee to this trial;
   Not to slumber, nor to die,
   Shall be in thy destiny,
   Though thy death shall still seem near
   To thy wish, but as a fear;
   Lo! the spell now works around thee,
   And the clankless chain hath bound thee:
   O’er thy heart and brain together
   Hath the word been passed—now wither!”

The Italian poem forms, in its first and second parts, a drama as
complete as that of “Manfred,” and, as I hope to render clear, one more
consistent to the leading idea, or, as critics were wont to say, “more
coherent in the unities.”  This idea in the one, as in the other, is that
of a powerful _sorcerer_ assailed by a fiend in the form of remorse, and
that with the most aggravating and insulting terms of contempt.  In
“Manfred” the persecutor tells his victim that he shall be his own hell,
for that of all poisons his own evil heart is the worst.  The Italian,
more direct and less metaphysical still, alludes, in the accusation by
the spirit, to no other punishment save that of conscience, and declares
the magician to be poisoned through and through in himself:

    “Tu sei cattivo e scelerato,
    Tu sei avvelenato
    Nel cuore e nell anima,”

and bids him go forth to be for ever pursued by the avenger.

Byron’s poem is entirely based on sorcery, and is intended to set forth
the tremendous mental struggles of a mind which has risen above mankind
with supernatural power, which assails him with remorse.  In the first
place he simply goes to sleep; in the grand finale he resists, like Don
Juan, or, as the saying is, “dies game”—“only this, and nothing
more”—leaving all idea of an end, object, moral, or system, entirely in
the dark.  “Manfred” is merely dramatic for the sake of _stage effect_,
and only excellent in impressing us with the artistic skill of the
author.  Its key is art for the sake of art, and effect on anybody, no
matter who.  Within this limit it is most admirable.

In both the Italian and English poems the one persecuted makes his strong
point of departure from the discovery or knowledge that the persecuted is
not one whom he has injured, but simply a mocking and tormenting sprite.
Thus the former text declares that when he finds he is pursued simply by
Intialo, the shadow, which we may here translate “his own imagination,”
he rallies with a tremendous counter-curse in which far more is meant
than meets the eye.  The grand mission of the _magus_ or sorcerer in all
the occult lore of all antiquity, whether he appear as Buddha or any
other man of men, is to conquer all enemies by tremendous power won by
penance or by iron _will_.  A favourite means of tormenting the enemy or
fiend is to awaken the conscience of the magician, or, what is the same
thing, to tempt him to sin, as Satan did Christ.  But even conscience
loses its power when we feel that the foe is exaggerating our sins, and
only urging them for torment’s sake, and especially when these sins are
of a kind which from a _certain_ standpoint or code, are not sins at all.

And here we are brought to a subject so strange and witch-like that it is
difficult to discuss or make clear.  It is evident enough in “Manfred”
that the great crime was the hero’s forbidden love for his sister
Astarte.  This it is which crushes him.  But it does not appear from the
Italian (save to those deeply learned in the darker secrets of sorcery)
why or how it is that the one persecuted so suddenly revives and defies
the spirit, turning, as it were, his own power against him.  In
explaining this, I do not in the least conjecture, guess, or infer
anything; I give the explanation as it was understood by the narrator,
and as confirmed by other legends and traditions.  It is this:

Michelet, in _La Sorciére_, which amid much lunacy or folly contains many
truths and ingenious perceptions, has explained that the witchcraft of
the Middle Ages was a kind of mad despairing revolt against the wrongs of
society, of feudalism, and the Church.  It was in very truth the
precursor of Protestantism.  Under the name of religion conscience had
been abused, and artificial sins, dooming to hell, been created out of
every trifle, and out of almost every form of natural instincts.  The
reaction from this (which was a kind of nihilism or anarchy), was to
declare the antithetic _excess_ of free will.  One of the forms of this
revolt was the belief that the greatest sorcerers were born (_ex filio et
matre_) from the nearest relations, and that to dare and violate all such
ties was to conquer by daring will the greatest power.  It was the
strongest defiance of the morality taught by the Church, therefore one of
the highest qualifications for an iron-willed magician.  It is specially
pointed out in the legend of Diana that she began by such a sin, and so
came to be queen of the witches; and the same idea of entire emancipation
or illumination, or freedom from all ties, is the first step to the
absolute free will which constitutes the very basis of all magic.  This,
which is repugnant to humanity, was actually exalted by the Persian Magi
to a duty or religious principle, and it was the same in Egypt as
regarded “first families.”  The sorcerer pursued by Intialo bases all his
power to resist on the mere fact that he is beloved by a beautiful witch.
This is the Astarte of the Italian drama, or a sister—the terrible tie
which shows that a man is above conscience, and free from all fear of the
powers that be, whether of earth or air.  By it his triumph is complete.
He surmounts the accusation of being without morals by utterly denying
their existence from a higher or illuminated point of view.  The _magus_
claims to rank with the gods, and if a divinity _creates_ mankind as his
children, and then has a child by a woman, he is in the same state as the
sorcerer, according to wizards.

If any reproach attaches to the employment of such an element in poetry,
then Byron and Shelley are far more to blame than the Italian witch-poet,
who veiled his allusion with much greater care than they did, and who had
the vast excuse of _sincere belief_, while their highest aim was mere
art.  The wizard-poet has his heart in this faith, as in a religion, and
he is one with his hero.  Manfred is at best only a broken-down magician
who presents a few boldly dramatic daring traits—the Italian sorcerer,
who is far more defiant and fearless, conquers.  “I am more malignant
than thou art,” is a terrible utterance; so is the tone of affected pity
for the baffled tormentor, in which we detect a shade of sarcasm based on
overwhelming triumph.  This feeling, be it observed, progresses,
_crescendo forte_, gradually and very artistically, from the first verse
to the last.  Intialo has threatened to make the victim a sorry cur who
comes at a call; the sorcerer replies that he will make “a swine’s snout”
of Intialo.  Finally, he dares the fiend to meet him at midnight at the
great Witches’ Sabbat, at the dread walnut-tree of Benevento.  Here the
threats reach an ingenious and terrible climax, though the form in which
they are expressed is only quite clear to the initiated.  The sorcerer
says, “When thou thinkest that thou see’st my shadow thou wilt behold
thine own,” or in other words, “You who have sought to torment me by a
_shadow_ shall yourself be mocked by finding that you are only mine.”
This climax of daring the fiend to meet him at Benevento, at the
tremendous and terrible rendezvous of all the devils, witches, and
sorcerers, and then and there trying conclusions with him in delusion and
magic, or a strife of shadows, while leaning against the awful tree
itself, which is the central point of the Italian Domdaniel, is
magnificently imagined.

In Goethe’s “Faust,” as in Byron’s “Manfred,” the hero is a magician, but
he is not in either true to the name or character.  The great _magus_ of
early ages, even like the black Voodoo of America, had it clearly before
him all the time that his mission or business, above all things, was to
develop an indomitable _will_ superior to that of men or spirits.  Every
point is gained by _force_, or by will and penance.  In real sorcery
there is no such thing as a pact with a devil, and becoming his slave
after a time.  This is a purely later-Roman invention, a result of the
adoption of the mixture of Jewish monotheism and Persian dualism, which
formed the Catholic Church.  In Goethe’s “Faust” we have the greatest
weakness, and an extreme confusion of character.  The conclusion of the
tale is contradictory or absurd, and the difficulty is solved with the
aid of a _Deus ex machina_.  The hero is a sorcerer, and _there is not a
trace of true sorcery or magianism or tremendous will and work in the
whole drama_.  Beautiful things are said and done, but, take it for all
in all, it is a grand promenade which leads to nothing. {251}

In the Italian legend, brief and rude as it is, there appears a
tremendous power worked out with great consistency.  The demon or spirit,
intent on causing remorse or despair (_ad affretare il rimorso_),
threatens the sorcerer with terrible maledictions.  And these words, if
we regard their real meaning and spirit, have never been surpassed in any

And we should note here that the Italian sorcerer who subdues the devil
by simple will and pluck is no Manfred or Faust drawn from the religious
spirit of the Middle Ages.  He belongs to the Etruscan age, or to that of
the ancient Magi; he meets malediction with malediction, spell with
spell, curse with curse, injury with injury, sarcasm and jeer with the
same; he insults the devil, calling him his slave:

    “Perche io sono di te—molto più maligno.”

Until in the end they change parts, and the demon becomes the one
tormented.  Therefore there is in this legend, with all its rudeness, a
conception which is so grand, as regards setting forth the possible power
of man, and the _eritis sicut deus_ of modern science, that it is in
unity and fulness far beyond any variant of the same subject.

That this is of great antiquity is clear, for out of this enchanted
forest of Italian witchcraft and mystical sorcery there never yet came
anything, great or small, which was not at least of the bronze, if not of
the neolithic age.

Truly, when the chief character in a tradition of the old Etruscan land
bears an Etruscan name, or that of a shadow called a shadow, we may well
conclude that it is not of yesterday.  So all things rise and bloom and
pass away here on this earth to winter and decay, and are as phantoms

    “Come like shadows, so depart.”

For a last word, “Manfred” and “Faust” are only works of art, intended to
“interest” or amuse or charm the reader, and as such they are great.
They are simply dramas or show-pieces, which also give a high idea of the
artistic skill of their writers.  “Intialo” sets forth the great idea of
the true sorcerer, in which they both _fail_, and carries it out
logically to a tremendous triumph.  It is the very quintessence of all
heresies, and of the first great heresy, _eritis sicut deus_.

There will not be wanting one or two critics of the low kind who take
their hints from the disavowals of the author to declare that his book is
just what it is not, who will write that I think I have discovered a
better poet than Keats in Marietta Pery, and a far greater than Goethe or
Byron in the unknown author of the invocation to “Intialo.”  But all that
I _truly mean_ is that the former is nearer to old tradition, and more
succinct than the English bard—“only this and nothing more”—while in
“Intialo” we have given, as no one ever expressed it, the true ideal of
the magician who, overcoming all qualms of conscience, whether innate or
suggested, and trampling under foot all moral human conventions, rises to
_will_, and victory over all enemies, especially the demons of the
threshold.  As a poem, I no more claim special merit for it than I would
for Marietta’s; {253} indeed, to the very considerable number of “highly
cultivated” people who only perceive poetry in form and style, and cannot
find it in the grandest conceptions unless they are elegantly expressed,
what I have given in this connection will not appear as poetry at all.


    “Rusticus in Luna
    Quem sarcina deprimit una,
    Monstrat per spinas
    Nulli prodesse rapinas.”

                                            —ALEXANDER NECKHAM, A.D. 1157.

This is, for reasons which I will explain anon, one of the most curious
traditions which have been preserved by the Tuscan peasantry.  I had made
inquiry whether any conjuring by the aid of a mirror existed—“only this
and nothing more”—when, some time after, I received the following:

                  _When one wishes to enchant a lover_.

“Go at midnight when there is a fine full moon, and take a small mirror,
which must be kept in a box of a fine red colour, and at each of the four
corners of the box put a candle with a pin, or with a pin in its point,
and observe that two of the pins must have red heads, and two black, and
form a cross, and note that every candle must have two tassels hanging
from it, one red and one black.

“And within the box first of all put a good layer of coarse salt, and
form on the salt a ring or wreath of incense, and in the middle of this a
cross of cummin, and above all put the small mirror.  Then take the
photograph of your lover, but not the real photograph but the negative,
because it must be on a plate of glass (_lastra di vetro_).  Then take
some hairs of the lover and join them to the photograph (_sono uniti
dalla parte del quore_), and then take a fine sprig of rue.

“And with all this nicely arranged in the box, take a boat and sail out
to sea; and if a woman works the spell she must take three men with her
only, and if a man three women and no other person.  And they must go
forth at an instant when the moon shines brightly (_risplende bene_) on
the mirror.  Then hold the left hand over the mirror, and hold up the rue
with the right.  Then repeat the following: {255}


   “Luna! Luna! Luna!
   Tu che siei tanto bella!
   E nel tuo cerchio rachiude
   Un si pessimo sogetto
   Rachiude Chaino che per gelosia
   Uccise il proprio fratello.

   “Ed io che per la gelosia
   Del mio amante non ho potuto
   Ne bere e ne mangiare,
   Ne colle amiche
   Non posso conversare,
   Io l’amo tanto, tanto,
   E non sono corrisposta,
   Quanto lo vorrei e per la sua
   La sua fredezza io ne sono
   Tanto gelosa non so qual’ malarono
   Quale malarono io commetterei,
   Vado a letto non passo riposare,
   Mi viene visioni che
   Il mio amante mi debba ingannare.

   “Luna, Luna, mia bella Luna!
   Che tanto bella siei e ben’ risplende,
   Ti prego volere pregare per me
   _Chaino_ che per gelosia
   Uccise il proprio fratello,
   Ed io vorrei punire il mio amante,
   Ma non farlo morire
   Ma pero farlo soffrire,
   Che non abbia mai bene
   Ne giorno, ne notte,
   Non possa ne bene ne mangiare.
   E la notte non possa riposare,
   E Chaino col suo fascio,
   Suo fascio, di pruini,
   Il mio amante dal su’letto
   Puo le fare, alzare
   E alla casa mia
   Farlo presto ritornare!

   “Chaino! Chaino! Chaino!
   Per tre volte io ti chiamo.
   Ti chiamo ad alta voce,
   In un punto dove si trova,
   Soltanto che cielo e aqua,
   E le due mie compagne.

   “Chaino! per la gelosia
   Che provarti tu per il tuo fratello!
   Provo io per il mio amante,
   E vorrei a me farlo ritornare,
   Per non allontanarsi mai più.

   “Tu che dal alto del cielo
   Tutto vedi—questa scatola
   E bene preparata e tutte e quattro
   Le candele o accese, tu puoi guardare,
   Puoi guardare questo specchio,
   E se tre parole pronunzierai
   Tutti i pruini che ai
   Nell’ fascio delle legne che adosso,
   Sempre porti potrai,
   Potrai farli passare
   Nel corpo, e nel cuore
   Del mio amante,
   Che non possa dormire e sia
   Costretto a vestirsi,
   E venire a casa mia,
   Per non andarsene mai più.

   “Con questo ramo di ruta
   Lo bagno nel mare,
   E bagno le mie due compagne
   Che pronunzierrano queste parole
   Tale [secondo il nome] colla ai uta
   Di Chaino vai dalla tua amante
   Per non lasciarla mai più.

   “Se questa grazia mi fai
   Fai alzare un forte vento,
   E poi spengere le candele.
   Chaino! Chaino! Chaino!”

                             THE INVOCATION.

   “Moon! O moon! O moon!
   Thou who art always fair,
   Yet holdest in thy ring
   One of such evil name,
   Because thou holdest Cain;
   Cain who from jealousy
   His own born brother slew.

   “I too through jealousy
   Of one whom I still love
   Can neither drink nor eat,
   Nor even talk with friends,
   I love so much—so much—
   Yet am not loved again
   As I would fain be loved.
   Through his indifference I
   So jealous have become,
   I do not know what sin
   I would not now commit;
   I cannot sleep at night
   For dreams in which I see
   Him faithless unto me.

   “Moon, moon, O beauteous moon!
   As thou art fair and bright,
   I pray thee, pray for me;
   _Cain_ who from jealousy
   Slew his own brother born,
   As I would punish well
   The one whom I yet love,
   Yet would not cause his death,
   So may he suffer thus:
   May suffering be his lot
   By day as in the night,
   May he not eat or drink,
   Nor may he sleep at night!

   “May Cain who bears the bunch
   Upon his back, of thorns,
   Stand by my lover’s bed,
   And make him rise from sleep
   And hasten to my home.

   “O Cain! O Cain! O Cain!
   Three times I call to thee,
   Call with my loudest voice,
   Just as I find myself
   Between the sea and sky,
   And my two friends with me.

   “Cain, by the jealousy
   Which once thy brother caused,
   And which I now endure,
   For him whom still I love,
   Make love return to me
   And never leave me more.

   “Thou who from heaven on high
   Seest all things, here behold
   This casket well prepared!
   The mystic tapers four
   All lighted, look on them!
   Then in this mirror look.
   Then if thou wilt but speak
   _Three words_—then all the thorns
   Which on thy back thou bear’st,
   All in a bundle bound,
   Will pass into the life,
   The body and the heart
   Of him whom yet I love,
   So that he sleep no more,
   And be compelled to rise,
   Compelled to clothe himself,
   And hasten to my home,
   Never to leave me more.

   “Now, with this branch of rue,
   Which I dip in the sea,
   I sprinkle both my friends,
   That they may speak these words:
   That ---, {259a} by the aid
   Of Cain shalt seek thy love,
   And never leave her more.

   “If thou wilt grant me this,
   Cause a high wind to blow,
   Extinguishing the lights.
   O Cain! O Cain! O Cain!”

Before proceeding further, I would explain that the use of a photograph,
which must be a negative on glass, instead of being, as was suggested to
me, a modern interpolation, is, strangely enough, a proof of the
antiquity of the rite.  In the old time, a picture or portrait painted in
transparent colour on glass was held up to the moon that its rays might
pass through it and enchant the subject.  And among the Romans, when one
had a portrait of any one cut on diaphanous stone, it was used in the
same way.  I had in my possession once such a portrait-gem, {259b} and a
fine needle-hole had been bored through the right eye so as to blind the
original of the likeness.  And I had a friend who lived in Russia, who
discovered that a person who hated him had obtained his photograph, and
pricked holes with a very fine needle in the eyes to blind him.  The
negative of a photograph on glass would very naturally occur as a
substitute for a picture.  But what is most important is that this
mention of the translucent negative proves fully that the whole ceremony,
in its minutest detail, has actually been preserved to this day, and that
the incantation, long as it is, exists as I have given it, since every
line in it corresponds to the rite.  And as I know that it was gathered
by a witch and fortune-teller among others, and carefully compared and
collated, I am sure that it is authentic and traditional.

Fifty pages are devoted by the Rev. T. Harley in his “Moon Lore” to the
subject of the Man in the Moon, and since the book appeared in 1885 there
have been great additions to the subject.  This human being is declared
by myths found in India, and especially among the Oriental gypsies, in
Ireland, Borneo, Greenland, and South America, to be a man who is
punished by imprisonment above for incest with his sister the sun.  As he
wanders for ever over the heavens, just as gypsies wander on earth, they
claim him for their ancestor, and declare that Zin-gan (or gypsy) is
derived from two words meaning sun and moon.  _Kam_, the sun, has been
varied to _kan_, and in gypsy the moon is called _chone_, which is also
_t-chen_, _chin_, or _sin_.  But the point lies in this, that Cain was
condemned to be a “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth,” which gives
much apparent strength to the idea that Cain, whether Shemitic or Aryan,
was, for a great crime, or as chief of sinners, imprisoned in the moon.

This sufferer, in different legends, has been represented as a
Sabbath-breaker, as Judas Iscariot, as Isaac, and many more
transgressors, almost always with a _bunch_ or _bush_ of _thorns_, for
which there has been literally no real explanation whatever.  This I will
now investigate, and, I think, clearly explain.

Dante in two places speaks of the Man in the Moon as Cain, and as if it
were a very popular legend (_Inferno_, xx. 123):

    “Ma vienne omai che già tiene ’l confine
       D’ambedue gli emisperi, e tocca l’onda
    Sotto Sibilia, Caino e le spine
       E gia iernotte fu la Luna tonda.”

    “But now he comes who doth the borders hold
    Of the two hemispheres, and drive the waves
    Under the sibyl, Cain, with many thorns.
    And yesternight the moon was round and full;
    Take care that it may never do thee harm
    At any time when in the gloomy wood.”

This twentieth canto is devoted to the sorcerers in hell, and ends with
allusion to the full moon, the sibyl, and Cain, as allied to witchcraft,
prediction, and sin.  When the moon is full it is also “high tides” with
the witches, now as of yore:

    “Full moon, high sea,
    Great man shalt thou be:
    Red dawning, cloudy sky,
    Bloody death shalt thou die.”

Dante again mentions Cain in the moon, in the _Paradiso_, ii. 50:

    “Ma ditemi, che con li segni lui
    Dio questo corpo, che laggiuso in terra
    Fan di _Cain_ favoleggiare altrui?”

    “But tell me now what are the gloomy marks
    Upon this body, which down there on earth
    Make people tell so many tales of Cain?”

To which Beatrice replies by a mysterious physical explanation of the
phenomenon, advising him to take three _mirrors_ and observe how the moon
is reflected from one to the other, and that in this manner the _formal
principio_, or first creative power, passes from light to darkness.  The
reader will here remember that with the witches the _mirror_ is specially
devoted to conjuring Cain.

It is worth noting that a _spechietto_, or small looking-glass, was
specially (Barretti) “a little mirror placed at the bottom of a jewel

I would now note that the _thorns_ which Cain carries signify, not only
in modern Italian, but in old Roman sorcery, the sting of hatred and of
jealousy.  It is a most apparent and natural simile, and is found from
the crown of thorns on Christ to the Voodoo sorcery in Western America.
Miss Mary Owen knew a black girl in Missouri who, as a proof of being
Christianised, threw away the thorn which she kept as a fetish to injure
an enemy.  But in early times the thorn was universally known as
symbolical of sin, just as Cain was regarded as the first real sinner.
Therefore the two were united.  Menzel tells us in his _Christliche
Symbolik_ (Part I. p. 206) that it is a legend that “there were no thorns
before the Fall; they first grew with sin, therefore thorns are a symbol
of the sorrow or pain which came from sin.”  Of all of which there is a
mass of old German myths and legends, which I spare the reader, for I
have endeavoured in this comment to avoid useless myth-mongering in order
to clearly set forth the connection between Cain, his thorns, and the

That the conjuring the moon with a mirror is very ancient indeed appears
from the legend drawn from classic sources, which is thus set forth in “A
Pleasant Comedie called Summer’s Last Will and Testament.  Written by
Thomas Nash.  London, 1600”:

    “In laying thus the blame upon the Moone
    Thou imitat’st subtill Pythagoras,
    Who what he would the People should beleeve,
    The same he wrote with blood upon a Glasse,
    And turned it opposite ’gainst the New Moone,
    Whose Beames, reflecting on it with full force,
    Shew’d all those lines to them that stood behinde,
    Most pleynly writ in circle of the Moone,
    And then he said: ‘Not I, but the newe Moone
    Fair Cynthia persuades you this and that.’”

In the “Clouds” of Aristophanes the same idea is made into a jest, in
which Strepsiades thus addresses Socrates:

    “_Strepsiades_.  If I were to buy a Thessalian witch, and then draw
    down the moon by night, and then shut her up in a round helmet-case
    _like a mirror_, and then keep watching her—

    _Socrates_.  What good would that do you, then?

    _Strepsiades_.  What!  If the moon were not to rise any more
    anywhere, I should not pay the interest.

    _Socrates_.  Because what?

    _Strepsiades_.  Because the money is lent on interest.” {262}

These instances could be multiplied.  What I have given are enough to
show the antiquity of the conjuration; and I also venture to declare that
any Italian scholar who is familiar with these formulas of sorcery will
admit that, making all due allowance for transmission among peasants, the
language, or words, or turns of expression in this incantation denote
great antiquity.

The next paper or tradition on the subject of Cain, which, as every
phrase in it indicates, was taken down from an old dame who at first
slowly recalled forgotten sentences, will be to many more interesting,
and to all much more amusing than the first.  It once happened that an
old gypsy in England began to tell me the story of the ghostly baker of
Stonehenge and the seven loaves, but, suddenly pausing, he said: “What’s
the use of telling that to _you_ who have _read_ it all in the Bible?”
There is, however, this trifling difference, that I am not sure that my
Italian witch friends knew that Cain and Abel are in the Bible at all.
The Red Indian doctor, whose knowledge of the Old Testament was limited
to its being good to cure neuralgia, was far beyond the _contadini_ as
regards familiarity with “the efficacy of the Scripture.”

This is the witch-tale as written word by word:

                             ABELE E CHAINO.

“They were two brothers.  Abel greatly loved Cain, but Cain did not love
so much the brother Abel.

“Cain had no great will to work.

“Abel, however, on the contrary, was greatly disposed (_si ingegnava_) to
labour, because he had found it profitable.  He was industrious in all,
and at last became a grazier (_mercante di manzi_).

“And Cain also, being moved by jealousy (_per astia_), wished to become a
grazier, but the wheel did not turn for him as it did for Abel.

“And Cain also was a good man, and set himself contentedly to work,
believing that he could become as rich as his brother, but he did not
succeed in this, for which reason he became so envious of Abel that it
resulted in tremendous hate, and he swore to be revenged.

“Cain often visited his brother, and once said to him, ‘Abel, thou art
rich and I am poor; give me the half of thy wealth, since thou wishest me
so well!’

“Then Abel replied: ‘If I give thee a sum which thou thyself couldst gain
by industry, thou shouldst still labour as I do, and I will give thee
nothing, since, if thou wilt work as I do, thou wilt become as rich.’

“One day there were together Cain, Abel, and a merchant, whose name I
forget.  And one told that he had seen in a dream seven fat oxen and
seven lean.  And the merchant, who was an astrologer or wizard, explained
that the seven fat oxen meant seven years of abundance, and the seven
lean as many years of famine.

“And so it came to pass as he foretold—seven years of plenty and seven of

“And Cain, hearing this, thought: ‘During the seven years of plenty Abel
will lay by a great store, and then I will slay him, and possess myself
of all his goods, and thus I will take care of myself, and my brother
will be dead.’

“Now, Cain greatly loved God; he was good towards God, more so than Abel,
because Abel, having become rich, never spoke more unto the Lord; and
Abel would gladly have become a wizard himself.

“Then Cain began to think how he could slay Abel and become a merchant in
his place, and so went forth to cut wood.

“One day he called his brother Abel, and said to him: ‘Thou art so rich,
while I am poor, and all my work avails me little.’  And with that he
gave Abel a blow with a knife, and dressed himself in his garments, and
took a bundle of thorns on his back, and thus clad he took Abel’s place
as merchant, believing that no one would recognise him as Cain.

“And while thus buying and selling he met the merchant-wizard who had
foretold the seven years of famine and of abundance.  And he said, ‘Oh,
good day, Abel,’ to make Cain believe that he was not discovered.  But
the oxen who were present all began to chant in chorus:

   “‘Non chiamate questo, Abele!
   E Chaino, non lo vedete,
   Per la gola della monete
   Il fratello ammazato,
   E dei suoi panni e vestito.
   O Chaino or siei chiamato
   Alla presenza del gran Dio,
   Che a morte ti ’a condannato
   Che di richezza eri assetato.’

   “‘Do not call that person Abel;
   It is Cain, do you not see it?
   Cain who, for the greed of money,
   Treacherously slew his brother,
   And then clad him in his garments.
   Now, O Cain! thou wilt be summoned
   Speedily unto the presence
   Of the Lord, who has condemned thee
   Unto death for thy great avarice.’

“Cain came before God.

   “‘O gran Dio di clemenza
   Voi che siete grande, buono,
   Velo chiedo a voi perdone,
   Per il bene vi ho valuto,
   Un instante vi ho dimenticato
   Ma ne sono molto pentito,
   Di aver ammazato
   Abele il fratello mio.’

   “‘O great God of endless mercy,
   Thou who art so good and mighty,
   Grant, I pray thee, grant me pardon
   For the good I did while living!
   Truly once, but for an instant,
   I forgot myself, but deeply
   I since then have long repented
   That I slew my brother Abel.’

“But God replied: {265}

“A punishment thou shalt have because thou didst slay thy brother from a
desire to become rich.  Likewise thou didst meddle with witchcraft and
sorceries, as did thy brother.  And Abel made much money and was very
rich, because he did not love God, but sorcerers.  Albeit, ever good he
never did evil things, and many good, wherefore God pardoned him.  But
thou shalt not be pardoned because thou didst imbrue thy lands in human
blood, and, what is worse, in thy own brother’s blood.

“The punishment which I inflict is this:

“The thorns {266} which thou didst put upon thy brother are now for thee.

“Thou shalt be imprisoned in the moon, and from that place shalt behold
the good and the evil of all mankind.

“And the bundle of thorns shall never leave thee, and every time when any
one shall conjure thee, the thorns shall sting thee cruelly; they shall
draw thy blood.

“And thus shalt thou be compelled to do that which shall be required of
thee by the sorcerers or by conjuring, and if they ask of thee that which
thou wilt not give, then the thorns shall goad thee until the sorceries
shall cease.”

                                * * * * *

This is clearly enough no common popular nursery tale, such as make up
collections of Tuscan tales or popular legends, gathered from pious or
picturesque peasants.  Through it all runs a deep current of dark heresy,
the deliberate contravention of accepted Scripture, and chiefly the spell
of sorcery and deadly witchcraft.  It is a perfect and curious specimen
of a kind of forbidden literature which was common during the Middle
Ages, and which is now extremely rare.  This literature or lore was the
predecessor of Protestantism, and was the rock on which it was based.

There have always been in the world since time began certain good people
whose taste or fate it was to be invariably on the wrong side, or in the
opposition; like the Irishman just landed from a ship in America, who,
being asked how he would vote, replied, “Against the Government, of
course, whatever it is,” they are always at war with the powers that be.
With Jupiter they would have opposed the Titans; with Prometheus,
Jupiter; as early Christians they would have rebelled against the Pagans,
and as heretics, Orientalised Templars, Vaudois, illuminati, sorcerers,
and witches, they would have undermined the Church, never perceiving that
its system or doctrine was, _au fond_, fetish, like their own.  Among
these rebels it was long the rule to regard those gods or men who were
specially reviled by their foes or oppressors as calumniated.  Even Satan
was to them “the puir deil;” according to the Taborites, an oppressed
elder brother of Christ, or a kind of Man in an Iron Mask kept out of his
rights by Jehovah the XIV.  These discontented ones deified all who had
been devilled, found out that Jezebel had been a _femme incomprise_, and
the Scarlet Woman only an interesting highly-coloured variant of the
ancient hoary myth of Mademoiselle or Miss Salina the Innocent.  When
Judas was mentioned, they solemnly remarked that there was a great deal
to be said on both sides of _that_ question; while others believed that
Ananias and Sapphira had been badly sat upon, and deserved to be
worshipped as saints of appropriation—a cult, by the way, the secret
observance of which has by no means died out at the present day—several
great men being regarded in Paris as its last great high priests.

The Cainites, as known by that name to the Church, were a Gnostic sect of
the second century, and are first mentioned by Irenæus, who connects them
with the Valentinians, of whom I thought but yesterday when I saw in a
church a sarcophagus warranted to contain the corpse of St. Valentine.
They believed that Cain derived his existence from the supreme power, but
Abel from the inferior, and that in this respect he was the first of a
line which included Esau, Korah, the dwellers in Sodom and Gomorrah, the
worshippers of Ashtoreth-Mylitta, or the boundless sensualists, the
sorcerers, and witches.

Considering what human nature is, and its instincts to opposition, we can
see that there must have been naturally a sect who regarded Cain as a
misjudged martyr.  Abel appeared to them as the prosperous well-to-do
bourgeois, high in favour with the Lord, a man with flocks, while Cain
was a tiller of the ground, a poor peasant out of favour.  It must be
admitted that in the Book of Genesis, in the history of the first murder,
we are much reminded of the high priest Chalcas in _La Belle Helene_,
where he exclaims, “_Trop de fleurs_!” and expresses a preference for
cattle.  It is the old story of the socialists and anarchists, which is
ever new.

The witches and sorcerers of early times were a widely spread class who
had retained the beliefs and traditions of heathenism with all its
license and romance and charm of the forbidden.  At their head were the
Promethean Templars, at their tail all the ignorance and superstition of
the time, and in their ranks every one who was oppressed or injured
either by the nobility or the Church.  They were treated with
indescribable cruelty, in most cases worse than beasts of burden, for
they were outraged in all their feelings, not at intervals for
punishment, but habitually by custom, and they revenged themselves by
secret orgies and fancied devil-worship, and occult ties, and stupendous
sins, or what they fancied were such.  I can seriously conceive—what no
writer seems to have considered—that there must have been an immense
satisfaction in selling or giving one’s self to the devil, or to any
power which was at war with their oppressors.  So they went by night, at
the full moon, and sacrificed to Diana, or “later on” to Satan, and
danced and rebelled.  It is very well worth noting that we have _all_ our
accounts of sorcerers and heretics from Catholic priests, who had every
earthly reason for misrepresenting them, and did so.  In the vast amount
of ancient witchcraft still surviving in Italy there is not much
anti-Christianity, but a great deal of early heathenism.  Diana, not
Satan, is still the real head of the witches.  The Italian witch, as the
priest Grillandus said, stole oil to make a love-charm. {269}  But she
did not, and does not say, as he declared, in doing so, “I renounce
Christ.”  There the priest plainly lied.  The whole history of the witch
mania is an ecclesiastical falsehood, in which such lies were subtly
grafted on the truth.  But in due time the Church, and the Protestants
with them, created a Satanic witchcraft of their own, and it is this
after-growth which is now regarded as witchcraft in truth.

Cain-worshippers and witches seem to have been all in the same boat.  I
think it very likely that in these two traditions which I have given we
have a remnant of the actual literature of the Cainites, that
Gnostic-revived and mystical sect of the Middle Ages.  But I doubt not
that its true origin is far older than Christianity, and lost in earliest

One last remark.  We are told in the tale that Abel, having become rich,
“cut” the Lord, or would speak to him no longer.  I suppose that he
dropped the synagogue and _Yom kippur_, and became a _Reformirter_, and
his children in due time _Goyim_.  Also that he wanted to become a
wizard, which may be a hint that he was “no conjuror.”  But it is
seriously a proof of the naïveté, and consequent probable antiquity of
the tale, that these details are not “wrote sarcastic,” nor intended for
humour.  And it is also interesting to observe how impartially the
narrator declares that Cain was “a good man,” and how he, in pleading his
own cause before the Lord, insists that in killing Abel he only
inadvertently forgot himself for an instant.  One almost expects to hear
him promise that he will not do it again.

It is a striking proof of the antiquity of this tradition of Cain, as I
have given it, that the witch or wizard sympathy for the first murderer
is in it unmistakable.  The sending Cain to the moon, instead of hell, is
understood to be a mitigation of his sentence.  In his work on magicians
and witches, A.D. 1707, Goldschmidt devotes many pages to set forth what
was believed by all the learned of his time, that Cain was the father of
all the wizards, and his children, the Cainites, the creators of the
_Gaber_, fire-idolators, Cabiri, magic soothsaying, and so forth.  So the
tradition lived on, utterly forgotten by all good people, and yet it is
to me so quaint as to be almost touching to find it still existing, a
fragment of an old creed outworn here among poor witches in Florence.

“Sacher Masoch,” a Galician novelist, informs us in a romance, “The
Legacy of Cain,” that the Cainites still exist in Russia, and that their
religion is represented by the following charming creed:

    “Satan is the master of the world; therefore it is a sin to belong to
    Church or State, and marriage is also a capital sin.  Six things
    constitute the legacy of Cain: Love, Property, Government, War, and
    Death.  Such was the legacy of Cain, who was condemned to be a
    wanderer and a fugitive on earth.”

I have another apparently very ancient conjuration of a mirror, in two
parts.  It is of the blackest witchcraft, of the most secret kind, and is
only intended to injure an enemy.

From an article in _La Rivista delle Tradizione Popolare_ of July 1894,
by F. Montuori, I learn that in a little work by San Prato on “Cain and
the Thorns according to Dante and Popular Tradition,” Ancona, 1881, which
I have not seen, the history of Cain is given much as told by Maddalena.
What is _chiefly_ interesting in the version of Maddalena is, however,
wanting in all the folklore on the subject collected by others; it is the
manifest trace of Cainism, of sympathy with the first murder, and in its
heresy.  This opens for us a far wider field of research and valuable
historical information than the rather trivial fact that Cain is simply
the Man in the Moon.

Merk in _Die Sitten und Gebräuche der Deutschen_, gives (p. 644), from
Wolf, a strange legend which is nearly allied to Moon worship by witches,
and the mirror:

    “There was a man in Kortryk who was called Klare Mone (bright moon),
    and he got his name from this.  One night when sleeping on his
    balcony he heard many women’s voices sweetly singing.  They held
    goblets [there is some confusion here with _gläserne Pfannen_ or
    glass panes in the roof from which the man looked; I infer that the
    witches drank from “glass pans,” _i.e._, metallic mirrors], and as
    they drank they sang:

    “‘We are drinking the sweetest of earthly wine,
    For we drink of the clear and bright moonshine.’

    “But as the man approached them, ‘with a club to beat or kill them,
    all vanished.’”

“Which fable teaches,” as the wise Flaxius notes, “what indeed this whole
book tends to show—that few people know or heed what witches ever really
were.  Now, that this boor wished to slay the sorceresses with a club,
for drinking moonshine, is only what the whole world is doing to all who
have _different ideas from ours_ as to what constitutes enjoyment.  So in
all history, under all creeds, even unto this day, people have been
clubbed, hung, tortured, and baked alive, or sent to Coventry for the
crime of drinking _moonshine_!”

And so this volume ends, oh reader mine!

    “So the visions flee,
    So the dreams depart;
    And the sad reality,
    Now must act its part.”
    _Ite_, _lector benevole_,
    _Ite_, _missa est_.

                                * * * * *

                  _Printed by_ BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                          _Edinburgh and London_


{3a}  _Nel miglio salotto di recevimento_.  This is all an accurate
picture of old Florentine customs.

{3b}  _Necessità fa la vecchia trottare_.  On which proverb Matteo
Villani comments as follows: “And thus he truly verified the saying of
Valerius Maximus, that ‘the wants caused by human weakness are a common
bond of security,’ all of which is briefly expressed in the French
proverb, ‘Need makes the old woman (or old age) bestir herself.’”
Valerius Maximus was the prototype of Guicciardini.

{8} “Chiese alla regina di dormir seco.”  Which was certainly very plain
blunt speaking, even for the time.

{14} “Le cattive nove volano,
Le male son sempre vere;
Prima l’annunzio, poi malanno,
Chi me ne da una calda, e chi una fredda.”

                                                       —_Italian Proverb_.

{15}  The_ cappa_ is a cloak with a hood or “capuchin;” a _cotta_ is the
stole worn by Catholic priests.

{21}  _Folletto_.  This, which meant originally an airy tricksy sprite,
is now applied not only to fairies and goblins in general, but also to
every kind of supernatural apparition.  I have a book in which even
comets are described as _folletti_.

{23}  Redi’s _Bacco in Toscana_ is known to the most ignorant in
Florence, there being very cheap editions of it constantly sold.

{24}  “Can a _horn_ play second fiddle?” inquires Flaxius.  “This comes
of trying to improve on the simple Italian text.”

{27}  _Zoccoloni_ or _Zoccolanti_, sandalled friars of the lowest order,
who are indeed common beggars.

{31} The partial inscription referred to is still on the column.

{33}  This is strikingly like the ceremony for the same purpose used by
the ancient Romans, the object in both being to frighten away evil
spirits.  _Vide_ “Etruscan Roman Remains,” by C. G. Leland, p. 305.

{43}  Una vecchietta, tutta Gesù e Maria.

{47}  I have elsewhere explained that the _fata_ in these traditions is a
witch or sorcerer become a spirit.

{48a}  It may be conjectured from this context that the child was partly
human in form, perhaps like the Pig-faced Lady, or not more swinish than
William of Ardennes in face.

{48b}  Truly she was, to use a really ancient phrase, “ready to go the
whole hog.”  It is said that Mahomet told his disciples that there was
one part of a pig which they must not touch; but as he did not specify
what it was, they among them devoured the entire animal.

{50}  “Symbola Heroica,” Antwerp, 1583.

{63}  Raised footway, high curbstone, causeway, bench.

{67}  “D’una gran purga bisogna avete,
E questa purga davero dovete
Farla all’ anima, cosi guarirete!”

{71}  It appears from this story that La Certosa was “even then as now”
visited by strangers as one of the lions of Florence.

{77a}  This word is apparently allied to _Marráno_, an infidel Moor,
miscreant, traitor, or to _amaro_, bitter or painful.

{77b}  A peculiarly Florentine word.  _Renajo_, sand-pit, a place so
called near the Arno in Florence (Barretti’s Dictionary).  I can see
several of these _renaioli_ with their boats from the window at work
before me as I write.  _Vide_ “The Spirit of the Arno.”

{82}  “Echoes of Old Florence,” by Temple Leader.

{83}  Like Proteus, the evasive slippery nature of water and the light
which plays on it accounts for this.

{92}  “Well, yes, I think you might;
A cart of hay went through this afternoon.”

I believe this is by Peter Pindar.  The Italian proverb probably
suggested it.

{94}  _Rizzar l’uovo di Pippo sù un píano_.  “To do a difficult thing, or
achieve it by tact and skill.”  This hints at the egg of Columbus.  But
Columbus set the egg upright by breaking its end, which was not a fair
game.  Any egg can be set on end on a marble table (I have done it), by
patient balancing, without breaking.

{96}  “Florentine Life during the Renaissance,” by Walter B. Scaife.
Baltimore, 1893.

{98}  The diavolino of Gian di Bologna is of bronze, but popular
tradition makes light of accuracy.

{103}  This is supposed to be addressed to another, not to the fairy.

{108}  _Ucellato_, caught like a bird, or, as they say on the
Mississippi, “sniped.”

{126}  The reader may observe that these popular names of Oratorio and
Orto are most likely to have given the prefix _Or’_.

{150}  _Ha tanta lingua che spazzarebbe un forno_, _ò un cesso_.  Said of
virulent gossips.

{152}  _Mago_, which, like _magus_, implies more dignity than magician or

{153}  “The Mugnone, whose course has been shifted to the west, formerly
flowed into the Arno, through the heart of the city.”—_Murray’s Handbook
for Travellers in Central Italy_.

{155}  _L’anguilla si rizzo in piedi_—“The eel rose upon her feet.”  This
will remind the reader of some of the difficulties experienced by Gothic
artists in depicting Eve and the Serpent.

{156}  There is much confusion here.  It appears that the fairy made the
fountain now in the Signoria, and that Biancone saw this in a vision.

{158}  This refers to the satyrs who are among the bronze figures below

{161a}  I here omit a long, detailed, and wearisome account of the
research, which, however, indicates the accuracy with which the tradition
had been preserved, and the full belief in it of the narrator.

{161b}  A kind of cruel pillory.

{162}  In allusion to seeing it from behind the squares formed by the
grates of iron before prison windows.

{164}  Landucci, 233, cited by Scaife.

{171}  Una medichessa.

{177}  Not a fairy here, but a witch of a certain degree.

{180}  Si la Messa de Villani era finito.

{181}  E appunto hora comincia quella delle puttane, pero caminate, che
farete a tempo con l’altre.

{189}  Nella guerra d’amor, che fugge vince.

{196}  Viene tutte le mattine
Colle sue belle manine.

Though very rude, even to illiteracy in _form_, the train of thought is
here very gracefully managed in the original.

{201}  So called because criminals passed through it on their way to

{202}  “Da qualche bacio
Vi chascha il _vero_ bacio d’amor.”


{203a}  “Altrimenti
L’avrebbero levato il collare.”—_Original_.

{203b}  “In una altra stella
Per raggiungere la sua bella.”—_Original_.

{205}  _Faceva il verso del lupo_, the deep baying which is a subject of
superstition in all countries.

{207}  Friedrich, “Symbolik der Natur.”

{208}  A humming-top.

{212}  The Philological Society (_Circolo_), has also its rooms in this

{213}  Perche si rendeva alle persone troppo triviale—A graphic sketch of
a character who would be peculiarly offensive in a highly patrician

{220}  “Col mio pugnale ammazato,
Col pugnale e sotterato.”

{224}  Since writing the foregoing, I have found in _Am Urquelle_, vol.
vi. 3, May 1895, a legend credited to a book by A. Bondeson, _Historic
Gulbar på Dal_ (Stockholm, 1886), or a story entitled “The Lover with a
Green Beard,” which is much the same in incident as this.  The editor, H.
Feilberg, notices the affinity of this and other tales to the Vampyre and
Burger’s “Leonora.”

{227}  _Zufolo_—a rude flageolet, such as is still commonly played by the
shepherds all over Italy.

{238}  _Il suo spirito lo fa presentare qualunque ombra_, that is, in any
or varied shadow; a _haunting_ shade, and not strictly the mere shadow of
the one who is haunted.

{239}  That which here follows of the invocation was obtained
subsequently by my agent, I think, from another source.  What precedes is
evidently only a fragment.

{251}  The concluding portion of this chapter is taken from the Italian
original paper read by me at the first meeting of the Italian Folklore
Society in the Collegio Romano, Rome, November 20, 1894.

{253}  These references to Marietta Pery are in regard to a certain
Italian poetess, of whose work I originally intended to give specimens in
this book, but which were omitted as want of space did not permit their
insertion.  I hope to include them in another volume of legends.—C. G.

{255}  Such incantations are _intoned_ or chanted in a very peculiar
style, so that those who can only hear the sound know that it is a magic
spell.  Therefore they must be expressed very accurately to the letter.
It may be observed that there is a contradiction in the original MS.,
which here speaks of _three_ companions, and subsequently of two.  I
believe the latter to be correct.

{259a}  Here the name of the lover is pronounced by the friends.

{259b} Now in possession of Mrs. January of St. Louis, Missouri.

{262}  “Moon Lore,” p. 152.

{265} I have no doubt that originally all the spoken parts of this
narrative were sung.

{266}  Thorns here plainly mean suffering, _Fasio di pruini che ai messo
al tuo fratello_.

{269}  It is amusing that this stealing oil wherewith to make
love-charms, which was denounced so bitterly as damnable sorcery at one
time, and frequently punished by death, _i.e._, by burning alive, is now
tacitly encouraged by the priests.  There are churches about Rome in
which the oil is placed where it may be stolen or taken, it being
understood that a _soldo_ or two shall be left to pay for it.

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