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Title: Tuscan folk-lore and sketches, together with some other papers
Author: Anderton, Isabella M.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Tuscan folk-lore and sketches, together with some other papers" ***

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                           TUSCAN FOLK-LORE

[Illustration: _See p. 172_

“_A Land of Cypresses and Olives_”

                           TUSCAN FOLK-LORE

                             AND SKETCHES

                          TOGETHER WITH SOME

                             OTHER PAPERS


                         ISABELLA M. ANDERTON

          _Edited, with a BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE, by her brothers
                H. Orsmond Anderton and Basil Anderton_

                           ARNOLD FAIRBAIRNS
                          20 CHEAPSIDE, E.C.


                          THE CAMPFIELD PRESS

                              ST. ALBANS




  INTRODUCTION                                         9

  A TUSCAN SNOW-WHITE AND THE DWARFS                  11

  MONTE ROCHETTINO                                    17

  TERESINA, LUISA, AND THE BEAR                       25

  A TUSCAN BLUEBEARD                                  30

  TASSA                                               37

  PADRE ULIVO                                         46


  THE SNAKE’S BOUDOIR                                 65

  POMO AND THE GOBLIN HORSE                           67



  A WEDDING IN THE PISTOIESE                          87

  OLIVE-OIL MAKING NEAR FLORENCE                      98

  A TUSCAN FARMHOUSE                                 106



  A MONTH IN ELBA—I.                                 127

  ”   ”   ”   ”    II.                               137

  THE FIRST STEP OF A MIGHTY FALL                    149


  A TALE FROM THE BORDERLAND                         167

  THE PHANTOM BRIDE                                  172

  CYPRESSES AND OLIVES                               180




  THE GREAT                                          191

  THE WORKMAN                                        193


  GIOSUÉ CARDUCCI                                    199

  GIOVANNI PASCOLI                                   230

  LANG’S “MAKING OF RELIGION”—(ITALIAN)              257


  BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE                                  267


THE following stories were told to me by various peasants during a
summer stay amid the Tuscan Apennines above Pistoia. I had gone there
with a companion in search of quiet for the summer holidays. But I fell
ill, and, there being no nurses and no doctors, was tended by an old
peasant woman, who, living alone (for her sons had married and left
her), was only too glad to spend the warmth of her heart in “keeping
me company” and tending me to the best of her ability. Long were the
hours which she spent by my bedside, or by my hammock in the woods,
knitting and telling me stories. She would take no payment for her
time, for was she not born a twin-sister? and everyone knows that a
twin-sister, left alone, must needs attach herself to someone else in
the emptiness of her heart. So old Clementina attached herself to me as
long as I stopped in that village; and when I left it she would write
me, by means of the _scrivano_, long letters full of village news, and
expressions of affection in the sweet poetical Tuscan tongue.

Indelibly is the remembrance of the kind hospitality of those peasants
impressed on my mind. For Clementina, although my dearest, was by no
means my only friend. I had to leave her as soon as I could be moved,
for a village which boasted at any rate a chemist’s and a butcher’s;
and there, in the two months of my stay, wandering about among the
little farms, either alone, or in the company of a woman whose
husband had sent her back for the summer to her native place, I had
continual opportunities of chatting with the people and enjoying their
disinterested hospitality. Such records as I have preserved I give to
the public, thinking that others, too, might like to penetrate into
that quiet country world, see the workings of the peasant mind in one
or two of their stories, and note the curiously altered versions of
childhood acquaintances or of old legends which have found their way
into those remote regions: note, too, the lack of imagination, and the
shrewdness visible in the tales which are indigenous. As regards style,
I have endeavoured to preserve as closely as possible the old woman’s


IT was old Clementina—a white-haired, delicate-featured peasant
woman, with a brightly-coloured handkerchief tied cornerwise on her
head, a big ball of coarse white wool stuck on a little stick in the
right-hand side of the band of her big apron, and the sock she was
knitting carried in the other hand. My companion had gone down to
Pistoia to do some shopping: I was alone in our rooms in the straggling
primitive little village that clings to the hill among the chestnut
woods above. Clementina thought I must be very lonely; besides,
she was anxious to know what sort of things these extraordinary
“_forestieri_”—foreigners—did all by themselves. They wrote, she
believed—well, but how did they look when they were writing, and what
sort of tools did they use? So she suddenly appeared in the doorway
with a bright smile, and:—“_Buon giorno a Lei._” It was just lunch
time, so I pushed aside my work, glad enough, as it happened, to see
her; begged her to sit down and tell me while I ate, one of those nice
stories which she, as great-grandmother, must know so well.

My lunch was the “_necci_” of the country people—a cake of sweet
chestnut-flour cooked in leaves of the same tree and eaten with
cheese—mountain strawberries, brown bread and country wine. Through
the open window of the whitewashed room came the noises of the village
street, the fresh mountain breeze and the bright sunlight which lighted
up the old woman’s well-cut features and kindling brown eyes, as,
seating herself with the grace of any lady, she leaned forward and

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time there lived a king who had one little girl called
Elisa. She was a dear little girl, and her father and mother loved
her very much. But presently her mother died, and the step-mother got
quite angry with jealousy of the poor little thing. She thought and she
thought what she could do to her, and at last she called a witch and

“Get rid of Elisa for me.”

The witch spirited her away into some meadows a long, long way off,
in quite another country, and left her there all alone; so that poor
little Elisa was very frightened. Presently there came by three fairies
who loved her because she was so pretty, and asked her who she was. She
said she was a king’s daughter, but she did not know where her home was
or how she had come to be where she was now, and that she was very

“Come with us,” said the fairies, “and we will take care of you.”

So they led her into another field where was a big hole. They took her
down into the hole, and there was the most beautiful palace that Elisa
had ever seen in her life.

“This palace is yours,” said the fairies, “live here, and do just as
you like.”

Well, time went by and Elisa forgot her home, and was very happy, when
one night her step-mother had a dream. She dreamt that Elisa was not
dead, but alive and happy. She called the witch again, and said:—

“Elisa is not dead, she is alive and well. Take some _schiacciata_ (a
kind of cake), put poison in it, and take it to her. She is very fond
of _schiacciata_, and will be sure to eat it.”

So the witch went to the hole and called “Elisa.”

“What do you want?” said Elisa.

“Here’s some _schiacciata_ for you.”

“I don’t want _schiacciata_,” said Elisa; “I have plenty.”

“Well, I’ll put it here, and you can take it if you like”: so she put
it down and went away.

Presently there came by a dog, who ate the _schiacciata_ and
immediately fell down dead. In the evening the fairies came home, took
up the dog and showed him to Elisa.

“See you never take anything that anyone brings you,” said they, “or
this will happen to you, too.”

Then they put the dog into their garden.

After a time the queen dreamt again that Elisa was alive and happy, so
she called the witch and said:—

“Elisa is very fond of flowers; pick a bunch and cast a spell upon
them, so that whoever smells them shall be bewitched.”

The witch did as she was told, and took the flowers to the hole.

“Elisa,” she called down.

“What is it?” said Elisa.

“Here are some flowers for you.”

“Well, you can put them down and go away. I don’t want them.”

So the witch put them down and went home. Soon some sheep and a
shepherd came by; the sheep saw the flowers, smelt them and became
spell-bound; the shepherd went to drive off the sheep, and became
spell-bound too. When the fairies came home that night, they found the
sheep and the shepherd, showed them to Elisa as a warning, and put them
too into their garden.

But the queen dreamt a third time, and a third time she called the
witch, saying:—

“Elisa is well and happy. Take a pair of golden slippers this time,
_pianelle_ (slippers with a covering for the toe only), bewitch them,
and take them to Elisa: those she will certainly put on.”

And the queen was right. When the witch had gone away from the hole
Elisa came up to look at the pretty golden _pianelle_. First she took
them in her hands, and then she put one on, and afterwards the other.
As soon as she had done it she was quite spell-bound, and could not
move. When the fairies came home they were very sad. They took her up
and put her into the garden, with the dog, the sheep, and the shepherd,
because they did not know what else to do with her.

There she stayed a long time, till one day the king’s son rode by as he
went out hunting. He looked through the garden gate, and saw Elisa.

“Oh, look,” said he to the hunters, “look at that lovely girl who does
not move; I never saw anyone so beautiful. I must have her.”

So he went into the garden, took Elisa, carried her home, and put her
into a glass case in his room. Now he spent all the time in his room;
he would never come out, and would not even let the servants in to make
his bed, for he loved Elisa more and more every day, and could not bear
to leave her, or to let anyone else see her.

“What can be in there?” said the servants; “we can’t keep his room
clean if we’re not allowed to go into it.”

So they watched their opportunity, and one day when the prince had
gone to take the holy water, they made their way in to dust.

“Oh! oh!” said they, “the prince was quite wise to keep his room shut
up. What a beautiful woman, and what lovely slippers!”

With that one went up, and said, “This slipper’s a little dusty; I’ll
dust it.”

While he was doing so, it moved; so he pushed it a little more, and it
came off altogether. Then he took off the other too, and immediately
Elisa came back to life. When the prince came home he wanted to marry
her at once; but his father said:—

“How do you know who she is? She may be a beggar’s daughter.”

“Oh, no,” said Elisa, “I’m a princess,” and she told them her father’s

Then a grand wedding feast was prepared, to which her father and
step-mother were invited; and they came, not knowing who the bride
was to be. When they saw Elisa, the father was very glad, but the
step-mother was so angry that she went and hanged herself. Nevertheless
the marriage feast went off merrily. Elisa and the prince were very
happy, and presently united the two kingdoms under their single rule.
If they’re not alive now, they must be dead; and if they’re not dead,
they must still be alive.


WE were in the chestnut woods; I swinging lazily in my hammock,
Clementina with her knitting, sitting on the grass beside me, a pretty
clear pool reflecting the trees at our feet.

“Do you know the story of Monte Rochettino?” asked Clementina, taking a
piece of dry bread to keep her mouth moist.

“No,” said I.

So she settled herself comfortably and began the following curious
tale, in which ever and anon one seems to recognise a likeness to the
old Greek legend of Cupid and Psyche; but a likeness all distorted in
transmission through ignorant, unimaginative minds:—

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time there was a widow with three daughters. (“Women
always have three daughters in fairy tales,” she added, by way of
parenthesis.) This widow was very poor, so that when a famine came over
the country she and her children were almost dying with hunger, and
had to go out into the fields and get grass to eat. Once as they were
looking for food they found a beautiful golden cabbage. The eldest
girl took a _zappa_ (a sort of pickaxe with only one arm to it) and
tried to root up the cabbage. This she could not succeed in doing,
but she broke off a leaf which she took to the market, and sold for a
hundred gold scudi.

The next day the second daughter went, worked all day at the cabbage,
and broke off two leaves. Away she went with them to the market, and
got two hundred gold scudi.

The third morning the youngest daughter took the _zappa_, and went into
the field. At the very first stroke the whole cabbage came up, and a
little man jumped out of the earth; a very tiny little man he was, but
beautifully dressed. He took the maiden by the hand, and led her down
a flight of stairs underground. There she found herself in a beautiful
palace, such as she had never dreamt of, all golden and shining. The
little man gave her a bunch of keys, and said:—

“This palace is yours, you may do what you like, and go where you like
in it. You are the mistress of it. The master of it, your husband, you
will not see, he will only come to you at night. Be happy, and make
no effort to look at him, or you will lose everything. If you want
anything in the daytime call Monte Rochettino.”

With that the little man vanished. The maiden wandered all over the
new dwelling, and when it was dark she laid herself down and waited
for her husband, the master of the palace. So time went on. She loved
her husband, although she had never seen him, and felt that she would
be very happy if only she could know something about her mother and

At last she could bear the suspense no longer, and one morning she
called “Monte Rochettino!”

In an instant the little man stood before her.

“Oh, Monte Rochettino,” said she, “let me go home and see my mother and
sisters. Poor things, they must be so sad at losing me; they’ll think I
am dead.”

“You’ll betray me,” said Monte Rochettino.

“No, no, I won’t: I promise you: only let me just go and see them.”

“Well, go, but be sure you don’t betray me, and be back in three days.”

So the girl went home, and her mother and sisters did all they could to
prove their joy at seeing her, poor things. Then they asked her where
she lived, and she told them she lived with her husband in a beautiful
palace underground; but that her husband came to her at night, and she
had never seen him. Then her mother said to her:—

“I will give you these matches and this candle. When he is asleep,
light the candle, and see what he has round his neck.”

So the girl took the matches and the candle and went back to the palace.

“Well, have you betrayed me?” said Monte Rochettino.

“No,” said she.

“The better for you,” answered the little man.

That night while her husband was asleep, the girl got up softly,
lighted the candle, and saw a box round her husband’s neck. The key was
in the lock, she turned it, and went in.[1] She found herself in a room
where was a woman weaving.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I am weaving swaddling clothes for the king’s son, who is about to be

Then she went into another room and found a woman sewing.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I am making robes for the king’s son, who is about to be born.”

In the next room she found a shoemaker.

“What are you doing?” she asked again.

“Making shoes for the king’s son, who is about to be born.”

Then she went back, locked the box again, and held the candle low down
to look at her husband. As she did so a drop of wax fell on his neck,
and he woke.

“You have betrayed me,” said he, “and must lose me.”

In an instant she found herself standing above-ground, her _zappa_ over
her shoulder, and clad only in her nightdress, poor thing. She went a
little way, and found the king’s washerwomen at work. They gave her
some clothes and said:—

“You see that hill yonder? Walk all day till you come to it, and there
you will find a shepherd, who will take you in for to-night.” (But
really, they had been sent by her husband, and so had the shepherd.)

The poor girl walked all day, and in the evening came to the shepherd.
He received her kindly, gave her supper and a bed, and in the morning
made her some coffee and gave her breakfast. Then he said:—

“You see that other hill, over there? Walk all day till you come to it,
there you will find my brother” (but really it was himself) “who will
be kind to you. And now take this chestnut, but be sure you don’t open
it unless you are in great need.”

So the poor thing walked all day until she reached the second hill and
found the second shepherd. He gave her supper, a bed, and coffee in the
morning, and then said:—

“Go on to the next hill, where you will find a third shepherd, my
brother; ask him to take you in. Now take this nut, but be sure you
don’t crack it unless you are in great need.”

That evening she reached the third shepherd, who treated her as the
others had done. In the morning he said to her:—

“You must pass this first hill, and then you will find another; go up
that, and you will come to a palace. In the palace lives a queen, who
lost her little son, and who now receives poor women, and has them
taken care of for forty days; she will be kind to you.” Then he gave
her a walnut, saying:—“Mind you don’t crack it, unless you are in
great need.”

So the poor creature walked and walked and walked, and in the evening
reached the palace.

The queen received her kindly, and had her taken care of for forty
days. Then she sent a servant, who said:—

“The queen says you must be off, she can’t keep you any longer.”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said the poor woman, “whatever shall I do? I have
nowhere to go. I’ll crack the chestnut.”

She did so, and out jumped a lovely little golden dog, which capered
about and caressed her and fawned on her. She sent it as a present to
the queen, who said:—

“Why, this woman is richer than I am; let her stay forty days more.”

So the poor thing remained forty days longer, and then the servant
came again to send her away. This time she cracked the nut, and out
came two beautiful golden capons. These, too, she sent to the queen,
who said:—

“This is certainly a wonderful woman, let her stay another forty days.”

At the end of the forty days the queen sent the servant again, saying:—

“You’ll eat up all my kingdom. Be off with you.”

Then the woman cracked the walnut, and found a beautiful golden
wool-winder, which she sent to the queen.

“I never had such things,” said the queen, “this woman is richer than I
am. Let her stop as long as she likes.”

Then the poor woman was glad indeed, and stayed there quietly until
she gave birth to a little daughter. The servant took the baby into
the kitchen to put on the swaddling-bands; while she was doing so a
beautiful white dove alighted on the window-sill, and said:—

  “If the cocks no longer sang,
  If the bells no longer rang,
  If you knew this, oh mother mine,
  Lovely you’d be, oh daughter mine.”

Then the servant went to the queen and told her what had happened.

“To-morrow I’ll come myself,” said she, “and see the dove, and hear
what it says.”

As soon as she had heard it, she had all the cocks in the town killed,
and all the bells tied up: and the next morning she carried the babe
into the kitchen herself. No sooner had she sat down than the dove
alighted on her shoulder. She unswaddled the baby, and the little thing
stretched out its tiny arms in joy at feeling itself free. As it did
so, it touched the dove, who was instantly changed into a handsome
young man. The queen knew him for her son, the poor woman for her
husband, and there was great feasting and joy in all the palace. If
they’re not alive, they must be dead: if they’re not dead, they’re
still living.


CLEMENTINA had been doing her shopping in the village and now the two
children and I were walking home with her. It was near the time of
sunset, and the Apennines, blue-purple as the sun gradually dropped
behind them, unrolled themselves before us, chain behind chain,
as we advanced along the road with the valley on the left and the
chestnut-covered hill on the right.

“A story, _nonna mia_,” begged I, and “A story,” echoed the children:
“tell us the story about Teresina.” So Clementina began:—

       *       *       *       *       *

Once there was a woman who had two daughters: at least, one was a
daughter, and the other a step-daughter. Now the daughter, named Luisa,
was ugly and wicked: but the step-daughter, Teresina, was so good and
beautiful that everybody loved her. This made Luisa very jealous,
and she began to think what she might do to get rid of Teresina. One
evening she said to her mother:—

“Mother, send Teresina into the woodhouse to-night, so that the bear
may come and eat her while she’s alone in the forest.”

So the mother gave Teresina a piece of dry bread and said to her:—

“Take your distaff and go and spin wool in the woodhouse to-night.”

“Very well,” said Teresina, and went out into the forest; and the dog
and the cat went with her.

When she got into the woodhouse she shut the door, pulled out her piece
of bread, and began to eat her supper.

“Miaou, miaou,” said pussy, and patted her arm.

“Ah, poor little pussy, are you hungry too? Here’s a piece of bread for

“Bow-wow,” said the dog, and put his front paws on her knee.

“Yes, little one, here’s a piece for you too, you must be hungry, I’m

When she had finished her bread she began to spin, but she had not been
at work long when she heard a knock at the door.

“Who’s there?”

“The bear,” was the answer.

“Oh dear, what shall I do?” said Teresina.

“Tell him you’ll let him in when he brings you a dress like the sun,”
said the dog.

So Teresina did as she was advised; and the bear went in a very short
time to Paris, and came back with a dress as beautiful as the sun.

“Tell him he must bring one like the moon,” said the cat.

The bear brought that too.

“Now ask for one like the sky with the stars in it,” said the dog: and
the bear soon came back with that as well.

“What shall I do now?” asked Teresina.

“You must ask for a nice silk handkerchief for your head.”

So the bear brought the most beautiful that ever was seen.

“What can I say next?” said Teresina, “I shall have to let him in.”

“No, no, ask for a fan.”

The bear brought a fan such as Teresina had never imagined.

“One thing more,” said the dog; “ask for a chest of linen.”

Again Teresina followed the animal’s advice, and almost immediately
the bear appeared at the door with the chest of linen. But just as he
arrived the sun rose, and he was obliged to go away. Then Teresina put
the chest on her head, took up her dresses, her handkerchief and her
fan, and went away home with the cat and the dog.

When she appeared among the trees before the house, Luisa was first of
all very much disappointed, for she thought that the bear had certainly
eaten her sister; but when Teresina showed all her beautiful things,
then Luisa fairly cried with spite.

“Give them to me, Teresina,” she said; “you must and shall give them to

“No, no,” said Teresina, “they’re mine and I shall keep them.”

“Then, mother,” exclaimed Luisa, “let me go to the woodhouse to-night.
I will go to the woodhouse to-night and see the bear. I will, I will!”

So the mother gave her a nice slice of polenta with plenty of cheese,
and in the evening Luisa went off, followed by the cat and dog.

“Miaou, miaou,” said the cat, when Luisa began to eat.

“Bow-wow,” said the dog.

“Get away, ugly beasts,” said Luisa, and kicked at them with her heavy
nailed boots. Then came a knock at the door.

“What shall I do?” asked Luisa.

“Open,” said the cat and the dog, “it’s the bear with the dresses.”

So Luisa opened the door, and the bear came and ate her all up.

But Teresina put on her beautiful dresses when she went out walking:
and one day the king’s son saw her, and loved her because she looked
so good and beautiful. So Teresina married the prince, and afterwards
became queen of the land.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Are there any bears about the mountains now, nonna?” I asked, when the
story was finished.

“No, there are none now. I saw one once, though. A man was leading it
about with a chain.”

“I saw one once, too,” said little Elisa. “It was at a fair at that
village over there,” pointing to a cluster of houses on the hillside.

“And what was it like?” I asked.

“It was covered with hair, had two legs, the head of a horse and the
feet of a Christian.”

And the child really believed she was describing what she had seen.


SOON after this we reached Clementina’s house. The old woman gave
the beef-steak and the medicine to her neighbour (whose husband,
just returned from Maremma, was down with fever), took up a large
wicker-covered flask, and called us to go with her to the “_fonte
fresca_” to get water. So we moved off through the chestnut woods,
and soon found the spring, half-hidden by the ferns and long grass.
It fully deserved its name and reputation; the water was so cold
and sparkling as to be almost exhilarating, and I felt a sudden new
sympathy with the feeling which prompted the Greeks to such efforts to
obtain the water of well-known springs.

When we had emerged from the wood on our way back, Clementina put down
her flask and seated herself on a bank with her back to the sunset. We
threw ourselves on the grass at her feet, and the old woman, beginning
again, told us the following version of our old friend Bluebeard:—

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time there was a woman who had three daughters. One day a
sexton knocked at her door and said:—

“Good wife, give me a piece of bread.”

The woman said to the eldest daughter:—

“Take the poor man a piece of bread: he looks very wretched.”

But when the girl got outside the door with the bread, the sexton

“It’s you I want,” and he caught her up and carried her away.

After a while they reached a field where there was a hole in the
ground. In the hole the girl saw steps, and when they got to the bottom
of these, she found herself in the most beautiful palace she had ever

“Now,” said the man, “this palace shall belong to you. I shall be away
all day, but shall come back every evening; so you need not be lonely.
While I am away you may amuse yourself as you like. Here are the keys;
you can explore the whole palace except the room which this key opens;
there you are never to go.”

“Very well,” said the girl, “I won’t.”

“Take this ring,” continued the man, putting one on her finger. “So
long as the gold remains bright, I shall know you have been obedient.
When it is cloudy, I shall know you have opened the door.”

For some days the girl was quite happy exploring the wonders of this
underground palace; but little by little she began to want to see what
was in the room which was forbidden her; and at last the desire to open
that door quite overcame her dread of punishment. She put in the key,
turned it, pushed open the door, and went in.

She found herself in a marble courtyard opening on to a beautiful
garden. In the middle of the courtyard was a pond, in which was
swimming a lovely gold-red fish.

“Oh, I must catch you,” said the girl, and plunged her hand into the
water. But the fish bit her so sharply that she withdrew her hand
immediately, and then she saw that the ring was covered with blood.
She rubbed and rubbed, but the blood would not come off; the ring was
stained and cloudy, and sadly she went out, locking the door behind her.

When the man came home that night he found her sad and dejected.

“Ah,” said he, “you have disobeyed me. Let me see the ring.”

She tried to hide her hand, but it was no good. He looked at the ring,
and then cut off her head, and put head and body against one of the
columns in the marble courtyard.

After that he went back to the girl’s home, and again asked for bread.

“Go,” said the mother to the second daughter, “carry the poor man
something to eat.”

But when the second daughter came to him he treated her as he had done
the first. He carried her off to the underground palace, gave her the
keys, and a ring, and told her, too, that she might do anything she
liked, except open that door.

It happened to the second as it had done to the first. She got tired
of wandering about the palace with nothing to do, opened the door, and
went into the marble courtyard. She, too, tried to catch the fish; she,
too, was bitten; her ring became cloudy, and she was beheaded and put
beside her sister.

Then the man returned, and carried away the youngest girl. Now the
youngest is always cleverer than her elder sisters; and so it happened
in this case. After she had spent some time in the palace, she, too,
determined to open the forbidden door. So she took off her ring, put
it in her work-basket, and went in. She tried to catch the fish, as
her sisters had done, and then began to wander about. She soon saw her
sisters’ heads and bodies, and that made her sad. When it was near
evening she left the courtyard, put on her ring, and went to meet her
husband as brightly and cheerfully as ever.

“Ah,” said the man, “I can see that you have not disobeyed me. You’re a
dear, good little wife.”

Every day, as soon as her husband was gone, the girl took her work into
the garden and sat there, knitting or playing with the fish, but she
was unhappy because of her sisters.

One morning as she was at work she saw a little lizard without a tail;
the tail was lying on the ground beside it. She watched the creature
and saw it bite a leaf off a certain plant, turn its head over its
back, and touch its body and its tail with the leaf. Instantly tail and
body grew together, and the lizard ran off quite merrily.

“Aha,” thought the girl, “now I know what to do!” So she picked the
plant, went into the courtyard, put her sisters’ heads on to their
respective bodies, touched the necks with the plants, and there were
her sisters quite well again. Then she took them upstairs and hid them.

That evening she said to her husband, “I am afraid my mother must be
very unhappy. She is old and poor, and now there is no one to work for
her or take care of her. Let me go and see her.”

“No,” said the man; “I can’t spare you.”

“Well, then, let me fill a chest with clothes and money, and you shall
carry it to her.”

“Very well,” said the man; “have it ready by to-morrow morning.”

So the girl put linen and gold into a chest. Then she made her eldest
sister get in, and shut down the lid.

“Now,” she said to her husband, “you must not set down the chest at
all: remember, I can see you all the way. Go straight there and back
again, for I want you at home.”

The man put the chest on his head and set off. After a time he began
to want to put down his burden for a little, and said to himself:—

“My wife can’t possibly see me; there’s this hill between me and her”:
and he began to set down the chest.

“Do you think I can’t see you?” a voice said. “Silly man, I can see you

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said the man to himself, “what a clever wife mine
is! She can see me even through a hill. And how fond of me she is!
She knows what I am doing wherever I am.” So he staggered on to his
mother-in-law’s, threw down the box, and went home again.

A little while after the second sister was sent home in the same way,
and now the girl began to think how she could get away herself. One
evening she said to her husband:—

“I want you to take some more things to my mother. I shall get
everything ready to-night. Don’t wake me in the morning before you go,
as I shall come to bed very late. I have to make the bread.”

The man went off to bed, and the girl set to work. She made a great
doll of dough and put it in her bed; then she put clothes and money
into the chest, crept in herself, and pulled down the lid.

The next morning the man got up early. “Wife, wife,” he shouted,

No answer. “Ah, I forgot, she was up late making bread. She’s a dear
little wife, and works very hard.”

So he crept on tiptoe to her bedside, saw the figure under the clothes,
and went out as quietly as he had gone in.

Then he took the chest and started. Again he wanted to set down his
burden, again the warning voice stopped him, and at last he flung down
the box at his mother-in-law’s door, declaring that this was the last
he would bring her.

When he got home he called, “Wife! wife!”

Still no answer. “What, is she still asleep? She must be tired”; and he
went to shake her. Then he found that there was no wife there, but only
a figure of dough, and that he was alone once more in his underground


CLEMENTINA had enticed me to her cottage with the promise of country
beans cooked in country fashion, to be followed by a story under the
chestnut woods. So at about four in the afternoon, when the heat of
the day was over in the breezy mountain village, I sauntered through
the street, past the swarming black-eyed children, and the cheerful,
smiling washerwomen busy at the tank under the pump, out on the white
road beyond; and, gazing now at the landscape on the left, now at the
ever-varying forms of the Apennines before me—

  “Ever some new head or breast of them,
  Thrusts into view,”

says Browning—now climbing the bank on the right for flowers or
mountain-strawberries, I arrived, after half an hour’s stroll, at the
little hamlet of Ciecafumo.

There stood the cluster of smoke-blackened cottages, with the large
patch of rye, beans, etc. (apparently common property), before them,
against a background of magnificent chestnut trees. Passing under a
picturesque archway, and crossing a cobbled space which did duty as a
street, I pushed open the wooden door of Clementina’s house. Before me
was a flight of stairs which might have been washed towards the end
of the last century: on the right the kitchen; and, dim in the blue,
arching wood-smoke, Clementina, with eyes as bright as ever under her
kerchief; and sprightly little Nella, barefooted, and, still more
extraordinary, bareheaded.

It was a large, low room, with stone walls and a gaping plank ceiling,
which formed also the floor of the room above, all encrusted with the
black lichen-like deposit, harder than the stone itself, produced by
the smoke of wood-fires. In one corner was a tiny window, and on the
same side with it the hearth, with a wooden roof over it in lieu of
chimney. The wood-fire, the cat, the red pipkin with the old woman
bending over it, formed a pretty interior against the dark shadows
of the great stack of brushwood which, with a flight of very rickety
stairs, occupied the further end of the room.

“Where do the stairs lead, Nonna?” I asked.

“Oh, those lead into the cat’s rooms. You can go up if you like, but
I advise you not to. It’s years since I have been there, and I expect
they’re rather dirty.”

It need hardly be said that I did _not_ go up. The beans being now
ready, a space was cleared on one of the two tables, which, loaded with
most heterogeneous material, were propped up against the wall opposite
the fire. Above the tables was the one patch of colour on the black
walls—a coloured print or so of saints, a couple of rosaries, and a
tiny hanging tin lamp. The old woman spread a coarse, newly-washed
table-napkin on the space she had cleared, and placed on it a hunch
of bread (brought that morning from the village), one glass, a little
bottle of oil, and some salt in a piece of paper. The wicker-covered
water-flask was put on the ground beside us; three chairs were
produced, and three soup-plates, with brass spoons. Then the beans were
divided and dressed with oil and salt, the bread was carved into three
parts with a great clasp-knife from the old woman’s pocket, and we
made a very excellent and nourishing meal. The one glass did duty for
all three of us, being rinsed out with a peculiar jerk on to the stone
floor after each had drunk.

“Now the story, Nonna,” said I.

So Clementina took up her knitting, and, locking the door behind us,
we went out into the fresh, sweet evening air. We sat down under a
huge chestnut tree. A number of little girls came clustering around
us, busily engaged in making chestnut-leaf pockets for their wild
strawberries and whortle-berries, and the old woman began:—

Once upon a time there was a poor woman who had one daughter. One day,
as this daughter was out in the forest getting firewood she struck her
axe into a hollow tree. As soon as she had done so, a beautiful lady
appeared and said to her:—

“Will you come with me, little girl? I will take care of you, and give
you everything you want.”

So the little girl said yes, she would go, and the lady, who was really
a fairy, took her to a beautiful palace.

“Now,” said this fairy, “when you’re alone, and want me, you must call
me Tassa, but when anyone else is with you, you must call me Aunt. You
won’t always see me, but as soon as you call me I shall come to you.
You may do what you like and go where you like in this palace.”

So the girl lived for some time in the palace in the forest, and grew
more and more beautiful every day. At last it happened that the king’s
son, out hunting in that forest, came to the palace and saw the girl at
the window. He rode round trying to find a door, but there was none.

“Let me come in and talk to you,” he said to the girl. So she went into
the next room, and called out “Tassa.”

“What do you want, pretty maiden?”

“The king’s son asks to come and talk to me.”

“Let him come.”

And immediately the prince saw a door and went in. After a little while
he said:—

“I should like to marry you; you are the most beautiful woman I have

So the girl went into the next room and called “Tassa.”

“What is it, pretty maiden?”

“The prince wants to marry me.”

“Let him come in a week with all his court and fetch you.”

Then the prince went away, and the fairy gave the girl a box, saying:—

“If you want to remain beautiful, take this box with you; and don’t
forget to say good-bye to me before you go.”

At the end of the week the prince came with a great train of carriages
and courtiers to fetch his bride, and the girl was so dazzled by the
splendour, and excited at the thought of marrying the prince, that she
forgot to say good-bye to the fairy, and forgot her box till she was
in the carriage. Then she suddenly remembered it, jumped out, and ran
upstairs to the cupboard where she had put it. Now this was a cupboard
in the wall, and the door pushed up as a shutter might do. The girl
raised the door and put her head in to look for the box, when bang!
down came the shutter on her neck.

“Tassa, Tassa,” she shouted.

“What do you want, ugly wench?”

“I forgot to say good-bye to you. And oh, please let me out.”

Then the cupboard door was raised, and the girl went downstairs. But
when she appeared everyone began to laugh, for she had a sheep’s head!

The prince made her get into the carriage, and then pulled down all the
blinds, so that no one might see his ugly bride; and when he got home
he had her put into the sheep stable.

Now there were three beautiful women at the king’s palace who all
wanted to marry the prince, and the prince did not know which to
choose. So he brought some wool and said:—

“The one who spins this best shall be my wife”; and he gave some wool
to the girl with the sheep’s head as well.

The three women set to work immediately and span and span with all
their might; but the poor girl in the stable threw hers into the gutter
and sat down to cry, while the others came and mocked her. At last it
was the eve of the day on which they were to go before the prince, and
the girl sobbed and sobbed, and began to call out “Tassa, Tassa!”

“What do you want, ugly wench?”

“I’ve thrown my wool away, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Take this filbert, and when you come before the prince crack it. But
you don’t deserve to be helped.”

The next day the whole court was assembled and the three women gave
their skeins of wool, and then the prince turned to the girl and said:—

“What have you done?”

“Baa, baa,” said she, and cracked the filbert. There was a skein of the
finest wool that could be imagined, and all said that the sheep had
done best.

Then the prince gave each one a puppy, and said:—

“The one whose puppy grows into the most beautiful dog shall be my

So the three women took their puppies, and brushed them and combed them
and washed them and fed them, till they were so fat they could hardly
move; but the poor girl let hers run away.

The women came and mocked her as before, but all she could say was
“Baa, baa!”

Again it was the eve of the day when they were to appear before the
prince, and again the girl sat sobbing in her stable and calling
“Tassa, Tassa!”

“What do you want, ugly wench?”

“My dog has run away, and to-morrow we go before the king.”

“Take this walnut, and crack it as you did the filbert. But you don’t
deserve to be helped.”

The next day the whole court was assembled again. The three women
presented their dogs, which waddled about and behaved very dirtily and

“And what have you done?” said the prince to the girl.

“Baa, baa,” said she, and cracked the walnut. Out jumped the most
lovely tiny dog, with a golden collar and golden tinkling bells; he
fawned upon the king and the prince, and quite won their hearts by his
pretty manners.

“One more trial,” said the prince. “All appear before me again in a
week’s time, and I will marry the most beautiful.”

All that week the three women washed themselves, and scented
themselves, and rubbed themselves till they rubbed the skin off, and
pomaded their hair till it shone like a looking-glass; but the girl sat
among the sheep and wept.

On the last day of the week the women began to put on their fine
dresses and ornaments; and the unhappy girl sobbed more bitterly than
ever, and called out, “Tassa, Tassa!”

“What do you want, pretty maiden?”

“To-morrow we go before the prince. What shall I do?”

“Go with the others: and if he marries you don’t forget to say good-bye
to me.”

The next morning the three women with their grand dresses, and their
pomade, and their scent, strutted boldly in before the court and the

“Go to the stable and bring the fourth,” commanded the prince: and one
of the courtiers went down.

Soon the door opened and the room was filled with a blaze of light, as
the beautiful maiden, sheep no longer, entered and knelt humbly before
the king.

“That is my bride,” said the prince, as he raised her and kissed her:
“You others may go.”

So a grand wedding-feast was prepared, and this time the girl did not
forget to say good-bye to the fairy who had been so kind to her.


“STRANGE, lingering echoes of the old demon-worship might perhaps
be even now caught by the diligent listener among the grey-haired
peasantry,” says George Eliot, speaking of the Midland Counties of
England. Stranger yet, perhaps, is the survival of the old pagan
spirit, the haunting echo of old pagan legend, which any visitor to the
hills of Tuscany may verify. Let him join the peasants as they meet now
in one house, now in another, to spend the long winter evenings round
the fire; or let him stroll, in the early autumn, into some low, dark
kitchen where neighbours sit among piles of chestnut twigs, busily
stripping off the leaves and making them into bundles for winter use in
the baking of chestnut cakes (_necci_). There, among _stornelli_ and
_rispetti_, he may well chance upon some such shrewd, quaint tale as
the following:—

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time there was a man called Padre Ulivo. He was always
cheerful, always singing, and very fond of good company. He had a
barrel of wine in the cellar, and every evening his friends used to
come and see him, sit round the fire, eat, drink, sing, and lead a
merry life. But at last the barrel was empty, and all his provisions
run out, so that he had nothing more to offer to those who came, and
all his pleasant evenings were at an end. Now everyone avoided him, and
his cottage grew dull and lonely. One night he had just enough flour
left for one small cake.

“Well,” said he, “I’ll make a little _schiacciata_ this evening, bake
it in the ashes, and to-morrow I must take what God sends.”

So he made the _schiacciata_, ate half of it, and got into bed. He had
not been there long before he heard a knock at the door.

“Who’s there?” he called out.

“Padre Ulivo,” said a voice from outside, “we want to come in and warm
ourselves at your fire; open the door to us.”

So Padre Ulivo jumped out of bed, opened the door, and there were
twelve men outside.

“Wait a minute while I put on my trousers,” said he, for he was in his

“Now, Padre Ulivo,” said one of the men, “we want something to eat.”

“Something to eat! How can I give you that when I have nothing in the
house! I made a little _schiacciata_ of my last flour this evening.
Look, here’s the bit I’ve not eaten.”

“No, no; you must give us something to eat—we’re hungry.”

“But, indeed, I don’t do it to deceive you. I have nothing; absolutely

“Go and look again in the cupboard.”

“But what’s the good? It’s empty. Do you believe that I want to deceive

“Go and look, at all events.”

So Padre Ulivo opened the cupboard, and found it quite full of meat and
bread, and everything nice. Quite full! and of such good things as he
had never hoped to have.

“Oh!” said he, “don’t think I was deceiving you; there really was
nothing there last time I went to it.”

So he laid the table and they began to eat.

“But we want wine,” said the man; “go to the cellar and get some.”

“I have none,” said Padre Ulivo; “I used up all mine some time ago.”

“Go and see.”

“But it’s no good; my barrel is quite empty. Indeed it is not because I
am greedy. I have none left.”

“Go and see. We’ll come too.”

So they all went down to the cellar.

“You see,” said Padre Ulivo, tapping the barrel. “Listen how hollow it

“Draw out the spigot.”

He did so, and immediately there spurted out such a stream of wine as
knocked him right against the opposite wall.

“Oh, oh!” said he. “I swear it was empty last time I came here.”

Then he filled a big jug, and they all went upstairs and made a good

“Now we want to sleep here,” said the men.

“But I have only one bed,” answered Padre Ulivo; “and there are
thirteen of us! I know what I’ll do, though; I’ll put the mattress on
the floor, and we must manage the best way we can.”

So he put the mattress on the floor, spread sheets on it, and they
slept comfortably, some on the mattress and some on the bed.

The next morning the men went away, and Padre Ulivo accompanied them
for some little distance on their journey, walking behind with one who
was especially friendly.

“The one in front,” said this man, “the most important of us all, is
Dominiddio[2] himself. Go and ask him a favour.”

So Padre Ulivo ran on, and threw himself on his knees in the road.

“What do you want?” said Dominiddio. “I will grant you whatever you ask

“I want that anyone who sits down on my chair may be unable to rise
without my permission.”

“Be it so.”

And Padre Ulivo returned to his companion.

“Have you asked a favour?”

“Yes, and it’s granted.”

“What did you ask?”

Padre Ulivo told him.

“Oh, you stupid man! But go and ask another favour quickly. And mind
it’s something great, and something really for yourself. Remember you
are speaking to Dominiddio.”

Padre Ulivo ran on again and knelt down.

“What do you want this time? You shall have it.”

“Let anyone who gets up into my fig-tree be unable to come down without
my permission.”

“Very well; it shall be so.”

And Padre Ulivo came back leaping for joy.

“Well, and what did you ask for?”

Padre Ulivo told him.

“Oh, you fool! Go again, you will get one more favour; but mind you ask
for something really good for yourself.”

He wanted him to ask to go to Paradise.

“Again!” said Dominiddio, when he saw Padre Ulivo in the dust before
him. “Well, this is the last time. What do you want?”

“Let me always win at cards, no matter whom I may be playing with.”

“Be it so. And now no more.”

Padre Ulivo came back to his companion singing for joy.

“What have you asked for this time? Something really great?”

“Oh, yes,” said Padre Ulivo, and told him.

“Well, you’ve lost your chance now. Good-bye.”

With that he left him and Padre Ulivo went home.

Now his jolly times began again. His barrel of wine never ran dry, and
his cupboard never grew empty. Everybody came to see him. They ate,
drank, and led a merry life.

       *       *       *       *       *

But Padre Ulivo grew old; and one day Death came to him.

“Oh, how do you do?” said Padre Ulivo. “You want me, do you? Well, I
was just beginning to fear you had forgotten me, and to wonder where
you could be. Sit down and take a rest, and then I’ll come with you.”

So Death sat down on the chair in the chimney-corner, while Padre Ulivo
piled on wood and made a splendid blaze.

“Now we must go,” said Death, when he was warm. “Oh, oh! what’s this?”
For when he tried to get up the chair stuck to him and he could not
move. “Oh, oh!” And he pulled at the chair that seemed glued firmly to
him. “Padre Ulivo, let me go! I have to go for the carpenter’s daughter
before sundown. Oh, oh! I can’t get up. You’ve bewitched me.”

“Promise not to come back for a hundred years, and you shall go free.”

“A hundred! A hundred and one, if you like! Only take the spell off.”

So Padre Ulivo gave him permission to rise, and Death went away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Things went on as usual for the hundred years, with feasting and
merry-making. But at last, as Padre Ulivo was among his friends, Death
appeared again.

“Yes, yes, I’m ready. But let us have a feast of figs first. See
what splendid fruit there! I and my friends had as much as we wanted
yesterday, it’s your turn to-day. Go up and help yourself; I am too old
to climb.”

So Death went up the tree and picked and ate to his heart’s content.

“Now we must go,” said he. “Hullo! I can’t get down. Oh, Padre Ulivo,
you’ve bewitched me again!” And he stretched out now an arm, now a leg,
and twisted and turned; but it was all of no good, and the others stood
below laughing at him.

“Oh, Padre Ulivo! I’ll leave you another hundred years, if you’ll only
let me get down.”

“Very well; then you may come.”

So Death climbed down and went away.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the hundred years were passed, he came and stood outside the

“Padre Ulivo, Padre Ulivo, come out! I shan’t come near your house
this time. I don’t want to be tricked again.”

“Oh, no, I’m coming. Wait till I get my jacket.”

So he put on his coat and went with Death.

On the way they met the Devil.

“Ah, good morning, Padre Ulivo” (one can see they knew each other very
well), “so you’re coming my way, are you?”

“To be sure I am. But let’s have a game at cards first.”

“By all means! What shall we play for?”

“For souls. A soul for every game.”

“Good! I’m not afraid. Nobody ever beat the Devil yet at cards.”

So they began, and Padre Ulivo won game after game.

The Devil got very angry and spit flames of fire from sheer rage, as he
saw the crowd of souls collecting round Padre Ulivo.

“This will never do,” he said at last. “I shall have no fire left to
warm myself at if I go on losing my fuel at this rate. Padre Ulivo,
take your souls and be off. I have had enough of you.”

They left the Devil boiling over with fury, and went and knocked at the
gate of Heaven.

“Who’s there?”

“Padre Ulivo.”

“I’ll go and ask if you may come in.” Then, after a little time:
“Dominiddio says you may come in, if you’re alone; but you must not
bring anyone else.”

“Go and tell Dominiddio that when he came to me I let him in with all
his friends. He ought to do the same by me.”

The porter took the message, and then came and opened the gates.

“Dominiddio says you may all come in together.”

So they threw themselves down in the armchairs of Paradise, and enjoyed
themselves for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

Surely a tale of this kind is an eloquent commentary on the mind
of the people who have preserved it. The shrewd cunning, the frank
materialism, the lavish generosity, so long as there is anything to be
generous with (“since it’s there,” they will say as they offer or use
the last of their store), are all strongly marked features among these

At the same time, the story itself suggests a curious feeling that
we have to do with Jupiter and Mercury transformed in the crucible
of Christian history and Catholic dogma. The transformation is an
instructive one in many ways, and it would be interesting to know
whether it has taken place in any other country besides Italy.


IT was old ’Drea I was talking to, this time. Andrea was my peasant
friend’s father, a small, infirm-looking man, about eighty years of
age, of great shrewdness and penetration. We were sitting in the little
kitchen garden beside the bean-vines, and as we chatted his eye roamed
continually over the valley and the hills beyond, with the expression
of one accustomed to render an account to himself of all he saw. He
told me of his life as foreman to the great landowner of that part of
the country; of his journeyings from one outlying farm to another, to
collect the half of the farm-produce which is the due of the owner
of the soil; of his experiences as head forester down in Maremma; of
the power of the priests in his young days, the days of the Archduke
Peter Leopold. “Why in those days,” said he, “two lines from the parish
priest would send a man to the galleys for eight years without trial.
There were Giovanni and Sandro, lived opposite the post office, in that
house with a railing—you know it?—well, they’re old men now; but
they have each served their eight years as convicts, nobody ever knew

At last he asked me if I should like a story. ’Drea was a well-known
story-teller and improviser, so I said nothing would please me better,
and he began[3]:—

       *       *       *       *       *

Once upon a time there was a knight who had three beautiful daughters.
Now this knight determined to go to the Holy Land to fight for the tomb
of our Lord, but he did not know what to do with his three daughters.
At length a friend said:—“Build a tower for them,” and the idea was
such a good one that he adopted it. He had a tall tower built, with
three bedrooms and a sitting-room at the top of it; he locked the door
at the foot and provided his daughters with a basket and a long rope
with which to draw up their food. Then he gave each girl a diamond
ring, and said:—

“So long as you are good, the diamonds will be bright and victorious,
but if you do wrong I shall find them dull on my return.”

So he went away to fight the Saracens.

A little while after he had gone, the eldest daughter going to draw up
the basket one morning, saw a poor man down below shivering with cold.

“Oh, sisters,” she said, “look at that poor man: shall we draw him up
and feed him and warm him?”

“Do as you like,” said they; “we won’t be answerable for the results.”

So the girl bade the man get into the basket, drew him up, made a
blazing fire, warmed him thoroughly, and gave him some dinner.

“Now you must go,” she said after a time, “you are warm, you have been
fed, you have rested; what more do you want?”

“I must have supper with you.” To that the girl agreed, and then again
told him to go away.

“I must sleep with you to-night,” said he.

Well, the girl did not know what to do, so she submitted.

The next morning after breakfast, the second daughter said to the man:—

“Now be off, we’ve had enough of you.”

“No, I am going to stay to dinner”: and after dinner it was:—“No, I am
going to stay to supper,” and after supper the same thing as before.

The next day it was the third sister’s turn. Now the younger sisters
are always more cunning than the elder ones, and this was no exception
to the rule.

As before, the man stopped to breakfast, dinner and supper; but after
supper the girl went to her room, saying to him:—“Wait till I call

Now the tower had been built in a hurry and the floors were of plank
only, not of brick or stone. Of this the maiden took advantage. She
raised three or four planks just inside the door and then called:—“My
light’s out, come and light it.”

The man ran to do so, but fell down the hole to the bottom of the
tower; and as it was a high one he was killed by the fall.

The next morning the three sisters looked at their rings, but only that
of the youngest was bright, the others were dull and clouded.

“What shall we do?” said the girls.

“I’ll tell you,” said the youngest; “we’ll sit all in a row, and pass
my ring from one to another so cleverly that nobody shall notice.”

Presently their father came back. They did as their sister advised, and
he was quite satisfied. Then they all went home to live in their old
house and had a merry time of it.

One day, as the eldest was looking out of the window she saw the king’s

“Ah, what a handsome man,” said she. “If he were to marry me I would
make, in one day, enough bread to last the court for a year.”

These words were repeated to the baker; he married her and she managed
to keep her promise.

A little while afterwards the second daughter was looking out of window
when she spied the king’s pastry-cook.

“How I should like to marry that fine-looking man,” said she. “I would
make enough cakes in a day to last a year.”

As before, the words were repeated; the girl had her wish, and managed
to keep her promise.

But the third daughter saw the king’s son, and said, “If the king’s son
were to marry me I would bring him three children, two boys and a girl,
each with the red cross of a knight on his chest.”

This saying was repeated to the prince who married the girl and almost
immediately afterwards became king. But he had not been king long
before a terrible war broke out, and he had to leave his bride and go
far away to fight. He put her under the charge of his mother, with
strict injunctions that he should receive information as to whether his
wife had kept her promise or not. Now the queen-mother was a wicked
woman, who hated her daughter-in-law because she was not a princess
by birth, but only the daughter of a poor knight; and the two elder
sisters also hated the queen, being jealous of her, because they had
to bow before her and do her homage. So these three women consulted
together, and sent for a wicked witch to help them injure the poor
queen. The queen had three children as she had promised, two boys and
a girl, each with the red cross of a knight on his chest; but as soon
as they were born, the witch let three black puppies run about the
room, and took away the children and put them on the river-bank in the
forest hard by. Then she sent word to the king:—

“Your wife has brought you three black dogs.”

“Let her and them be well taken care of,” wrote he. But the witch and
the queen-mother changed the letter into:—

“Let her be walled in at the foot of the stairs, and let everyone who
goes by spit on her”; and this was done. Now we will go back to the

In the forest there lived a hermit; he heard small voices crying, went
and looked, and found the little ones. He took them to his hut, and
tended them, and they grew up like flowers, fine and strong, with the
red cross always in front.

After a time the king returned from the wars; and, when he reached his
palace, saw his wife at the foot of the stairs and heard all that had
been done to her. At first he was angry, but they persuaded him that
it was all as it should be, and he left his queen there, thin and ill.
Still he was very unhappy, and to console himself he went out hunting.
In the forest there lived a fairy, a friend of the hermit’s. She it was
who had led the hermit to the children, and now she guided the king to
the hermit’s hut. There were the children, beautiful as flowers, each
with the red cross.

“That reminds me of what my wife once said,” said he. “All come and
have dinner with me to-morrow.”

With that he went home and told what had happened. So the queen-mother
called the witch, and said:—

“What shall we do? We shall be found out.”

“No, no,” said the witch; “you leave all to me; it will be all right.”

Meanwhile the hermit had gone to ask advice from the fairy.

“You must all go,” said she. “When you come to the palace you will see
a beautiful pale woman walled in at the foot of the stairs, and you
will be told to spit on her; but you must refuse to do it. That is the
children’s mother.”

The three children and the hermit went to the palace.

“Spit on that woman,” commanded the guard.

“No,” said they all; “such a thing would be very improper.”

“Then you can’t go in,” said the soldier. And so loud a dispute arose
that the king came himself; and when he heard what was the matter, he
brought them in gladly, and made them sit down at table. Then the witch
who was there told a wicked lie.

“These children,” said she, “have said that they can bring the Sound
and Song of the Lovely Sibyl.” But they had not promised anything of
the kind.

“Very well,” said the king, “let them come back with it here.”

So the hermit and the children went away, and the eldest boy set out.

“If I am not back in seven days,” said he, “you may know that something
has happened to me.”

He rode on till he came to a hermit with a white beard sitting by the

“Where are you going?” asked this hermit.

“Well-bred people don’t put questions of that sort,” answered the
prince and passed on.

After the seven days were gone the second brother determined to try
his luck, as the first had not yet returned. He, too, met the hermit,
received the same question, gave the same answer, and rode away.

Now another seven days had elapsed, and the sister resolved to set out;
but first she asked the advice of the fairy.

“After some time you will find a white-bearded hermit,” said the fairy;
“don’t answer him as your brothers have done: tell him where you are
going, and he will help you.”

So when she reached the old man she told him about the quest on which
her brothers and herself had set out.

“Just look among my hair,” said the hermit, “and comb it. Will you?”
And when she had done so he gave her a small rod and a couple of cakes,

“Ride on till you come to a palace with two lions in front of it.
Throw the cakes to the lions and strike the door with the rod; it will
open and in the hall you will see a beautiful girl. She will tell you
what you want to know.”

So the maiden thanked the hermit and rode off. When she reached the
palace she followed the hermit’s directions and found the girl.

“Take this rod,” said she, “and go into yonder garden. There you will
find a bird which will come fluttering round your head and shoulders.
Don’t attempt to catch it, however, till it reaches your lap; then put
both hands over it quickly, hold it tightly, and it will tell you how
to free your brothers. That bird is the Sound and Song of the Lovely

The maiden went into the garden and sure enough the bird came
fluttering round her as though asking to be caught. But she did not
attempt to touch it till it had settled in her lap; then she held it
fast with both hands, and the bird said:—

“All these statues you see round you were once men. Those two there are
your brothers. Go and touch them with the rod you hold in your hand.”

The maiden did as she was bid; her brothers returned to life and they
all went away together, carrying the bird with them. When they reached
home the fairy said:—

“To-morrow you must go to court. Put the bird in a box and carry it
with you; and when the king asks for it, put it on the table, that it
may declare the wickedness of the dowager-queen, and the innocence of
your mother.”

So the next day the three went to the palace and were invited to dine
with the king. There were the queen-mother and the witch also present.

“Ah,” said the latter sneeringly, “you’ve kept your promise finely,
haven’t you?”

“Certainly we have,” they answered.

“Why,” said the king, “where is the bird?”

They opened the box, and the Sound and Song of the Lovely Sibyl flew on
to the table and told the whole black tale of deceit.

Then the queen-mother was burnt in the great public square, and the
witch in a smaller square; but the children’s mother was crowned queen
again amid the shouts of the people, and her husband and her children
loved her dearly.

       *       *       *       *       *

“So,” concluded old ’Drea, “innocence triumphs over vice.”


THIS story was told me by a woman who lives here in Genoa during the
winter, but goes up into the mountains for the summer. She says she is
quite sure it is true: “_ma poi non lo so_.” I wish I could tell it as
well as she did:—

       *       *       *       *       *

Not far from the villa where she goes in the summer, a stream makes a
pool where the women go to do their washing. The pool is surrounded by
stones and rocks, and once when the women were washing they noticed a
very large snake (_biscia_) gliding among the rocks. They watched him
and saw that at a certain place he stopped, put something down behind
a stone, and went away. The women went to look, and found his poison
like two little horns. In the evening he came back, went to the place
where he had hidden his fangs, found them, and fixed them in position
again. This happened several days in succession, until one of the
women suggested that they should steal the poison-fangs, and see what
happened. So the next day they took them into the house with them, and
stood at the window to watch the _biscia_. When he came back and could
not find his poison fangs, he gave every sign of the utmost surprise;
he looked again and again behind the stone where he had left them, as
though to say:—“This was certainly the place!” He examined all the
stones round the pool, and at last, hissing with rage, began to dash
his head against the stones. And the women were watching him all the
time from the window. After a while he was so overcome with despair
that he gave his head an extra hard knock and split open his skull so
that he died.


THIS that I am going to tell you now, the old woman went on, happened
when my great grandfather was a little boy. My grandfather used to tell
it to my father before he left his native place to marry my mother; for
my mother had no brothers, so my father came to live in her country.
When my great grandfather was quite young, all the children used to be
called in from the streets at sundown, lest they should be frightened
by the black horse and his rider who for some time tormented that part
of the country. This is the story of the ghost:—

       *       *       *       *       *

There was in that village a man named Pomo, who was so lazy that he did
not like to work; so he said:—

“I’ll go for a doctor.”

So he went into other districts where no one knew him, and said that he
could heal people. But instead he only made them die all the more; and
at last he died too. One evening soon after his death, his relations
were sitting quietly in their house when they heard a great noise, and
looking out, saw all the air full of crows. This went on for several
evenings; the house was surrounded by these birds, which flew hither
and thither cawing loudly, and then vanished.

At last one evening there were no crows, but they suddenly heard a
great clattering of hoofs in the street. They went to the window and
looked out and saw a terrible black horse with a man riding on him. The
horse came to the doorsteps, put his nose down to the ground, and stood
there some time, while the man looked imploringly at the terrified
people, but did not speak.

The next evening the horse came again. This time he stood on the
threshold, with his nose against the door, but the man did not speak.
In the morning the people went to tell the _parroco_ and beg him to
save them from the devil, for they were sure the black horse could be
no other. The _parroco_ lived some way off, but he said:—

“If the horse comes to-night, call me at once, and I will see if I can
help you.”

That night as soon as the hoofs were heard someone ran off to the
_parroco_, and the rest huddled into the kitchen so that they might not
see the dreadful sight.

But the horse came upstairs, and stood there close by the fire with his
nose on the ground and the man hid his face on the horse.

As soon as they heard him coming up the people were so frightened that
they jumped out of window, all but one very old woman who feared the
fall more than the horse.

Just then the priest came and asked the man, in the name of God, what
he wanted. The man answered:—

“I want mass said for me, that I may have rest in the lowest part of

“Well,” said the priest, “I will say it to-morrow.”

“You must say it at midnight, with your back to the altar,” answered
the man, “and if you make a single mistake you will have to go to hell
along with me.”

“I’ll do it for you,” said the priest, for he was a brave man; and with
that the horse and man went away. But when they got among the chestnut
trees there was a great noise, and flames of fire; and so the horse and
rider vanished. Well, the next day the _parroco_ tried to get someone
to serve the mass, but he had great difficulty, as everyone was afraid
of making a mistake and getting carried off to hell; but at last he
persuaded a priest to help him, and towards midnight the two went to
the church. The horse and rider stood in the entrance of the west
door, and the two priests read mass, with their backs to the altar.
They got through without mistake and the devil and the condemned soul
disappeared and were never seen again; but the priest who had served
the mass was taken up stiff and dumb with terror, and it was many weeks
before he could speak again. The _parroco_ was less affected; but
there was a strange glitter in his eyes for some days; and it was long
before he could trust himself to talk of that night.

       *       *       *       *       *

These stories of demon-steeds are not uncommon in the South. A notable
one is that of the terrible “Belludo” of The Alhambra, which Washington
Irving uses with such grim effect in his book on the old Moorish pile.



I HAD left Clementina and the little ones behind me, and had moved
further up among the Apennines to a village which, perched on a low
hill, overlooks the river and the winding valley. The summits of the
mountains all around rise bare and scarped from dark pine and ash
woods, while their bases are clothed with chestnuts. Many a long line
of soldiers have the villagers seen marching up the valley on the
other side of the river which flows at their feet: for the pass is an
important one, being the high road from Tuscany into the Modenese.
Napoleon III. and Victor Emmanuel rode through it side by side, and old
men still relate how the village turned out to salute Emperor and King
as they went by. The great Napoleon lives too, in the recollection of
the country people, for he drew many soldiers from all the districts
round for his “Summer Excursion to Moscow.” One cannot vouch, however,
for the historical exactitude of some of the stories concerning him.
One old woman, for instance, whose husband had saved himself on the
ill-fated expedition by cutting open a horse and getting inside it,
firmly believed that _le petit Caporal_ had perished miserably at
Moscow, pickled in a barrel of salt!

Nor are more ancient historical associations wanting. At a very
little distance lies the village of Gavinana where the lion-hearted
Francesco Ferruccio, trying to burst through the mountains from Pisa
to the relief of Florence, was betrayed in 1530 to the Prince of
Orange. Captured in the battle which ensued, and carried, covered with
wounds which must have been fatal, into the market-place before the
Imperialist leader, he was there stabbed to death in cold blood, and
expired with the exclamation:—“It is a noble thing to kill a dead man!”

In still more ancient times Catiline passed up the valley when trying
to force the Apennines; and the public square bears the name of Piazza
Catilina in honour of the monster whom Sallust took so much pains to

Legends of classical Italian literature, too, still linger here. An inn
in the village is called the “Cappel d’Orlando”—(Orlando’s Hat)—after
Ariosto’s famous hero; and a conical-shaped hill on the other side of
the valley bears the same name. I asked one of my peasant acquaintances
why it was so called, and who Orlando was. The answer was amusing as
showing the country conception of the temper and achievements of a

“Orlando,” said the woman, “was a warrior, who rode about looking for
someone to fight with. When he came to the top of that hill, he reined
in his horse so violently to avoid falling over the precipice that
the animal’s hoof sank deep into the rock, and the print can still be
seen. He took a tremendous leap from the top of the hill down into the
village below, but he left his hat behind him. It was afterwards found,
and the place was then called Cappel d’Orlando.”

Another informant evidently attributed to Orlando the time-annihilating
hat for which Carlyle sighs so vainly; for she added to the original
story a rider, saying that Orlando, after his marvellous leap, went to
Gavinana and was killed fighting against Ferruccio.

Remembrances of an older classical literature than Ariosto abound
also. The Muses, Helicon, Troy, are common words among these peasants,
whether in speech or in song.

As is mostly the case in Tuscany, the country people are devout; that
is to say, they go to mass on Sundays, firmly believe in miracles, and
miracle-working images, and are fond of walking in procession. The
church of Cutigliano, the village in which I was staying, rejoices
in the possession of the entire skeletons of two saints, and of
two valuable palladiums—a Madonna which preserves the place from
epidemics, and a crucifix which regulates the supply of rain.

On the Feast of the Madonnina, the first of the palladiums is carried
in state through the village, the peasants flocking in from all the
hamlets near to join in the procession and chant their Ave Marias.
The figure is of wood, highly painted, dressed in light blue robes,
ornamented with tinsel, and with rings and rosaries on the outstretched

“Did you see my nosegay right in front?” said my landlady that evening.
“It was the best there. I love that Madonnina; she saved us from the
cholera and from diphtheria. They came right to the foot of the hill,
but did not touch us.”

“And it was the Madonnina that saved you?” I asked.

“Of course. We took her in procession through the village, and where
she passed there was no illness. It’s like the uncovering of the

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Oh, don’t you know? There’s a crucifix in the church; and when it
rains and rains, and the chestnuts are spoiling, we uncover it, and
then the rain stops at once.”

“Why does it stop when you uncover the crucifix?” I rejoined.

“Oh, Gesú likes it to be uncovered.”

“Then why don’t you keep it always uncovered?”

“Well, it’s not the uncovering, but the candles and prayers and incense
that Gesú likes.”

“Then Gesú must be vain,” remarked the woman’s husband, who is
something of a heretic, “and the Church says that vanity is a sin.”

Each village in the valley has its own special saint, whose feast is
the great event of the year, and is observed with more honour than any
other festival. Brass bands are borrowed from other villages which are
fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to possess them, and the peasants
flock in new dresses and bright kerchiefs to walk in procession, pray
to the saint, eat, drink, and dance. These feasts are sometimes the
occasion of amusing outcrops of the old pagan spirit. Last year, for
example, there was a quarrel between the inhabitants of this village,
and those of another, further down the valley. When Saint Celestina’s
day came round, therefore, our people determined to spite their
enemies, who honoured Saint Celestina as their special protector. Brass
bands were borrowed, fireworks bought, a huge balloon manufactured,
a ball arranged for the evening; no pains were spared, in fact, to
render the feast so attractive that even the protection of the saint
herself could not draw visitors to fill the purses of her legitimate

“But what must the saint have thought of all that?” I said, as my
informant was gloating over the clever revenge.

“The saint? Oh, she must have been delighted; she had such special
honour that year.”

Who can say that paganism is dead in this 19th century? Images, too,
and small cushion-like hearts blessed by the priest on that special
day, are supposed to be of peculiar efficacy against evil. Without the
latter, the so-called _benediction_, no mother will dress her child.

I once asked how the young women were chosen who carry the banner of
the Madonna in the procession.

“Oh, they’re chosen by lot,” was the answer.

“Then it’s no particular honour, no reward for specially good
character,” I remarked.

“But of course it is. God makes the lot fall on the one whom He
specially wishes; it’s the greatest honour a girl can have.”

On St. Nicholas’ Day, everyone flocks to a little village called Il
Melo (The Apple-tree), which worships the saint as its guardian. The
village is perched right on the ridge of a chain of hills, bowered in
apple-trees and surrounded by chestnut woods. It consists of eight
houses (including the _canonica_ or priest’s house), and a delightfully
clean whitewashed church. Outside the church is a large cross of black
wood, which the more rigorous kiss before entering; for it was left
them, long years back, as the story goes, by a saint-like friar who
journeyed through the land preaching to the people.

The Feast of St. Nicholas occurring shortly before I left Tuscany, I
resolved to see what was to be seen, and passed the previous night
at a farm-house, which, lying higher than my village, was somewhat
nearer to the scene of action. A magnificent thunder-storm rendered
sleep impossible, and lit up the surrounding hills with wondrous
beauty. The next morning was bright and fresh with dripping leaves and
mist-wreathed hills, and I started early for the Melo with a peasant
friend and my landlord’s son. Our party was soon materially increased,
however, for we emerged from the chestnut woods on to the road just
as a band of men, with three horses, bound for the same village, were
passing the farm-house. They were charcoal burners, and the horses were
those poor thin beasts which make their way along impossible roads
up and down the mountains, loaded with two great sacks of charcoal.
Everything was changed to-day, however. The men were not “in black,” as
_Punch_ has it. They wore clean shirts, and bright ties, and carried
their best coats flung over their arms. The horses, also, no longer
carried charcoal: a single sack, knobbly with parcels for various
farm-houses, or with things to be sold at the fair, lay across the
pack-saddle, and was tied down with a rope.

“Get up, Signorina,” said my friends. “It’s a long way to the Melo, and
you’ll be tired.”

“This last horse is quite safe,” said the man, “and there’s nothing
that can hurt in the sack.”

It certainly did not look inviting, but I determined to try,
nevertheless. So the horse was made to stand by a stone wall, and up I
got; on the wrong side, of course—there was no help for that.

The road was like all hillside roads; now up, now down, now of large
slippery stones, now of loose rolling small ones; and when the horse
took to making glissades down the former and catching his feet in
the latter, I did not find a knobbly charcoal sack, without pommel,
stirrup, or bridle, the most pleasant of pleasant seats. However I held
on bravely by the wooden front of the pack-saddle, and saved my legs if
I exercised my arms and back. A curious procession we must have made,
winding through the woods to the music of a concertina with which one
of the men intended to provide for the dancing.

When we reached the Melo we found that we were among the first
arrivals. In the one street there were two stalls covered with
brightly-coloured cakes and sweets; a basket of villainous-looking
pears sold by a villainous-looking man; a couple of baskets of figs;
and a couple of men with steel-yards selling peculiar wafer-like cakes
known as _cialde_. Visitors had not arrived yet, however, and to pass
the time we sauntered into the church where mass was going on. Towards
the end, a man brought round the collection-box and a plate of bits of
round baked dough. My companion took two or three of these, putting his
penny into the bag at the same time, and handed me a couple.

“What are they?” I asked.

“St. Nicholas’ bread. They have been blessed by the priest. Put one of
them outside the window when it rains, and no hail will come. Keep them
in your bedroom and you’ll never be ill.”

The village was beginning to look more lively now, for it was getting
near eleven, the time for high mass. The peasant women were resplendent
in new dresses made for the occasion; some of them even indulged in
velvet trimming and dress-improvers, to the undisguised admiration of
the swains, and the envy of their less fortunate sisters. They all wore
their gayest kerchiefs, generally of fine silk, tied tightly over their
well-pomaded hair. Many of the younger women, too, had huge bows of
common ribbon, tinsel flowers, and paper lace, boldly displayed in the
very middle of the chest. It would have been impossible to wear them at
the neck, of course, for they would have been partly hidden by the chin
and the kerchief ends. The young men evidently considered grey the
correct thing to wear; but they enlivened it by sticking jauntily into
their hat-bands flowers and sprays of tinsel of the most amazing forms
and colours. Of course everybody talked to everybody, and I was closely
questioned by one old woman after another, as to my nationality,
family, occupation, etc., etc.

High mass over, the crowd was speedily sucked in by the various houses,
and the most important part of the day’s business, the feasting,
began. My landlord took us to the house of one of his friends, a keen
sportsman who had just returned from the low-lands of the Maremma to
settle again in his native place. The phrase “Nature’s gentleman,”
has grown too commonplace for use nowadays; but it is the only
expression which gives an exact description of our host. He was a
tall, finely-built man, small-flanked, broad-chested, with grey, bushy
hair, thinnish brown face, aquiline nose, bright intelligent brown
eyes, and a peculiar grace in every movement. One of his two daughters
(hard-working girls, both of them) had all his classical ease of
motion, and a winning suavity and urbanity of voice and manner, that
made one envy the clowns she was addressing. The blood of some superior
race seemed to reveal itself also in the fine figure, clean-cut
features, and wide intelligent grey eyes shaded by thick black hair, of
the youngest son.

Our host told us stories of the Maremma. He had once been a thriving
farmer there, so he said, but American competition was proving too much
for Italian agriculture, burdened as this last is with heavy taxes; and
in the last years of his stay there it had not paid him even to reap
the crops: he had let them lie rotting on the ground. He told us, too,
of the terrible fever, and the terrible remedies by which it used to be
combated. He had had as many as fifty leeches on the pit of his stomach
at once, in one bad attack. Then he and my landlord began to relate
tales of the experiences of their common shooting expeditions in past
times, and our host fell on an incident of quite mediæval colouring. He
was travelling once with a friend and his wife, he said, in the days
before railroads. His friend was taken ill on the road, and on their
arrival at the inn where they intended to pass the night, asked for
some broth.

“Certainly not,” was the answer; “no broth on Friday or Saturday at my
house, however ill you are.”

So the poor man said, Well, he would go to bed, and see what rest
would do for him. To his horror he found he was to be separated from
his wife, who was assigned a room on the opposite side of the inn. He
rebelled, saying he was ill and wanted her care; but mine host was
inexorable; to-day was Friday, he repeated, and on that day it was the
rule, in his house, that the men should sleep on one side and the
women on the other.

There were about a dozen people at table with us. The men ate with
their hats on, and began by asking for a “very little” of everything.
Then the hostesses (the two pretty daughters) would press them, would
push meat on their plates by force, would fill their glasses with
a struggle, and beg them not to make _complimenti_. They finished
by doing full justice to the fare. It was indeed such as to invite
justice, being well-cooked, well-served, and with all the appointments
of the table clean if very rough. The profusion was truly barbaric.
There were seven courses, with fruit and excellent coffee, served after
the fashion of the place in glasses, to finish off with. I entertain to
this day an astonished admiration for those simple peasant women, who
cooked all that dinner without help, who yet found time to go to mass
and take a short walk in the village in their best clothes, and who did
the honours of their table with such inborn grace, without haste, or
flurry, or bustle.

We had scarcely finished dinner when a little girl came to ask me if I
would care to hear some improvisation. My companion and I went into a
house close by and found a small party assembled round a bright-eyed,
good-looking woman. She was said to have “raised the glass a little”—a
Tuscan euphemism for having been somewhat assiduous at the wine-flask.
She had not drunk enough to make her foolish, but just sufficient
to make her sing. And sing she did; _stornello_ after _stornello_,
composing words and music as she went on; singing with that curious
monotonous drawl at the end of the verses, which all visitors to
Tuscany know so well. She had a fine voice, and could become quite
dramatic on occasion, as when she was describing the thunder-storm of
the night before, and how she had awaked to find her bed soaked by the
rain. She had to sing in church afterwards, however, and wanted to save
her voice; so we left her and wandered into the fields till it was time
for mass and procession.

After these were over I sat down at the door of one of the houses
to watch the crowd surging on the little open space which served as
piazza. Everybody was pushing, laughing, joking, and getting very
hot in the blazing sun and the dust. Near me a small acquaintance of
mine was shouting himself black over a basket of figs which he was
selling, if I remember rightly at ten a halfpenny; further on, the
villainous-looking pear-seller was alternately crying his ware and
devouring it before the eyes of the people, to prove how good it was;
“lying pears” (_pere bugiarde_) the kind is called in Italian, but it
was not the pears but the man that lied. The dominant voice, however,
was that of one of the “_cialde_” sellers. Upright against the corner
of the last house, steelyard in hand, this man had adopted a kind of
recitative which pierced the shouts of the others by its more musical

“_An’iamo Giovinotti! An’iamo Giovinotti! da quelle buone cialde, O——

Many of the people went off to a meadow near, to dance to the music of
the concertina, and we, tired, hot and dusty, set out on our walk home
through the cool, fresh chestnut woods.


BEPPE was the eldest son in a little farm-house hidden among the
chestnut woods that clothe the Tuscan Apennines above Pistoia. His
younger brother, Sandro, was already married, and it was decided that
Beppe, too, must take a wife. Another daughter-in-law was wanted in
the house. There really were not enough hands, now that wood must be
stacked, fields dug, and fodder prepared ready for the winter. Moreover
the chestnut harvest was approaching, and too many girls must be hired
unless there were someone else in the family to help with the work.
So Beppe, resigning himself to his fate with all the stolidity that
breathed from his broad, square-cut shoulders and short bull-neck, set
to work to find someone to court. His choice fell on a highly-coloured,
energetic woman, well known through all the country-side as an
indefatigable worker. He bought her a fairing, had the banns published,
and married her in three weeks.

I had been passing a few days in the farm-house, and now received
most pressing invitations to be present at the wedding. The guests
were first to assemble, at about eight o’clock, in the bride’s house;
then after a slight refreshment, _rinfresco_, to go all together to
the church in the village hard by, and thence to return to the Cavi,
Beppe’s home, to dinner at about midday.

The bride lived some miles away, in a little hamlet perched nearly
on the top of the mountain-ridge. The roads were in many places mere
mule-tracks through the wood, and it was doubtful if I could get a

“Come to the Cavi, Signorina,” said Beppe; “sleep there, and come out
with us next morning. I’m sure my bride won’t be jealous.”

I hardly supposed she would; still, I did not accept the invitation.

At five o’clock, therefore, on the eventful morning, a donkey, which
had been with some difficulty procured for the occasion, was led round
to our door by a boy who boasted the romantic name of Poeta, and off we
set: my landlord with his gun across his shoulder; his son, in all the
glory of black clothes, bright tie, and heavy watch-chain; a peasant
woman who had constituted herself my companion, and myself.

We wound higher and higher in the ever-freshening morning air, between
hedges gay with autumn berries, until, just below the Cavi, we halted
to await the arrival of the bridegroom and his family. First of all
they were not dressed—their new clothes tried them, it appeared—and
then the bridegroom had forgotten the ring, and must go back across the
fields to get it.

We waited for him by a little lonely shrine under a chestnut-tree.
The woods which clothed the slopes of the opposite mountains were
still hushed in the cold grey-blue of early dawn. Suddenly the scarped
precipices and lonely peaks above them were illuminated, as though from
within, by wondrous rose-coloured fire, and hung there like some great
glowing amethyst between the cold sky above and the cold woods below.
Then, as we continued to gaze, the glorious hope was transformed, and
merged into the common life of the new day.

Joined at last by the bridegroom, we had a long but most picturesque
expedition up a torrent bed, through rocks and woods of infinite
variety. The jokes that enlivened it were hearty, if not too refined.
They were the sort of jokes Shakespeare’s clowns might have made; and,
indeed, it often seemed as if the characters of some old play were come
to life, and were moving and talking around me.

The bride’s house was reached a few minutes after eight o’clock. It was
a small one-storied cottage at the farther end of a higgledy-piggledy
hamlet. At the foot of the steps which led up to the door stood a man
with a remarkably fine white beard, holding a thick stick in his hand.
This was the Guardian of the Bride, and he resolutely refused to let
anyone enter. A loud altercation arose; Beppe opened his big green
umbrella, and, spinning it round above his head, tried to push by;
my landlord tried to force his way with his gun; but it was not till
pantomime and dialogue had grown fast and furious that the guardian
gave the word, and the bride appeared framed in the dark doorway above
us. Her rosy face was shadowed by her white bridal kerchief, and in her
hands she carried bunches of flowers, which she smilingly distributed
by way of welcome.

The door opened straight into the kitchen, where the _rinfresco_ was
laid. When my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, and my ears to
the sound of many voices, I found myself surrounded by a crowd of
women, who were questioning me, as usual, on my most intimate personal
affairs. “Are you married or single?” was the first and all-important
question. “Where do you come from?” “When are you going back to
England?” The questions followed each other fast and thick, as the
women looked at me with strange curiosity written in their eyes. I very
soon managed to turn the conversation on to their own family affairs,
however; and taking into my lap a delicate, fair-haired child, who
looked slight and flower-like indeed in that smoke-browned room and
among those sunburnt faces, set them talking with much gesticulation
and great volubility of feeling about the little thing’s illness. They
were afraid she would have been lame. “But she’s better now, and will
grow into a strong woman yet, _se Dio vuole_,” they ended, as, smiling
down upon her, they turned away to give their attention to the business
of the day.

The whole party, some forty in number, now proceeded to the
_rinfresco_. On the coarse, clean table-cloth lay great hunks of
excellent brown, home-made bread, each piece about the size of an
ordinary loaf. These were eaten with slices of raw ham about a
quarter of an inch thick. After the bread and ham appeared huge
pieces of _schiacciata_, a country cake made of the ordinary dark
flour, flavoured with anise, and put to rise like bread. After the
_schiacciata_, small cheeses were produced, and, lastly, piles of
wafer-like biscuits (_cialde_). Meanwhile drinking had been going
on freely. In the middle of the table stood two gigantic bottles of
country wine, while smaller flasks were passed merrily about. When full
justice had been done to the wine, a light liqueur called _rinfresco_
was drunk out of small glasses, as well as another liqueur, the reverse
of light, consisting, we are told, of rum and gin, or rum and brandy.

After everyone had thus turned this “slight refreshment” into a hearty
meal, the whole party set out for the church, which was at Rivoreta, a
village some little distance off. I was walking ahead with my peasant
companion and one of the men. This man had been carefully provided
with halfpennies, as to the use of which I was hazarding various
surmises. We had not gone many steps before we found the road barred by
a rope, over which were hung the brightest of coloured kerchiefs.

“What is that for?” I asked.

“They have made the barrier,” was the answer; “the bride must pay to go

So the man who was with us, the bride’s forerunner, paid a halfpenny,
the rope dropped and on we went. This was repeated several times, the
barriers forming charming streaks of colour under the overarching trees
and against the grey stone of the cottages, until the bride had finally
passed from the little hamlet where she had lived her maiden life.

In due time we reached the church, and the ecclesiastical ceremony was
performed. As for the civil marriage, the peasant mind still regards
that as a superfluity which can be gone through or not, according to
the convenience of the parties concerned.

I was much struck here by the good feeling shown by this ignorant,
illiterate bride. Beppe’s father and hers had had some hot words on
the subject of the dowry, and the former had sworn that he would not
be present at the wedding. Being an obstinate old man he stuck to his
word, though he could not resist the temptation of accompanying the
party. Near the bride’s hamlet he began to complain of a bad foot,
sat down by the roadside, and absolutely refused to go farther. At
the church door he placed himself on a stone under the trees, and no
amount of persuasion would induce him to enter the sacred building.
This incident cast a gloom over the whole proceedings, but the bride
was not to be daunted. When she and Beppe, now man and wife, came out
of the church, she went straight up to him, took his two hands in hers,
kissed him, and looking pleadingly up at him, called him by the pretty
Italian name “Babbo.” The old man was mollified, and walked back much
more cheerfully than he had come; though we have since heard that his
vindictive obstinacy (a strongly marked trait in the peasant character)
was by no means conquered, and that much ill-will exists between the
two families.

Rivoreta is a delightfully clean, breezy hamlet, consisting of about
half a dozen houses, a whitewashed church, and an airy _canonica_,
opening on to a small piazza, paved with white cobble stones. The snowy
whiteness of the buildings and the pavement, throwing up the bright
colours of the women’s kerchiefs and dresses, the whole shut in by
embowering chestnuts, formed a picture not likely to be soon forgotten.

The ceremony over, the guests repaired to the one wine-shop of the
place to consume more wine and rum; and as this and the priest’s
breakfast (for Don Tito was going with us) took some time, it was
getting late ere the long procession started for the Cavi. First went
two women with large round baskets on their heads; this was the bride’s
trousseau. The bride and bridegroom should have followed next; but as
the donkey resolutely refused to play second fiddle, and the way was
long, etiquette was thrown to the winds, and we moved on in a merry,
haphazard crowd. As soon as the meadow that lies between the woods and
the Cavi was reached, however, the bride and bridegroom headed the
procession, both with hanging heads; he sheepishly playing with the
cheap watch-chain he had bought at the fair, she trying to carry off
her embarrassment by smiles, making heroic efforts to be natural in her
words and movements.

Beppe’s mother was “discovered” watching at the door of the farm-house.
She now came running across the field with outstretched arms, according
to prescribed custom, welcomed her new daughter-in-law with a kiss on
both cheeks, and led her into her new home.

It was now midday. A man-cook and a woman-cook had been hired from
the village below and were already hard at work, but the tables had
been put before the house on the threshing-floor, and were in the sun;
besides, there was not enough room at them, for more guests had come
than were expected, and numbered altogether quite fifty. So everyone
set to work to help, the tables were carried behind the house on to the
grass in the fretwork of light and shade under the chestnut-trees;
planks were added to make them longer, and before long everything was
ready for dinner. I should not like to say of how many courses that
dinner consisted, nor how much the peasants ate and drank, but I know
that, of everything that was provided, there was not a crumb of bread

The bride and bridegroom were of course placed at the head of the
table. She tried to assume an air of indifference; he to make up
for his want of appetite and to prime himself to face the assembled
company, by assiduity at the wine-flask. Signs, in fact, were not
wanting that, however much the marriage may have been originally one of
convenience, the passion which sleeps in blood warmed by Italian sun
and enriched by the odours of the forest, had been thoroughly roused by
the events of the day and the pungent jests of the guests.

I was placed next to the bridegroom, between him and the sharp-faced,
humorous-looking priest, and from this coign of vantage could survey
all the table. Our friend with the white beard distinguished himself
especially; continually interrupting himself, however, to cry “_Viva
gli Sposi!_” Then the whole company would clap their hands and cry
“_Evviva gli Sposi_” in their turn; only there were some who complained
that Il Rosso (the man had been red-haired originally) seemed to have a
spite against them, and always called the _Evvivas_ just when they had
their glasses in their hands.

But he was sly, this Rosso. He would call “_Viva gli Sposi_,” and set
the whole table clapping vigorously, and then add as an after-thought,
“and the one who married them,” or, “and the one next the _padre_”;
whereupon Don Tito or myself would have suddenly to leave off clapping,
drop our eyes with all due modesty, and thank the assembled company.

Towards the end of the dinner Il Rosso began to hum.

“Will he improvise?” I asked the priest.

“No doubt he will, both he and his father are noted for it; but not
yet, he has not raised the glass often enough.”

After a little while, however, Il Rosso, feeling himself sufficiently
well primed, came to the head of the table. Silence was proclaimed, and
he sung a _stornello_ in honour of the bride and bridegroom, wishing
them the usual good things of this life; children to help them with
their work, and plenty to eat and drink. He was followed by a little
excitable woman with a strident voice, much admired by her audience,
who had already sung once at the bride’s house during the _rinfresco_.
Her one form of dramatic action consisted in thumping the table with
her closed fist.

Dinner being over, a few of the favoured guests were invited into
the parlour to take coffee—coffee with rum in it, that is; black
coffee alone is not approved of. The rest lounged about the fields
and chestnut woods for a time, but by about five most of them were on
their way home. They all came and shook hands most heartily as they
went away, with a:—“Do come and see me”; for they are most hospitable
people, and would beg you to share their last crust of bread with them.
“_Vuol favorire_” is the phrase you hear from child or grandmother, if
you happen to drop in on them while they are eating.

The guests, having cows and heifers to be seen to before nightfall,
set out home through the cool of the chestnut woods; and we, with our
donkey and its poetical driver, quietly dropped down the rock-paved
road, past the acacia hedges to the village below. The beauty of
rock, forest, and torrent had passed into our souls, and I thought
wonderingly of the strange mixture of the idyllic and the realistic in
the scenes of which this nature had been the setting; of the frankness
mingled with reserve, open-heartedness with shrewdness, hospitality
with a tendency to critical carping that form the characteristics of
this most attractive peasant population.[5]


THE sky, “stripped to its depths by the awakening North,” is of that
peculiarly limpid clearness which only the _tramontana_ brings with it;
the sun’s rays, penetrating with their full force through the pure, dry
atmosphere, are as warm and genial as those of Eastertide. Yet it is
mid-winter, and we are going to witness a thoroughly winter occupation;
the making of the olive-oil in a villa at a little distance out of

Leaving the tram at the foot of the hill, we climb for about
three-quarters of an hour through vineyards in which the fresh green
of the springing wheat contrasts hopefully with the knotted, bare
vine branches. The slopes around us are clothed with olives, whose
grey-green is thrown into relief by the austere rows of cypresses in
the distance, and the spreading tops of the pine-trees on the further

At last, on a ridge between two valleys, we sight the square
twelfth-century tower of the villa in question; the remainder of the
building dates from the fourteenth century. The heavy grating of the
lower windows, the picturesque archway leading to the square, paved
courtyard, the little garden on one side, with its olive-tree bending
over the grey wall towards the road below—all breathe an almost
cloistered quietness. _Parva domus magna quies_,[6] runs the legend
sculptured in black letters on grey marble over the house door.

Nothing clashes in this villa. The present proprietor, with his
antiquarian and artistic tastes, and his love of Latin inscriptions,
has produced a rare welding of past with present. On one side of the
entrance gate, for instance (whose columns, be it noticed, are crowned
with two bombs, probably French, from Elba), another inscription,
unearthed during the excavation of some Roman villa, offers rest to
those who are justly indignant at the world’s perfidy:

       jovi hospitali
       o quisquis es dummodo honestus
         si forte
       pessimos fugis propinquos
       solitaria succedens domo

The same pessimistic note is struck by a third inscription over the
archway before mentioned. There we find, writ large, the following
Elban motto:

        Amici, nemici;
        Parenti, serpenti;
        Cugini, assassini;
        Fratelli, coltelli.[8]

We owe it to the owner to add that, like most people who rail against
mankind in general, he is very tender-hearted to mankind in particular.

Passing from the brilliancy of the outer air, we stumble through a
low doorway, over which, on the usual grey marble, stands printed
_Frantoio_ (crushing-house), and find ourselves in the hot, heavy
atmosphere of the oil-making room. We distinguish a low, broad archway
dividing the room into two parts, and at the further end a small
twinkling light; while nearer the entrance a lamp, swung from the roof,
enables us, after a little practice, to make out the objects around us.
The whole place is pervaded by a grey steam, sweetish yet piquant, of
the peculiar odour of the undried olive.

So great is the heat that the peasants are working without coats, and
we, too, are glad enough to lay aside our winter wraps. Looming white
through the steam, the first object that attracts our attention is the
ox that patiently turns the great stone crushing wheel. Round and round
he goes, triturating the dead oak leaves that make his path soft, while
the olives, continually poured into the circular concavity in which
the wheel moves, are quickly reduced, stone and all, to a dark-looking
pulp. The whiteness of the steam and of the ox, the creature’s lustrous
eyes as they catch the light, the dark olives pouring into the trough,
the peasants dimly visible, make up a scene likely to remain impressed
for a long while on the memory.

As soon as the crushing process is over and the ox led back to his
stall, a number of flat, circular baskets are brought, made of
rope-work, and open above and below. The lower openings having been
closed for the moment, by drawing a rope, the baskets are filled with
the pulp and piled one above another in the press. Now begins the
second part of the operation, which costs the peasants a considerable
amount of exertion.

We had noticed, near the archway, a tall pole, with a rope round it,
pierced by a crosspiece, and turning on a swivel. This rope having
been wound round the beam that works the press, and again round
another upright on the further side of the press, four peasants set to
work at the crossbar. Again and again is the press-bar drawn to the
further upright, let go, and drawn back again, while the oil flows
in an invisible stream through the pipe that leads to its destined
receptacle, which is concealed under the floor beneath a trap-door.
Every now and then the men stop and sit down on stones or on a heap
of unused baskets to mop the perspiration which streams from them in
that warm sweet atmosphere. It was during one of these pauses that they
drew my attention to the advantages of the system on which they were
working. In other villas, they said, the press-beam was wound towards
the peasants, and sometimes broke under the pressure and injured them;
but their _padrone_ had invented a method of winding it away from them,
thus freeing them from all danger in case of a breakage.

Meanwhile, at the further end of the room, by the dim yellow light
of the twinkling lamp we had already noticed, another man is busy
shovelling a rich dark-brown substance into bins against the wall. This
is the so-called _sansa_, the olive pulp from which the oil has been
expressed. “It goes down to Galluzzo (the township at the foot of the
hill),” said the man, in answer to my enquiries. “There they treat it
with sulphuric acid, and get machine-oil out of it.”

At last the pulp in the network baskets is pressed dry, the press is
unscrewed, the fresh _sansa_ shaken out ready to be shovelled into the
bins, and the various utensils that have been used plunged into the
boiling water of the cauldron that steams in one corner of the room.
The trap-door is now raised, and the oil carried across the yard to
another room, the walls of which are lined with huge red terra-cotta
vessels kept carefully closed. Into one of these the oil is poured
and left to settle, _sansa_ being heaped well up round the vessel to
maintain a high temperature within. When the oil is finally poured off
it is of a lovely golden colour, as clear and transparent as water. But
it is not destined to reach the public in this Arcadian state. Scarcely
has it left the hands of the peasants, before it is manipulated and
adulterated to such an extent that even in Florence pure olive oil is
almost unobtainable. Cotton oil, colza oil, etc., are mixed with it,
rendering it absolutely hurtful to the consumer. The Italian government
has offered prizes for the discovery of a method of exposing the
adulteration. At present no more certain way has been found than that
of Professor Bechi, a well-known Italian chemist. He treats the oil in
question with nitrate of silver, and judges of the adulteration by the
resulting coloration.

And now, business being over for this week, we are free to go and sup
with our peasant acquaintances. Crossing a second courtyard, round
which stand houses and stables for the donkeys and oxen (Italians
do not work with horses), we pass under a second archway and enter
our friend Ciuffi’s picturesque kitchen. The rough, uneven stone
floor, that looks as though it might have been washed last year,
the stout nondescript table, the chairs loaded up with every kind
of extraneous matter, the picture of the Madonna with the tiny lamp
burning before it, the rows of gaudy crockery over the sink, the cat
purring contentedly in the chimney-corner—all these are illuminated,
harmonized, almost glorified, by the caressing light of the huge
wood fire, whose flames dance and crackle under the great projecting
chimney. And beside the fire sits Ciuffi’s youngest daughter Armida,
a girl of that fair, refined type that occasionally asserts itself
startlingly among these black-haired, swarthy-complexioned peasants.
She is sitting holding the frying-pan over the fire, but the menial
occupation is forgotten as we watch the delicate poise of the head and
stretch of the arm, the exquisite Greek profile, the lustrous dark eyes
gazing dreamily into the fire, the fair wavy hair coiled into a knot
at the back, and the soft pink of the common little cotton kerchief,
which, tied with the point under the chin, is thrown up by the dark
dress, and sets off the spring of the graceful neck.

And when, the rough white cloth being spread in the visitor’s honour,
the family cluster round the mediæval oil-lamp that makes a little
ruddy blot in the darkness beyond, we are more than ever struck at the
wonderful ease and good-breeding displayed in word and movement by
these peasants who do the hardest work and live the roughest of lives.
The women especially have something indescribably lady-like about them,
as they sit eating contentedly, perhaps without any plate, or pass from
one to another one of the pocket-knives which are the only cutting
implements on the table; or, it may be, question “my man,” as to the
length of time that will be needed on the morrow to gather in the
olives from a certain part of the _podere_. The more one has to do with
these Tuscan peasants the more constrained does one feel to adopt the
cant phrase, and call them emphatically Nature’s aristocracy.


OF all my experiences among the Tuscan peasants of the Pistoiese,
none, perhaps, was more thoroughly characteristic than a three days’
visit at a farm-house just above the village I was staying in. I had
just returned from the woods with my hammock, and was feeling rather
listless in the absence of my peasant companion, when the farmer’s
wife, who happened to be in the village that day, said to me, half
joking, half in earnest:—

“Come home with me to the Cavi, Signorina; come and sleep there

I jumped at the proposal, borrowed a big kerchief from my landlady,
put a few things into it in the most approved peasant fashion, and we
started off together.

I had already been to this farm with some friends for a picnic. On
that day the people were threshing and treading the straw; and the
stone-paved _aia_ or threshing-floor before the house was bright
with the corn, and resonant with the sound of the flail. Then, when
the sun’s rays were less strong—for the peasants only thresh in the
bright sunlight—two cows and a donkey were produced, and led round
and round, knee-deep in the straw, to break it up for their winter
food. I had been much struck at the time by the extreme primitiveness
of the labour, though I could not help confessing that the swinging
flails, yellow corn, and lazily moving animals formed a very much more
picturesque contrast to the low grey stone house, and the blackness of
its three open doorways, than any threshing-machine could have done.

Nothing of the kind was going on, however, when my hostess and I
emerged from the chestnut woods on this cool September evening. The
farmer, just back from his digging in the fields,—there are no
ploughs,—was taking a meditative walk in front of the house.

He came forward to meet us, accompanied by his two dogs, and welcomed
us with much hospitable grace. One of his sons was near him, watching
the two cows graze, and at the same time lazily stripping chestnut
leaves for the creatures’ fodder off a heap of boughs he had cut.
While I was chatting to father and son, my hostess disappeared, and
presently came down again, dressed in an old petticoat, chemise, and
untidy slippers. She took up a basket of potatoes, and we both set to
work to scrape and slice some of them for supper—town people could not
possibly eat potatoes baked in their skins, she thought. As we chatted
she suddenly exclaimed:—

“See how nice it is to live in the country, Signorina!”

“Why?” I asked, curious to hear what poetical thought had been seething
in her brain.

“Well, in the village, you see, you have to wear a dress, and go all
clean and tidy, with boots on, too; but here one can go about so nice
and dirty.”

She had evidently expressed her inmost soul, for she repeated, looking
round at the blue hills, and inhaling the cool, fragrant air:—“So nice
and dirty one can be here.”

By this time it was getting towards twenty-four o’clock. Twenty-four
o’clock is a movable hour, and depends solely on the sun. In the height
of summer it is at eight o’clock, and then retrogrades by a quarter
of an hour at a time till it reaches five, when it begins to advance
again. At the end of September, when I left, _le venti quattro_ were
at half-past six. The peasants’ supper-time is regulated by this
sliding-scale, much to the disturbance of the appetite of those who are
accustomed to eat by the clock and not by the sun.

“Now come and help me cook the supper,” said my hostess, as we moved
towards the house. “See how many fine drawing-rooms I have,” she
continued, with a smile.

With that she threw open the first room, and we entered the _metato_.
This is the drying room and storehouse for the chestnuts. The floor is
of earth, stamped hard. Above one’s head, stretching from one side
of the room to the other, and forming a sort of ceiling, are narrow
strips of wood, laid loosely side by side. On these the chestnuts are
piled just as they come from the woods, and the heat and smoke of the
fires which are lighted on the floor beneath, penetrating through the
interstices, dry the chestnuts and split the shells. From the _metato_
we passed through a door on the right into the second “drawing-room,”
the kitchen. This, as usual, was a large, low, raftered room, with
a small window and a big hearth. This kitchen boasted a chimney,
however, which carried away, at any rate, part of the smoke; and, more
wonderful still, there was at the back a tiny scullery, with sink and
plate-racks. For my host was a rich man; not only actual possessor of
his farm, but owner of another _podere_ higher up on the mountain-side.
Passing to the right again, and crossing a small entrance-hall, now
full of sacks of grain, we entered the drawing-room _par excellence_,
the room in which the family have their meals. This room was nearly
filled up by the huge wooden table; but there was still room for a
large cupboard with glass doors, behind which the best crockery was
displayed, while on the walls hung bad portraits, offered for my
careful inspection, of various members of the family. A dozen low
wooden steps led from the sacks of grain to the upper regions. These
consisted of four bedrooms, the plank floors of which gaped so widely
that one could see and hear everything that went on below. Everywhere,
in _metato_, kitchen, hall, parlour, and bedrooms, were coloured
prints of the Madonna or of some saint; and each bedroom contained,
in addition, a little glass box, enclosing a wax baby, surrounded
by tinsel flowers. For this is a devout family, fond of processions
and tapers. The mother lights a lamp before an image of the Madonna
every Saturday; and she told me, with delight, how she had prayed to a
certain saint when her daughter’s baby was born, intimating that that
was why the child was such a fine one.

Our business lay now, however, in the kitchen. It was already
getting dark, but a fire was blazing brightly on the hearth, with a
copper-lined cauldron suspended over it from a chain in the chimney.

“We are going to have _maccheroni_ this evening,” said my hostess. “I
rolled them out before I left home this morning. But we must cut them
first,” she added, as she produced the long strips of home-made unbaked

We accordingly cut them into pieces about an inch square, and then,
taking a pile in our hands, threw them one by one into the boiling salt
and water of the cauldron. While they were cooking we made the tomato
sauce, and the farmer grated the cheese; and by the time these were
ready, and the table laid, the _maccheroni_ could be taken off the fire.

It was now quite dark, the only light came from the dancing flames;
and the whole family, including the broad-shouldered shepherdess,
assembled in the kitchen to watch the progress of events. By the
side of the fire sat the daughter-in-law, a beautiful, fair-haired,
refined-looking woman, unswaddling her baby; in the middle of the
floor, lighted from the right by the fire, my little grey-haired
hostess was kneeling in front of the cauldron and fishing up the
_maccheroni_, which she put in layers into a huge red earthern pipkin;
and on the other side of the cauldron was the farmer with the tomato
sauce, some of which he poured into the pipkin as each layer was
completed, adding cheese, pepper and salt. Then there were the two
sons, Beppe, low-built and square-cut, and Sandro, the baby’s father,
more slender, more courteous in manner, but also more lazy; and lastly,
two dogs and two cats who prowled on the outside of the group, in eager
expectation of their supper.

The _maccheroni_ being now all transferred to the pipkin, the water
was given to the dogs and cats, and we went into the parlour to eat.
Needless to say there was no dressing for dinner. The men came in
their hats and shirt-sleeves, the women in their bright kerchiefs.
Yet certain rules of etiquette were strictly observed. The system of
_complimenti_, for instance, was carried to an extent that seemed
ridiculous to English eyes. The mother would fill the son’s plate,
he would declare he could not eat so much, she would continue
to press him, he to refuse, until the voices grew quite loud and
excited. When it came to serving the shepherdess, things came almost
to a good-natured quarrel. She was a low-built, broad-shouldered,
broad-backed girl of about fifteen, of almost gigantic strength,
who strode along in her hob-nailed shoes as though she had the
seven-leagued boots on. I was evidently a great novelty to her, for
she could scarcely eat for looking at me, and presently set the table
in a roar of laughter by coming out with a:—“No, thank you,” instead
of the usual blank “No.” Opposite to me sat Sandro with his wife and
baby. Charming indeed was it to see the way in which the young fellow
fondled and nursed the little one. When he came home from the fields,
the first thing he did was to take it in his arms, and sit down on the
doorstep in the sunlight; at supper-time he neglected himself to play
with it and feed it. There is a great fund of kindness in the Italian
character, crossed, however, by a vein of strange hard cruelty, arising
perhaps from a remarkable want of dramatic imagination. Sandro and his
wife sat side by side according to old-established custom. When a son
marries, his housekeeping amounts to this: a double-bed and a large
cupboard are put into the biggest bedroom, and husband and wife sit
next each other at table. If there are several married sons, all the
families live together until the quarrels are so intolerable as to
drive them apart.

After supper, at about a quarter past eight, all the family went to
bed. Three of the four bedrooms opened out of each other, and in the
smallest of these three, the middle one, was a single bed in which
the shepherdess usually slept. This was now reserved for me. The bed,
the Madonna, and a rickety chest of drawers, were the only furniture
considered necessary. In the room on the right slept Beppe and Sandro;
in that on the left, which one entered through a doorway guiltless
of a door, were the shepherdess and Sandro’s wife, Maria. Everyone
was in bed in half a minute; for it was summer-time, and they “slept
like beasts,” as my hostess put it, without even saying their rosary.
“Good-night,” called out Beppe and Sandro. “Good-night,” answered
everyone else, and then there was silence till between four and five
next morning.

It was hardly dawn when Sandro’s voice was heard:—“Emilia, Emilia.”
The shepherdess gave a grunt, tumbled on to the floor, and a moment
later strode fully dressed across my room, clamped downstairs and went
out. Maria slept longer, for the baby had kept her awake. As a matter
of fact, the little thing could scarcely be expected to sleep, for it
had been kept under the bedclothes all day. Italian peasant-babies
have not a very pleasant life of it. In the morning they are tightly
swaddled, put into bed under a wooden frame, and entirely covered
with the clothes. There they lie in the dark, sleeping or screaming
till about midday when they are taken up, reswaddled, fed, and put to
bed again till the evening. Then the same process is repeated, and
they are expected to sleep all night. This particular baby was washed
about twice a week, if indeed the term “washing” can be applied to the
operation. The mother sits down by the fire, and puts a glass of wine
by her. She then fills her mouth with wine, puts it out into her hand,
and rubs the baby, which screams violently.

At about eight o’clock the men came in from the fields, the cauldron
was suspended from the chain, water was boiled, and my host set to
work to make the _polenta_. The maize flour is added gradually to the
boiling water until the mixture is so thick that none but a strong man
can stir it. Then it is turned out on to a board kept for the purpose,
cut into slices with a string, and eaten smoking hot with cheese. There
are no plates, of course; all stand round and help themselves. Maize
flour, chestnut flour, lentils, cheese, and beans, are the staple food
of the peasants, with now and then a fowl to celebrate some specially
great _festa_. Milk they never seem to drink, butter they rarely make;
they use their dairy produce exclusively for cheese.

These Tuscan peasants may be called an industrious race; that is to
say, they are never entirely idle. At the same time they do not work in
such a way as to make it tiring to watch them; they take things very
easily. A strong, well-built man, for instance, will be contentedly
stripping chestnut-leaves off the branches for the cows, or leaning
against a tree watching the animals feed. In another part of the field
a woman will be taking advantage of the gusts of wind to _folare_ her
grain, that is, to complete the winnowing of it. She spreads a sheet
on the ground, empties a sack of corn on to one corner of it, fills a
heavy wooden tray with the grain, puts it on her head, and turns to
catch the wind. As soon as she feels a gust—_folata_—she lets the
corn fall in a narrow trickling stream on to the sheet; the chaff is
blown away in the descent, and the winnowing is completed. The very
poor have a terribly hard time of it, however, for they do the work of
mules and donkeys, carrying great loads of wood on their backs for many
miles over the hills; and no one thinks of mending or making roads for
them. An old woman I was once talking to told me of the huge burdens
she used to carry in her youth.

“The roads were bad then,” she said, but added naïvely, “they are
better now; they were mended for the horses.”

But to return to my hosts. On Sunday morning, the day being a _festa_,
the house received its weekly apology for a sweep, the women put on
dresses and kerchiefs, and went so far as to comb their hair, and we
started for the village, to go to Mass. It was very picturesque to
watch the parties of rosy, healthy peasant women as they came along the
road, in their bright aprons and head-gear. In one party was Beppe’s
intended bride.

“Come to Rivoreta, and see me married, Signorina,” said she. “Do come.”

And with many promises that I would do so if possible, I took leave of
my kind friends.[9]


WE may not approve of the manner in which Italy is living in her Past,
and celebrating centenaries when she ought to be setting her face
strenuously towards the Future; nevertheless, we must confess that the
Florentine fêtes a year or two back presented one historical spectacle
that was distinctly worth the trouble of reviving. We refer to the
mediæval game known as _Calcio_, or Kick, which is interesting to
English and American youths as bearing at least a superficial likeness
to Football. At the time of the fêtes it was indeed spoken of as the
Football of Florence; but it differs from Football in two ways that are
eminently characteristic of Italian character: it is more complicated
and more spectacular.

To begin with, there were twenty-seven actual players needed on each
side, besides trumpeters, drummers, standard-bearers, referees, and a
ball-thrower. Of the twenty-seven players, fifteen, divided into three
equal companies, were placed face to face with the enemy in the front
of the battle, and bore the brunt of the strife. They were called
Runners (_Corridori_) or Fronts (_Innanzi_).

Behind the three battalions of Runners were placed in loose order,
extending across the whole breadth of the field, five Spoilers
(_Sconciatori_), so called because their business was to spoil the game
for the Runners of the opposite side.

The Spoilers were supported by four Front Hitters (_Datori innanzi_);
and these again by three Back Hitters (_Datori indietro_). These Datori
may be spoken of as Half-backs and Backs.

The favourite Calcio ground in Florence was the square before the
church and convent of Santa Croce. Here the great costume matches
(_Calcio a livrea_) were held, as well as the ordinary games (not in
costume) which enlivened the cold afternoons during Carnival time.
A description of one of the costume matches at once makes clear the
fundamental difference between Calcio and Football.

The field was 100 metres long by 50 broad, enclosed top and bottom by
a palisade, on the left by a ditch, on the right by a low wall. Along
the wall were erected stands for the more honourable spectators and for
the umpires. At each end of the field was a tent round which stood the
referees, standard-bearers, etc., of their respective sides, together
with showily dressed halberdiers, who were also stationed at intervals
round the field.

The spectators being assembled, the umpires and, perhaps, some foreign
potentate or his ambassador, seated in the stand above the wall,
the grand march in of the players commenced. It was a procession of
picked men from the noblest Florentine families. For the Calcio was
an aristocratic game. It was not to be played “by any kind of scum:
not by artisans nor servants nor ignoble nor infamous men; but by
honoured soldier men of noble birth, gentlemen, and princes.” The ages
of the players ranged from eighteen to forty-five, and they were all
well-built, athletic men. They wore light shoes, long hose, doublet and
cap, and their costumes were of the most splendid material—velvet,
silk, cloth of gold or silver—for were not the brightest eyes of the
city to watch the game? Not only did each side have its own colours,
but the players had also to be dressed in the same material.

The march was opened by the trumpeters and drummers. Then came the
Runners, going in couples, and chequer fashion: a red, say, behind
a white, and _vice versâ_. The Runners were followed by nine more
drummers preceding the standard-bearers, each dressed in the colours
and bearing the flag of his side. Finally appeared the Spoilers, the
Half-Backs bearing the ball, and the Backs.

After making the round of the field the procession, at the sound of a
single trumpet-blast, split up into its component parts. Trumpeters,
drummers, referees, standard-bearers, placed themselves at the tents
of their respective sides; the Runners divided up into their companies
of five and faced each other in the centre of the field; the Spoilers
placed themselves at a distance of 13½ metres behind the Runners
and 9 metres from each other; the Half-backs 10½ metres behind the
Spoilers and 12 metres from each other; the Backs again 10½ metres
in the rear of the Half-backs and 17½ metres from each other.

A second trumpet blast, and the serving-men retired from the field; a
third, and the game began.

The Ball-bearer (_Pallaio_), in a parti-coloured dress formed of the
colours of both sides, threw the ball with great force against a
marble sign let into the middle of the wall on the right-hand side
of the field. It rebounded between the two ranks of the Runners, who
immediately rushed towards it, acting, however, not independently, but
in their companies.

The company of Runners which had possessed itself of the ball began,
of course, to work it with their feet towards the opposite goal. Now
came the turn of the Spoilers, of whom the two nearest left their
stations and ran obliquely at the advancing Runners, hustling them
and endeavouring to get the ball from them and pass it to their own
Runners, who were hovering near.

The Runners and the Spoilers worked the ball forward with their feet;
the Hitters (Half-backs and Backs) were allowed, nay, as their name
implies encouraged, to use their hands.

If the Runners succeeded in taking the ball past the Spoilers, they had
to face the onset of two Half-backs, who, if they got the ball, would
probably pitch it clear over the heads of the players to the Half-back
on the opposite side. This was considered very diverting play, and was
much appreciated by the onlookers.

Having pierced the lines of the Spoilers and Half-backs, the Runners
found themselves opposed by one of the Backs. The Backs were the
strongest men on the field, as, being placed so far apart, they were
obliged to act separately.

The ball was generally knocked, not kicked, over the goal. When this
happened the two sides changed places on the field; the winning side
marching to its new position with flag unfurled and waving, the losers
with furled flag and lowered staff.

Such is a diagram—a mere diagram, though a correct one—of the
Florentine _Calcio_. Its connection with Football evidently lies,
to adapt an expression from the vocabulary of folk-lore, in the
fundamental formula: to send a ball through a goal without the aid of
an instrument. But this formula developed differently in England and in
Florence. The traditions of the Florentines were military. Their youths
were trained to war from boyhood upward: they were accustomed to act
in bands. Has anyone ever noticed the truly military spirit in which
Dante continually combines the souls into bands, _schiere_, moving
and acting in unison? The remembrance of the disposition of the Roman
army, too, with its close and extended ranks, still lingered amongst
them. Add to this that they were a thoroughly artistic people, devoted
to spectacular effects and cunning in the planning of them, and we at
once perceive the cause of the radical difference between this most
interesting game of ancient Florence and the English Football.

Those were the times when Florentines penetrated either as merchants or
exiles, and generally as both combined, into all parts of the Peninsula
and of Europe; and they took their games with them. Matteo Strozzi’s
sons, one of whom was Filippo, the famous founder of the great Strozzi
Palace, more than once beg their mother to put balls in with linen,
etc., which she constantly despatched from Florence to her exiled
family, these balls being probably for the most energetic game of
_Pallone_, still played throughout Tuscany.

They took the _Calcio_ with them too, just as the English take their
football, cricket or tennis. Thus Tommaso Rinuccini, living at Lyons,
writes in his memoirs that: “When Henry III., King of Poland, after
the death of Charles IX. his brother, left Poland for France in 1575
to take possession of the kingdom, he passed through Lyons in France.
And the Florentines living in that city played before him a _Calcio_,
in which all the Florentine nobles took part, as it was their custom
to do. And they sent Pierantonio Bandini and Pierfrancesco Rinuccini,
two extremely handsome gentlemen and tall, both Florentines (who were
the standard-bearers in the _Calcio_), to invite his Majesty, in the
name of their native city, to be present at the celebration. King Henry
accepted the invitation and was a spectator of the game. When he spoke
to them before they left his presence he asked whether all Florentines
were as tall and handsome as they.”

It would be, indeed, well for the physical development of modern
Florentines should the _Calcio_ enter again into the ordinary life of
the youth of the city.




AN atmosphere as invisible as that of Egypt, a sea of the clearest
amethyst and emerald, merging into sapphire in the distance, and
jealously guarded by a series of frowning headlands, now grey, now
black, now red, with heart and veins of iron, that enclose miniature
beaches and mysterious grottos where the water sleeps peacefully in
the arms of its lord; and within, a sea of vines embracing the feet
of mountains clothed with pines, with lentisks that have watched the
passage of centuries, with bushes of white heather taller than a tall
man, with glaucous agaves, rigid and puritanical, with prickly pears,
fantastic and repellent; the very air of a voluptuous quality: soft,
velvety even, with the mingled odours of an infinite number of aromatic
plants and herbs, sweet with the white amaryllis that fringes the sea.
Such, in broad outlines, is the island for which Etruscans, Romans,
Genoese, Pisans, Saracens, Spanish, French and English have fought, in
which Victor Hugo was nursed into life, in which Napoleon was caged; a
land of wine and iron, glowing with strength and passion.

A land of perfect peace and infinite possibilities does this island
seem as one drifts along the coast, watching the fish dart below
the keel of the boat, rounding the islets that look as though they
had skipped from the mainland in play and were intent on their own
reflection in the water; as one swims into grottos purple-roofed, over
water of the purest aquamarine, and looks through the narrow opening
across the twinkling sea outside; or, as one walks through miles of
vineyard in which grow the choicest grapes, or climbs up to the iron
quarries, where the mountain is being simply dug away.

Yet, the deepest impression made on the mind of a visitor to Elba is
not so much that of the future prosperity of the island, for all its
resources, as of its past importance. Almost every peak bears its
ruined castle; headland after headland was fortified in the Middle Ages
by Powers jealously tenacious of their rights; the iron quarries, now
comparatively little known, were worked unremittingly by the ancients,
witness Virgil’s well-known line:

  “Insula inexhaustis Chalybum generosa metallis;”

and witness the iron slag that proves the existence in Roman times of
furnaces for refining the ore; the very wine, delicious as it is, is
no longer the great source of wealth it was some years ago, partly on
account of the phylloxera which has lessened the production, partly
because the customs-war between Italy and France stopped its export to
the country which afforded the most profitable market, partly for the
reason that the peasants are primitive enough to insist on selling the
unadulterated juice of the grape to a public that prefers manufactured

All this adds to the sense of repose; the past is so long past, the
future seems still so far off. And meanwhile the peasants and the
small proprietors prune their vines and shell their almonds, and use
their old-fashioned lamps, and dance barefoot on _festas_ to the music
of a concertina, either at their own houses or at the _palazzo_ of a
neighbouring large proprietor. They give each other nicknames, which
gradually supplant the surnames, descending from father to son after
the fashion of primitive times. Thus a man who thought a good deal of
himself was called _il Papa_ (the Pope), whereupon his sons and sons’
sons are called _Papini_ (little Popes); a man noted for his patience
was called _Giobbe_ (Job) and his children are known as _Giobbetti_;
a man who once wore a coat that was too long for him has ever since
been called the Doctor; another from a bad stroke at bowls rejoices
in the name of Scatterer (_il Baracone_), and one who should now call
him John would be scarcely understood. They intermarry largely. They
troop from all parts of the island on donkeys and diminutive horses to
the _festas_ of the various miraculous Madonnas, not omitting to go
down to the nearest beach on the eve of a _festa_ and wash according
to traditional custom. They preserve local differences and hostilities
that tell of difficult intercommunication: thus a Lacona man will tell
you that the men of Capoliveri,[10] whose township he can see perched
on a hill to the east, are “_danniferi_; what they have with their eyes
they must also have with their hands,” he adds, as he picks up a bunch
of unripe grapes, wantonly broken off and thrown away. No one but a
Capoliveri man would commit damage of that sort.

The earliest among the buildings that tell of the past importance
of the island is the Castle of Volterraio. A ride along the hills
overhanging the gulf of Portoferraio brings us to the foot of the
precipice on which it stands, rising, with the sheer rocks that form
part of the building, out of a tangled mass of low growth, from
which, every now and again springs a graceful wild olive. By only one
path is the place accessible. Path is a courtesy title. The way up is
a scramble, often on hands and feet, up smooth, slippery, slanting
masses of jasper rock in whose crevices flourish rounded, hedgehog-like
cushions of the most cross-grained thorns. Ten minutes’ climb brings us
to an ancient wall with a gap, where was once a gate, and a strongly
built, vaulted guard-house. Up again, over short grass this time, and
we come to the low, narrow doorway at the top of a steep flight of
steps sheer down on one side, without any trace of railing. At the
bottom of the steps a hole in the ground gives evidence that an upright
there supported a further defence of some sort. Inside, where armed men
fought, a couple of fig-trees flourish greatly, and the ground is a
series of heaps of grass-covered _débris_ that sound strangely hollow
as one stamps on them. The sentinel’s round within the castellation of
the walls is still intact. At some little distance on each side of the
tower, which forms the south-eastern corner, it stops short, and deep
holes for uprights in the parapet show clearly that a drawbridge on
each side enabled the defenders to isolate the tower and fight to the
last gasp. At one place it widens out. A number of men could make a
stand there; the inner wall is pierced with many loopholes, and these
all converge on one place: the steps leading up to the wall, and
the well at the bottom of them. One can creep too, into a number of
dungeon-like recesses in the walls, or clamber through a hole down a
steeply inclined ledge of rock to a little underground chamber having
a recess like a rough bed on one side, lighted by a hole in the rock
that forms the roof, and another in that which looks over the gulf. A
small opening, defended by an outwork, puts this underground cell into
communication with the outer world; but the outwork is evidently a
comparatively late structure.

All this is absolutely lonely, save for a few goats that now and again
make their way up, and the falcon that screams and wheels overhead.
Once it was the storehouse of the Etruscans of Volterra, who, drawing
iron, copper[11] and other minerals from the island, built the
Volterraio as a defence for themselves and their treasures in case of
sudden assault. It has stood many sieges, has heard the oaths of many
nations in Roman and Mediæval times and is now falling to decay; for
Turks and Saracens roam the seas no more, and the island it helped so
long to guard has become part of a united peaceful kingdom.

Quite the most curious proofs of the ancient importance of the island
are to be found between the little villages, of S. Ilario and St. Piero
di Campo, overlooking the southern coast. We are in a granite country
from which the stone is exported for sculptural and architectural
purposes. No need of quarries to obtain it, though; it lies scattered
over hill and valley in huge blocks, as though some prehistoric giant
had dumped cart-load after cart-load with the idea of raising some
enormous building, but had been cut off by a god in the midst of his
operations. They have a certain defiant air about them, still, those
masses of granite. They shrug a shoulder at you from under the houses,
they poke out a rounded back in the very middle of the church wall,
they lie across your path in winking, slippery masses, nourishing
thorns in their bosoms on to which you may fall, and then, if you look
up suddenly, you may see one that has climbed on to the shoulders
of his brethren and with feathered cap stuck awry, and big empty
eye-sockets, is grinning down at you with unholy, sardonic mirth. Every
little fold in the hillside, shut in strangely from the outside world,
has its chestnut grove and its running stream; but even here there is
something uncanny, and no peasant will put his lips to that water
without making the sign of the cross above it; he fears he may become
possessed by the spirits that haunt it. It is curious, however, that if
he takes the water in a glass he considers himself free from the danger.

In the midst of all this weird desolation rise two Roman buildings at
some little distance from each other; one a spacious ancient church,
the other a square tower. They are built of beautifully hewn blocks
of granite, oblong or square, but mostly square, at the surface, put
together without mortar. The door of the church is low and square,
not arched; its face is pierced just under the roof (now fallen in)
by a rounded window formed of smaller slabs of stone, also without
mortar, in which a bell formerly hung, but which does not give one the
idea of having been built for a belfry. The building is rather oblong
than square, and was apparently divided into two unequal portions by
a low granite wall, which does not seem to have much in common with
an altar-railing—it is too much towards the middle of the church and
appears to have been altogether too strong a construction. The apse
is extraordinarily shallow, pierced by three of the loopholes that at
long intervals serve as windows to the church. There are no traces of

At some distance from the church the granite rocks have piled
themselves into a peak that looks straight over the underlying plain
to the sea beyond. On this peak stands the tower. “The solidity of
its walls,” writes that most conscientious, but not very critical
historian, Giuseppe Ninci,[12] “the smallness of its rooms, the great
difficulty of access, show it to have been one of those terrible
prisons in which pined for long years those unfortunates who, exiled
from their native land, were sent off to the islands.” If prisoners
were put there, it must have been to starve, and for that they might
surely have been shut up in some place which would cost less to build.
There is but one side on which it can be approached, and even there
a man must twice grasp the edge of the rock above his head and draw
himself up by sheer force of biceps before he reaches the base of the
tower. Once there he discovers that he must repeat the operation, for
there is no door, only a window above his head, which he can reach by
stretching up his arms. The tower consists of two low rooms one above
the other, with walls a metre thick. Was it really a prison, or was it
not rather a watch-tower, or a tower of refuge? Otherwise what should
it be doing there all alone on its granite base? Was there once a Roman
or an Etruscan city round that large church or temple? Yet, the huge
granite blocks look as though man had never attempted to oust them for
his advantage. Wanted, an archæologist’s report before these writings
of past history become still further obliterated.

St. Piero di Campo is well worth lingering in for a while on one’s
return from San Giovanni. It was always a favourite landing-place for
hostile ships, the plain below being fertile, and the gulf sheltered.
The castle, therefore, contained everything that could be wanted in
case of siege: a church, and a graveyard in addition to the usual
means of defence. It is a square, massive building, with but one small
entrance. The church is extremely ancient. The roof, low and vaulted,
is supported on two short, thick granite columns, one having a roughly
carved capital which is well worth study, the other none at all. The
walls have been barbarously whitewashed, but in two or three places
where the whitewash has been chipped off, there stand revealed the
figures of early 15th-century frescoes executed by a Tuscan artist.
One or two figures have been laid bare as a matter of curiosity, and
it appears probable that the whole church is frescoed in the same way.
If so, and the Campesi would undo their barbarism, it would be worth a
pilgrimage to see.


SURELY no city in the world queens it over the waves so completely as
does Portoferraio. She rides them imperiously, lifting high the turrets
that are her crown and defence; she decks herself in the brightest
colours, conscious of her beauty; and sets herself boldly on the very
head and front of the dark blue waters that wash her feet or leap up in
wrath at her pride, yet never injure her. Genoa is called the Superb,
but the epithet rises more spontaneously to the mind on view of the
capital of the Island of Elba.

Portoferraio was originally one of those headlands, so characteristic
of Elba, that grow out from the mainland on a narrow stalk, and then
widen and heighten into rocky peninsulas. It is now, however, an
island, for Cosimo I., Duke of Tuscany, cut a moat through the stalk,
and severed the peninsula from the mainland. The peninsula consists
of two heights, on one of which is the fort known as the Falcone,
on the other, that of the Stella; and these are bound together by a
lofty wall, within the castellations of which sentinels could walk
without descending into the town. Immediately below each fort, a bank
of concrete, kept in former times very clean and free from growth,
formed a water-shed for the rain which streamed down it into a cistern
below. At present the concrete, though still railed in, is quite
overgrown, for the city boasts a water-supply brought down from the
neighbouring hills. Round the forts are spacious granite-paved squares
on which considerable bodies of men could manœuvre; and below cluster
the red-roofed, green-shuttered houses, whose inhabitants sleep, in
Oriental fashion, through the heat of the day, coming out in the
evening to walk among the oleanders of _Le Ghiaie_—a tiny park above a
beach of the whitest gravel (_ghiaia_)—or to dance with the officers
in the new bathing establishment, of which they are so proud. Down
again, at the foot of the houses, lies the port, a semi-circle pointed
at the southern end by the pink-washed tumble-down offices of the
sanitary inspector, at the northern end by the octagonal tower of the
convict prison. Soldiers, convicts, “society,” trade, all hive on those
two little hills, and the only opening through which workers and drones
can pass in and out on the landside is a low-browed gateway, bearing
the Medici arms, and overlooking a plank bridge spanning the moat of
sea-water. Within the gateway is a wide, open space, through which one
passes up the first ramparts of the Falcone, to a wonderful winding
tunnel, hewn in the solid rock. This brings one out through another
gate, into the flaunting little city. The tunnel is known as _La
Tromba_ (the trumpet-shaped), and was the work, as usual, of Cosimo’s

Portoferraio, Ferraio, the iron city, as it was originally called,
dates, at any rate, from Roman times. The name would suggest this,
and the fact is abundantly proved by Roman walls, pavements of brick
and marble, tombs with inscriptions, skeletons, lamps, etc., coins of
consuls and emperors, workmen’s tools, that were unearthed from time to
time during the seventeenth century, when excavations were being made
for the subterranean cisterns, guard-houses, powder-magazines, halls of
every kind that honeycomb the ground.

Towards the end of April, 1548, there arrived in the bay below
Portoferraio a fleet bearing one thousand soldiers, three hundred
sappers and miners, and the architect John Baptist Camerini. Ferraio
was at that time a heap of ancient ruins, but Cosimo I., the merchant
Duke of Tuscany, whose coasts lay open to the invasion of the Turks,
and whose galleys were continually assailed by pirates, concluded that
the best possible points of defence against these redoubtable enemies
were Ferraio and Piombino. With a large sum of money, and a very great
deal of diplomacy, he persuaded Charles V. (who thought that the same
points of defence would be as irritating to the French as to the Turks)
to grant him the places. The agreement was hardly concluded when the
Duke’s men landed on the little peninsula, quarried the blocks, ready
squared to their hands from the Roman villas and walls, made a brick
kiln on the coast near by where there was suitable clay, obtained
excellent mortar from the stones of the neighbouring hills, and in a
fortnight had raised the walls breast high. Cosimo made two visits
to the island to inspect the works, living not in Ferraio itself,
but in a house on the hillside opposite, that is still known as the
Casa del Duca (Duke’s house), and bears on its garden wall a defaced,
weather-stained marble bust of Duke Cosimo. The Turks, the French, the
Genoese, and the rest of Cosimo’s many enemies were beside themselves
with rage. Elba was wasted throughout its length and breadth, the new
town—no longer Ferraio, but Cosmopolis—was besieged by mighty fleets,
intrigues were obstinately kept up to induce the Emperor to revoke
his grant, but the Duke (now Grand Duke) made head against force and
intrigue; the town remained in his hands, and still, as witness to his
might, bears over its gateways the proud inscription:

                 templa, moenia, domos, arces, portum,
              cosmus florentinorum dux II. a fundamentis
                          erexit an. MDXLVIII

The port, as made by Cosimo, still remains, but the defences and
engineering works completed by him and his successors are now deserted,
or have been turned into the convict prison, the three white columns
of whose water-gate form a striking feature in a view of the port. The
convicts are here allowed to work at various trades. Workshops are
provided within the prison walls, and a show-room for the sale of
their goods. The government exacts a small royalty on objects sold.

A sentimental interest attaches itself to Portoferraio, as being the
place which preserved to mankind a sickly puling infant of the name
of Victor Hugo. An epigraph by Mario Foresi, on the walls of the
town-hall, commemorates the fact.[13]

Along the shore of that part of the gulf, which lies outside the port,
the sea looks as though some eccentric gardener had been laying out
garden beds in it, with grassy walks between, and white pyramids at
irregular intervals. These are the _saline_, where the government makes
salt (not very good salt either) for its subjects. It produces about
1,152 tons a year, which it sells at the rate of _3d._ per pound.
Truly a government salt monopoly is not a pleasant thing for peasants,
who can get salt alone as a condiment for their soup of cabbages and
beans, or their mess of maize flour.

Ferraio, then, takes its name from the principal product of the island,
but the mines are not near the town; they are on the eastern coast, at
Rio and at Cape Calamita (Loadstone Cape).

Rio, like all other villages in this part of the world, consists of
two parts: Rio Alto, whose streets are merely a succession of stairs;
and Rio Marina, a modern town, where the mines are. The prevailing
colour in Rio Marina is red: red are the hills that shut out the fresh
north breezes from the town, red is the sea where the steamers lie
off to be loaded, red are the four piers where the trucks go up and
down, red the houses, with their curtains, stairs, and furniture. This
red ochrous ore is associated, as one ascends the mountain, with the
massive and micaceous varieties of hæmatite; so that while one sees red
cliffs towering on one side, and solid knobs and blocks of iron, almost
native, on the other, one walks over roads that glitter and sparkle
like running water, and are almost as slippery as ice.

  “And Seius, whose eight hundred slaves
  Sicken in Ilva’s mines,”

writes Lord Macaulay; thereby showing that he had never been to Rio.
For there is no mining properly so-called here; there is no tunnelling,
no blasting on a large scale. The men work in the open air, digging
away the red earth, blowing away the harder masses with small charges
of powder or getting them out with picks. The earth is washed in a
large cistern, with a revolving paddle-wheel, that keeps the water in
continual motion; and the iron thus separated from the clay is loaded
on to the ships without further refining.

At present the mines are farmed out by the Government, and produce
about 176,516 tons yearly. The men are paid by piece work, and earn
from two francs to four francs a day. Only one set of men is kept. When
they are not lading foreign vessels, they dig ore, and make great heaps
of it; when they are not digging, they lade. It is evident the place
wants development.

At the iron quarries of Cape Calamita, where magnetic iron is obtained,
we watched the process of lading. A large English-built steamer had
come in, under a Genoese captain, for iron, which it was to exchange
for coal at Cardiff. She stood in as near to the shore as was safe,
and then anchoring, opened three mouths on each side to receive her
food. Come out to her six willing slaves, small boats called _laconi_,
with the most audacious masts and yard-arms one can imagine. They look
as though they would rend the clouds and pierce the sky; but it is
all bluster; the boats are such helpless creatures that if they are
to cross the bay, they must have a steam-tug to pull them. The men in
the _laconi_ rest planks on the open lips of the monster that towers
above them, and proceed to pour down its six gaping throats an infinite
number of small baskets of the red, earthy ore. For four consecutive
days they feed her, if the weather be fine, and then she goes off to
the northern seas, where _laconi_ are unknown, where the water is
rarely motionless, and where steam cranes and puffing engines tell of
work done in a hurry. It must be confessed, however, that the Elban
method is adorably picturesque. Sea, sky, and hills are glowing in the
great calm. The big black ship lies motionless; her crew lounge, her
jovial, white-suited captain, so proud of his mahogany-fitted passenger
ship that used to go to India, stands watching the ore slide in; the
Elbans cluster up the sides of the planks to pass the baskets from one
to the other; they talk and laugh, showing glittering white teeth; and
they wear hanging red fishermen’s caps, patchwork shirts and bright

Onward along the coasts from Rio, we come to the ancient town of
Portolongone, built along the curve of a fine, natural harbour.
Sheer above the town, where the Portolongone women flaunt it along
their sea front after mass, in the brightest of dresses, and the
most artistic of black or white lace head-veils, rises one of the
strongest fortresses of the island. It was built in 1603, to the
infinite dismay and disturbance of such small fry as the Florentines,
Genoese, and the Pope, by Philip III. of Spain. The approach to it is
broad, but very steep; the outer ring of fortifications are a city in
themselves; and within, across the inner moat and drawbridge, there
are spacious squares, clusters of houses, an interesting church, and
the large prisons in which are kept criminals condemned to solitary
confinement. The prisons we cannot enter, but let us sit for a while
in the chaplain’s cool, brick-paved room, sipping the country wine
and breaking the long, curled strips of pastry which his hospitable
womenfolk have heaped on the table, and listen to what he has to tell
us of his charges.

“No,” he says, “they none of them live long, once they come in here;
they go mad or fall into consumption, and so die if they have not
succeeded in committing suicide first. We have to look out sharply to
prevent that. A man managed to do it, though, about a month ago. He
tore his shirt into strips and made a slip-knot for his neck, climbed,
no one knows how, to the grate in the middle of the deep window-hole,
and tied the end of the noose there, bound his own hands together
somehow or other, and then kicked away the stool he had been standing
on. When he felt himself strangling, he struggled to get free, but his
hands were fast, and he only succeeded in pulling the noose tighter
and tighter. He was quite dead when they took him down. Outside the
prison are a number of cells open to the air, closed by iron gates. You
can see them down there.” We were walking about outside by this time,
where the convicts not in solitary confinement are building the new
prisons. “Every prisoner has an hour’s turn in one of those open-air
cells once a day, guards pacing outside the gates the whole time.

“Their food? Well, yes, as you say, it is clean, savoury, and
well-cooked”—we had been peeping into the kitchens as we came
along—“but they have a very small allowance; a plate of soup given
half at midday and half in the evening (vegetable soup, with _pasta_
in it) and two loaves, not much bigger than rolls, of white bread. It
is piteous to see how a stout well-built man dwindles away on this
_régime_. The men who are at work buy extras with their wages. Those
who wear chains from ankle to wrist were sentenced under the old penal
code. When they go to bed they are chained to the wall. Chains are
abolished by the new code.

“The prison consists of two storeys of cells, running down each side of
a central corridor that extends up to the roof. Communication with the
cells of the upper storey is obtained by an iron balcony which runs the
length of the building at the height of the first storey. All the cell
doors open towards the inner end of the prison, where an altar has been
set up.

“When I say mass, they are all set ajar (there is in every case an
iron gate, kept locked, inside the wooden door), and so the prisoners
can look at the altar without seeing each other. I go round to them
at regular intervals, unless someone calls for me specially, and talk
to them from outside the iron gates. No, I am not afraid, but it is
the custom. They generally like to have me go, and appear really to
appreciate the comforts of religion. Read! Ah, you saw Library printed
up near the gate, did you? But there are very few books in it. What
can we give them? They must not read novels, and they must not read
politics. I give them a religious paper about the miraculous Madonna
at Pompeii, and some of them read that. Otherwise they do nothing. All
the work of the place, washing, nursing, cooking, building, cleaning,
is done by convicts. Even the barbers are convicts, and as they have
nearly served their time, and besides get better paid than the others,
they are careful of their behaviour; there is no need to be afraid
of them. That house down there, with its back against the rock, is
the lowest depth of all. The cells are dark, and none but the most
refractory prisoners ever go there. It has been empty for some time

“Born criminals? No, I don’t much believe in that doctrine; I think
that in most cases one whom Lombroso would call a born criminal, may
be saved by careful training. Before I came here I knew a man who
brutally killed his wife while his little boy looked on. The man
was condemned; we looked after the bringing up of the boy. At first
but little could be done with him. He would bully his fellows, and
then, crossing his arms over his breast, would throw back his head
defiantly and say: ‘Do you know who I am? My father was the terror
of the village.’ He did not seem to know what pain was. I have seen
him undergo an operation in his finger which had been caught in a
machine, without a sign of suffering. One day the lads were working
at a machine, and one of them grew tired. ‘Who’ll take my place?’ he
called out. No answer. ‘Will no one help me?’ Another pause. Then the
criminal’s son called out, ‘I will.’ He went to the machine and worked
there till he was nearly dropping with fatigue. But from that day he
was completely changed, and he has grown up into a quiet, trustworthy,
hard-working man.”

By this time our courteous host had accompanied us back to the inner
gateway; and so, taking leave of him, we left that terrible artificial
world, over which, with a hush still greater than that of the sea and
sky and mountain, broods the awful presence of unknown crime terribly


“_Le premier degré d’une chute profonde_,” says Victor Hugo, speaking
of Elba in connection with Napoleon. And it is impossible to remain in
the island long without conjuring up the figure of the fallen prince
hurrying hither and thither with one or two attendants, building his
villa, enquiring into the agricultural and mineral wealth of his new
kingdom, collecting his taxes and his customs duties, strengthening
his fortifications, holding the tiny court of which the people of
Portoferraio were so inordinately proud, carrying on his _amours_,
chatting with the peasants and the proprietors—and under the mask
of all this activity enlisting men, collecting stores, conducting
a continuous secret correspondence with Naples, with Corsica, with
France, undecided whether to make himself King of Italy or to go back
to be Emperor of the French.

Elba, towering above her satellites Pianosa, Monte Cristo, S. Stefano,
Giglio, with the rocky islet of Palmaiola as sentinel in the very
narrow channel towards Piombino, is an excellent place to plot in, and
a very difficult place to watch. Napoleon, as was but natural, took
in the advantages of his position at a glance. He had hardly arrived
in Elba before he claimed the neighbouring islands as part of his
domain, and began to establish outposts on them. Thus he surrounded
himself with a barrier within which no foreign ship could penetrate
without violating the independence secured to him by the Treaty of
Fontainebleau; and which at the same time afforded him a valid excuse
for short sea-trips and for a constant movement of small vessels
eminently adapted to conceal secret negotiations of every kind, and
especially his intercourse with Corsica. In this most favourable
position, shut off from prying eyes by diplomacy and nature combined,
within easy communicating distance on the one hand of Tuscany and of
Murat, on the other of Corsica and France, Napoleon remained from
May 4th, 1814, to February 26th, 1815. With his political intrigues
during that time we do not propose to concern ourselves, nor with the
vexed question raised by some disappointed Frenchmen, who seem to have
understood neither the Treaty of Fontainebleau nor the geography of
Elba, as to England’s complicity in his escape; rather we would picture
him in the places with which we too are familiar, would shadow him
forth not as the banished Emperor of France, but as Monarch of Elba.

By the time the English frigate, the _Undaunted_, that bore him,
reached Portoferraio, Napoleon had decided on the line of conduct he
intended to pursue: that of a monarch on a small scale, intent on
developing the resources of his kingdom, firm in exacting respect for
his new flag from all maritime powers. And so well did he play his part
of miniature kingship that even Sir Neil Campbell, English Commissioner
in the island, thought that he was contented; and more than once opined
that if Napoleon were well supplied with money—as he should have been
by the terms of the treaty—he would remain quietly where he was; but
he was such a very eccentric person that, if he ran short, there was no
knowing what improper conduct he might pursue.

He assumed this position at once on his arrival in the harbour of
Portoferraio. He refused to land until his new subjects should have
had time to prepare an ovation suitable to the reception of a monarch,
and he issued an address to General d’Alhesme, then commanding in the
island, in the following terms:—

“General! I have sacrificed my rights to the interests of my country,
reserving the sovereignty and possession of the island of Elba. To this
the Powers have consented. Have the kindness to make known the new
state of things to the inhabitants, and the choice that I have made of
their island as my abode on account of the mildness of their customs
and their climate. Tell them that they will always be the objects of
my warmest interest.”

The Portoferraiesi took the Emperor at his word. They were overwhelmed
with gratitude at the honour he showed them. They received him with
flags, with fireworks and with Te Deums; they sent deputations to wait
on him; they presented him with a map of his dominions—a very bad
one, by-the-by—on a silver tray; they gave up their best furniture to
furnish, provisionally at least, the Palazzina dei Mulini, just under
Forte Falcone, where he was to live; they took his officers into their
homes; they put on their finest dresses and went to receptions in the
town-hall in the evening, telling themselves that their city already
seemed like one of the capitals of Europe. And Napoleon fostered their
delusion. He proposed to readopt the name given to the city by Duke
Cosimo de’ Medici, and to call it Cosmopoli; deriving the first part
of the word, not from Cosimo, but from the Greek _kosmos_, world,
declaring that his Cosmopoli was to be the _City of the World_. At the
same time he built and altered extensively in and around his house,
adding another storey, planting a garden, forming a library, erecting
a tribunal and theatre; he shipped over furniture from the mainland;
he prepared a residence close to his own for his mother; he bought
land and built a country-house not far from Portoferraio; he sent for
his sister Pauline; he prepared extensive stabling; he established a
lazaretto in the harbour, which was to compete with that of Leghorn:
everything pointed to complete acquiescence in his position.

He had, in fact, scarcely landed before he began to take possession
of his new dominions, as a good monarch should do, and had soon
visited the places of importance in Elba and its dependant isles. His
corpulence rendered climbing and even walking difficult, but his active
spirit overcame all difficulties; and the Elbans who met him, his
officers and attendants, continually on the roads and mountain paths,
felt quite convinced that the Emperor was devoting himself to their

One of his first expeditions brought vividly before him the extent
of his fall. He had visited all the forts and surroundings of
Portoferraio, had collected information concerning the salt manufacture
(a Government monopoly) and the tunny fishery; and turning to the left
from the land gate of Portoferraio, had pushed as far as the iron mines
of Rio—then, as now, Government property—and the fort of Longone; but
he had not yet climbed the hills that shut in his capital at the back.
These are crossed by a few bridle-paths and by a road, sheer up and
down, paved now with the native rock, now with loose, rolling stones,
and known as the Colle Reciso. About half-way up the Portoferraio side
of this road, a breakneck path leads to the right, up the face of a
hill called St. Lucia, whence the Etruscans once drew copper for
their bronze. The Emperor, Colonel Campbell, General Bertrand, and
their attendants, riding to the top of this hill, found themselves
among the ruins of a very large ancient castle. The towers lie prone
in enormous masses of masonry, the walls have partly fallen in, partly
been quarried for surrounding buildings; of roof there is no trace; the
place is simply a large grass-grown square surrounded by naked, ruined
blocks of masonry. Not quite abandoned, either, for in one corner is
a tiny church with a couple of rooms built on to it in which a hermit
once lived and died. Here the party halted and looked round. They were
dominating the narrowest part of the island. Right and left the hills
stretch away in barren, fantastic peaks now crowned with ruins, now
sheer with granite cliffs; before and behind the sea is visible in four
different places. Napoleon looked around for a little while, taking in
the principal points of the landscape, and then, turning to Campbell,
said, with a quiet smile:—“_Eh, mon île est bien petite_.”

Later on he would often follow the Colle Reciso down into the fertile,
vine-covered plain of Lacona, which lies at its foot on the southern
side. The conditions here, even now, are truly patriarchal. The
mountains form a semi-circle about the coast; and in the midst stands
the proprietor’s villa surrounded by eucalyptus trees, prickly-pears
and aloes—an island among the spreading vineyards. To see the
_contadini_ waiting at the well for the master, his arrival with his
family, and the respectful familiarity with which they take their
orders from their _padrone_, is to get a glimpse into old world ways
and ideas such as does not fall to the lot of everyone.

From this plain springs the headland known as Capo di Stella. It
is narrow and low at its base, but rises and swells as it advances
into the sea, and becomes a wild rocky hill, with sheer precipices
down to the water, covered with lentisks, with aromatic herbs, with
great silvery shining thorn-bushes known to the inhabitants as _prune
caprine_. It is the home of hares and innumerable birds. Here Napoleon
proposed to make a preserve for game; and actually went the length of
arranging matters with the proprietor, Jacopo Foresi, and of making
some show of beginning the wall which was to span the isthmus, cutting
off the headland from the rest of the estate. Needless to say that the
game on Capo di Stella was not in reality profoundly interesting to
Napoleon, and that the plan was never carried out. There is an incident
recounted of the Emperor in these parts, commemorated by an inscription
affixed by the present proprietor, Mario Foresi, to the walls of
the house of one of his peasants. A certain Giaconi was ploughing
when Napoleon came along, and in his character of one interested in
everything, took the ploughshare out of the man’s hands and attempted
to guide it himself. But the oxen refused to obey him, overturned the
share and spoilt the furrow. Foresi’s inscription runs as follows:

                          napoleone il grande
                     quivi passando nel MDCCCXIV.
           tolto nel campo adiacente l’aratro d’un contadino
                    provavasi egli stesso ad arare
                    ma i bovi rebelli a quelle mani
                  che pur seppero infrenare l’europa
                         fuggirono dal solco.[14]

Farther along the coast, to the west of Lacona, and separated from it
by a semi-circle of almost pathless hills, is the beach and village
of Campo, where are extensive granite quarries. To this place also
Napoleon paid several visits, and caused a road to be made winding
round the base of the hills and joining it with Portoferraio. Must
he not develop the resources of his island by providing for the
carriage of its granite? Or rather, would not such a road be extremely
convenient for keeping up communication with the outlying island of
Pianosa, where he was collecting troops and training cavalry? The room
where Napoleon passed the night on one of his visits to the village is
still shown; an old man, too, blear-eyed and tottering, is listened
to with a certain respect by the villagers as he relates how he was
nursed and caressed by the Emperor. His father had been a sailor in
one of Napoleon’s fleets, had been taken prisoner by Nelson, had spent
many years in England, had been ultimately accepted as a sailor on an
English ship, and had made his escape from Genoa. Napoleon visited the
man, made him relate his experiences, and showed himself affable with
the children, as was his general way in Elba.

Most thickly do reminiscences of Napoleon cluster round the lovely
village of Marciana. The road leading westwards from Portoferraio
skirts the seashore. On the left hand rise cliffs densely overgrown
with white heather; below, on the right, lies the shore in a succession
of bewitching bays and headlands. A ride of between two and three
hours brings one to a village lying along a graceful curve, backed by
dense chestnut woods, over which hang the frowning precipices of Monte
Capanne, the highest mountain in the island. This is Marciana Marina.
Behind it a steep, boulder-paved path, running along a ridge above
the chestnut woods, where _cicale_ sing all day long to the sound of
falling waters, leads to Marciana Alta, a fortified place defended
once by a huge castle. The castle is now a mere shell within which
fowls are penned; they pick up a living among the heaps of _débris_,
and drink out of the two halves of the large iron crown which once
hung proudly above the Medici arms. To the right of Marciana Alta, a
long Via Crucis leads to a church known as the Madonna del Monte. The
road is absolutely breakneck, formed of blocks of stone, which devout
visitors to the shrine have hammered into the soil at their somewhat
eccentric pleasure. The church is one of the richest in the island,
possessing beautiful massive silver chalices and lamps, rich vestments,
vineyards and fields. It stands in a wood of magnificent chestnut
trees, and has at the back a charming semi-circular wall of grey stone,
divided by pilasters into three sections, each of which contains an
ancient stone mask spouting the coldest, lightest of water. Close by
the church is a little house in which a lay hermit lives. What wonder
that Napoleon should take a liking to so picturesque a place, renowned
throughout the island for the excellence of its air and its water? What
wonder that he should love to retire thither, and to wander through
the woods to the truculent little village of Poggio that stands up so
defiantly on its granite prominence? That he should even like to picnic
on the road in the fold of the hills where the five springs keep up
a continuous splashing? That he should choose this place to receive
that mysterious lady (in reality, the Polish Countess Walewsky) whom
the unlucky mayor of Marciana wanted to fête as no less a person than
the Empress Marie Louise in person? Surely all this was harmless and
natural enough. But follow up the path that leads off to the right
of the hermitage, pass out of the shade of the trees and across the
granite boulders to the promontory that commands the coast of Elba, the
mainland, and Corsica. There two huge masses of rock tower above their
comrades. Between them is a little stairway, partly natural, partly
artificial, which leads to the top of the outer rock. This presents
a natural platform shielded along part of its length by a natural
parapet. The parapet has been added to with brickwork, and a deep hole
big enough to hold a large flagstaff has been driven into the platform.
This was a favourite resort of Napoleon’s. What place could be better
for taking the air? And what place could be better for signalling to
Corsica, the window-panes of whose villages glitter at so short a
distance? As a matter of fact it is some thirty-five miles away; but
in the limpid atmosphere of this “isle of the blessed,” distance, like
time, seems to be annihilated. Here then, like the hero of Balzac’s
tale, would the prodigal sit gazing at his _peau de chagrin_, now so
wofully shrunken, and scheming for some way to reverse the spell and
restore it to its former amplitude. Vain dream! from which he was
finally awakened by the rude shock of Waterloo. After Napoleon left the
island, the people of Marciana put up a pompous inscription on the
outer wall of the church. It runs as follows:—

                              napoleone I
                           vinti gli imperi
                         i regi resi vassalli
              da rutenici geli soprappreso non dalle armi
                            in questo eremo
                 per lui trasformato in reggia abitava
                  dal 23 agosto al 14 settembre 1814
                    e ritemprato il genio immortale
                          il 24 febbraio 1815
                da qui slanciossi a meravigliare di se
                        novellamente il mondo.

                       il municipio di marciana
                      con animo grato e riverente
                             a tanto nome
                  decretava di erigere questa memoria
                         il 18 febbraio, 1863.[15]

Of regular residences Napoleon may be said to have had three in the
island of Elba: the Mulini in Portoferraio, the country-house at St.
Martino, and a house at Longone. The Mulini is a small, two-storeyed
house, with a garden behind it, and a winding path leading down to
the sea; the path ends in a little grotto known as “Napoleon’s bath.”
The Emperor occupied the lower storey, giving the upper one, which
he himself had built on, to his sister Pauline. No trace of the
illustrious occupant now remains: the furniture has been entirely
removed, some of it, as in the case of a bed in my possession, having
left the island altogether; even the library, presented by Napoleon
to the town, and lodged in the town-hall, has been to a great extent
scattered, owing to the carelessness of the municipal authorities.
Only one tangible record of the Emperor remains: the bronze mask in
the chapel of the Misericordia. Antonmarchi, Napoleon’s doctor, made
in Paris three bronze masks from the plaster cast which he had taken
immediately after the death in St. Helena. One of these masks passed
through the Murat family into the hands of the sculptor, Hiram Powers,
in Florence, and is now[16] exposed for sale in London. The second I
have not been able to trace. The third is at Portoferraio, kept in a
handsome sarcophagus, and exposed to the public gaze every 5th of May,
when a funeral service is performed over it. The face, as shown by the
mask, is thin and drawn, the brow heavy and projecting; the likeness to
the bust of Julius Cæsar in the British Museum is quite extraordinary.

Napoleon’s country-house at St. Martino lies in the fold of the hills
west of Portoferraio. The building of it enabled him to play to
perfection the _rôle_ he had determined to adopt. He bought up the
ground from the small proprietors who owned it, respecting, however,
the rights of one old woman who refused to sell; and as soon as the
works were well under way was continually to be seen riding along
the road from Portoferraio to inspect their progress, supervising
everything, chatting with everybody, talking to the children and giving
them money. A tree is still shown which he is said to have planted
with his own hand. Round the house, which was quite small, is a wood
with fine old ilex-trees through which a path leads to the spring at
which Napoleon loved to drink, and to the right rises a hill which the
peasants still call the _hill of sighs_, because, they say, Napoleon
used to go up there to sigh for his beloved France. The Emperor’s
bedroom has been preserved intact, with its pretty decorations and its
charming Empire furniture. Near the bed are two windows, of which one,
just at the level of the eyes of a person lying there, opens on to a
superb view of Portoferraio, the sea and neighbouring coast-line.

The house within the fort at Longone is now as bare as that at
Portoferraio. The place, however, is interesting, for it was with the
excuse of repairing the fortifications there that the Emperor supplied
himself with guns and ammunition; while the ostensible sale, at Genoa,
Leghorn, and other places, of the old iron found in the fort, afforded
him an additional means of communication with the Continent. He was
very frequently at Longone while maturing the final details of his

Notwithstanding his apparent affability towards the Elbans, intended,
we must believe, rather to mislead outsiders than the people
themselves, Napoleon was not popular in the island. Being in continual
want of money he was obliged to tax the people beyond their resources;
and they naturally saw clearly that, whatever he might say and however
condescending he might show himself, the money he drew from them was
by no manner of means applied to the improvement of their position.
His tax-gatherers were insulted; riots took place in the very churches
when the priests gave out the date by which the taxes were to be sent
in; in one village troops were billeted on the inhabitants until the
last penny should be paid. The cries of “_Vive l’Empereur!_” which had
originally greeted him on his various expeditions, ceased to be heard.

Before matters reached a veritable climax, however, Napoleon had played
out his part, and had left the island in which he had landed with so
many fine promises. He had shown himself a clever actor, a skilful
intriguer to the outside world of European diplomacy; debauched,
tyrannical and exacting to the inner Elban world, into which foreign
diplomats could pry with difficulty. In his vices, in his astuteness,
in his ambition, Napoleon, as he revealed himself in the island of
Elba, moves backwards through history, and takes his place beside the
Borgia, the Orsini, the Medici of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Of the caricatures of the period the most interesting is the grimly
ingenious German portrait of the Conqueror, to which the following
explanation is attached: The hat is the Russian eagle which has gripped
with its talons and will not leave go; the face is composed of the
bodies of some of the thousands he has sacrificed to his ambition; the
collar is the torrent of blood shed for his vain-glory; the coat is a
bit of the map of the confederation arrayed against him and of his lost
battlefields. On his shoulder, in the guise of an epaulet, is the great
hand of God, which plucks the cobweb and destroys the spider that fills
the place where a heart should have been.



“WELL, it is a story to take or to leave. I tell it you as it happened
to me. Think what you like about it.”

The speaker was a spare man of middle height; an Anglican priest, whose
long black coat and white band set off a face that might have belonged
to a seer of old: pallid yet not bloodless, with delicately cut mobile
nostrils and grey eyes now piercingly bright, now losing themselves in
far-off mystery. The few grey hairs combed across the ample brow seemed
instinct with the life beneath them. In moments of great spiritual
excitement, when the eyes kindled and the nostrils worked, they would
appear to rise as into a halo above the inspired pallor of the face.
And the cypresses were around us, gloomily aspiring; while the ground
on which we sat was alive and gay with the most delicious little pink
cyclamens: sweet, everyday human thoughts that come like a smile across
the over-strained soul.

“I was in England then, working in a large Northern parish in the
midst of dirt, misery and ignorance; and would often come home
exhausted by the sufferings I had seen and could do so little to
alleviate. One pouring wet evening I got in very late, soaked to the
skin, faint with hunger, oppressed by the thought of the preparation
needed for an early communion service I was to celebrate on the morrow.
I told Janet to admit no one: that for no reason would I go out again
that night; and sat down to dinner.

“I had hardly begun when the door bell rang, and voices reached me from
the hall—that of a woman, evidently a lady, pleading, and Janet’s,
repeating my order.

“‘But,’ the strange voice insisted, ‘he would surely come if he knew.
It is to see a dying man. Tell him it is to see a dying man. To save a
passing soul.’

“The woman’s distress and anxiety were so evident that I could remain
passive no longer. I called Janet and told her to show the lady in. She
was tall, graceful, dressed in black, with a long veil which she kept
lowered, so that I could see the features but indistinctly. With every
sign of agitation she repeated to me what she had said in the hall.
‘Would I come with her? It was to see a person who must die this night,
and all unprepared.’

“I had no heart to refuse; and we sallied forth together, she leading,
I following. After some time I found myself in a better part of the
town, where the rows of squalid houses had given place to detached
residences, each in its garden. At one of these we stopped, ascended
the steps, and I rang.

“The door was opened by a butler, who had the air of being an old,
confidential servant. I asked to see the person who was dying.

“The man looked at me in amazement. ‘No one is even ill here; much less
dying. You must have the wrong address.’

“I looked around for my mysterious guide. I was alone.

“‘But,’ said I to the butler, ‘I assure you that a lady came to me this
evening, asked me to follow her to a house where a man must die this
night, and led me here. Are you certain there is no one ill?’

“‘Not only my master, but all the servants are perfectly well,’ was the

“Just then a door opened and the master of the house appeared: a young,
florid man, easy and good-natured, with a certain air of distinction
about him. I introduced myself and repeated my story.

“‘Well, come in out of the rain now, at any rate,’ said he. ‘I am just
sitting down to dinner. You will not refuse to join me?’

“I accepted the invitation and found my host bright, well-read,
well-travelled: a most agreeable companion.

“As we were smoking after the meal, he said, hesitatingly:—

“‘Do you know I have been wanting to make your acquaintance for a long
time past? I have had an instinctive feeling that I could confide in
you as in no one else: a strange sympathy going out to you while you
were personally unknown to me. And now I feel it stronger than ever. I
cannot shake it off. May I make a father confessor of you? I am sick of
this life. I want to be at something real.’

“I encouraged him to speak, and promised him all the help my experience
should enable me to give him.

“‘Well, I will leave you for a little to collect my thoughts,’ said he.
‘Be so kind as to remain here.’

“While he was away I looked about the room, and found myself attracted
by a picture, evidently a portrait, of a lady. I considered it
attentively, and to my utter surprise recognised my mysterious visitor
and guide.

“‘Who is that?’ I asked my host on his return.

“‘That? My mother. She died when I was a child. Yet’—with a hesitancy
that was almost shamefacedness—‘yet, I feel somehow as though she were
still caring for me.’

“We had a long talk in which he recounted his life, that of a young man
about town; and the upshot of it was that he promised to come to the
communion service on the following morning.

“I was at the church very early, waiting anxiously for his appearance.

“‘Do you really suppose he will come?’ said the friend who was to help
me celebrate, and to whom I had related the strange experience. ‘You
had better give up any hope of seeing him. It was probably nothing but
a fit of the sentimentality that follows a comfortable dinner. It took
that form because you happened to be with him. I have seen dozens of
such cases.’

“Still I had faith in my convert; and as the service went on and he did
not appear, I felt my heart grow big with sorrowful disappointment.

“I walked home sadly enough.

“In the hall I found the butler of the previous evening. He looked
white and scared. He was trembling.

“‘Sir, sir,’ he stammered, ‘come with me. Come quickly. My master is
dead. I found him dead this morning.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

A silence fell upon us. The cypresses waved mysteriously towards the
heavens—my friend’s face, with the awe-struck eyes, showing white amid
the gloom.

“A mother’s love,” he murmured. “Why should it not compel the forces of
material being? A mother’s love. Is it not ‘the last relay and ultimate
outpost of Eternity?’”


THERE were three of us: men between youth and middle age who had gone
through school and college together, had walked the hospitals and
worked in the dissecting room without a break in our friendship; and,
separated by the exigencies of our practice, had still, as though
by some occult sympathy, kept in touch with each other across long
stretches of absence and silence. We were sitting with our coffee and
cigarettes on the public walk above Florence. Before us lay the great
square with the colossal David: the bronze giant that looks ever to
the hills beyond the town, with his sling ready to defend her from
assault; while behind us rose the church from which the creator of
that giant really had protected the city against the strange-speaking
North-men who had poured over those very hills for her destruction.
The last gleam of sunshine was, as we knew, making the gold of the
mosaic glitter over the church-door there above us. It lay too on the
town at our feet, lighting up the captivating grace of the bell-tower,
the chastened glow of whose marbles seemed actually before our eyes;
bringing out the unsurpassable curves of the cathedral dome, and the
squatter lines of that of St. Lorenzo, where the Medici moulder in
their marble tombs; lingering on the graceful sturdiness of the Palazzo
Vecchio; touching the spires of the church of St. Croce and of the
Bargello where prisoners once pined. It was that hour before the actual
sunset when the city, lying languidly amid the encircling hills, seems
consciously to breathe out the suavity by which she captures her lovers
and holds them to her in life-long thraldom. And two of us had been
long away from our mistress; the spirit of the time and the place was
upon us; confidences of loves and sorrows rose naturally to our lips.

Conti flung away his cigarette and threw himself back in his chair. I
glanced at his small nervous hands as he folded his arms; remembering
their quick, sure movements in the most delicate operations; and then
I looked into his blue eyes, whose bright sparkle the deadly habit of
morphine-taking, the future ruin of that bright career, was already
changing into dreaminess.

“Decidedly, Neri,” exclaimed he, “you are the most changed of the
three. There you sit smoking your cigarette as quietly as though we
came here every day of our lives. With a line between your brows, too!
You look as though you were obliged to take a wife to-morrow. What has
happened? Has someone got drowned in such a way that you cannot tell
whether it was a homicide or a suicide, and are afraid of misleading
justice? Has a supposed corpse come to life again and objected to being

A smile flickered across Neri’s gravity. He was the handsomest of
the three: one of the best made men in the town. He wore a thick,
pointed beard, and the mouth under the moustache was of quite
exceptional firmness and delicacy. In fact he was what the women call a
_bell’uomo_; and but for his thorough-going solidity of character and
immense variety of interests, would infallibly have had his head turned
by their admiration. As it was he simply had no time to give them very
much attention. And lately, so we were told, he had taken less notice
of them than ever; but had gone about his work with the line between
his brows, and lips that rarely relaxed except to smile encouragement
to some poor patient on whom he had operated.

He breathed out the smoke slowly, luxuriously, from his mouth and
nostrils—he was a confirmed cigarette smoker—and answered:—

“No, I am not going to be married to-morrow; and I was thinking of a
_post-mortem_, but not of such an one as Conti imagines. I will tell
you the story; but keep it to yourselves. There’s a woman in the case,
of course,” he added, with a short nervous laugh. Then he hesitated
again, and at last began.

“Just a year ago to-day I had to make a _post-mortem_, and a report to
the police, on the body of the one woman who has entered profoundly
into my life. She was a rising operatic singer with a singular power
of vivid dramatic intensity, though I do not think her impersonations
were ever a full expression of her innermost powers. Her interests
were extremely varied, her mind exceptionally mobile—her occupation
fostering this mobility, and increasing that power of quick sympathy,
of putting herself into touch with the people with whom she came into
contact, which was one of her distinguishing features. She was not
beautiful; but she had fine large dark eyes that looked straight at
you; and she was so lithe and girl-like in all her movements (she was
rather older than myself in reality) that you felt inclined just to
take her in your arms and hold her fast against all the troubles of the
world—and she had her share, I warrant you.”

“H’m,” said Conti. “And you did it, I suppose. You seem to have been
hard hit.”

“No, I did not do it; although I was more than hard hit. Her position
was so difficult that I had no heart to make it worse; and she had
a certain dignity about her, even in her moments of most childlike
_abandon_ in talking with me, that prevented any light advances. You
felt as though you must help her even against herself, for her nature
was evidently passionate; and that made your feeling for her all the
more profound. She had married unfortunately; a man who had ill-treated
and neglected her in every possible way. After a couple of years she
fled from her husband, left the stage, and changing her name, lived by
giving singing lessons; and, when I first knew her, was making a brave
struggle not only to support herself and her boy, but to obtain and
hold such a position in the world as should enable her to launch him in
his career. Then she fell ill; more from exhaustion of vital force than
anything else; and I never saw anything like the spirit with which she
bore up. She was almost too weak to teach, and held her pupils together
with the greatest difficulty; yet she managed always to wear a bright
smile, and she refused absolutely to give up hope. ‘Why, it is the most
stimulating of medicines,’ she would say. ‘If I give up that, I shall
collapse immediately. I consider that, given the conditions in which I
live, self-deception, on the right side of course, is a distinct duty.’

“Towards the end of the summer she left town for a fortnight, and
I went out to see her. She insisted on our having a little picnic
together, and took me to the top of a hill hard by. There was a small
pine wood up there, with a stretch of grass and ling. Opposite rose
Castel di Poggio. The hills were round us ridge on ridge, and fold
on fold; their bosoms veiled by draperies of mist, for it was still
early. We might have been hundreds of miles away from any town: yet
Florence was close at our feet. I had left it only a couple of hours
ago, and should be down there again breathing the phenic acid of the
hospital that same afternoon. Never shall I forget the morning of chat
and reading (I had taken up a volume of poems—her gift), with the bees
booming in the ling, the gorgeous green of the pine needles, intense
unchangeable, against the brilliant sky, and the mingled scents of
pine, cypress, honey-flowers, and aromatic herbs. As we were starting
to go down she stopped. ‘We must keep vivid the remembrance of this,
Neri,’ she said, and caught my hand. I turned and looked into her eyes,
whose deep earnest gaze remains with me yet. We clasped hands, and so

“Well, when she came back to Florence she began to lose her spirit.
Money matters worried her, I fancy, though she would never trouble me
with them. Then her husband accidentally found and began to trouble
her, threatening that unless she went back to live with him he would
take the boy (now nearly seven years old) from her. She sent the child
to her people in Switzerland. ‘It would so much simplify matters if
I were to die,’ she wrote me once. ‘My people would never let him go
then; and my husband could urge me no longer. The struggle is too
great. Only I do not want you to have to make the _post mortem_ on me
when I have said good-bye to this life: it would be too painful for
you.’ Still I did not think she would ever really commit suicide; not
because she had any fear of death, but because I knew she looked on the
proceeding as cowardly; and also because she had a power of the most
intense enjoyment and interest in all the beauties of life, whether
physical or intellectual. Hers was the most elastic nature I have
known. I said what one could say, and it’s precious little, in such
circumstances: and she seemed to recover tone.

“Then I left Florence for nearly a month. I was obliged to return
unexpectedly to the hospital; and was just leaving it to call upon her
when I was told there was a _post-mortem_ waiting for me. I went into
the room. It was she; lying there on the table....

“Well, I got through somehow. It did not take very long, for I knew
her well enough to guess what she had used, and had only to verify
a suspicion. And while I was working it seemed as though she were
looking at me, looking at me with a pitifully pleading look as though
supplicating forgiveness for the horror of my position. I remember I
kept her covered as religiously as though she had been alive; and I
remember I arranged everything when all was over and carried her in
my own arms to the bier which was to take her away. Then, I believe,
Paoletti found me, got me into a cab, and drove me home in a high
fever. The second evening I came to myself. I was without fever and
fell quietly asleep. Towards morning I awoke. She was there standing by
my bed with the same pitifully pleading expression I had felt in the
hospital. She caressed my cheek, then bent over me and touched my lips.

“Oh yes, I know. _Optical hallucination_, _subjective sensation_, and
all the rest of it. _Hallucination_; _subjective_ as much as you like;
but I saw her; and I feel her about me now just as plainly as I felt
her then. I suppose the impression will fade as time goes on. I may
take a wife and have children as other men do. Still (with a repetition
of the little nervous laugh) it has not begun to fade yet; and I feel
as though I should see her once more: on my death bed.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Decidedly,” said Conti, breaking the silence. “Nature’s irony is more
scathing than man’s. It is just Neri,—- Neri who never philandered,
who never sentimentalised, who would have nothing to do with what was
not downright brutally real—it is just Neri whom the Fates have wedded
to a phantom bride.”

“Come,” said Neri, shaking himself, “it’s nearly dark; we can see
neither dome nor bell-tower any longer. Shall we go to the Arena? Tina
di Lorenzo is acting. And then we will finish up at the Gambrinus


_Amice, quisquis es, dummodo honestum, vitae taedet_.

       *       *       *       *       *

THE road was parched and burning. I was sad, so sad, at my heart’s
heart. The sun seemed to laugh me to scorn, and the passers to sneer as
they went by. My soul was sore, sore to its inmost fibres, and I hated
the very beauty of Nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

So I turned aside among the cypresses. They will calm me, I thought.
Their whisperings are so grave. They flaunt not their joy at the sun’s
kisses, like the shameless trees along the roadside. They keep their
hearts unmoved in sun and in storm; they are the true stoics of Nature.
And their calm is sympathetic; it comes not of a soul immovable; it
comes of strength in trial.

And the cypresses wrapped me round in their scent—the grave,
penetrating odour in which the battered spirit folds its wings to rest,
and the heart-beats grow quieter, and the brow smooths itself out in
peace. In long, long lines they stretched away before me, and I walked
under their guidance, conversing with them familiarly, searching the
height and depth of their thoughts. And I was no longer sore with my
fellow-men. I could tolerate the thought of the flaunting trees and
flowers, of the exuberant life evermore renewing itself away out there
along the road I had left. But still I walked among the cypresses, and
with them I held communion.

       *       *       *       *       *

And lo! they took leave of me. At the edge of a grassy path they left
me. And beyond the path I saw freshly-ploughed brown earth, and the
quiver and strain of a yoke of white oxen as they pulled the plough
through some harder spot; and two workers with brown aprons, arms and
faces like glowing bronze, and soft felt hats weather-stained into
harmony with the earth and the tree-trunks. They bent to their labour;
and the soil laid bare its breast, rich in promise, before their eyes;
and the vines around whose roots the plough passed encompassed them
with luxuriant clusters, purple and white; and the olives bent close
down around their heads, embowering them under a low roof of silver.
So I passed through the toil of those workers, toil calm and regular,
blest in its fulfilling and in its ending; and I carried in my heart
the picture of those bending men, the slow-moving oxen, the rich soil
and the embracing trees.

       *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly a spell was woven round me; a spell as of moonbeams. I was
in a wood of olive trees. Their sharp, narrow leaves, of a sheen like
frosted silver, pointed with rigid grace into the luminous grey of
the sky. No shadow, no darker spot of black or green fruit broke the
wondrous diffused splendour. The very branches, as they spread and bent
outwards from the low trunks, had softened the harshness of their scaly
bark and were as softly radiant as the foliage and the sky above them.
Only the trunks and the under-sides of the branches were in shadow;
rugged and brown, they were like a rough shell which had opened to give
life to an Aphrodite of new and chastened beauty. No flowers jarred
with bright tints the harmonious hush of colour; but here and there
delicate campions raised slender stems that bent with the weight of
grey-green calyx and pallid, wide-eyed blossom.

And I walked, in the exquisite suavity of the wood. Surely, I thought,
the moonbeams have become tangible. Surely I am in an enchanted land
and should meet its mistress; a maiden slim and grave, with wealth
of olive-black hair, with deep dark eyes, with clinging gown of grey
girdled with a zone of cold blue-green. How sweet to stay here for ever
with soul attuned to the melody that mutely breathes from the living
silver of boughs and leaves, and falls graciously from the pearl-like

But onward and ever onward must I go; and the olives left me as the
cypresses had done.

       *       *       *       *       *

They left me at the edge of the highway; and I passed out again into
the glare of the sunshine, the gaze of the passers, the laughter, the
bustle, the pushing, on the parched and burning road.

And behold! a change had come over my soul. The stoicism of the
cypresses, the calm of the toilers, the suave quiet strength of that
harmonious olive wood—these things had permeated the fibres of my
being. The indifference of the passers-by found no way open to my
heart; the unheeding joy of trees and flowers no longer jarred me. I
was clothed upon with a vesture woven of the enduring calm that broods
ever at the unchanging heart of Nature; like armour it encompassed me
about, and I possessed my soul in peace.



BALDUR was once obliged to go away out of Asgard and leave Nanna all
alone. So Nanna was very sad. She knew that no one would hurt her
Baldur, but still it was to her as though he had been swallowed up by
the mists of Niflheim, and as though she would never see him again. So
she went to the Norns who dwell by the tree Ygdrasil, and she said:—

NANNA: “Tell me, oh Norns, who know all things. What can the
body do, when the soul has left it?”

NORN: “The body when the soul has left it can do nothing; it
is lifeless and inert, and turns to dust.”

NANNA: “Tell me, oh Norns, who know all things. What can the
thoughts do, when the master-brain has left them?”

NORN: “The thoughts fly hither and thither when the
master-brain has left them. They seek their director, and finding him
not, fall fluttering to the ground lifeless and useless, or lose their
way along paths that have no ending.”

NANNA: “Tell me, oh Norns, who know all things. What can the
eyes do, and the ears, when the lord they love to see, and the voice
they love to hear, have gone from them?”

NORN: “The eyes grow dim with watching and longing, and the
ears deaf with hearkening and listening—nought else can they do.”

NANNA: “Tell me, oh Norns, who know all things. What can the
limbs do, when the support they twine round has been removed?”

NORN: “The limbs fall powerless to the earth when their
support has gone; they cannot raise themselves nor stir themselves;
they await a wakening voice, which shall bid them live once more.”

NANNA: “Tell me, oh Norns, who know all things. What can the
heart do, when the body is lifeless, the thoughts scattered, the eyes
and ears worn, the limbs powerless?”

NORN: “The heart is no longer in the body. It went away with
the soul, with the master-brain, with the lord the eyes loved to see
and the ears to hear, with the support the limbs clung to. And not till
that great awakening lord brings back the heart, will the body become
quickened, the thoughts reach their mark, the eyes and the ears revive,
the limbs stir and raise themselves once more.”

So Nanna went back to Asgard, and shut herself up forlornly in her
golden palace till such time as Baldur should bring back her heart.


DOST thou know the lamp that shines in the All-Father’s halls? Just now
it is resting; it has gone out. But its reflection still glows through
the heavens; and already do the rays of its light turn round towards
the East, whence, in its full might, it will ere long salute the whole
of Creation.

Dost thou know the hand that receives the sun and leads it to its rest
when it has run its course? Or the hand that rekindles it when it has
gone out, and sends it forth again on its road through the heavens?

The All-Father had two true servants, whom he endowed with eternal
youth. And when the lamp had finished its course the first evening, he
said to Ämarik:—

“To thy guard, my daughter, do I commit the sinking sun. Quench it, and
have a care with the fire, that no hurt come to pass.”

And again, when the time for morning came, he said to Koit:—

“My son, it shall be thy concern to light the lamp and make it ready
for a new journey.”

Both did their duty faithfully, and on no one day was the lamp wanting
from the vault of heaven. And when in winter it wanders along the edge
of the sky, then it goes out earlier in the afternoon and sets forth
later in the morning. And when in spring it awakens flowers and the
songs of birds, and when in summer it ripens the fruit with the heat
of its beams, then it has but a short time to rest; Ämarik gives it up
at once when it is quenched into the hands of Koit, who breathes a new
life into it.

The fair time was now come when the flowers open their perfumed cups,
and birds and men fill with songs the hollow of Ilmarinen’s tent.[17]
Then Koit and Ämarik looked each other too deeply in the eyes, dark as
whortle-berries; and when the sun, as it went out, passed from her hand
to his, then hand pressed hand, and the lips of the one stirred the
lips of the other.

But an eye which ever wakes had marked what was happening in the
secrecy of the midnight stillness; and on the morrow the Ancient of
Days called them both before him and said:—

“I am fully content with the way in which you fulfil your duties, and
I wish you to be completely happy. Marry, then; and wait on your task
together as man and wife.”

And as with one voice they answered:—“Father, disturb not our
gladness. Let us remain ever betrothed groom and bride; for we have
found our happiness in this state where loves are ever young and
new.” And the Ancient of Days granted their request and blessed their

Once only in the year, during four weeks, do the two meet at midnight.
And when Ämarik puts the sun that has gone out into the hand of her
lover, there follow a pressure of the hand and a kiss; and Ämarik’s
cheeks grow red and their rosy hue is reflected through the heavens,
until Koit lights the lamp again and the golden sheen in the sky
announces the upgoing sun. For that joyous meeting the All-Father
adorns his fields with the most lovely flowers; and nightingales cry
jestingly to Ämarik as she lingers on Koit’s breast:—“Careless girl,
careless girl. The night is long.”

_Translated from the_ FOSTERLÄNDSKT ALBUM.


(_From “Tempeste,” by kind permission of Messrs. Fratelli Treves_).

These translations, although they have not received final revision, are
included because of the striking character of the originals.


  WONDER for the Strong! who, forehead-kissed
    By superhuman lips,
  Following the lights of new horizons
    From height of sovereignty,

  The smile, the flash, the song of genius
    Had, and its folly;
  Knew all its flights and all its tears
    And all its harmonies;

  And from their peak launched to the listening world
    Their sacred words;
  And died ’mid dreams and symphonies
    Bathed in bright sunlight.

         *       *       *       *       *

  Love for the Rebels! Heart-bitten, they,
    By sùpreme anguish;
  Linked in Love’s leash
    With those who weep, with those who tremble,
  With those, outcast, by Christ redeemed,
    By brethren betrayed.

  By sea, by land, to thronging crowds
    New laws have they proclaimed;
  Have raised the hymn of coming ages,
    Sublimely frenzied
  For the ideal; and,—irons, rope or axe—
    Smiled at their torments.

         *       *       *       *       *

  But for the Great of Gloomy Places,
    Tears, heart-wrung. Such as are
  A-hungered, trodden down; and—venerable—
    Nor truce nor pardon knew
  From hostile, impious nature,
    Yet hated not.

  Who saw the corn-ear spring for others,
    Yet thievèd not.
  Whose drink was gall and tears;
    who, traitorously
  Lashed in the face by blindfold Tyranny,
    Yet murmured not.

  Who walked ’mid frosts and tempests
    Darkling and quite forgot;
  No sun, no bread, no clothing,
    Yet trusted God.

  Who had a heap of straw to sleep on
    Loathsome and horrible;
  A lazar-house to die in,
    Yet loving died.


  AROUND me rose the city
  Stirring at the first glimpse of day;
  The great city, that gives bread, that labours,
  Rose, as the sun gleamed forth, to its gigantic toil.

  There was a crying of clear voices, unknown voices,
  Beating waves of sound;
  A throwing wide of doors and windows,
  A whistling of trains, a whirling of wheels.

  There was a hastening gaily, furiously,
  Of a thousand human forces
  Towards the work that gives health and food,
  That unfurls a thousand flags to the wind.

  All things glittered, palpitated, laughed
  In the glory of the morning;
  All things seemed to open wings;
  Hope and joy gleamed on every visage.

  Then I observed him. Powerful was he: his front—
  Pale with thought—
  Proudly and nobly bore he
  On the bronzed neck, free-moving.

  Bull neck—breast of the savage—
  Bold glance and word;
  In his veins the surge of life,
  Billows of love and of bravery.

  Resounding the footfall! Like a victor
  Advanced he in the light;
  And my heart murmured:—Is he not a leader?
  Amid the pandemonium

  Of the workshop, proud in his workman’s blouse,
  Does he not tame the monsters
  To whom man meted claws and bills,
  Soul of flame and thews of steel?

  Wells there not within him a fount of vigour,
  Leaping, overbearing,
  That shall fill with fresh life this languishing age,
  Sallow with vice and lack of blood?

  Oh blessèd, blessèd to be beloved of him....
  To wait for him each evening
  Before the frugal board, with all the true
  Sweet anxiousness of one who loves and waits.

  Blessèd to cull from him, as the white lily
  Culls from the golden bee,
  The kiss of one who knows grim strife and toil;
  To be all his treasure, to bear a son to him:

  And in this son, fair and blameless,
  Informed with all his father’s worth,
  To nurse a hope, a hope eternal,
  To find the joys of a falling world:

  And to dream, through him continued
  In the centuries to come,
  Of the race of the unbowed, of the pure,
  Destined to dazzling days of light:

  Of an unstained race of slaves redeemed
  Who amid songs shall reap
  Harvests of freedom born from the weeping,
  From the blood, from the very hearts, of their forerunners.



THE Roman historian Niebuhr reviewing the literature of the Augustan
age, gave it as his opinion that epic poetry was dead, the lyric form
of poetical expression being the only one adapted to the genius of the
Romans at that period. Virgil’s “Æneid,” beautiful as are its details,
he considers a failure as an epic; for an epic hero should, with fresh
simple spontaneity, go straight home to the heart of the people at
large, and this, he argues, the character of Æneas could never have
done. Greek legends in Virgil’s poem are so dove-tailed into the Latin
ones that the work loses its national character, loses therefore its
spontaneity, and remains now, as it must have been from the beginning,
an exquisite mosaic, to be appreciated only by the cultured; and
appreciated, moreover, rather for the delicacy of the descriptions and
the art of the versification, than for any inherent interest attaching
to the principal characters. Roman literary society was, in fact, too
positive to produce an epic poem. The sceptical spirit was uppermost.
Legend, instead of firing the imagination, did but arouse the critical
faculty. The story of Romulus, of his wondrous birth and preservation,
of his building of the city, his government, and marvellous death,
was neither believed in as fact nor treated as poetry. Men set to
work to examine and to explain it; a useful task, no doubt, and one
which Niebuhr himself has performed as well as anyone else, but one
expressive of a spirit far removed from that which animates the writer
of an epic poem. The death of the epic meant, however, the life of the
lyric. Occupying themselves but little with the motives and actions of
those who lived in other ages, men felt all the more need of uttering
their own subjective feelings and impressions. For such utterances they
naturally chose the lyric form, which the highly developed æsthetic
sense of the time induced them to work to a high degree of perfection.
This, in fact, was the age of Horace and Catullus.

Surely much the same causes are at work, in different forms of society,
at the present day. The Italian critic Trezza sings the dirge of the
epic, and proves that the lyric is the only form of poem possible to
the society of the nineteenth century. Another authority besides Trezza
makes a similar assertion.

 “The epic,” he says, “was buried some time ago. To violate the tomb
 of the mighty dead by singing doggerel over it, even if it were not
 the sign of a depraved disinclination to undertake higher flights,
 would not be particularly diverting. The drama (referring to poetic
 drama) is _in extremis_, and the superabundance of doctors won’t even
 let it depart in peace. Lyric poetry, individual by nature, appears
 to stand its ground, and may still last some little while provided
 it does not forget it is an art. If it degrades itself into a mere
 secretion of the sensibility or sensuality of such and such an one, if
 it surrenders itself to all the unnatural licences which sensibility
 and sensuality allow themselves, then, poor lyric, she too is no
 longer recognisable.... To have adapted to the lyric this style of
 versification, fit only for narration and description, without verses,
 and with rhymes _a piacere_, is a sure sign that every idea of the
 true lyric has been lost.... An asthmatic lyric, paunch-bellied,
 in dressing-gown of ample girth, and slippers—tie upon it!... I,
 bending at the foot of the Italian Muse, first kiss it with respectful
 tenderness, then try to fit on the sapphic, alcaic, and asclepiadaic
 buskins in which her godlike sister led the choruses on the Parian
 marble of the Doric temples, which look down at themselves in the sea
 that was the fatherland of Aphrodite and Apollo.”

So writes the great Italian poet Carducci, using a similitude which
might have come from the pen of Horace himself. The Augustan age
produced a poet who measured the Greek lyric buskins on Latin measures;
the nineteenth century has given birth to one who has fitted them on to
Italian verse.

Giosué Carducci, whose poetical works have raised so much controversy
in Italy, and occasioned a deluge of treatises on metre, Italian and
Latin, was born at Valdicastello, in the classic Tuscan land, on July
27th, 1836, of a family which, in the days of the independence of the
Tuscan cities, had given a Gonfaloniere to the Florentine Republic.
His first impressions of Nature he received from the Pisan Maremma,
here stretching away in “peaceful hills, with steaming mists, and
green plains smiling in the morning showers”; there in “chalk-hills
of malignant aspect, sparsely shaded by wood, with horses wandering
under the guilty-looking cork-oaks that bristle, lowering, in the plain
below”; or again in “cloud-swept unsown plains, by the widowed shores
of the Tuscan sea,” scattered with the old-world feudal towers, and
full of ancient memories of decayed cities and mediæval strife. It
was among such surroundings that at the age of eleven Carducci wrote
his first verses. These reveal at once the historical and classical
tendency of his mind; for besides a few lines on the “Death of an Owl,”
we find a poem on “The Fall of the Castle of Bolgheri into the hands of
Ladislaus, King of Naples,” and another entitled “M. Brutus Meditating
the Death of Cæsar.”

Those were unsettled times, however. Political revolution deprived
Carducci’s father in 1849 of his post of village-doctor, and forced him
to take refuge in Florence, where Giosué was put to school with the
Scolopian Fathers. All readers of Ruffini will remember that author’s
experience of the Scolopian convent school as described in “Lorenzo
Benoni”; and can imagine that Carducci, accustomed to the open life of
the Maremma, full of aspirations towards the freedom of classic times,
did not feel himself altogether in his element as he sat learning from
the black priest whose “clucking voice blasphemed _Io amo_,” and “whose
face it was vexation to behold.”

On leaving school, young Carducci published his first volume of poems;
and in 1858, together with some of his friends, started a review named
after the famous sixteenth century poet “Il Poliziano.” The paper,
as is usual with such juvenile ventures, was short-lived; but it is
interesting as showing the efforts the young poet was already making
towards the adaptation of classical forms to modern ideas. It was,
however, impossible that any ardent youth should content himself with
mere literary form during that period of ferment which resulted in the
formation of a United Italy. He, like his contemporaries throughout the
length and breadth of the land, was fired by the noble efforts made
by Garibaldi and Mazzini for the redemption of their fatherland from
the hated Austrian yoke; and, though republican by tradition (as all
Italians must be) as well as by natural inclination, Carducci was yet
willing to follow the moderate party and Garibaldi in their support of
the monarchy of Savoy. Speaking of his political views at that time, he

 “I was one of the very many who in ’59 and ’60 adopted the formula of
 the Garibaldini, ‘Italy and Victor Emmanuel,’ without any enthusiasm
 for the moderate party and its leaders, but loyally. I was drawn to
 it partly from grateful affection for the King and Piedmont, in whose
 firmness I had found some consolation for the misery of the preceding
 ten years; partly from the idea that in the fusion of the noble with
 the burgher element, of the army with the people, of the monarchical
 traditions of one part of the country with the democratic traditions
 of other parts, in the intimate union of loyalty with liberty, of
 discipline with enthusiasm, of ancient tradition with modern belief,
 the history of Italy—that history of wondrous tissue, which bears
 within itself all the seeds, developments, blossomings, fadings of all
 political ideas, forms and phenomena—will at length find, better than
 the Greek could have done, its necessary unfolding and complement,
 achieving the liberation, the union, the greatness of the whole
 country by means of the valour and strength of the nation, without,
 and even in opposition to, any foreign interference.”

As this extract clearly shows, Carducci’s attachment to the Moderates
(as he calls the Monarchists) was purely Platonic; his natural passion
was for the Republicans. Such dualism between head and heart, such war
between his just idea of the exigencies of modern times and his fervid
admiration of the methods and life of the classic world, soon brought
him into serious difficulties, and rendered his active participation
in the military and political events of the Sixties null. For the
men with whom he found himself associated as colleagues, though at
one with him as regards the fundamental tenet of the necessity of a
monarchy, had but little understanding of his idea that the valour
and strength of the nation was to be the making of Italy, without
foreign interference, or even in opposition to it. They relied more on
modern methods of diplomacy than on Greek dash and daring; and, to
gain their ends, were ready to compromise with other Powers and with
the Church in a way that clashed with Carducci’s classic enthusiasm.
Hence the poet was forced into opposition to the party to which his
reflection politically attached him, and poured out the bitterness of
his soul for the indignities inflicted on his ideal, in a series of
poems afterwards collected and published in a little volume bearing
the title of “Giambi ed Epodi” (“Iambics and Epodes”). This attitude
naturally led the Moderate party into the belief that Carducci was a
preacher of republicanism. As such they persecuted him, even suspending
him from his chair of Italian Literature at Bologna; and as such he has
ever been considered until he fell under the spell of the extraordinary
fascination exerted by the grace and manners of Queen Margherita.
Under this spell his old admiration for the House of Savoy revived,
becoming, as many think, exaggerated. He was reproached as a turncoat
by those who never fully understood his former opinions or his true
attitude with regard to the Moderate party; he lost caste among the
students, who once kept him for a whole hour in his lecture-room while
they hissed him violently; and the people at large, finding him turned
into a court poet, openly asserted that he was in his decadence, and
that his latter end was not worthy his beginning. It is certainly a
pity for his fame that it should have been, of all persons, the Queen
in whom he found so warm and appreciative a friend; for his constant
presence about her in the summer holidays doubtless laid him open,
for many minds, to the charge of snobbism. Two things, however, must
be remembered in his defence. Firstly, that he has always considered
monarchy as necessary for Italy in her present condition; secondly,
that the combination of military glory with grace and culture has been
his ideal from boyhood; and this combination he found represented in
King Umberto and Queen Margherita. One of his later poems, “War” (“La
Guerra”) which hymns the praises of military enterprise, clearly shows
that he has lost nothing of his ancient admiration for martial prowess;
while others, addressed to Queen Margherita, prove also his poetic
sensibility to feminine grace. It is thus easy to explain Carducci’s
apparent change of attitude, while at the same time fully understanding
that the masses—not apt to enquire into the workings of a man’s
mind, not apt to read with much attention or reflection—are simply
struck by the difference in tone between his earlier poems (the “Ça
Ira” in honour of the French Revolution, for instance), and his later
laudations of the House of Savoy, and launch against him the charge to
which we have alluded.

It is difficult to choose, from the scathing scorn of the “Giambi”
(“Iambics”), poured out in the incisive terseness of Carducci’s verse,
any short passage which should give an idea of the whole series. We
may mention, however, the terrible little poem entitled “Meminisse
Horret,” written in 1867 while the Court was at Florence. He describes
a horrible nightmare in which he sees Italy giving the lie to all
her past traditions. Her ancient heroes are turned into cowards
and supplicate those whom once they proudly defied; Dante, dressed
like a clown, obsequiously shows strangers round Santa Croce; while
Machiavelli, peeping slyly from behind a tomb, proclaims with a wink
the adulteries of his mother-country in few words which cut to the
quick. In the poem, written on the death of Giovanni Cairoli, the youth
who, like his three brothers before him, died in battle for the unity
of his country, to the grief yet glory of his widowed mother, the poet,
branding, as Dante might have done, the infamy of those who dance and
make love, and bring Italy to shame on the very graves of her heroes,
goes so far as to curse his fatherland:—

  .... Cursed
  be thou, my ancient fatherland,
  on whom to-day’s shame and the vengeance
  of the centuries lie heaped!

  The plant of valour grows here yet
      but for thy mules
  to bed on; here the violet’s perfume
      ends in the dung-heap.

Bitter, too, are the verses entitled “Italy’s Song as she goes up the
Campidoglio.” The mode, namely, in which the Italian Government,
after promising in the September Convention that it would not occupy
Rome, slunk into the city while France and Germany were busy with
their own affairs, revolted Carducci’s whole soul, much as he, like
all true Italian patriots, desired to set the Capitol as crown and
seal on United Italy. He represents the army as entering stealthily by
night, and calling on the Capitoline geese not to make such a dreadful
clatter; it’s only “Italy, great and united,” who is coming back to
her own again, and they’ll wake Cardinal Antonelli if they cackle so.
We might quote endlessly to show how intensely despicable Carducci
considered the diplomats of the Moderate party, who tried to gain their
ends by crooked negotiations now with one Power, now with another,
boasting that they had “read their Machiavelli”; and its generals who
led out the fiery Italian youth to be slaughtered by the enemy. Nothing
can equal, however, the concentration of scorn to be found in the
sonnet “Heu Pudor”:—

  He lies who says that, when the heart flares up,
  the breath of heated genius fans it.
  With the eternal stamp of infamy had I too
  branded the front of this unworthy herd.

  As fierce mayhap as thine, oh Dante father,
  the hate and scorn that camp within my heart;
  But their voracious flaming roars enclosed,
  destroying me, and ne’er attains its aim.

  New lakes of pitch, made thick
  with serpents, monsters, and with demons harsh
  a new and twofold bolgia had I dug;
  and, with its hills and with its walls, cast in—
  like to a loathsome tatter—
  this fatherland of Fucci and Bonturi.[18]

It must not be thought, however, that Carducci can emit nothing but
fire and smoke. From the lurid “Giambi” we can turn for relief to the
exquisite little word-pictures of the “Odi Barbare” and of many of the
poems published in the collections entitled “Levia Gravia” and “Rime
Nuove.” It is in these that Carducci’s sense of nature, frank classic
paganism, united curiously, however, to a certain German sentimental
pessimism, and his extraordinary power of word-sculpture reveal

Let no reader of Burns or Hogg expect to find in Carducci, however,
the same type of nature-sense as abounds in the Saxon poets. The clear
sky and sharp outlines of Italy do not encourage that gentle sentiment
produced by the misty vagueness of hills and plains in the rain-laden
atmosphere of the north. A poet of Greek-Latin race is not likely to
give us the “Address to a Mountain Daisy,” the sweet tenderness of
“Kilmeny,” the undefined melancholy of Tennyson’s “Dying Swan,” or
even the cradling lusciousness of “Haroun Al-Raschid.” His landscape is
altogether larger; his sky, clear, “stripped to its depths,” as Shelley
says of that of Venice, renders distinct even small distant details of
scarped or forest-clad hill, and, reflected in lake or sea or lighting
up the mountains with amethyst and topaz, gives colours of greater
brilliancy, though of less mystic warmth and depth, than does the
ever-varying atmosphere of the British Isles. Macaulay and Longfellow
have already observed the difference of the two types of mind in the
exactitude of detail to be observed in Dante’s “Inferno” as compared
with the vagueness of Milton’s “Hell,” and it is very noticeable also
in the nature-descriptions of lyric poets. Take as an instance the
opening of the following poem “All’Aurora” “To the Dawn”:—

  “Thou risest and kissest the clouds with thy rosy breath, O Goddess,
  Kissest the darkling tops of marble temples.

  The woods feel thee and rouse with a chilly shudder,
  The falcon springs upon the wing with robber joy,

  Whilst the garrulous nests are full of whisperings among the damp leaves,
  And the sea-gull screams grey over the purple sea.

  In the laborious plain the first to rejoice in thee are the rivers,
  Glittering tremulously among the murmurs of the poplars:

  The sorrel foal runs joyfully towards the deep-flowing streams,
  His maned head erect, neighing to the winds:

  The watchful valour of the dogs gives answer from the cabins
  And the whole valley resounds with lusty lowings.

  But man, whom thou awakenest to consume his life in work,
  Still regards thee with thoughtful admiration,

  Just as, in time gone by, the noble Aryan fathers
  Upright among their white flocks adored thee on the mountain.”

It is a pity that it is impossible for us to give the subtle melody
of Carducci’s verse. Although French and German poets have recognised
the master and translated some of his works, no Englishman appears
to have as yet shown this mark of appreciation. Nevertheless, the
characteristic way of treating the subject is clearly visible. The
hawk, emblem of freedom and strife, is the first living creature that
strikes the poet’s eye and mind. The sea-gull, the galloping foal, then
the baying of the dogs and the “lusty lowings,” render an impression
rather of grandeur than tenderness; the smaller birds are hardly
mentioned, the landscape is clear and exact. At the same time there are
little touches of exquisite beauty, worthy of Virgil himself, as in
the “rosy breath” with which the Dawn kisses the clouds, the “chilly
shudder of the woods,” “the garrulous nests whispering among the damp
leaves.” Such jewels of expression are indeed scattered throughout the
whole of Carducci’s work, their conciseness rendering very apparent the
classicality of the models on which Carducci formed his style. Of him,
indeed, Tennyson might have said, as he did of Virgil—

  “All the wealth of all the Muses,
    often flowering in a lonely word.”

Spring sets Carducci’s heart beating in dithyrambs; it is in his spring
songs that he abandons himself most completely to the joy of life as
life, and attains, perhaps, some of his highest flights of lyric song.
Very beautiful, for instance, are the three poems entitled “Greek
Spring Songs”: i. Æolic; ii. Doric; iii. Alexandrine. From the first of
these we may quote the return of Apollo

 “from the hyperborean shores to the pious soil of Greece, to the
 laurels from the sluggish cold; two white swans draw him as they
 fly: the sky smiles. On his head he bears Jove’s golden fillet, but
 the air sighs in his thick-growing locks, and the lyre moves in his
 hand with amorous trembling. Around him circle in light dance the
 Cyclades, fatherland of the deity; from afar Cyprus and Cythera send
 up white foam of applause. And a slight skiff follows throughout the
 great Ægean, purple-sailed, harmonious: Alcæus of the golden plectrum,
 bearing arms, guides it through the waters. Sappho sits in the midst
 of it, with soft smile and hyacinthine tresses, her white breast
 heaving in the ambrosial air which streams from the god.”

The poet is not always so classical as this, however. Of a very
different stamp, to select one other out of many spring poems, is his
“Brindisi d’Aprile” (“April Drinking Song”)—

 “When, in the dark ilexes and new-flowered almond, revels the nuptial
 chorus of the birds, and the primroses on the sunny hills are eyes of
 old-world nymphs looking out on mortal men, and the sun greets the
 beds of flowers with youthful smile, and over the silent moor the sky
 bends piously, and the breath of April moves the flowering corn like a
 sigh of love stirring a young bride’s veil; then do the trunk of the
 vine and the heart of the maiden leap up with throbs; they feel their
 wounds. The vine breathes odorous buds into the cold twigs, the maiden
 darts desire in her virgin blushes. Everything ferments and grows
 languid in the tepor of the air: the blood within the veins, the wine
 within the casks. O, ruddy prisoner! thou yearnest for thy fatherland,
 and the breath of thy native hill raises a ferment within the tun.
 There is the joyous life of the vine twigs: here thou art a prisoner
 in the snare.... Hurrah for liberty! Let us go, let us go to liberate
 the captive; let us call him back to life and make him sparkle in the
 glass, sparkle on the crest of the hill, sparkle to the sunlight; let
 the light breeze kiss him again; let him behold the young vines.”

And yet with all this revelling in nature, and especially the nature
of spring-time, the melancholy despondent strain is never far distant.
Even in the Greek spring songs there is nearly as much talk of chill
mist and rain as of clear sky and sunlight; and the third song,
the Alexandrine, goes so far as to even introduce a graveyard. In
the little poem entitled “School Memories,” too, the poet, after
describing the priest, makes a charming picture of the summer landscape
and beckoning trees that he sees through the window: but everything
is suddenly crossed and darkened by the thought of “death, and the
formless nothing,” and this thought of death has haunted him ever
since. He is too fond of graveyards; too apt, like some German poets
at the beginning of last century, to look upon the world as a vast
cemetery. It is perhaps to this same strain of pessimism, this same
tendency to look at the ugly side of things, that we are to attribute
the absolute repulsiveness of many of the images he employs. To
compare trees, bald, dripping, and bent, to sextons over a grave is
hardly poetical, but it is at any rate harmless; some of his other
similitudes are too repulsive for translation, and we must think it a
pity that so great a poet should encourage the tendency to dwell, quite
gratuitously, on disagreeable non-poetical subjects.

Perhaps the poems which are most free from these defects are those
contained in the first volume of the “Odi Barbare.” There we find the
exquisite little piece entitled “Fantasia.”

 “Thou speakest and thy voice’s soul, yielding languidly to the gentle
 breeze, floats out over the caressing waves, and sails to strange
 shores. It sails smiling in a tepor of setting sunlight, into the
 solitudes: white birds fly between sky and sea, green islands pass
 by, the temples on their rocky summits dart rays of Parian whiteness
 in the rosy sunset, the cypresses on the shores tremble, and the
 thick myrtles send forth their odour. The smell of the salt breezes
 wanders afar, and mingles with the slow singing of the sailors, whilst
 a ship within sight of the harbour peacefully furls its red sails.
 Maidens come down from the acropolis in long procession, and they have
 beautiful white peplums, they bear garlands on their heads, in their
 hands they have branches of laurel, they extend their arms and sing.
 His spear planted in the sand of his fatherland, a man leaps to earth,
 glittering in arms: is he perchance Alcæus come back from war to the
 Lesbian virgins.”

To see the charming way in which Carducci can blend history with
nature, we must turn in the same volume to the poem entitled “Sull’

 “Flow through the red fires of evening, flow, blue Adda: Lydia on
 the placid stream, with tender love, sails towards the setting sun.
 Behold, the memorable bridge fades behind us: the airy spring of the
 arches yields to the distance and sinks to the level of the liquid
 plain that widens and murmurs.”

And then the poet, in musical verse, traces the history of the battles
between the Romans and barbarians; speaks of the “pale Corsican who
passed the dubious bridge amid lightnings, bearing the fate of two
centuries in his slight and youthful hand”; and in contrast with
the smoke and clang and blood of battle we have the recurrence of
the verse representing Lydia floating through the fires of evening
towards the setting sun: “Beneath the Olympic smile of the air the
earth palpitates: every wave glows and rises trembling, swelling
with radiant love.” The smell of youthful meadows rises from either
bank, the great trees sign to the skiff as it passes, and, descending
from the trees and rising from the flowering hedges, the birds follow
through the gold and rosy streaks (of sky and water), mingling joyful
loves. Between rich meadows the Adda flows on to lose itself in the
Eridano; the untiring sun sinks to its setting.

 “O sun, O flowing Adda!” exclaims the poet, “the soul floats through
 an elysium behind thee; where will it and mutual love lose themselves,
 O Lydia? I know not; but I would lose myself now far from men, in
 Lydia’s languid glance, where float unknown desires and mysteries.”

His power of blending historical scenes with descriptive poetry is also
to be found in the poem entitled “At the Springs of the Clitunnus.”
Umbrians, Tuscans, Romans, Carthaginians pass before the reader; then
Catholicism appears with its black-robed priests, driving out ancient
gods and tillage, but ousted in its turn by new developments of the
human mind. “Before us the train, steaming and panting after new
industries, whistles as it rushes along.” Strange as it may seem, all
this history does not swamp the poetry, which is of the most purely
idyllic character throughout.

We must not leave the subject of Carducci’s sympathy with nature
without mentioning the pretty little dialogue between the poet and
the great alley of cypress-trees at which he used to fling stones,
and among which he used to go bird-nesting in his boyish days. The
cypresses run to meet him like a double row of young giants, welcome
him and beg him to remain with them, offering him the pastimes of
years gone by. The poet answers that he cannot stop; he has grown to
be a celebrity now, he reads Greek and Latin, writes and writes, is
no longer an urchin, and, as to stones, he no longer throws them,
especially at plants. A murmur runs through the doubting summits, the
rosy light of the setting sun shines athwart the dark cypress green
with a pitying smile, sun and trees seem to feel compassion for him,
and the murmur embodies itself in words. The winds have told the
poet’s old companions of his eternal unrest, of his eternal brooding
over vexed questions which can never be settled. Let him come back to
his old haunts, to the blue sea, the smile of the setting sun, the
flights of birds, the chirping of the sparrows, the choruses which pass
eternally between earth and sky. So only will he lay the evil spectres
which rise from the black depths of man’s thought-beaten heart, as
putrid flames rise before one walking in a cemetery. The poet will not
stop, yet, as the train whirls him back to the problems of the world,
he looks back at the quiet graveyard to which they lead up and where
his grandmother lies, wondering whether they may not be right, and
whether what he has sought for morning and evening so many years in
vain, may not after all be hidden there. Yet as the train rushes on,
the colts run racing beside it; and it is only a donkey, feeding on a
thistle, that stands stolidly gazing on the busy scene before him.

A pilgrim to this cypress alley relates that its owner, Count Walfredo
della Gherardesca, refuses to cut down the trees, many of which have
suffered much from storms, and replant the alley. “Carducci loves
them,” he said, “and therefore I respect them. Those that have suffered
I shall replace little by little by young plants, and thus the alley
will preserve its true and now celebrated appearance.”

As an expression of pure nature-sense, we may still quote, perhaps, the
sonnet entitled “The Ox”:—

 “I love thee, O pious ox; a gentle sentiment of strength and peace
 dost thou infuse into my heart, whether, solemn, monumental, thou
 lookest out over the free and fertile fields, or whether, bending
 to the yoke, thou secondest man’s swift work with grave content: he
 urges thee, he goads thee, and thou answerest with the slow turn
 of thy patient eyes. Thy breath streams from thy nostril large and
 damp and black, and thy lowing loses itself in the still air like a
 joyous hymn; and within the grave sweetness of thine eye, with its
 green-shadowed depths, the divine verdure of the plain lies reflected
 broadly and tranquilly.”

The conciseness and precision of Carducci’s language give him an
extraordinary power of vivid representation of his subject. He
“etches, sculptor-like,” as Emerson says of Dante. What can be more
vivid, for instance, than the picture of rural life which opens the
poem “At the Springs of the Clitunnus”?—

 “Still do the flocks come down to thee, O Clitunnus, through the moist
 air of evening, from the mountain that waves with dusky ash-groves
 murmuring in the wind, and scatters afar its odours of wild sage
 and thyme; the Umbrian boy still plunges the struggling sheep into
 thy wave; whilst the babe at the breast of the sunburnt mother,
 sitting barefoot by the cottage door and singing, turns towards
 him, and smiles from its fair round face; thoughtfully does the
 father, his legs clad in goat-skins like the fauns of old, guide the
 painted ploughshare, and the strength of the beautiful heifers; the
 beautiful square-breasted heifers their heads erect with mooned horns,
 sweet-eyed, snowy, that gentle Virgil loved.”

Does not one see before one, too, the _Bionda Maria_ (fair-haired
Maria) of the “Idillio Maremmano” in the following verses?

 “How lovely wert thou, O maiden, emerging from the long waving
 furrows, with fresh-plucked flowers in thy hand, tall and smiling; and
 under thy glowing brows thou opened’st the blue of thy large deep eyes
 darting untamed fire. Like the cornflower among the yellowing gold of
 the corn-ears did the blue of that eye blossom forth among thy tawny
 hair; and before and around thee the height of summer flamed; the sun
 laughed, broken by the green branches of the pomegranate, sparkling
 in red. At thy passing, as at that of a goddess, the gorgeous peacock
 opened his eyed tail, beholding thee, and sent up to thee a harsh cry.”

Of a different kind, but equally effective, is the following
description, drawn from a scene in the hall of a thirteenth-century
lord. The storm is raging outside; the greyhound bays at the thunder,
and stretches out his taper head, with erect ears and restless eyes,
towards the marchioness who sits amid her women and maidens; a fire,
smelling of the pine forest, blazes in the midst, and, upright before
it, Malaspina rises a whole head above the minor barons:—

 “A fine trained goshawk perched on the knight’s fist, and, when the
 hail struck the windows now here now there according to the shifting
 wind, and the swift-passing lightning whitened the flashing arms
 hanging on the walls, the bird beat its wings, stretching out its
 snakelike neck, and gave out a hoarse cry of joy: the love of his
 native, free Apuan heights burnt in his piercing eye; he longed, the
 noble bird, to direct his flight through the thunder athwart the

Diverse once more, yet none the less apt to remain impressed upon the
memory, is the opening picture of the poem for the fifth anniversary of
the battle of Mentana, where, it will be remembered, Garibaldi’s troops
were defeated by the combined French and Papal forces:—

 “Every year when the sad hour of Mentana’s rout sounds over the
 conscious hills, plains and hills heave, and proudly upright stands
 the band of the dead on the tumuli of Nomentum. They are no hideous
 skeletons; they are tall and beautiful forms, around which waves the
 rosy veil of twilight: through their wounds laugh the pious, virgin
 stars; the clouds of the sky wreathe lightly round their locks.”

No doubt it is Carducci’s classicism (in a poem entitled “Classicism
and Romanticism” he holds up the latter to utter ridicule) which gives
him this marked power of word-painting; it also informs his poem
with a paganism of which we shall have presently to speak. Yet it
is classicism deeply coloured by nineteenth-century life. Take, for
instance, the little poem “Ruit Hora,” and see how the modern unrest
comes across the calm of the classic scene. Horace’s Lydia would not
have understood a lover of this sort for all his passion:—

 “O green solitude for which I have yearned, far from the noise of
 men! hither come two divine friends with us, O Lydia, Wine and Love.
 See how Lycæus, the eternal youth, laughs in the shining crystal: as
 in thine eyes, O glorious Lydia, Love rides in triumph and unbinds
 his eyes. The sun shines low through the trellis and breaks, rosy,
 against my glass; he glances and trembles golden among thy locks, O
 Lydia. Among the blackness of thy locks, O snowy Lydia, a pallid rose
 languishes, and a gentle sudden sadness tempers the fires of love in
 my heart. Tell me: why does the sea down there send up mysterious
 groanings under the flaming evening? What songs, O Lydia, do those
 pines sing to each other? See with what desire those hills stretch out
 their arms to the setting sun: the shadow grows and embraces them: it
 seems as though they were begging the last kiss, O Lydia. I beg thy
 kisses, if the shade envelops me, O Lycæus, giver of joy; I beg thine
 eyes, O shining Lydia, if Hyperion sinks. And time is rushing by. O
 rosy mouth, unclose! O flower of the soul, O flower of desire, open
 thy cup! O loved arms, open!”

Perhaps, too, Carducci, for all his classic forms, is the only living
poet who could make a detailed description of a railway station, the
arrival of the train, clipping of the ticket, banging of the doors,
etc., without once falling into triviality or bombast; yet such a feat
has he performed in the poem entitled, “At the Station on an Autumn

Especially marked in Carducci’s poems, and particularly in his early
ones, is his rebellion against the Church. The poet’s paganism has
been much discussed. It is a paganism based not on any repugnance for
the teaching and character of Christ (on the contrary, the poet makes
a most attractive picture of Christ in one of his poems), but upon
the unfeigned joy in nature with which, as an antidote to his own
pessimism, the classic poets presented him. It takes the form of a
violent revolt against the creed that, in his opinion, had neglected if
not opposed art, had raved of “atrocious unions of God with Pain,” had
substituted gloom and sadness for the happy life of freedom and nature
(see the poem entitled “In a Gothic Church”), had for centuries been a
barrier to human progress, had constantly been found in alliance with
the enemies of Italy, and had, in these later years of ardent strife
for the unification of the Fatherland, systematically, with violence
and with cunning, opposed the heroes who were giving their lives in
the cause of freedom. The Romish Church was for him the symbol of
retrogression, gloom, and antipatriotism; and in the violence of his
reaction against it he confounded it with the whole of Christianity,
even going so far as to personify progress and liberty, by antithesis,
under the title of “Satan.”

The “Hymn to Satan,” published for the first time in 1865 at Pistoia
under the pseudonym of “Enotrio Romano,” may be said, indeed, to be the
beginning of his fame. Launched on the world without any explanation,
the misleading title caused it to be understood only by a few careful
readers. The world at large saw in it, according to the opinion of
one critic, “an intellectual orgy,” a blasphemous rebellion against
everything that the nation, and even the world, had hitherto considered
sacred and necessary for the existence of society. Its publication
excited great controversy, afterwards given to the world under the
title of the “Polemiche Sataniche,” which gave Carducci the opportunity
of responding to the attacks of the critics, and explaining the
intimate sense of the poem; but even after his explanations, even when
we know from his own lips that for him, taking up, as he believes,
the standpoint of the modern Roman Catholic Church, “Satan is beauty,
love, wellbeing, happiness”; that “Satan is thought that flies, science
that experiments, the heart that blazes up, the forehead on which is
written ‘I will not abase myself’; that Satanic were the revolutions
that brought men out of the middle ages; Satanic the Italian communes;
the German Reformation; Holland embodying liberty in deed; England
vindicating and avenging it; France spreading it abroad to all orders
and all peoples,”—even after the poet himself has told us this,
the poem still jars in many places for the unwonted violence of its
expressions. It is a battle-hymn, with all the fire and energy of the
battle-charge in it. The metre rushes like the swift running of horses,
sweeping the reader along with irresistible force. The poem opens with
the following invocation:—

 “Towards thee, boundless principle of being, matter and spirit,
 reason and sense, whilst the wine sparkles in the cups like the soul
 in the eye; while the earth and sun smile and interchange words of
 love, and a murmur of mysterious nuptials runs through the mountains,
 and the fruitful plain palpitates,—towards thee does the bold
 verse break forth; I invoke thee, O Satan, king of the feast. Away,
 O priest, with your aspersorium and your chant! No, priest, Satan
 turns not back. See, rust eats away Michael’s mystic brand; and
 the faithful archangel, plucked of his feathers, falls into space.
 Cold is the thunderbolt in Jehovah’s hand. Like pallid meteors,
 extinguished planets, do the angels rain down from the firmaments. In
 never-sleeping matter, king of phenomena, king of forms, Satan lives

Satan lurks in beauty, love, and wine, so the poem goes on; and Satan
breathes “from my verse if, bursting forth from my breast and defying
the god of guilty priests, of bloody kings, it shakes the minds of men
like a thunderbolt.” It was Satan who breathed in the nature-worship
of ancient times; Satan that, driven out by the barbarous Nazarene
fury of the love-feasts whose sacred torches were used to burn down
temples, took refuge among the hearth-gods of the people, and shook the
breasts of witches, who, pale with eternal care, drew their inspiration
from nature and him. He opens the cloister gate before the alchemist,
revealing new and radiant skies. In vain monks and nuns try to shut
him out from their lives; he inspires Heloïse, he murmurs the verses
of Ovid and Horace among David’s psalms and tears of repentance. But
Satan often peoples the sleepless cell with images of a better age.
He arouses, from the pages of Livy, eager tribunes, consuls, agitated
shouting crowds. Wiclif and Huss, Savonarola, Luther secure the triumph
of human thought: matter, rise again! Satan has conquered.

 “A beautiful and terrible monster breaks loose, traverses the ocean,
 traverses the land: shining and smoke-wreathed like the volcano,
 it climbs mountains, devours plains, leaps gulfs; then hides in
 nameless caves traversing deep-hidden paths; and issues forth; and
 untamed sends out its cry like a whirlwind from shore to shore, like
 a whirlwind scatters abroad its breath: he passes, O peoples, Satan
 the Great,—passes beneficent from place to place on the resistless
 chariot of fire. Hail, O Satan, O rebellion, O avenging force of
 reason! Sacred are the vows and the incense that rise to thee. Thou
 hast conquered the Jehovah of the priest.”

The metre of the “Inno a Satana” is, as we have said, swinging and
free. It is not in this poem that Carducci has “measured the lyric
buskins on to Italian Muse”; and indeed he himself, in the “Polemiche
Sataniche,” severely criticises its form. It was the expression of the
poet’s inmost soul, written at white-heat in a single night. Carducci’s
real work as a lyric poet is to be found in his other poems, in the
three volumes of “Odi Barbare,” for instance, the “Levia Gravia,” the
“Rime Nuove,” the “Giambi ed Epodi.”

 “I have called these odes barbarous,” he tells us, “because they would
 sound so in the ears and judgment of the Greeks and Romans, although
 I have attempted to compose them in the metrical form of their lyric
 poetry. I felt,” he goes on to say in substance, “that I had different
 things to say from those sung by Dante, Petrarch, Politian, Tasso, and
 other classic lyric poets, and could not see why, since Horace and
 Catullus were allowed to enrich Latin verse with Greek forms, since
 Dante might adapt Provençal rhymes to Italian poetry, why I should
 not be pardoned for doing that for which those great poets received

Neither is Carducci alone in his attempts to adapt Latin measures to
Italian verse. Other poets (among them Chiabrera) had written _Poesia
Barbara_ before him, and his contemporary Cavallotti has tried it
too; but they have produced _Poesia Barbara_ of a different kind.
The essential difference between these poets and Carducci lies in
this: that whereas they copied the mechanism of the Latin metre, with
its complicated system of long and short syllables, Carducci, with
finer intuition of the genius of his mother-tongue, has aimed at
catching and reproducing the music, the rhythm of the Latin verse. He
is hence no copyist but a musician of most delicate ear, whose keen
sense of harmony has procured him success where others have failed,
and are likely to fail miserably. Modern Italian is not fitted, any
more than modern English, for the formal construction of verse on
the basis of long and short feet,—on the basis, that is, of metre.
Indeed many Italian critics think that even in Latin this form of
verse-construction was gradually giving way, or assimilating itself
to the rhythmical verse—the verse whose movement struck the ear,
as does the rhythm of music or dance, without awakening grammatical
considerations of length or shortness of syllables. It is this
reproduction of rhythm instead of metre that renders Carducci so
eminently and pleasurably readable where other poets, even great ones,
are insupportable. All readers of Tennyson, for instance, know the rage
with which one tries to infuse a little music into his “experiments.”
One struggles with “Boadicea,” trying vainly to discover some sort of
melody in it, but, on coming to such a line as this—

  “Mad and maddening, all that heard her in her fierce volubility,”

really throws away the book in utter despair. Not so with Carducci.
It is rare to find a harsh verse in his work, though such, of course,
do occur here and there, and the ease with which his poetry can
be translated into Latin (as much of it has been) proves its close
affinity with this language.[19]

As will be seen from the foregoing sketch, Carducci is no easy-going
poet. He bears out in his everyday work the dislike he has expressed
at seeing the Lyric in dressing-gown and slippers, and has given us,
in a little poem at the end of the “Rime Nuove,” his idea of what a
poet should be—the true _poietes_ (ποιητής) of the Greeks. For him
the poet is a great artificer, with muscles hardened into iron at his
trade: he holds his head high, his neck is strong, his breast bare, his
eye bright. Hardly do the birds begin to chirp, and the dawn to smile
over the hills than he, with his bellows, rouses the joy of the leaping
flames in his smithy. Into the blazing furnace he throws the elements
of love and thought, and the memories and glory of his fathers and his
people. Past and future does he fuse in the incandescent mass. Then
with his hammer he works it on the anvil, and in the splendour of the
newly risen sun, sings as he fashions swords to strive for liberty,
wreaths to crown victory and glory, and diadems to deck out beauty.
“And for himself the poor workman makes a golden arrow, which he shoots
towards the sun: his eye follows its shining upward flight, follows it
and rejoices, and desires nothing more.”


THOROUGHLY Italian and of the best period is Pascoli in the exquisite
propriety of his words; in the sharpness with which he outlines the
little pictures, which are characteristic, especially, of his earlier
work. In these respects one feels his close affinity with the Latin
poets—above all Virgil—who are his Gods, and from whom the early
Italian poets immediately derive. Less Italian—using the word in
the stereotyped sense which would exclude Leopardi altogether from
Italian song—less Italian is he in the mode and direction of his
thought. No gay love-songs, no easy sentimentality have come from his
pen: the passion of love is in fact strangely absent from his work.
He is a child not so much of Italy, as of his age, in his attitude of
enquiry towards the great questions of life and death; in the gravity,
the earnestness resulting, especially in his later works, from this

Nor is this individuality to be wondered at; for Pascoli’s muse was
cradled in sorrow. He was but a lad when his father, returning home,
among the hills of Romagna and within sight of the mediæval republic of
S. Marino, was treacherously murdered by an unknown hand. His mother
died not very long after, having never really recovered from the shock;
then three brothers and a sister; so that Giovanni found himself at a
very early age head of a family of a brother and two sisters.

A hard struggle enabled him to form a home for them. One of the little
poems to his mother which mark, year after year, the anniversary of her
death, refers to this struggle as follows:—

  Know—and perhaps thou dost know in the churchyard—
    the child with long gold ringlets
    and that other for whom thy last tear fell—
    know that I fostered them, that I adore them.

  For them I gathered up my shattered courage
    and I wiped clear my soul for them;
    they have a roof, they have a nest—my boast:
    my love it is that feeds them, and my toil.

  They are not happy, know it, but serene;
    theirs is the smile but of a pious sadness:
    I look on them—my sole, lone family—

  and ever to my eyes I feel there comes
    that last unfinished tear that wet thy lids
    in the death-agony.

He now lives either at Messina, where he is Professor of Latin, or
among the chestnut woods that clothe the hills round Barga near Lucca,
with one of his sisters. This is Maria, the careful, winning housewife
whom all readers of her brother’s poems love—herself known also in
the world of letters as a graceful poetess and an accomplished Latin
scholar. Two or three verses of the little poem entitled “_Sorella_”
reflect the bond that unites them.

  I know not if she be to him more mother
      or more daughter, the sister, gently serious;
      she—sweet, and grave and pious—
      corrects, consoles and counsels;

  Presses his hair, embraces him
      care-burdened; speaks:—“_What is it?_”
      Conceals her face against his breast,
      Speaks, in confusion:—“_Know’st not?_”

  She keeps on her pale face
      and in her eyes quick glancing,
      ah! for when he leaves, the smile;
      the tears for his return.

Two principal influences, then, have gone to the moulding of Pascoli’s
genius: one, the potent attraction of the Augustan poets; the other,
the shock, strain and struggle which have fixed his thoughts on the
most painful problems of existence; which have, by the very breaking up
of his home, accentuated the longing for the domestic affections above
that for amorous passion; and have tinged the whole of his work with an
autumn-like sadness.

Both these influences reveal themselves in Pascoli’s first published
work; a small volume of little poems entitled _Myricæ_, and bearing
the legend _Arbusta juvant, humilesque myricæ_. The shock was at that
time, however, still too near to have exerted its full influence
on the poet’s character. It kept his mind fixed not so much on the
philosophical as on the sentimental and physical side of death: on
the churchyard with its cypresses, its driving showers and gleams of
golden sunshine, its rainbow, its groups of merry children playing
“Touch” round the great cross—but, also, with its dead lying through
the long nights of rain and wind. Even here, however, where triteness
would seem inevitable, Pascoli is individual. He never contemplates
physical decay: worms and skulls are not so much as hinted at. It is
the loneliness of his dead that rivets the poet’s thoughts, their vain
longing for news of those they left on earth:—

  Oh, children—groans the father ’mid the black
    swish of the water—ye whom I hear no more
    for many years! Another churchyard

  perhaps received you, and maybe you call
    your mother as you shiver naked
    ’neath the black hissing rainstorms.

  And from your far-off dwelling you stretch out
    your arms to me, as I do mine to you,
    oh sons, in vain despair.

  Oh, children, children! Could I only see you!
    For I would tell you how in that one instant
    for an entire eternity I loved you.

  In that one minute ere I died
    I raised my hand up to my bleeding head,
    and blessed you all, my children.

And again:—

  They weep. I see, see, see. They form
    a circle, wrapped in the ceaseless booming.
    They still wait, and they must wait.

  The dead sons cling about the father
    unavenged. Sits in a tomb,
    I see, I see in midst of them, my mother.

_Sunt lacrymae rerum._ Pascoli returns to his father’s death more than
once in these early poems: never with impotent cries against man or
destiny, but with a sense as it were of wide-eyed wonder at the pity
of the thing. Here are a few verses characteristic of his attitude;
characteristic, too, of his daring simplicity of expression, relieved,
just as there is a fear of its sinking into mere prose, by some equally
daring conception that throws a vivid light over all that has gone

  August 10th.

  St. Laurence’ day. I know’t, because so many
    stars through the quiet air
    burn, fall; because so great a weeping
    gleams in the concave sky.

  A swallow was returning to her roof;
    they killed her; ’mid the thorns she fell
    She had an insect in her beak:
    the supper for her nestlings.

  Now she lies there as on a cross, and holds
    that worm out to that far-off sky;
    and in the shadow waits for her her nest;
    its chirping fainter comes and fainter.

  A man, too, was returning to his nest.
    They killed him; he spoke: Pardon!
    And in his open eyes remained a cry.
    He bore two dolls as gifts....

  There in the lonely cottage, now,
    in vain they wait and wait for him:
    He motionless, astonished, shows
    the dolls to the far-off sky.

  And thou, oh sky, from far above the worlds
    serene—infinite sky, immortal—
    oh! with thick-falling tears of stars inundate
    this atom dark of Evil.

Such poems bear, however, but a small proportion to the rest of the
work even in the first edition of the _Myricæ_, and a still smaller
proportion in the later editions. The note is struck and left for a
time: heard again, it has been developed into a theme whose harmonies
are rich and deep.

The _Myricæ_, now in its fifth edition, is a collection of the shortest
of poems. Many of them are but a few lines long, that pass in Italian
like the brush of wings and cannot be rendered in our heavier English.
Now it is a little picture, cut like a sixteenth century cameo, of
some detail of the country or of country life, generally with just
a touch at the end that relieves the feeling of pure objectiveness,
and suggests the Infinite which lies around and behind the fragment
presented; now it is some philosophical maxim or reflection which has
evidently become part of the poet’s individuality; now an impression
of infancy, childhood, girlhood, old age; now a fine-wrought point of
irony to prick the ignorance and arrogance of the Philistine.

A consideration of Pascoli’s relation to Nature and the peasantry
immediately suggests a comparison with Wordsworth. It is, however,
a curious fact that the more one attempts to fix the similarity
between the two, the more elusive does it prove to be. We might
say, tentatively, that Pascoli is both more pagan and more human,
notwithstanding _Margaret_ and _Michael_, than Wordsworth. He is more
pagan in that his delight in the beauty of a natural object is more
self-sufficing, therefore more intense; it is a delight that suggests
no defined religious or quasi-religious ideas, though there is always
a feeling, conscious or sub-conscious, that the object is an organic
part of the Universe. He is more human in that the peasants too attract
him more for their own sakes than for the moral reflections to which
they may give rise. They are, moreover, peasants in the full sense
of the word. They are an inseparable part of their surroundings, and
their interest derives from their unbroken contact with Nature, who
now favours, now destroys their toil. A carefully thought out parallel
study of the two poets would without doubt be interesting: it would
have to set out from the fact that the fundamentals of the philosophy
of the two men are essentially different: the Christianity and
Platonism of the English poet being replaced in the Italian—citizen of
a nation which is rapidly casting off metaphysical speculation—by a
frank facing of the possibilities and probabilities opened up by modern
scientific research, by a passionate longing for truth built upon the
rock of scientific fact. A reference to the poet’s lecture entitled
_L’Era Nuova_ (The New Era) will put this point beyond dispute.

Among the poems which mark most strongly this fundamental difference
and this elusive similarity between Wordsworth and Pascoli is that
published in the _Marzocco_ of August 19th, and entitled _Inno del
Mendico_. The simplicity of the diction, the spaciousness of the
atmosphere, the patient resignation of the beggar-man, his harmony with
the upland and the lake which form a setting for him, at once suggest
Wordsworth; but the details of the poem are so totally different from
any conception of Wordsworth’s that a second reading shows the likeness
to be superficial. Pascoli is too thoroughly modern in his scientific
attitude, notwithstanding his Latin affinities (or perhaps if the
matter be well thought out partly in consequence of them), to have many
points of contact with any of the early Victorian English poets.

As for the _Myricæ_, the poems are so varied that it is difficult
to characterise or to illustrate them. Some of the most individual
and attractive—“_Dialogue_” (between sparrows and swallows),
“_Hoof-beats_,” and others—are very delicate word-imitations of
movements, of sounds, of mental states even: and the verbal imitation
is quite inseparable from the conception. The poet himself groups
his little “swallow-flights of song” under a number of heads; but
is nevertheless constrained to leave many standing alone. Thus we
have a set of ten headed “_From Dawn to Sunset_,” in which occurs
the “_Hoof-beats_” already mentioned; another group entitled
“_Remembrances_” in which is the little poem above quoted on the
anniversary of his mother’s death; another headed “_Thoughts_”—short
but pregnant reflections of a philosophical character; “_Young
Things_”—five tiny pieces which reveal a tender sympathy with young
illusions, springing from a deep sense of the contrast between the
world of the children and the reality into which they have been born.
We may perhaps quote a couple as they emphasize the feeling for
contrasts visible in other parts of Pascoli’s work.


  When evening was glowing all ruddy,
    and the cypresses seemed made of fine gold,
    the mother spoke to her boy-child:—
    “a whole garden’s up there, made like that.”
    The baby sleeps and dreams of golden boughs,
    of golden trees, of forests of pure gold:
    meanwhile the cypress in the murky night
    weeps in the rainstorm, fights against the wind.


  Slowly the snow falls, flake on flake:
    listen, a cradle rocks so gently.
    A baby cries, with tiny thumb in mouth;
    an old dame sings with chin in hand.
    The old dame sings:—“Around thy little bed
    roses and lilies grow, a lovely garden.”
    The baby in the cradle falls asleep:
    the snow falls slowly, flake on flake.

It will be perceived that it is not only the child in age whose
illusions are touched on. The wider symbolism is at once apparent.

From the sixteen poems included in “_The Last Walk_,” we may perhaps
quote one that illustrates Pascoli’s tendency to parable.


  We, while the world goes on its road
    eat out our hearts, and double is our torment,
    because it moves, because it moves so slowly.

  So, when the lumb’ring waggon passes by
    the cottage, and the heavy dray-horse
    imprints the soil with thudding hoofs,

  the dog springs from the hedgerow, swift as wind,
    runs after it, before it; whines and bays.
    The waggon has passed onward slowly, slowly;

  the dog comes sneezing back to the farm-yard.

“_In the Country_” includes eighteen charming little pieces in which
the precision of the poet’s wording reveals itself with striking
clearness. One tiny picture we may translate. Each object in it is
distinct; and a feeling of aerial perspective is given to it by the
long-drawn notes of the _stornello_ which are suggested at its close.


  Along the road, see, on the hedge
  laugh bunches of red berries;
  in the ploughed fields move homewards to the stall
                  slowly the oxen.

  Comes down the road a beggar-man who drags
  his slow step through sharp-rustling leaves:
  in the fields a maiden raises to the wind her song:
                  _Flower of the thornbush!_

Two specially charming collections occur under the heading
“_Primavera_” and “_Dolcezze_.” One little touch in the latter may
perhaps be given.


  They were in flower, the lilacs and the olives:
  and she sat sewing at a bridal dress:
  nor had the air yet opened buds of stars,
  nor the mimosa folded yet a leaf,
  when she laughed out; yea, laughed, oh small black swallows;
  laughed suddenly. But with whom, at what?
  She laughed, so, with the angels, with those
  clouds of gold, those clouds of rose-colour.

Girls sewing or weaving, it may be remarked in passing, occur often in
Pascoli’s verse: one feels in them the pulse of the strong domestic
affections that course through the poet’s inner life.

In “_Tristezze_” Nature breathes different suggestions: it has the
sweet languidness of a fine autumn day, with recollections of a gentle
melancholy. A good many people have written about empty nests; but the
touch, in the following quotation, of the feather on the point of being
blown away, yet clinging on, is surely individual.


  From the wild rose-bush, just a skeleton,
  there hangs a nest. How in the spring
  bursts from it, filling all the air,
  the twitter of the chattering housemates!

  Now there’s but one small feather. At the wooing
  of the wind it hesitates, beats lightly;
  like to some ancient dream in soul severe
  that ever flies and yet is never fled.

  And now the eye turns downward from the heavens—
  the heavens to which one last full harmony
  rose glorious, and died into the air—

  and fixes on the earth, on which the leaves
  lie rotting; whilst in waves the wind
  weeps through the lonely country.

We must not close this most inadequate notice of the _Myricæ_ without
mentioning the refined tenderness of one of the closing poems, too
long to quote, entitled “_Colloquio_.” The poet’s mother, a figure of
infinite sweetness, mute and shadowy, yet real, revisits the familiar
house-places with her son; and a few incidental touches put before us
an idyllic sketch of the home with its plants and the two housewifely
sisters, so different in character.

As a contrast to the details of the _Myricæ_ we may here quote a
poem that appeared (December 1897) in the _Nuova Antologia_. Breadth
of silent space has as great a fascination for Pascoli as have the
tender details of home and country life. He had already in one of the
“_Poemetti_” dwelt with longing on the northern regions whither the
wild swans fly, where the _aurora borealis_ lights up the infinite
polar gloom, where mountains of eternal ice rest on the sea as on a
pavement; and Andrée’s balloon expedition to the Pole especially fired
his imagination. The poem that bears the traveller’s name was written
when, after long silence, there was a report that human cries had
been heard on the Sofjord. In the Italian, the first part, broken
by questionings and doubtings has an effect of uncertainty, like the
uneasy straining of the balloon at its rope; from it the second part
rises with a sure, strong leap and sinks gently at the end.



  No, no. The voice borne faint athwart the gloomy
  air from the realms of ice, like human cries,
  was but the petrel’s screech,
  that loves the lonely rocks, the storms
  unheard. Or maybe (was it not like children’s
  wailing?) maybe the sea-gull’s.
  A sound uplifts itself of wailful limboes
  far in remotest shade untrodden:
  that is the gulls, they say. Or divers, maybe?
  Or the skua? Perhaps the skua—for when it flies
  above the icefields, from a thousand nests
  rises a strident cry; since with it draws a-near
  Death’s self. Or was’t vain voiceless crying
  in thine own heart? Nay, but the look-out heard them;
  and in the look-out’s ear thou trustest.
  Yea, but ’twas, sure, the roar of breakers,
  crashing of rocks, howling of wind, the pant
  of storms far off, yet nearing,
  the sky, the sea, oh Norman seafarer!


  Andrée was’t not. Centaur, to whose swift course
  the cloud is mud, the empty wind firm ground,
  towards the Great Bear he flew.
  Followed his flight the hornèd elks at first;
  then no one more; so that there was at last
  but his great heart beating above the Pole.
  For he had reached the confines of the evening,
  and on the Polar peak immovable
  stood, as on rock black eagle.
  High overhead the ocean’s star burnt on
  pendent, eternal lamp—
  and in the lofty shadow seemed to sway.
  And fixèd on his heart saw he, from this
  wave, and from that, of every savage sea,
  amid the calm, amid the roar of the tempest,
  millions of eyes illumèd in the ray
  that burned above his head; and instantly
  cried he to all those eyes of that vast mirage
  _I reach my goal!_


  And then, below him, solemn rose the hymn
  of holy swans hyperborean; slow
  and intermittent ring of unknown harps;
  the knell, far off and lone amid the wind,
  of bells, the closing of great gates,
  hard-turning with clear clang of silver.
  Nor ever sounded erst that song more loud,
  more suave. They sang, that all around,
  alone, pure, infinite was Death.
  And o’er the wingèd man came scorn of days
  that rise and fall; hatred of all the vain
  outgoings that foresee the garrulous return.
  High was he on the peak; with human fate
  beneath him. Andrée felt himself alone,
  great, monarch, God!
  Now died the hymn of the sacred flock away
  in tremulous trumpet blast.
  Then silence. O’er the Pole the star burnt on,
  like the lonely lamp of a tomb.

With the “_Poemetti_,” published in 1897, we find ourselves in the
second phase of Pascoli’s work. He and his sister have left their home
in S. Mauro, with its heart-rending associations, and are settled
in Barga. The trouble can be contemplated from a distance, can be
reflected upon in its general outlines, and brought into harmony
with life as a whole. But the poet’s mind has not taken refuge in the
religion of the Church; he is very far from the sentiment of Tennyson’s
_In Memoriam_. He finds his comfort in the delicious consciousness of
quiet joy known only to those who have suffered without weakness; he
finds his strength in the new perspective of life that is obtained by
a fixed contemplation of the insignificant place our world holds in
the Universe—of the reality of death, which for him ends all things.
And this philosophy renders him very human: it focusses his affections
upon his fellow mortals. Love, brotherly love, alone can keep our
consciences at rest, and fully satisfy our aspirations—such is the
earnest cry of this man across the threshold of whose life the hatred
of a fellow man stretched the corpse of a murdered father.

The note of this philosophy is given at once in the preface of
the “_Poemetti_,” addressed to his sister Maria. He gives a short
indication, rather than description, of his new home with its
church-towers and bells, its mountains and its rivers, its field-birds,
its swallows, martins and rock-swallows, and then exclaims, addressing

“Oh yes, there was a time when we did not live so near you. And if you
knew what grief was ours then, what weeping, what noisy solitude, what
secret and continuous anguish!”—“But come, man, think not on it,” you
say to me.—“Nay, let us think on it. Know that the long sweetness of
your voices is born of the echoes they arouse of that past grief: that
things would not be so beautiful now had they not been so black before:
that I should not find so much pleasure in small motives of joy, had
the suffering not been so great; had it not come from all sources of
grief, from Nature and from Society; and had it not wounded me soul and
body, mind and feeling. Is it not so, Maria? Blessèd, then, blessèd be

And then, further on, after a charming picture of a martin that feeds,
under his eaves, the abandoned nestlings of her enemy the swallow, he
breaks out:—

“Men, I will speak as in a fable for children: Men, imitate that
martin. Men, be content with little, and love each other within the
limits of the family, of the nation, of humanity.”

Twice the poet returns to the same subject. A collection of four short
pieces entitled “_The Hermit_,” compact with thought, ends as follows:—


  And the pale hermit veiled his eyes,
  and lo throughout his heart there streamed
  the sweet sleep of his weary life.
  When he awoke (he was dropping
  down broad, still writers in a drifting ship)
  he cried: Let me remember, Lord!
  God, let me dream! Nothing is more sweet,
  God, than the end of grief, but ’tis
  grievous to forget it; for ’tis hard
  to cast away the flower that only smells when plucked.

In “_The Two Children_” two little ones, having come to blows in heroic
fashion at their play one evening, are ignominiously swept off to bed
by their mother. In the dark, full of denser shadows, their sobbing
gradually ceases, they draw nearer to each other, and when the mother
comes to look at them, shading the light with her hand, she finds them
pressed close together, good beyond their wont, asleep. And she tucks
them in with a smile. The third part takes up the parable as follows:—


  Men! in the cruel hour when the wolf is lord,
  think on the shade of destiny unknown
  that wraps us round, and on the silence awesome

  that reigns beyond the short noise of your brawling,
  the clamour of your warring—
  just a bee’s hum within an empty hive.

  Peace, men! in the prone earth
  too great’s the mystery, and only he
  who gets him brethren in his fear errs not.

  Peace, brethren! and let not the arms
  that now ye stretch, or shall, to those most near,
  know aught of strife or threat.

  And like good children sleeping ’twixt the sheets
  placid and white, be found,
  when unseen and unheard, above you bends
  Death, with her lighted lamp.

The poet’s thought on death is given, with the insistence of one who
is very much in earnest, in two recently delivered lectures, “_L’Era
Nuova_,” and “_La Ginestra_,” (“Flower of the Broom,” a development of
Leopardi’s exquisite poem); and again in two of his most beautiful
poems, “_La Pace_” (published after the Milan riots), and “_Il
Focolare_” (“_The Hearth_”).

In the “_Ginestra_” Pascoli expounds Leopardi as follows:—

“And look at the stars. Reflect that there was a time when they were
thought to be what they appear; small, mere atoms of light.... Instead,
it is the earth that is small, a mere grain of sand. To believe the
earth large and stars small; or to believe, as is the case, that the
stars are infinite in number and size, and the earth very small; these
are the two religions, this is the σκότος and the φῶς: darkness and
light. Look at Vesuvius the destroyer, the glare of the lava glowing in
the darkness. Look at Death. Look it in the face, without drooping the
head cowardly, without erecting it proudly. You will feel the necessity
of being at peace with your fellow-men. And say not that all men know
they are mortal, but that that has never kept anyone from doing ill. I
tell you it is not enough to know it; you must have your soul saturated
with it, and have but that in your soul. Men know, too, that the stars
are large, or rather they give an idle assent to the learned who say
so. They know it, that is, but they do not think it as yet. Will
the time come when they will think it?” And in the “_Era Nuova_” he
continues:—Man “sought illusions and found them. The brute knows not
that he will die: the man said to himself that he knows he will not
die. So they again came to be like each other.... And thenceforth Death
being denied, no longer received from man his sad and entire assent.
Man feared not to sadden his fellow, feared not to kill him, feared not
to kill himself, because he no longer felt the Irreparable. I know the
_Peisithanatos_ (Death-persuader) who it is. I know who persuaded man
to violate life in himself and in others. It is he, who, in our souls,
first violated Death.... This is light. Science is beneficent in that
in which she is said to have failed. She has confirmed the sanction of
Death. She has sealed up the tombs again.... The proof, moved against
her, is her boast. Or rather it will be when from this negation the
poet-priest shall have drawn the moral essence. Who can imagine the
words by which we shall feel ourselves whirling through space? by which
we shall feel ourselves mortal? We know this and that: we do not feel
it. The day we feel it ... we shall be better. And we shall be sadder.
But do you not see that it is exactly by his sadness that man differs
from the brute beasts? And that to advance in sadness is to advance
in humanity?... Man, embrace your destiny! Man, resign yourself to be
man! Think in your furrow, do not rave. Love—think it—is not only the
sweetest but the most tremendous of actions: it is adding new fuel to
the great pyre that flames in the darkness of our night.”

Many will not agree with Pascoli’s method of arriving at his
conclusions; for men’s minds are infinite in number, and but few think
alike. But all will recognise the reverent earnestness of his belief,
and respect the man whom hatred has moulded into a fervent apostle of

To understand Pascoli’s power of differentiating character and
handling dialogue, we must turn, not to his Italian, but to his Latin
poems. These are not in any sense of the word academic exercises:
they are instinct with life and of extraordinary vivacity. The crowd
in which the laughing Horace finds himself wedged, in the “_Reditus
Augusti_”—the poetical rivalry in the tavern between Catullus and
Calvus, in the “_Catullo Calvos_”—the witty yet serious discussion
between Mæcenas, Varius, Virgil and Plotius in the “_Cena in Caudiano
Nervæ_”—these are charming in the extreme, and have all the
piquancy of the Horatian satire. The other two poems, “_Jugurtha_”
and “_Castanea_,” are of a different stamp. The first is a powerful
conception of the ravings and sufferings of the blinded Numidian king,
in the Roman dungeon where he dies of hunger and thirst; the second is
a description of the gathering and preparation of the chestnut crops,
with an invocation to the tree on which alone the inhabitants of the
Tuscan Apennines depend for warmth and food in winter. The peasant
household is truly Virgilian in the conciseness and sympathy with which
it is presented.

Truly Virgilian, too, is an Italian poem entitled “_La Sementa_” (The
Sowing) published in the “_Poemetti_.” There is a simple dignity in all
the actions and sayings of the peasants which prevents any feeling of
the triviality which the poet might so easily have suggested; prevents
at the same time that sentiment of unreality which enthusiastic and
romantic writers on the subject are so apt to provoke.

It is perhaps in the quiet intimateness of “_La Sementa_” that the
fundamental difference between the classic inspiration of Pascoli
and that of the older poet Carducci is epitomised. Carducci is a
born polemist. Son of the _Risorgimento_, he passed his youth in the
midst of a great epic movement, stigmatizing shams and tyrants with
the resources which a wide vocabulary placed at the disposal of an
exceptionally energetic and enthusiastic nature. Carducci’s classicism
is to a great extent formal. His verse imitates the Horatian metres,
his periods are often more Latin than Italian in their construction,
his women bear Latin names. And this Latin brevity, this careful
exclusion of all superfluous words, this precision in the use of
the smaller parts of speech (Carducci’s prepositions are a study in
themselves) combined with the broad imagery and ample conception that
seem inseparable from the age of Garibaldi, provoke in the reader a
sense of exquisite form and of impressive grandeur. The grandeur,
however, sometimes degenerates into rhetoric. Pascoli is more
reflective; he has more quiet sentiment. He lives in a quieter age,
when the enthusiastic hopefulness of the _Risorgimento_ has found
its reaction in a feeling of despondency concerning the accomplished
reality. He is in no sense of the word a polemist. The form of his
verse and of his period is Italian, though he has, it is true, revived
the Latin meaning of many Italian words. He has less grandeur than
Carducci, but on the other hand he is never rhetorical. The Latin
spirit has taken such complete possession of him that it has become
part of himself; it leavens his whole work, but leaves it strictly
individual in form and conception, and admits the expression of a sense
of mystery and vagueness which is rather of the romantic than of the
classic mind. As illustrative of the difference in conception between
the two poets we may compare their sonnets to “_The Ox_.”


  At the narrow brook, amid uncertain mists
  gazes the wide-eyed ox: in the plain
  far stretching to a sea that recedes ever,
  go the blue waters of a river:

  loom large before his eyes, in the misty
  light, the willow and the alder;
  wanders a flock upon the grass, now here now there,
  and seems the herd of an ancient god.

  Shadows with talons spread broad wings
  in the air: mutely chimeras move
  like clouds in the deep sky:
  the sun goes down, immense, behind
  huge mountains: already lengthen, black,
  the larger shades of a much larger world.


  Oh pious ox, I love thee; and a gentle feeling
  of vigour and of peace thou pour’st into my heart;
  whether, solemn as a monument,
  thou gazest at the field so free and fruitful,

  or whether, bowing gladly to the yoke,
  the agile work of man thou gladly aidest;
  he pricks and urges thee and thou repliest
  with the slow turning of thy patient eye.

  From thy broad nostril damp and dark
  smokes forth thy breath, and like a joyful hymn
  thy lowing rises through the quiet air;

  and in the austere sweetness of thy grave
  and glaucous eye, ample and quiet is reflected
  the green and godlike silence of the plain.

Another side of Pascoli’s mind reveals itself in his studies on Dante.
The hope which _is company for me_, he writes, is to go down to
posterity as an interpreter of Dante, as an illustrator of the great
Poet’s mind and thought. He has already published a book, _La Minerva
Oscura_, for professional Dantisti; and is about to issue a series of
articles for the general public.

Pascoli is now occupied on a translation, in hexameters, of the
Homeric poems; and will shortly publish the glottological studies and
the experiments by which he has prepared himself for his task. That
he is capable of treating Greek subjects with Greek directness and
simplicity, and without any affectation of Greek forms (a pitfall into
which D’Annunzio continually stumbles) will be seen in the poem which
closes this paper.



  Nine days, by moon and sun, the black ship sped,
  Wind-borne, helm-guided, while the creaking ropes
  Were governed by Odysseus’ cunning hand;
  Nor—wearied—did he yield them, for the wind
  Bore him on ever toward his country dear.
  Nine days, by moon and sun, the black ship sped,
  The hero’s eye seeking unwaveringly
  The rocky isle ’mid the blue-twinkling waves:
  Content if, ere he died, he saw again
  Its smoke-wreaths rising blue into the air.
  The tenth day, where the ninth day’s setting sun
  Had vanished in a blinding blaze of gold,
  He, peering, saw a shapeless blot of black:
  Cloud was’t he saw, or land? And his grave eye
  Swam, conquered by the sweetness of the dawn.
  Far off Odysseus’ heart was rapt by sleep.


  And, moving towards the ship’s swift flight, it seemed,
  Behold a land! that nearer, nearer sailed
  In misty blue, ’mid the blue-twinkling waves.
  Anon a purple peak that stormed the sky;
  Then down the peak the frothing gullies leaped
  ’mid tufts of bristling brushwood and bare rock;
  And on its spurs sprang into view long rows
  Of vines; and at its feet the verdant fields
  Fleecy with shimmering blades of new-sprung grain,
  Till it stood out entire—a rocky isle,
  Harsh, and not pasture fit for neighing steed,
  Altho’ good nurse for oxen and wild goats.
  And here and there, upon the airy peaks,
  Died, in the clearness of the wakening dawn,
  The herdsmen’s fires: and here and there shot up
  The morning swirl of smoke from Ithaca—
  His home at last—! But King Odysseus’ heart
  Floating profound in sleep, beheld it not.


  And lo! upon the prow o’ the hollow ship
  Like angry gulls, words fly; like screaming birds
  With hissing flight. The forward-straining ship
  Was coasting then the high peak of The Crow
  And the well-circled fount, and one could hear
  The rooting of the boar-pigs; then a pen
  Of ample girth appeared, with mighty rocks,
  Well-builded, walled around, and hedged about
  With wild-pear and with hawthorn all a-bloom.
  The godlike herdsman of the boar-pigs, next,
  Upon the seashore, with sharp-edgèd axe
  Spoiled of its bitter bark an oakling strong,
  And cut great stakes to strengthen that fair pen,
  With harsh and gleaming axe-bites. Fitfully
  Amid the water’s wash, came o’er the sea
  The hoarse pant of his strokes—that herdsman good—
  Faithful Eumæus—But Odysseus’ heart,
  Sunk deep in slumber, heard them not at all.


  And now above the ship, from prow to stern,
  The sailors’ furious words like arrows sped
  In shuddering flight. The eager-homing ship
  Abreast the harbour of Phorkyne sailed.
  Ahead of it stood out the olive tree,
  Large, goodly-boughed; and near to it a cave,
  A cave sonorous with much-busied bees
  As they in wine-bowls and in jars of stone
  Perform sweet task of honey. One could see
  The stony street o’ the town; the houses white
  Climbing the hill; distinguish, ’mid the green
  Of water-loving alders, the fair fount,
  The altar white, the high-raised, goodly roof—
  Odysseus’ high-raised steading. Now, perchance,
  The shuttle whistled through the warp, and ’neath
  The weary fingers grew again the web
  Ample, immortal.—Yet, nor saw, nor heard
  Odysseus’ mighty heart, quite lost in sleep.


  And in the ship, now entering the port,
  The worse part won the day. The men untied
  The leathern bags, and straight the winds out-whistled
  Furious; the sail flung wide, and flapped as doth
  A peplum by a woman left outspread
  To dry i’ the sun upon some airy peak.
  And lo! the labouring ship hath left the haven—
  The haven where, upon the shore, there stood
  A goodly youth propped on a spear bronze-pointed.
  Under the grey-green olive stood the youth
  Silent, with dreaming eyes: and a swift hound
  Around him leaped, waving his plumy tail.
  Now the dog checketh in his restless play
  With straining eyes fixed on the infinite sea;
  And, snuffing up the air o’ the briny tracks,
  After the flying ship he howls aloud—
  Argus his dog. Yet still nor heard nor saw
  Odysseus’ heart, in balmy slumber bathed.


  And now the ship coasted a lofty point
  Of rocky Ithaca. And, twixt two hills
  A garth there was, well-tilled, Laertes’ field,
  The ancient king’s: therein an orchard rich
  Where pear-trees stood, and apples, row on row,
  That once Laertes gave to his dear son
  Who thro’ the vineyard followed, begging this
  And that, among the slim new-planted trees.
  Here now, ten apple-trees and thirteen pears
  Stood white with blossom in a close-set clump,
  And in the shade of one—the fairest—stood
  An old man, turning towards the boundless sea
  Where roared the sudden squall—with up-raised hand
  Lessening the light above his wearied eyes—
  Strained his weak gaze after the flying ship.
  This was his father: but Odysseus’ heart,
  Floating profound in sleep, beheld him not.


  And as the winds the black ship bore afar
  Sudden the hero started from his sleep,
  Swiftly unclosed his eyes, to see—perchance—
  Smoke rise from his long-dreamed-of Ithaca—
  Faithful Eumæus standing in the pen—
  His white-haired father in the well-tilled field,
  His father dear, who, on the mattock propped,
  Stood gazing, gazing at the lessening ship—
  His goodly son, who, leaning on his spear,
  Stood gazing, gazing at the lessening ship—
  And, leaping round his lord, with waving tail,
  Argus his dog—Yea, and perchance his house,
  His dear sweet home, wherein his faithful wife
  Already laboured in the chattering loom.
  He gazed again—a shapeless blot of black
  He saw across the purpling waste of sea—
  Cloud was’t or land?—It faded into air
  E’en as Odysseus’ heart emerged from sleep.

Giovanni Pascoli’s sincerity of thought, truth of feeling, breadth of
sympathy, temperateness and restraint, mark him out as a poet in the
full sense of the word; and place him, artistically and morally, on
a higher plane than the decadents who represent Italy to the foreign




_Longmans Green and Co._[20]

AVVERSARIO implacabile della dotta critica tedesca e degli scienziati
che si rifiutino ad indagini che possano eventualmente distruggere
teorie favorite, è il signor Andrew Lang. Un anno fa, egli presentò
al pubblico inglese una traduzione del libro in cui il Comparetti,
esaminando il poema cosiddetto epico dei Finni e le Rune delle quali
il Lönnrot lo costrusse, trova parole acerbe per i Tedeschi che
idearono la teoria dei _Kleine Lieder_ per i poemi omerici, e che la
sostennero con grande apparato scientifico basato sul nulla, per mezzo
di deduzioni da ipotesi non provate, e, per la mancanza di criterii
obiettivi, non dimostrabili. In un libro recente egli dà l’assalto alla
teoria vigente sulle origini e sullo sviluppo della religione.

La fede in un Dio etico, onnipotente, cui non si propizia per
sacrifizi di tori e di agnelli, non è un’evoluzione dall’Animismo,
dall’adorazione degli antenati, che esiste tuttora fra i popoli meno
progrediti, nè il concetto di un tal Dio nasce da quello astratto di
spirito, come ordinariamente si asserisce. Tale fede, tale concetto
si trovano fra i popoli meno evoluti che si conoscano, ma vengono
sopraffatti durante il progresso materiale ed intellettuale della
razza: in parte dal desiderio di avere un Dio più trattabile, meno
esigente; in parte dalle invenzioni della classe sacerdotale, che per
il proprio vantaggio asseconda codesto desiderio; in parte dai miti
che oscurano il concetto fondamentale della Deità. Solo fra il popolo
ebraico codesto concetto fondamentale potè perdurare; ma perdurò per
opera dei profeti, ad onta delle tendenze popolari verso il politeismo
e delle pretese della classe sacerdotale.

Tale la tesi del signor Lang. Per svilupparla, egli esamina prima
le fonti da cui potrebbe scaturire, nell’uomo primitivo, l’idea di
spirito; e qui non rifugge dall’investigare quelle manifestazioni della
regione X della natura umana, cui gli scienziati rifiutano in generale
di rivolgere l’attenzione. Il Lang è di natura alquanto scettico, ma
sostiene che il consenso di tradizioni del passato di tutti i popoli
e di fatti che si possono con cura verificare oggi intorno alla
telepatia, alla chiaroveggenza, rende non scientifica l’attitudine
di quegli scienziati i quali si rifiutano ad indagini e deridono
senz’altro l’idea che esista una potenza per cui individui, senza la
propria volontà o con essa, possano acquistare conoscenza di fatti
accaduti, o che stanno accadendo, per altri mezzi che non siano quelli
apparenti dei sensi.

Vagliando con cura le narrazioni dei viaggiatori di tutti i tempi, ma
specialmente di quelli più recenti, e confrontandole colle esperienze
sue proprie nell’indovinare i fatti ignoti e passati scrutando in
un cristallo (_crystal-gazing_, _scryer_), il Lang conclude, che la
chiaroveggenza, esistente in certi individui e specialmente fra certe
razze (gli Scozzesi ad esempio) e molto evidentemente sviluppata
(nonostante gli inganni dei “veggenti”) fra i popoli meno progrediti,
fornisca esperienze vere abbastanza meravigliose per dar luogo all’idea
di spirito ed all’animismo che forma la religione attuale di molte

Seguendo gli ulteriori stadi dello sviluppo dell’idea religiosa, il
Lang combatte fieramente lo Spencer e l’Huxley, accrescendo forza
alla propria teoria con addurre fatti osservati recentemente da vari
viaggiatori tra i nomadi più bassi dell’Australia, e dalla signorina
Kingsley fra le tribù selvagge dell’Africa (Zulu, Bantu, ecc.). Egli
prova quindi che tutte le razze primitive finora esaminate, perfino
i rozzi _Bushmen_ dell’Australia, hanno il concetto di un Essere
onnipotente, che esisteva prima che la morte entrasse nel mondo, che
vede ogni cosa, che punisce l’adulterio, la violenza alle vergini,
gli assalti a tradimento non soltanto contro i componenti la stessa
tribù ma anche contro altre persone. E a questo Essere non si offrono
sacrifizi, perchè, secondo le parole d’un _Bushman_, “noi non gli
possiamo offrir nulla che egli non abbia già.”

Ora, è vero che contemporaneamente a codest’Essere concepito così
largamente ed eticamente, quasi tutti i popoli adorano una folla di
spiriti, che sono gli spettri di persone morte, oppure che non sono mai
stati uniti ad un corpo, e che vengono propiziati con sacrifizi; di
modo che il culto degli spiriti è molto più in evidenza che non quello
del Dio grande e buono.

Domanda il Lang: Il Dio grande si è sviluppato più tardi da uno fra
la folla degli spiriti e spettri di antenati affamati? Oppure è
egli fondamentale nella religione di quei popoli? Nacque egli, per
così dire, prima che, per le esperienze sopra accennate, l’idea di
spirito fosse concepita; prima dunque che gli antenati e gli spiriti
vaganti fossero adorati; prima che l’Animismo divenisse la religione
apparente di quei popoli? L’Autore crede che quest’ultimo sia il
caso. È pur difficile che lo spirito di uno stregone o di un antenato
appartenente ad una sola famiglia sia stato assunto da una intiera
tribù alla dignità di Essere creatore di tutto; specialmente quando
si rifletta che codesti spiriti sono per lo più di indole cattiva o
almeno capricciosa, che non inculcano precetti etici, e che il loro
culto porge l’occasione a banchetti cari all’uomo di ogni tempo. Di
più, se l’Essere creatore fosse un’evoluzione ulteriore del pensiero
non più primitivo, godrebbe come prodotto recente una maggiore stima e
gli sarebbe attribuita maggiore importanza che non agli altri Iddii.
Invece si verifica il contrario. Il Creatore accenna fra molti popoli
a sparire addirittura. Se ne parla come di un Essere misterioso,
potentissimo, “di cui ci raccontavano i nostri padri,” ma che è ormai
quasi dimenticato. Codesto sarebbe un fatto assai strano nell’ipotesi
che egli fosse un Dio più recente degli altri. Inoltre, la fede nel
Creatore etico si trova con straordinaria purità fra i _Bushmen_, che
non hanno il culto degli antenati; prova lampante che fra loro almeno
lo sviluppo supposto dallo Spencer e dall’Huxley non ha avuto luogo.

I _Bushmen_ sono nomadi. Darumulun, il Creatore etico, non ha dimora
fissa, ma è da per tutto. Non avrebbe dovuto il progresso nella
coltura materiale, si chiede il Lang, portare quasi logicamente un
rimpiccolimento ed una conseguente degenerazione nell’idea religiosa?
Le tribù nomadi prendono dimora fissa; l’Essere creatore abita, non
più da per tutto, ma vicino a loro, e veglia specialmente su di loro:
diviene un Dio tutelare. Le tombe dei morti, prima sparse qua e là,
rimangono davanti agli occhi dei vivi; cominciano i sacrifici ai morti
ed agli spiriti loro; e ne risulta un animismo fiorente accanto alla
fede, mezzo dimenticata, in un Essere più grande.

E l’Animismo, domanda ancora il Lang, è valso poi a nulla nel formarsi
della Religione quale l’hanno ora i cristiani? E risponde che
esso, sovrapponendo la fede nella vita futura a quella nella Deità
onnipotente conservataci attraverso i secoli dal popolo ebraico, ha
aggiunto a questa un nuovo ed importantissimo elemento etico.

Il Vecchio Testamento accenna appena ad una vita oltretomba: il Nuovo
Testamento ne parla continuamente. E gli espositori del Cristianesimo
se ne valgono quale leva potentissima nello spingere il mondo lungo la
strada della moralità.

Il Lang non è dogmatico. Egli rappresenta il suo libro come _la traccia
di un esploratore solitario attraverso la foresta delle religioni_
primitive. In ogni caso il libro merita di essere studiato: esso unisce
ad una ricerca larga e coscienziosa una critica acuta, ed assale
l’attuale teoria sulle origini della Religione con tanta vivacità da
scuoterne fieramente le basi.




  _Lo Wanderer! who hast found my poor abode—
    This humble rest-house for the wayfarer—
    The window-flowers glow in God’s sunlight dear,_
  _The linnet’s note lifteth Care’s weary load,_
  _The snowy cloth its message fair hath showed
    Bidding thee freely welcome to draw near
    And, glad at heart, take of my simple cheer_
  _To help thy feet along the lonely road._

  _Here pause! nor lightly lift this second latch
    That leadeth to the quiet inner room;_
  _Seek not with idly curious gaze to snatch
    Hints of more personal things—life’s gleam or gloom;_
  _Yet Friend! who’d know the dweller ’neath my thatch,
    Enter, and mark the pattern on the loom._

  (_H. O. A._)

[Illustration: Isabella M. Anderton]


Isabella M. Anderton was born at Lower Clapton, then almost a country
village, near London, in October, 1858. She was educated at Priory
House School, kept by her father, where boys and girls were taught
together after the manner now followed by many American schools; for
Mr. Anderton, who had thought much about the theories of his work,
believed strongly in such co-education. Many of his pupils, it may be
said in passing (for he has now been dead some years), have justified
his belief, having achieved a good measure of distinction and fame.

After matriculating at London in 1877, she went to study German for a
year at Cannstadt, where she contracted a close friendship with Frau
Freiligrath, wife of the German patriot-poet, whose children had also
formerly been at Priory House School.

Returning to Clapton in 1878, she taught for four years in her father’s
school, till the weakness of her health, which she had overtaxed by the
strenuousness of her work, made it imperative for her to take a rest.
She therefore remained at home for a year, quietly attending lectures
from Professors Burdon Sanderson and Ray Lankester, at University

In 1883 she went to Italy and lived for some years with a family at
Genova, teaching the children and writing. Here she began those Italian
studies which she pursued with such unfailing delight during the
remainder of her life.

In 1887 she had another break-down, and with a friend, went up to the
Apennines above Pistoia to recruit. Here, however—at Prunetta—her
illness became so serious that, in response to a telegram, a brother
and sister hurried out to her assistance. On their arrival a move was
made to Cutigliano, where she slowly recovered strength. During this
visit to the Pistoiese she came closely into touch with the peasants
of the neighbourhood, studying their folk-lore and their ways of
thought with keen and sympathetic interest. Her exceptional knowledge
of Italian, and her instinct for the genius of the race, enabled her
to go with a rare directness home to the minds and affections of her
peasant-friends; and, of the literary results—The Tuscan Stories and
Sketches here given—a considerable number were contributed to “Good

After this she left the family with whom she had been living, but
remained in Genova, teaching and writing, till her marriage in October,
1890, to Rodolfo Debarbieri, when they removed to Florence, in which
fascinating city the remainder of her life was spent, in the heart of
its literary and artistic life. Here their only child, a son, was born
in 1891; and in course of time it was arranged that this son should be
sent to receive his education in England.

In 1899 she was appointed to the English Chair in the Istituto SS.
Annunziata, where her work and influence over the pupils were highly
valued by all, not only for their intellectual but also for their
stimulating moral qualities.

In 1900 she had to undergo a serious operation, most skilfully
performed by Professor Colzi of Florence. This, though successful for
the time, seems to have left a legacy of evil, and in 1902 a further
operation became necessary. She continued her work, however, bravely
once more, writing on literary and artistic subjects with unfailing
zest, and in June, 1904, seemed to her friends to have completely
recovered her health and strength. But the final blow fell swiftly.
In July illness seized her again, and carried her off in the December
following, after terrible sufferings borne with a fortitude which
one can hardly call other than heroic. No thanks can be adequate for
the care and kindness of her friend Dr. Oscar Marchetti, who could
not have done more for her had she been his own sister; nor for the
whole-hearted devotion of her maid Paolina.

She was followed by a distinguished company of friends,
fellow-professors, and artists, to the Protestant cemetery of the
Allori, about a mile and a half outside the Porta Romana—a peaceful
enclosure, with its solemn cypresses and weeping ashes, set like an
island amid the sunny olive-clad hills she loved so well. Here, at the
foot of an avenue of cypresses, she was laid to rest; and thus the
sentiment of the prose-poem given in this volume seems to cling about
her to the end.

Her command of Italian and knowledge of the literature were
extraordinary; and in fact she was often taken during later years
for an Italian, on one occasion asking a friend rather ruefully if
it were true that she spoke English with an accent: and, by living
with Italians of all classes, she obtained an understanding of their
habits of thought and more intimate life that few foreigners possess.
French and German, too, were at command, as well as Latin, and to a
less extent Greek; one of her most valuable works being a study of
the character of Virgil’s Dido, especially interesting as being from
a woman’s point of view. It is much to be regretted that this cannot
now be traced, or it would have been included here. She undertook
for Senatore Domenico Comparetti the translation into English of his
“_Traditional Poetry of the Finns_” (1898), and had many an interesting
discussion with him as to the manner of its English presentment. At
first he was rather inclined to resent her vigorous pruning of his
elaborate periods, though in the end he saw that, though admissible in
Italian, they were impossible in English. Indeed a few months ago he
said with picturesque Italian politeness that he had come to prefer
the translation to the original. This translation, with a preface by
Mr. Andrew Lang, was published by Messrs. Longmans in 1898. For about
ten years she was Florence correspondent to The Studio, her chief
contributions being _Pietro Fragiacomo_ (Oct. 1899): and _Domenico
Morelli_ (Nov. 1901). These articles she wrote, as was always her
custom, under her maiden name.

Her work on literature and art gave her the keenest delight, as also
did the beauty of the city of Florence and her friendship with some
of its most interesting residents. The fascination too of the Tuscan
hills and plains appealed deeply to her, as did the romance of Elba
where she once went for a long holiday with her brother. Rome, Venice,
Siena, and the varied beauties of Italy—perhaps these appealed to her
the more poignantly that her physical wellbeing seemed gradually more
precarious and elusive. Latterly it was a long war between her will and
her weakness; between the _vivida vis animi_—the living force of her
indomitable spirit—and the _ineluctabile fatum_—the fate whose grip
none may escape. Yet with unquenched hope she struggled on, keeping for
her friends a cheerful sunniness, and for those in need of help and
comfort a well-spring of encouragement. If the motto she once adopted:—

  Ad Augusta per Angusta,

was not realised in a material sense, it may stand, as inscribed on
the marble in the Allori, as symbolical of a spiritual struggle and

The singular combination in her nature of English and Italian
characteristics is well expressed in the beautiful words of her
friend the poet Angiolo Orvieto, writing just after her death in the
Florentine literary paper “_Il Marzocco_”:—

“Isabella M. Anderton.—È morta a Firenze, ove abitava da parecchi
anni, la signora Isabella M. Anderton, elegante e dotta scrittrice
di arte italiana su parecchie riviste inglesi tra le quali _The
Studio_. Esperta della lingua e della letteratura nostra, fece inglesi
con efficacia e fedeltà prose e poesie: e son degne di speciale
ricordo le sue versioni dal Pascoli—di cui era ammiratrice ed
amica—e la traduzione del _Kalevala_ di Domenico Comparetti.—Venuta
dall’Inghilterra in Italia, ella contemperò in una incantevole armonia
le energiche virtú della sua stirpe e le grazie della nostra. Fu
inglese nella operosa tenacia del volere, nella tempra metallica
del carattere; italiana nell’elegante agilità dello spirito, nella
sensibilità vivida e pronta, nella fantasia colorita. Fu donna nel
senso più delicato di questa parola e nel senso più alto; e seppe
mostrare alla sventura un volto sorridente. Insegnante valentissima,
ebbe la cattedra di lingua inglese al Collegio dell’Annunziata e seppe
cattivarsi l’affetto e la stima delle sue allieve, che ricorrevano
a lei per consiglio ed aiuto anche dopo lasciata la scuola. Il
_Marzocco_, che ne ebbe qualche volta la collaborazione, si unisce ai
molti che in Firenze e fuori ne piangono la scomparsa.”

“_There has passed away at Florence, where she had lived many years,
Isabella M. Anderton, an elegant and learned writer on Italian art in
several English reviews, among them_ THE STUDIO. _Well skilled in our
language and literature, she turned both prose and verse into strong
and faithful English: worthy of special mention being her versions of
Pascoli—of whom she was an admirer and friend—and her translation
of the_ KALEVALA _of Domenico Comparetti. An Englishwoman settled in
Italy, she blended in an enchanting harmony the nervous energy of her
race and the grace of ours. She was English in her energetic tenacity
of will, finely tempered as a blade of steel; Italian in her agile
grace of spirit, in her vivid and ready sensibility, in the glowing
colours of her imagination. She was a woman in the truest and highest
sense of the word; and knew how to meet adversity with a smiling face.
A most excellent teacher, she held the Chair of English Letters at the
Collegio dell’Annunziata, where she fairly captivated the affections
and esteem of her pupils who went to her for counsel and advice after
having left the school. The_ MARZOCCO, _to which she was a contributor,
joins with many in Florence and elsewhere in mourning her loss._”


[1] This is actually as the woman told it. I can only suggest there is
some lacuna which my story-teller did not know how to fill up.

[2] _We retain the unusual spelling “Dominiddio,” which is evidently
intended to indicate the pronunciation of the Tuscan peasants._—ED.

[3] _Cf._ The Story of The Three Sisters, in the Arabian Nights.

[4] “Let us go, young men; let us go, young men, to those nice cialde,
O—— h.”

[5] Beppe’s home is more fully described in “A Tuscan Farmhouse,” p.

[6] The house is small, but great its restfulness.

[7] Sacred to Jupiter, the patron of hospitality. Oh, thou, whoever
thou mayst be, who, being an honest man, art perchance fleeing those
worst of enemies, thy neighbours, enter this lonely house and rest.


Friends, enemies; Relations, serpents; Cousins, assassins; Brothers,

[9] For description of the marriage, see “A Wedding in the Pistoiese,”
p. 87.

[10] That Capoliveri was a Roman town seems to be proved by the
manuscript of a Goth, quoted as travelling in these parts in about 530
A.D. He tells us that the right name of the place is _Caputliberum_,
for that Roman exiles deported to this village, without any
difficulty, obtained the liberty of walking outside the walls within
the jurisdiction of the city. It must have been a sort of _Domicilio
Coatto_. The author of the manuscript is called by Ninci and Lambardi
_Celeteudo_ or _Celteuso_.

[11] The copper mines, mentioned by Aristotle, are no longer open. That
they were worked by the Etruscans was first proved by Raffaello Foresi,
when, in 1865, he made known the discovery of various bronze objects.
These were found by one of the Foresi peasants near the entrance into
the ancient copper mines above Portoferraio, together with a mould
for receiving the melted bronze. Finely-worked bronze ornaments were
found about the same time during an investigation made at Foresi’s
suggestion, associated in a sepulchral cavern with skulls of Etruscans
and Ligurians.

[12] “Storia dell’Isola dell’Elba.” Giuseppe Ninci. Portoferraio, 1815.

[13] qui in portoferraio nel MDCCCII fu recato pargoletto vittore
hugo qui nacque la sua parola che più tardi lava di fuoco sacro dovea
correre le vene dei popoli e forse tre anni vissuti in quest’aura cui
danno atomi il ferro ed il mare afforzando il corpo infermiccio di lui
serbavano l’orgoglio dei suoi natali alla francia la gloria del suo
nome al secolo all’umanita un apostolo e un genio immortale.

[14] napoleon the great passing by this place in MDCCCXIV. took in
the neighbouring field a ploughshare from the hands of a peasant and
himself tried to plough but the oxen rebellious to those hands which
yet had guided europe headlong fled from the furrow.


napoleon I. having conquered empires reduced kings to vassalage
overcome by the snows of russia not by arms in this hermitage through
him transformed into a palace dwelt from the 23 august to the 14
September 1814 and having tempered afresh his immortal genius on the 24
february 1815 hence darted forth to amaze anew the world at his daring.

The municipality of marciana with grateful and reverent soul to so
great a name decreed the erection of this memorial the 18 february 1863.

[16] 1897.

[17] The sky; formed, according to the ancient Finnic legend, by the
wondrous smith Ilmarinen. In the “Song of the Sampo” he boasts that he
has made it so well that “no hammer-marks remain; no pincer-marks are

[18] The reader will recognise the allusion to cantos xxi. and xxiv. of
Dante’s “Inferno,” of which the former describes the lake of pitch in
which the barrators were tortured, and the latter the terrible valley
in which the sacrilegious Vanni Fucci and his like were tormented with

[19] Compare, for instance, the Italian and Latin versions of the
following verse, taken from a short poem on a laurel branch which the
poet, having plucked on the Appian Way, presented to a lady friend who
bore the name of Daphne; and compare these again with the well-known
Horatian ode “Integer Vitæ”:—

“Io son, Daphne, la tua greca sorella: Che vergin bionda sul Peneo
fuggia, E verdeggiai pur ieri arbore snella Per l’Appia Via.

En soror, Daphne, tua quæ fugaci Jam pede ad Peneum pudibunda adibam;
Appiæ et nuper virui tenella Margine laurus.

Integer vitæ scelerisque purus Non eget Mauris jaculis neque arcu Nec
venenatis gravida sagittis, Fusce, pharetra.”

See also “Sei Odi Barbare di Giosué Carducci, con la versione Latina di
Amedeo Crivellucci.” Citta di Castello, 1885.

It must be observed in this connection that Carducci is very apt to
change a descending Horatian rhythm into an ascending Italian one,
beginning his line with an unaccented and rising to an accented
syllable. In this way he obtains much movement and swing.

[20] Reprinted by permission, from “La Perseveranza” Milano, Martedì,
20 Marzo 1900.

                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

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