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Title: Poems of Giosuè Carducci - Translated with two introductory essays: I. Giosuè Carducci - and the Hellenic reaction in Italy. II. Carducci and the - classic realism
Author: Sewall, Frank, Carducci, Giosuè
Language: English
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                                 POEMS
                                   OF
                            GIOSUÈ CARDUCCI

                               TRANSLATED
                      WITH TWO INTRODUCTORY ESSAYS

                   I GIOSUÈ CARDUCCI AND THE HELLENIC
                           REACTION IN ITALY

                  II CARDUCCI AND THE CLASSIC REALISM


                                   BY
                              FRANK SEWALL


                      “_Le secret de l'art grec réside là, dans cette
                      finesse à dégager la ligne unique et nécessaire
                      qui évoque la vie et en détermine du coup comme
                      le type éternel_”

                                                       PAUL BOURGET



                                 LONDON
                        OSGOOD, McILVAINE & CO.
                          45 ALBEMARLE ST., W.
                                  1893



                 THE DE VINNE PRESS, NEW-YORK, U. S. A.



CONTENTS


                                                             PAGE

  PREFACE                                                     vii

  ESSAYS

   I. GIOSUÈ CARDUCCI AND THE HELLENIC REACTION
        IN ITALY                                                1
  II. CARDUCCI AND THE CLASSIC REALISM                         29

  TRANSLATIONS

        I. ROMA                                                57
       II. HYMN TO SATAN                                       58
      III. HOMER                                               66
       IV. VIRGIL                                              67
        V. INVOCATION TO THE LYRE                              68
       VI. SUN AND LOVE                                        70
      VII. TO AURORA                                           71
     VIII. RUIT HORA                                           76
       IX. THE OX                                              77
        X. TO PHŒBUS APOLLO                                    78
       XI. HYMN TO THE REDEEMER                                81
      XII. OUTSIDE THE CERTOSA                                 84
     XIII. DANTE—SONNET                                        85
      XIV. IN A GOTHIC CHURCH                                  86
       XV. INNANZI, INNANZI!                                   88
      XVI. SERMIONE                                            89
     XVII. TO A HORSE                                          93
    XVIII. A DREAM IN SUMMER                                   94
      XIX. ON A SAINT PETER'S EVE                              97
       XX. THE MOTHER                                          99
      XXI. “PASSA LA NAVE MIA, SOLA, TRA IL PIANTO”           101
     XXII. CARNIVAL.
             VOICE FROM THE PALACE                            102
             VOICE FROM THE HOVEL                             103
             VOICE FROM THE BANQUET                           105
             VOICE FROM THE GARRET                            106
             VOICE FROM BENEATH                               107
    XXIII. SONNET TO PETRARCH                                 109
     XXIV. SONNET TO GOLDONI                                  110
      XXV. SONNET TO ALFIERI                                  111
     XXVI. SONNET TO MONTI                                    112
    XXVII. SONNET TO NICCOLINI                                113
   XXVIII. IN SANTA CROCE                                     114
     XXIX. VOICE OF THE PRIESTS                               115
      XXX. VOICE OF GOD                                       116
     XXXI. ON MY DAUGHTER'S MARRIAGE                          117
    XXXII. AT THE TABLE OF A FRIEND                           119
   XXXIII. DANTE                                              120
    XXXIV. ON THE SIXTH CENTENARY OF DANTE                    126
     XXXV. BEATRICE                                           127
    XXXVI. “A QUESTI DÍ PRIMA IO LA VIDI. USCIA”              130
   XXXVII. “NON SON QUELL'IO CHE GIÀ D'AMICHE CENE”           131
  XXXVIII. THE ANCIENT TUSCAN POETRY                          132
    XXXIX. OLD FIGURINES                                      133
       XL. MADRIGAL                                           134
      XLI. SNOWED UNDER                                       135



PREFACE


In endeavouring to introduce Carducci to English readers through the
following essays and translations, I would not be understood as being
moved to do so alone by my high estimate of the literary merit of his
poems, nor by a desire to advocate any peculiar religious or social
principles which they may embody. It is rather because these poems
seem to me to afford an unusually interesting example of the survival
of ancient religious motives beneath the literature of a people old
enough to have passed through a succession of religions; and also
because they present a form of realistic literary art which, at this
time, when realism is being so perverted and abused, is eminently
refreshing, and sure to impart a healthy impetus to the literature of
any people. For these reasons I have thought that, even under the garb
of very inadequate translations, they would constitute a not unwelcome
contribution to contemporary literary study.

I am indebted to the courtesy of Harper & Brothers for the privilege
of including here, in an amplified form, the essay on _Giosuè Carducci
and the Hellenic Reaction in Italy_, which appeared first in _Harper's
Magazine_ for July, 1890.

                                                                F. S.

  WASHINGTON, D. C., June, 1892.



I

GIOSUÈ CARDUCCI
AND THE HELLENIC REACTION IN ITALY


The passing of a religion is at once the most interesting and the most
tragic theme that can engage the historian. Such a record lays bare
what lies inmostly at the heart of a people, and has, consciously or
unconsciously, shaped their outward life.

The literature of a time reveals, but rarely describes or analyses, the
changes that go on in the popular religious beliefs. It is only in a
later age, when the religion itself has become desiccated, its creeds
and its forms dried and parcelled for better preservation, that this
analysis is made of its passing modes, and these again made the subject
of literary treatment.

Few among the existing nations that possess a literature have a history
which dates back far enough to embrace these great fundamental changes,
such as that from paganism to Christianity, and also a literature that
is coeval with those changes. The Hebrew race possess indeed their
ancient Scriptures, and with them retain their ancient religious ideas.
The Russians and Scandinavians deposed their pagan deities to give
place to the White Christ within comparatively recent times, but they
can hardly be said to have possessed a literature in the pre-Christian
period. Our own saga of Beowulf is indeed a religious war-chant
uttering the savage emotions of our Teutonic ancestors, but not a work
of literary art calmly reflecting the universal life of the people.

It is only to the Latin nations of Europe, sprung from Hellenic stock
and having a continuous literary history covering a period of from two
to three thousand years, that we may look for the example of a people
undergoing these radical religious changes and preserving meanwhile a
living record of them in a contemporaneous literature. Such a nation we
find in Italy.

So thorough is the reaction exhibited during the last half of the
present century in that country against the dogma and the authority
of the Church of Rome that we are led to inquire whether, not the
church alone, as Mr. Symonds says,[1] but Christianity itself has ever
“imposed on the Italian character” to such an extent as to obliterate
wholly the underlying Latin or Hellenic elements, or prevent these from
springing again into a predominating influence when the foreign yoke is
once removed.

To speak of Christianity coming and going as a mere passing episode
in the life of a nation, and taking no deep hold on the national
character, is somewhat shocking to the religious ideas which prevail
among Christians, but not more so than would have been to a Roman of
the time of the Cæsars the suggestion that the Roman Empire might
itself one day pass away, a transient phase only in the life of a
people whose history was to extend in unbroken line over a period of
twenty-five hundred years.

In the work just referred to Mr. Symonds also briefly hints at
another idea of profound significance,—namely, whether there is not
an underlying basis of primitive race character still extant in the
various sections of the Italian people to which may be attributed the
variety in the development of art and literature which these exhibit.
In his _Studii Letterari_ (Bologna, 1880), Carducci has made this idea
a fundamental one in his definition of the three elements of Italian
literature. These are, he says, the church, chivalry, and the national
character. The first or ecclesiastical element is superimposed by
the Roman hierarchy, but is not and never was native to the Italian
people. It has existed in two forms. The first is Oriental, mystic,
and violently opposed to nature and to human instincts and appetites,
and hence is designated the ascetic type of Christianity. The other is
politic and accommodating, looking to a peaceful meeting-ground between
the desires of the body and the demands of the soul, and so between
the pagan and the Christian forms of worship. Its aim is to bring into
serviceable subjection to the church those elements of human nature or
of natural character which could not be crushed out altogether. This
element is represented by the church or the ecclesiastical polity.
It becomes distinctly Roman, following the eclectic traditions of the
ancient empire, which gave the gods of all the conquered provinces a
niche in the Pantheon. It transformed the sensual paganism of the Latin
races and the natural paganism of the Germanic into a religion which,
if not Christianity, could be made to serve the Christian church.

In the same way that the church brought in the Christian element,
both in its ascetic and its Roman or semi-pagan form, so did feudalism
and the German Empire bring in that of chivalry. This, again, was no
native development of the Italian character. It came with the French
and German invaders; it played no part in the actions of the Italians
on their own soil. “There never was in Italy,” says Carducci, “a true
chivalry, and therefore there never was a chivalrous poetry.” With
the departure of a central imperial power the chivalrous tendency
disappeared. There remained the third element, that of nationality, the
race instinct, resting on the old Roman, and even older Latin, Italic,
Etruscan, Hellenic attachments in the heart of the people. Witness
during all the Middle Ages, even when the power of the church and the
influence of the empire were strongest, the reverence everywhere shown
by the Italian people for classical names and traditions. Arnold of
Brescia, Nicola di Rienzi, spoke to a sentiment deeper and stronger in
the hearts of their hearers than any that either pope or emperor could
inspire. The story is told of a schoolmaster of the eleventh century,
Vilgardo of Ravenna, who saw visions of Virgil, Horace, and Juvenal,
and rejoiced in their commendation of his efforts to preserve the
ancient literature of the people. The national principle also exists
in two forms, the Roman and the Italian—the aulic or learned, and the
popular. Besides the traditions of the great days of the republic
and of the Cæsars, besides the inheritance of the Greek and Latin
classics, there are also the native instincts of the people themselves,
which, especially in religion and in art, must play an important part.
Arnold of Brescia cried out, “Neither pope nor emperor!” It was then
the people, as the third estate, made their voices heard—“_Ci sono
anch'io!_” (Here am I too!).

After the elapse of three hundred years from the downfall of the
free Italian municipalities and the enslavement of the peninsula
under Austrio-Spanish rule, we have witnessed again the achievement
by Italians of national independence and national unity. The effect
of this political change on the free manifestations of the Italian
character would seem to offer another corroboration of Carducci's
assertion that “Italy is born and dies with the setting and the rising
of the stars of the pope and the emperor.” (_Studii Letterari_, p. 44.)
Not only with the withdrawal of the Austrian and French interference
has the pope's temporal power come to an end, but in a large measure
the religious emancipation of Italy from the foreign influences of
Christianity in every way has been accomplished. The expulsion of the
Jesuits and the secularisation of the schools and of the monastic
properties were the means of a more real emancipation of opinion,
of belief, and of native impulse, which, free from restraint either
ecclesiastical or political, could now resume its ancient habit,
lift from the overgrowth of centuries the ancient shrines of popular
worship, and invoke again the ancient gods.

The pope remains, indeed, and the Church of Rome fills a large space in
the surface life of the people of Italy; and so far as in its gorgeous
processions and spectacles, its joyous festivals and picturesque rites,
and especially in its sacrificial and vicarious theory of worship,
the church has assimilated to itself the most important feature of
the ancient pagan religion, it may still be regarded as a thing of the
people. But the real underlying antagonism between the ancient national
instinct, both religious and civil, and that habit of Christianity
which has been imposed upon it, finds its true expression in the strong
lines of a sonnet of Carducci's, published in 1871, in the collection
entitled _Decennali_. Even through the burdensome guise of a metrical
translation, something of the splendid fire of the original can hardly
fail to make itself felt. [I]

The movement for the revival of Italian literature may be said to
have begun with Alfieri, at the close of the last and the beginning of
the present century. It was contemporary with the breaking up of the
political institutions of the past in Europe, the dissolution of the
Holy Roman Empire, the brief existence of the Italian Republic, the
revival for a short joyous moment of the hope of a restored Italian
independence. Again a thrill of patriotic ardour stirs the measures of
the languid Italian verse. Alfieri writes odes on _America Liberata_,
celebrating as the heroes of the new age of liberty Franklin,
Lafayette, and Washington. Still more significant of the new life
imparted to literature at this time is the sober dignity and strength
of Alfieri's sonnets, and the manly passion that speaks in his dramas
and marks him as the founder of Italian tragedy.

But the promise of those days was illusory. With the downfall of
Napoleon and the return of the Austrian rule, the hope of the Italian
nationality again died out. Alfieri was succeeded by Vincenzo Monti
and his fellow-classicists, who sought to console a people deprived
of future hope with the contemplation of the remote past. This school
restored rather than revived the ancient classics. They gave Italians
admirable translations of Homer and Virgil, and turned their own poetic
writing into the classical form. But they failed to make these dead
forms live. These remained in all their beauty like speechless marble
exhumed and set up in the light and stared at. If they spoke at all, as
they did in the verses of Ugo Foscolo and Leopardi, it was not to utter
the joyous emotions, the godlike freedom and delight of living which
belonged to the world's youthful time; it was rather to give voice to
an all-pervading despair and brooding melancholy, born, it is true, of
repeated disappointments and of a very real sense of the vanity of life
and the emptiness of great aspirations, whether of the individual or
of society. This melancholy, itself repugnant to the primitive Italian
nature, opened the way for the still more foreign influence of the
romanticists, which tended to the study and love of nature from the
subjective or emotional side, and to a more or less morbid dwelling
upon the passions and the interior life. With a religion whose life-sap
of a genuine faith had been drained away for ages, and a patriotism
enervated and poisoned by subserviency to foreign rule and fawning
for foreign favour, naught seemed to remain for Italian writers who
wished to do something else than moan, but to compose dictionaries and
cyclopædias, to prepare editions of the thirteenth-century classics,
with elaborate critical annotations, and so to keep the people mindful
of the fact that there was once an Italian literature, even if they
were to despair of having another. The decay of religious faith made
the external forms of papal Christianity seem all the more a cruel
mockery to the minds that began now to turn their gaze inward, and
to feel what Taine so truly describes as the Puritan melancholy, the
subjective sadness which belongs peculiarly to the Teutonic race. The
whole literature of the romantic school, whether in Italy or throughout
Europe, betrayed a certain morbidness of feeling which, says Carducci,
belongs to all periods of transition, and appears alike in Torquato
Tasso, under the Catholic reaction of the sixteenth century, and in
Châteaubriand, Byron, and Leopardi, in the monarchical restoration of
the nineteenth. The despair which furnishes a perpetual undertone to
the writing of this school is that which is born of the effort to keep
a semblance of life in dead forms of the past, while yet the really
living motives of the present have found neither the courage nor the
fitting forms for their expression.

In many respects the present revival of Italian literature is a
reawakening of the same spirit that constituted the Renaissance of the
fourteenth and fifteen centuries, and disappeared under the subsequent
influences of the Catholic reaction. Three hundred years of papal
supremacy and foreign civic rule have, however, tempered the national
spirit, weakened the manhood of the people, and developed a habit of
childlike subserviency and effeminate dependence. While restraining the
sensuous tendency of pagan religion and pagan art within the channels
of the church ritual, Rome has not meanwhile rendered the Italian
people more, but, if anything, less spiritual and less susceptible
of spiritual teaching than they were in the days of Dante or even
of Savonarola. The new Italian renaissance, if we may so name the
movement witnessed by the present century for the re-establishment
of national unity and the building up of a new Italian literature,
lacks the youthful zeal, the fiery ardour which characterised the age
of the Medici. The glow is rather that of an Indian summer than that
of May. The purpose, the zeal, whatever shall be its final aim, will
be the result of reflection and not of youthful impulse. The creature
to be awakened and stirred to new life is more than a mere animal; it
is a man, whose thinking powers are to be addressed, as well as his
sensuous instincts and amatory passion. Such a revival is slow to be
set in motion. When once fairly begun, provided it have any really
vital principle at bottom, it has much greater promise of permanence
than any in the past history of the Italian people. A true renascence
of a nation will imply a reform or renewal of not one phase alone of
the nation's life, but of all; not only a new political life and a new
poetry, but a new art, a new science, and, above all, a new religious
faith. The steps to this renewal are necessarily at the beginning
oftener of the nature of negation of the old than of assertion of the
new. The destroyer and the clearer-away of the débris go before the
builder. It will not be strange, therefore, if the present aspect of
the new national life of Italy should offer us a number of conspicuous
negations rather than any positive new conceptions; that the people's
favorite scientist, Mantegazza,—the ultra-materialist,—should be the
nation's chosen spokesman to utter in the face of the Vatican its
denial of the supernatural; and that Carducci, the nation's foremost
and favourite poet, should sing the return of the ancient worship of
nature, of beauty, and of sensuous love, and seek to drown the solemn
notes of the Christian ritual in a universal jubilant hymn to Bacchus.
These are the contradictions exhibited in all great transitions. They
will not mislead if the destroyer be not confounded with the builder
who is to follow, and the temporary ebullition of pent-up passion be
not mistaken for the after-thought of a reflecting, sobered mind. No
one has recognized this more truly than Carducci:

    Or destruggiam. Dei secoli
    Lo strato è sul pensiero:
    O pochi e forti, all'opera,
    Chè nei profundi è il vero.

    Now we destroy. Of the ages
    The highway is built upon thinking.
    O few and strong, to the work!
    For truth 's at the bottom.

It was in the year 1859, when once more the cry for Italian
independence and Italian unity was raised, that the newly awakened
nation found its laureate poet in the youthful writer of a battle hymn
entitled “Alla Croce Bianca di Savoia”—The White Cross of Savoy. Set to
music, it became very popular with the army of the revolutionists, and
the title is said to have led to the adoption of the present national
emblem for the Italian flag. As a poem it is not remarkable, unless it
be for the very conventional commingling of devout, loyal, and valorous
expressions, like the following, in the closing stanza:

    Dio ti salvi, o cara insegna,
      Nostro amore e nostra gioja,
      Bianca Croce di Savoja,
    Dio ti salvi, e salvi il Re!

But six years later, in 1865, there appeared at Pistoja a poem over
the signature Enotrio Romano, and dated the “year MMDCXVIII from the
Foundation of Rome,” which revealed in a far more significant manner
in what sense its author, Giosuè Carducci, then in his thirtieth year,
was to become truly the nation's poet, in giving utterance again to
those deeply hidden and long-hushed ideas and emotions which belonged
anciently to the people, and which no exotic influence had been able
entirely to quench. This poem was called a “Hymn to Satan.” The shock
it gave to the popular sense of propriety is evident not only from
the violence and indignation with which it was handled in the clerical
and the conservative journals, one of which called it an “intellectual
orgy,” but from the number of explanations, more or less apologetic,
which the poet and his friends found it necessary to publish. One of
these, which appeared over the signature Enotriofilo in the _Italian
Athenæum_ of January, 1886, has been approvingly quoted by Carducci in
his notes to the _Decennali_. We may therefore regard it as embodying
ideas which are, at least, not contrary to what the author of the poem
intended. From this commentary it appears that we are to look here “not
for the poetry of the saints but of the sinners,—of those sinners, that
is, who do not steal away into the deserts to hide their own virtues,
so that others shall not enjoy them, who are not ashamed of human
delights and human comforts, and who refuse none of the paths that lead
to these. Not _laudes_ or spiritual hymns, but a material hymn is what
we shall here find. “Enotrio sings,” says his admiring apologist, “and
I forget all the curses which the catechism dispenses to the world,
the flesh, and the devil. Asceticism here finds no defender and no
victim. Man no longer goes fancying among the vague aspirations of
the mystics. He respects laws, and wills well, but to him the sensual
delights of love and the cup are not sinful, and in these, to him,
innocent pleasures Satan dwells. It was to the joys of earth that the
rites of the Aryans looked; the same joys were by the Semitic religion
either mocked or quenched. But the people did not forget them. As a
secretly treasured national inheritance, despite both Christian church
and Gothic empire, this ancient worship of nature and of the joys of
the earth remains with the people. It is this spirit of nature and of
natural sensuous delights, and lastly of natural science, that the poet
here addresses as Satan. As Satan it appears in nature's secret powers
of healing and magic, in the arts of the sorcerer and of the alchemist.
The anchorites, who, drunk with paradise, deprived themselves of the
joys of earth, gradually began to listen to these songs from beyond
the gratings of their cells—songs of brave deeds, of fair women, and
of the triumph of arms. It is Satan who sings, but as they listen
they become men again, enamoured of civil glory. New theories arise,
new masters, new ideals of life. Genius awakes, and the cowl of the
Dominican falls to earth. Now, liberty itself becomes the tempter.
It is the development of human activity, of labour and struggle, that
causes the increase of both bread and laughter, riches and honour, and
the author of all this new activity is Satan; not Satan bowing his head
before hypocritical worshippers, but standing glorious in the sight
of those who acknowledge him. This hymn is the result of two streams
of inspiration, which soon are united in one, and continue to flow
in a peaceful current: the goods of life and genius rebelling against
slavery.”

With this explanation of its inner meaning we may now refer the reader
to the hymn itself. [II]

This poem, while excelled by many others in beauty or in interest, has
nowhere, even in the poet's later verses, a rival in daring and novelty
of conception, and none serves so well to typify the prominent traits
of Carducci as a national poet. We see here the fetters of classic,
romantic, and religious tradition thrown off, and the old national,
which is in substance a pagan, soul pouring forth in all freedom the
sentiments of its nature. It is no longer here the question of either
Guelph or Ghibelline; Christianity, whether of the subjective Northern
type, brought in by the emperors, or of the extinct formalities of
Rome, is bidden to give way to the old Aryan love of nature and the
worship of outward beauty and sensuous pleasure. The reaction here
witnessed is essentially Hellenic in its delight in objective beauty,
its bold assertion of the rightful claims of nature's instincts, its
abhorrence of mysticism and of all that religion of introspection and
of conscience which the poet includes under the term “Semitic.” It will
exchange dim cathedrals for the sky filled with joyous sunshine; it
will go to nature's processes and laws for its oracles, rather than to
the droning priests. While the worship of matter and its known laws, in
the form of a kind of apotheosis of science, with which the poem opens
and closes, may seem at first glance rather a modern than an ancient
idea, it is nevertheless in substance the same conception as that which
anciently took form in the myth of Prometheus, in the various Epicurean
philosophies, and in the poem of Lucretius. Where, however, Carducci
differs from his contemporaries and from the classicists so called is
in the utter frankness of his renunciation of Christianity, and the
bold bringing to the front of the old underlying Hellenic instincts of
the people. That which others wrote about he feels intensely, and sings
aloud as the very life of himself and of his nation. That which the
foreigner has tried for centuries to crush out, it is the mission of
the nation's true poet and prophet to restore.

The sentiments underlying Carducci's writings we find to be chiefly
three: a fervent and joyous veneration of the great poets of Greece
and Rome; an intense love of nature, amounting to a kind of worship
of sunshine and of bodily beauty and sensuous delights; and finally
an abhorrence of the supernatural and spiritual elements of religion.
Intermingled with the utterances of these sentiments will be found
patriotic effusions mostly in the usual vein of aspirants after
republican reforms, which, while of a national interest, are not
peculiar to the author, and do not serve particularly to illustrate
the Hellenistic motive of his writing. The same may be said of his
extensive critical labours in prose, his university lectures, his
scholarly annotations of the early Italian poets. How far Carducci
conforms to the traditional character of the Italian poets—always with
the majestic exception of the exiled Dante—in that the soft winds of
court favour are a powerful source of their inspiration on national
themes, may be judged from the fact that while at the beginning of
his public career he was a violent republican, now that he is known to
stand high in the esteem and favour of Queen Margherita his democratic
utterances have become very greatly moderated, and his praises of
the Queen and of the bounties and blessings of her reign are most
glowing and fulsome. Without a formal coronation, Carducci occupies the
position of poet-laureate of Italy. A little over fifty years of age,
an active student and a hard-working professor at the University of
Bologna, where his popularity with his students in the lecture-room is
equal to that which his public writings have won throughout the land,
called from time to time to sojourn in the country with the court,
or to lecture before the Queen and her ladies at Rome, withal a man
of great simplicity, even to roughness of manners, and of a cordial,
genial nature—such is the writer whom the Italians with one voice
call their greatest poet, and whom not a few are fain to consider the
foremost living poet of Europe.[2]

It would be interesting to trace the development of the Hellenic
spirit in the successive productions of Carducci's muse, to note his
emancipation from the lingering influences of romanticism, and his
casting off the fetters of conventional metre in the _Odi Barbare_.
But as all this has been done for us far better in an autobiographical
sketch, which the author gives us in the preface of the _Poesie_
(1871), we will here only glance briefly at some of the more
characteristic points thus presented.

After alluding to the bitterness and violence for which the Tuscans are
famous in their abuse, he informs us that from the first he was charged
with an idolatry of antiquity and of form, and with an aristocracy
of style. The theatre critics offered to teach him grammar, and the
schoolmasters said he was aping the Greeks. One distinguished critic
said that his verse revealed “the author's absolute want of all poetic
faculty.” The first published series of poems was in reality a protest
against the religious and intellectual bitterness which prevailed in
the decade preceding 1860, “against the nothingness and vanity under
whose burden the country was languishing; against the weak coquetries
of liberalism which spoiled then as it still spoils our art and our
thoughts, ever unsatisfactory to the spirit which will not do things by
halves, and which refuses to pay tribute to cowardice.” Naturally, even
in literary matters inclined to take the opposite side, Carducci felt
himself in the majority like a fish out of water. In the revolutionary
years 1858 and 1859 he wrote poems on the _Plébiscite_ and Unity,
counselling the king to throw his crown into the Po, enter Rome as its
armed tribune, and there order a national vote. “These,” says the poet,
“were my worst things, and fortunately were kept unpublished, and so
I escaped becoming the poet-laureate of public opinion. In a republic
it would have been otherwise. I would have composed the battle pieces
with the usual grand words—the ranks in order, arms outstretched in
command, brilliant uniforms, and finely curled moustaches. To escape
all temptation of this sort I resorted to the cold bath of philosophy,
the death-shrouds of learning—_lenzuolo funerario dell'erudizione_. It
was pleasant amid all that grand talk of the new life to hide myself in
among the cowled shadows of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. I
journeyed along the Dead Sea of the Middle Ages, studied the movements
of revolution in history and in letters; then gradually dawned upon
me a fact which at once surprised and comforted me. I found that my
own repugnance to the literary and philosophical reaction of 1815 was
really in harmony with the experience of many illustrious thinkers and
authors. My own sins of paganism had already been committed, and in
manifold splendid guises, by many of the noblest minds and geniuses
of Europe. This paganism, this cult of form, was naught else but the
love of that noble nature from which the solitary Semitic estrangements
had alienated hitherto the spirit of man in such bitter opposition. My
at first feebly defined sentiment of opposition thus became confirmed
conceit, reason, affirmation; the hymn to Phœbus Apollo became the hymn
to Satan. Oh, beautiful years from 1861 to 1865, passed in peaceful
solitude and quiet study, in the midst of a home where the venerated
mother, instead of fostering superstition, taught us to read Alfieri!
But as I read the codices of the fourteenth century the ideas of the
Renaissance began to appear to me in the gilded initial letters like
the eyes of nymphs in the midst of flowers, and between the lines of
the spiritual _laude_ I detected the Satanic strophe. Meanwhile the
image of Dante looked down reproachfully upon me; but I might have
answered: ‘Father and master, why didst thou bring learning from the
cloister into the piazza, from the Latin to the vulgar tongue? Why
wast thou willing that the hot breath of thine anger should sweep the
heights of papal and imperial power? Thou first, O great public accuser
of the Middle Ages, gavest the signal for the rebound of thought: that
the alarm was sounded from the bells of a Gothic campanile mattered
but little!’ So my mind matured in understanding and sentiment to
the _Levia Gravia_, and thence more rapidly, in questions of social
interest, to the _Decennali_. There are those who complain that I am
not what I was twenty-four years ago:—good people, for whom to live and
develop is only to feed, like the calf _qui largis invenescit herbis_.
In the _Juvenilia_ I was the armour-bearer of the classics. In the
_Levia Gravia_ I held my armed watch. In the _Decennali_, after a few
uncertain preliminary strokes of the lance, I venture abroad prepared
for every risk and danger. I have read that the poet must give pleasure
either to all or to the few; to cater to many is a bad sign. Poetry
to-day is useless from not having learned that it has nothing to do
with the exigencies of the moment. The lyre of the soul should respond
to the echoes of the past, the breathings of the future, the solemn
rumours of ages and generations gone by. If, on the contrary, it allows
itself to be swayed by the breeze of society's fans or the waving of
soldiers' cockades and professors' togas, then woe to the poet! Let the
poet express himself and his artistic and moral convictions with the
utmost possible candour, sincerity, and courage; as for the rest, it
is not his concern. And so it happens that I dare to put forth a book
of verses in these days, when one group of our literati are declaring
that Italy has never had a language, and another are saying that for
some time past we have had no literature; that the fathers do not count
for much, and that we are really only in the beginnings. There let them
remain; or, as the wind changes, shift from one foreign servitude to
another!”

In my selection of poems for translation, regard has been had not so
much to the chronological order of their production as to their fitness
for illustrating the three important characteristics of Carducci as a
national poet which were enumerated above.

The first of these was his strong predilection for the classics, as
evinced not only by his veneration for the Greek and Latin poets, but
by his frequent attempts at the restoration of the ancient metres in
his own verse. Of his fervent admiration for Homer and Virgil let the
two sonnets III and IV testify, both taken from the fourth book of
the _Levia Gravia_. Already in the _Juvenilia_, during his “classical
knighthood,” he had produced a poem of some length on Homer, and in the
volume which contains the one I have given there are no less than three
sonnets addressed to the venerated master, entitled in succession,
“Homer,” “Homer Again,” and “Still Homer.” I have chosen the second in
order. [III]

In the tribute to Virgil [IV] the beauty of form is only equalled
by the tenderness of feeling. It shows to what extent the classic
sentiment truly lived again in the writer's soul, and was not a thing
of mere intellectual contemplation. In reading it we are bathed in the
very air of Campania; we catch a distant glimpse of the sea glistening
under the summer moon, and hear the wind sighing through the dark
cypresses.

Here it will be proper to notice the efforts made by Carducci not
only to restore as to their native soil the long-disused metres of
the classic poets, but to break loose from all formal restrictions
in giving utterance to the poetic impulse. This intense longing for
greater freedom of verse he expresses in the following lines from the
_Odi Barbare_:

        I hate the accustomed verse.
    Lazily it falls in with the taste of the crowd,
    And pulseless in its feeble embraces
        Lies down and sleeps.

        For me that vigilant strophe
    Which leaps with the plaudits and rhythmic stamp of the chorus,
    Like a bird caught in its flight, which
        Turns and gives battle.

In the preface of the same volume (1877) he pleads in behalf of his new
metres that “it may be pardoned in him that he has endeavoured to adapt
to new sentiments new metres instead of conforming to the old ones, and
that he has thus done for Italian letters what Klopstock did for the
Germans, and what Catullus and Horace did in bringing into Latin use
the forms of the Eolian lyric.”

In the _Nuove Rime_ (1887) are three Hellenic Odes, under the titles
“Primavere Elleniche,” written in three of the ancient metres, the
beauty of which would be lost by translation into any language less
melodious and sympathetic than the Italian. We give a few lines from
each:

I. EOLIA

    Lina, brumaio turbido inclina,
    Nell'aër gelido monta la sera;
    E a me nell'anima fiorisce, O Lina,
    La primavera.

II. DORICA

    Muorono gli altri dii: di Grecia i numi
    Non stanno occaso: ei dormon ne' materni
    Tronchi e ne' fiori, sopra i monti, i fiumi,
    I mari eterni.

    A Cristo in faccia irrigidi nei marmi
    Il puro fior di lor bellezze ignude:
    Nei carme, O Lina, spira sol nei carme
    Lor gioventude.

III. ALESSANDRINA

    Lungi, soavi, profondi; Eolia
    Cetra non rese più dolci gemiti
    Mai nei sì molli spirti
    Di Lesbo un dì tra i mirti.

The second of these examples demands translation as exhibiting perhaps
more forcibly than any others we could select the boldness with which
Carducci asserts the survival of the Hellenic spirit in the love
of nature as well as in art and literature, despite the contrary
influences of ascetic Christianity:

    The other gods may die, but those of Greece
    No setting know; they sleep in ancient woods,
    In flowers, upon the mountains, and the streams,
        And eternal seas.

    In face of Christ,[3] in marble hard and firm,
    The pure flower of their naked beauty glows;
    In songs, O Lina, and alone in songs,
        Breathes their endless youth.

The reader is also here referred to the “Invocation.” [V]


From this glance at the classic form which is so distinct a feature in
Carducci's poems, we proceed to examine the feeling and conceptions
which constitute their substance, and which will be found to be no
less Hellenic than the metres which clothe them. Nothing could stand in
stronger contrast with the melancholy of the romantic school of poets,
or with the subjective thoughtfulness and austere introspection of
the Christian, than the unfettered outbursts of song in praise of the
joy of living, of the delights of love and bodily pleasure, and of the
sensuous worship of beautiful form, which we find in the poems “Sun and
Love” [VI] and the hymn “To Aurora.” [VII]

The latter has in it the freshness and splendour of morning mists
rising among the mountains and catching the rosy kisses of the sun.
Equally beautiful but full of the tranquillity of evening is the _Ruit
Hora_ from the _Odi Barbare_ of 1877. [VIII]

No one will fail to be struck with the beauty of the figure in the last
stanza of this poem, nor with the picturesque force of the “green and
silent solitudes” of the first, a near approach to the celebrated and
boldly original conception of a _silenzio verde_, a “green silence,”
which forms one of the many rare and beautiful gems of the sonnet “To
the Ox.” [IX]

As an example of a purely Homeresque power of description and
colouring, and at the same time of an intense sympathy with nature
and exquisite responsiveness to every thrill of its life, this sonnet
stands at the summit of all that Carducci has written, if indeed it
has its rival anywhere in the poetry of our century. The desire to
produce in English a suggestion at least of the broad and restful tone
given by the metre and rhythm of the original has induced me to attempt
a metrical and rhymed translation, even at the inevitable cost of a
strict fidelity to the author's every word, and in such a poem to lose
a word is to lose much. Nothing but the original can present the sweet,
ever-fresh, and sense-reviving picture painted in this truly marvellous
sonnet. The unusual and almost grotesque epithet of the opening phrase
will be pardoned in view of the singular harmony and fitness of the
original.

We know not where else to look for such vivid examples as Carducci
affords us of a purely objective and sensuous sympathy with nature, as
distinguished from the romantic, reflective mood which nature awakens
in the more sentimental school of poets. We feel that this strong
and brilliant objectivity is something purely Greek and pagan, as
contrasted with the analysis of emotions and thoughts which occupies
so large a place in Christian writing. No one is better aware of the
existence of this contrast than Carducci himself. For the dear love
of nature—that boon of youth before the shadows of anxious care began
to darken the mind, or the queryings of philosophy, the conflicts
of doubt, and the stings of conscience to torment it—for this happy
revelling of mere animal life in the world where the sun shines, the
soul of the poet never ceases to yearn and cry out. The consciousness
of the opposite, of a world of thought, of care, and of conscience ever
frowning in sheer stern contrast from the strongholds of the present
life and the opinions of men—this is what introduces a kind of tragic
motive into many of these poems, and adds greatly to their moral, that
is, their human interest. For the poetry of mere animal life, if such
were poetry, however blissful the life it describes, would still not be
interesting.

Something of this pathos appears in the poem “To Phœbus Apollo,” [X]
where the struggle of the ancient with the present sentiments of the
human soul is depicted. It will interest the reader to know that at the
time this poem was written (it appeared in Book II. of the _Juvenilia_)
the author had not broken so entirely with the conventional thought
of his time and people but that he could consent to write a _lauda
spirituale_ [XI] for a procession of the _Corpus Domini_, and a hymn
for the Feast of the Blessed Diana Guintini, protectress of Santa Maria
a Monti in the lower Valdarno. When called by the _Unità Cattolica_
to account for this sudden transformation of the hymn-writer into the
odist of Phœbus Apollo, Carducci replied by reminding his clerical
critics that even in his nineteenth year he was given to writing
parodies of sacred hymns, and he further offers by way of very doubtful
apology the explanation that, being invited by certain priests who knew
of his rhyming ability to compose verses for their feasts, the thought
came into his head, “being in those days deeply interested in Horace
and the thirteenth-century writers, to show that faith does not affect
the _form_ of poetry, and that therefore without any faith at all
one might reproduce entirely the forms of the blessed laudists of the
thirteenth century. I undertook the task as if it were a wager.”

In the lines of the poem _To Phœbus Apollo_ there is traceable a
romantic melancholy, the faint remnant of the impression left by those
writers through whom, says Carducci, “I mounted to the ancients, and
dwelt with Dante and Petrarch,” viz., Alfieri, Parini, Monti, Foscolo,
and Leopardi. He has not yet broken entirely with subjective reflection
and its gloom, and entrusted himself to the life which the senses
realize at the present moment as the whole of human well-being. This
sentiment becomes more strongly pronounced in the later poems, where
not even a regret for the past is allowed to enter to distract the
worship of the present, radiant with its divine splendour and bounty.
The one thought that can cast a shadow is the thought of death; but
this is not at all to be identified with Christian seriousness in
reflecting on the world to come. The poet's fear of death is not that
of a judgment, or a punishment for sins here committed, and hence it
is not associated with any idea of the responsibility of the present
hour, or of the amending of life and character in the present conduct.
The only fear of death here depicted is a horror of the absence of
life, and hence of the absence of the delights of life. It is the
fear of a vast dreary vacuum, of cold, of darkness, of nothingness.
The moral effect of such a fear is only that of enhancing the value
of the sensual joys of the present life, the use of the body for the
utmost of pleasure that can be got by means of it. This more than pagan
materialism finds its bold expression in the lines from the _Nuove Odi
Barbare_ entitled “Outside the Certosa.” [XII]

In studying the religious or theological tendency of Carducci's muse,
it is necessary to bear in mind constantly the inherent national
blindness of the Hellenic and, in equal if not greater degree, the
Latin mind to what we may call a spiritual conception of life, its
duties, and its destiny. But in addition to this blindness towards
the spiritual elements or substance of Christianity there is felt in
every renascent Hellenic instinct a violent and unrelenting hostility
towards that ascetic form and practice which, although in no true sense
Christian, the greater religious orders and the general discipline of
the Roman Church have succeeded in compelling Christianity to wear. The
mortification of nature, the condemnation of all worldly and corporeal
delights, not in their abuse, but in their essential and orderly
use, the dishonouring of the body in regarding its beauty as only an
incentive to sin, and in making a virtue of ugliness, squalor, and
physical weakness—these things have the offensiveness of deadly sins to
the sensuous consciousness of minds of the Hellenic type. To spiritual
Christianity Carducci is not adverse because it is spiritual—as such
it is still comparatively an unknown element to Italian minds—but
because it is foreign to the national instinct; because it came in with
the emperors, and so it is indissolubly associated with foreign rule
and oppression. It is the Gothic or Teutonic infusion in the Italian
people that has kept alive whatever there is of spiritual life in the
Christianity that has been imposed on them by the Roman Church. The
other elements of Romanism are only a sensuous cult of beautiful and
imposing forms in ritual, music, and architecture on the one hand; and
on the other a stern, uncompromising asceticism, which in spirit is the
direct contradiction of the former. While the principle of asceticism
was maintained in theory, the sincerity of its votaries gradually
came to be believed in by no one; the only phase of the church that
seized hold of the sympathies and affections of the people was the
pagan element in its worship and its festivals; and seeing these, the
popes were wise enough to foster this spirit and cater in the most
liberal measure to its indulgence, as the surest means of maintaining
their hold on the popular devotion. In the ever-widening antagonism
between the spirit and the flesh, between the subjective conception of
Christianity on the one hand, as represented by the Teutonic race and
the empire, and the sensuous and objective on the other, as represented
by the Italic race and the pope, may we not discern the reason why the
Italian people, in the lowest depths of their sensual corruption, were
largely and powerfully Guelph in their sympathies, and why the exiled
and lonely writer of the _Divina Commedia_ was a Ghibelline? It is at
least in the antagonism of principles as essentially native _versus_
foreign that we must find the explanation of the cooling of Carducci's
ardour towards the revered master of his early muse, even while the old
spell of the latter is still felt to be as irresistible as ever. This
double attitude of reverence and aversion we have already seen neatly
portrayed in the reference Carducci makes in the autobiographical
notes given above to Dante as the great “accuser of the Middle Ages who
first sounded the signal for the reaction of modern thought,” with the
added remark that the signal being sounded from a “Gothic campanile”
detracted but little from the grandeur of its import. The same contrast
of sentiment finds more distinct expression in the sonnet on Dante in
Book IV. of the _Levia Gravia_. [XIII]

But nowhere is the contrast between the Christian sense of awe in the
presence of the invisible and supernatural and the Hellenic worship
of immediate beauty and sensuous pleasure displayed in such bold and
majestic imagery as in the poem entitled “In a Gothic Church.” [XIV]
Here, in the most abrupt and irreverent but entirely frank transition
from the impression of the dim and lofty cathedral nave to the passion
kindled by the step of the approaching loved one, and in the epithets
of strong aversion applied to the holiest of all objects of Christian
reverence, the very shock given to Christian feeling and the suddenness
of the awful descent from heavenly to satyric vision tell, with the
prophetic veracity and power of true poetry, what a vast chasm still
unbridged exists between the ancient inherent Hellenism of the Italian
people and that foreign influence, named indifferently by Carducci
Semitic or Gothic, which for eighteen centuries has been imposed
without itself imposing on them.

The true poet of the people lays bare the people's heart. If Carducci
be, indeed, the national poet of Italy we have in this poem not only
the heart but the religious sense—we had almost said the conscience—of
the Italian people revealed to view. Nor is this all Bacchantic; the
infusion of the Teutonic blood in the old Etruscan and Italic stock has
brought the dim shadows of the cathedral and its awful, ever-present
image of the penalty of sin to interrupt the free play of Italian
sunshine. But just as on the canvas of the religious painters of the
Renaissance angels as amorous Cupids hover about between Madonna and
saints, and as in the ordinary music of an Italian church the organist
plays tripping dance melodies or languishing serenades between the
intoned prayers of the priests or the _canto firmo_ psalms of the
choir, so here we behold the sacred aisles of the cathedral suddenly
invaded by the dancing satyr, who, escaping from his native woods,
has wandered innocently enough into this his ancient but strangely
disguised shrine.

The stanzas that follow describe Dante's vision of the “Tuscan
Virgin” rising transfigured amid the hymns of angels. The poet, on
the contrary, sees neither angels nor demons, but is conscious only of
feeling

                          the cold twilight
    To be tedious to the soul,

and then exclaims:

    Farewell, Semitic God: the mistress Death
    May still continue in thy solemn rites,
    O far-off king of spirits, whose dim shrines
            Shut out the sun.

    Crucified Martyr! Man thou crucifiest;
    The very air thou darkenest with thy gloom.
    Outside, the heavens shine, the fields are laughing,
            And flash with love.

    The eyes of Lidia—O Lidia, I would see thee
    Among the chorus of white shining virgins
    That dance around the altar of Apollo
            In the rosy twilight,

    Gleaming as Parian marble among the laurels,
    Flinging the sweet anemones from thy hand,
    Joy from thy eyes, and from thy lips the song
            Of a Bacchante!

                                      ODI BARBARE.

Notwithstanding the bold assertion of the Hellenic spirit in this and
in the greater part of his poems, that, nevertheless, Carducci has
not been able to restore his fair god of light and beauty, the Phœbus
Apollo, to the undisputed sway he held in the ancient mind is evident
from the shadows of doubt, of fear, and anxious questioning which still
darken here and there the poet's lines, as in the sonnet _Innanzi,
Innanzi!_ [XV] It is here that the stern element of tragedy, the
real tragedy of humanity, makes itself felt in this rhapsodist of joy
and of love. It comes to tell us that to the Italian as he is to-day
life has ceased to be a carnival, and that other sounds than that of
the Bacchante's hymn have gained an entrance, with all their grating
discord, to his ear: and to silence this intruder will the praises of
Lidia and of Apollo suffice, be they sung on a lyre never so harmonious
and sweet? In this sonnet is depicted in wonderful imagery the ancient
and awful struggle which the sensuous present life sustains with the
question of an eternity lying beyond.


While our interest in Carducci is largely owing to the character he
bears as the poet of the Italian people, it would be quite erroneous to
consider him a popular poet. For popularity, whether with the court,
the school, or the masses, he never aimed, as is evident from his
satisfaction at narrowly escaping being made a political poet-laureate.
Instead of writing down to the level of popular apprehension and taste,
he rather places himself hopelessly aloof from the contact of the
masses by his style of writing, which, simple and pure as it seems to
the cultured reader, is nevertheless branded by the average Italian as
learned and obscure, and not suited to the ordinary intelligence. As
an innovator both in the form and in the content of his verse, he has
still a tedious warfare to wage with a people so conservative as the
Italians of old habits and old tastes, confirmed as these have been
by the combined influence of centuries of political and ecclesiastical
bondage. But Carducci's writing, springing nevertheless from a strong
instinct, looks only to the people for a final recognition, even though
that has to be obtained through the medium of the learned classes at
first. How far he has succeeded in getting this vantage-ground of a
general recognition and acquiescence on the part of the learned, the
following testimony from Enrico Panzacchi, himself a critic and a poet
of high reputation, may help us to conclude:

“I believe that I do not exaggerate the importance of Carducci when
I affirm that to him and to his perseverance and steadfast courageous
work we owe in great part the poetic revival in Italy.

“I have great faith, I confess, in the initiative power of men of
strong genius and will, and, to tell the truth, while it is the fashion
of the day to explain always the individual by the age he lived in, I
think it is often necessary to invert the rule, and explain the age by
the individual.”

He goes on to show that, indifferent alike to conventional laws and
public opinion, Carducci always persisted in the constant endeavour to
_far l'arte_, to “do his art.” He defied the critics, and tried to be
himself.

Mr. Symonds says of the Renaissance that “it was a return in all
sincerity and faith to the glory and gladness of nature, whether in
the world without or in the soul of man.” Carducci reflects the spirit
of the Renaissance in so far as by setting free the national instincts
he has made way for the Hellenic reaction in favour of the “glory
and the gladness of the world without.” He has shown, moreover, how
foreign to these instincts is Christianity, considered apart from the
Roman Church, whether in its ascetic or in its spiritual aspects. But
it cannot be said of him, whatever may have been true of the poets of
the Renaissance, that he has reawakened or rediscovered “the glory and
gladness of nature in the soul of man,” and without this the gladness
of the world without is but a film of sunshine hiding the darkness
of the abyss. Indeed, if the soul and not the senses be addressed, we
question whether beneath all the Dionysian splendours and jollity of
Carducci's verses there be not discernible a gloom more real than that
of Leopardi. Even for Italy the day is past when Hellenism can fill
the place of Christianity; the soul craves a substance for which mere
beauty of form, whether in intellect, art, or nature, is a poor and
hollow substitute; and to revive not the poetry alone, but the humanity
of the nation, a force is needed greater and higher than that to be got
by the restoration of either dead Pan or Apollo.



II

CARDUCCI AND THE CLASSIC REALISM


Sojourning one autumn in a quiet _pension_ at Lugano, I came in contact
with a fellow-boarder, who, notwithstanding he bore the title of a
Sicilian count of very high-sounding name, proved on acquaintance to
be a man of serious literary taste and not above accepting pecuniary
compensation for the products of his pen.

He was engaged at that time in translating into the Italian a
well-known English classic, and was in the habit of appealing to me
occasionally for my judgment as to the accuracy of his interpretation
of an English word or phrase.

This led to pleasant interviews on the literary art in general.

It was one day when the conversation turned on the extreme materialism
of certain scientific writers of the day, and especially on Mantegazza
of Florence, whose grossness in treating of the human passions has
called forth expressions of disgust from Italians, as well as others,
that my Sicilian friend quietly remarked, “We Italians can never allow
the holy Trine to be destroyed—the True, the Good, the Beautiful. It
is not enough that a writer tell the facts as they are; nor that his
purpose be a useful one; there must be the element of beauty also
in his work, or the Italians will not accept it; and the ugly, the
monstrous, and deformed the Italians will not endure.”

I thought herein he proved his lineage from a stock older than even
his family title—that old race of the land where Theocritus sang as if
for beauty alone, and whose Ætna cherishes still her deep-down fires
uncooled and untamed by modern as by ancient contrivances of man.


It is this presence of the love of the beautiful that everywhere
accompanies the Greek race and their descendants, and imparts what
we may call the Hellenic instinct of form. And in this sense of form
born of the love of beauty lies the secret of the immortal art of the
Greeks, whether as presented in sculpture, architecture, painting, or
letters.

The survival of a certain Hellenic religious feeling in the Italian
people after centuries of a superimposed Christianity has already been
treated of in the previous essay. I desire here to speak of Carducci as
affording an example—perhaps one among many, but I know none better—of
the restoration of the Greek love of form to modern letters, and so as
illustrating what we may designate as the classic realism.

No term has been more abused of late years than this word—realism.
Become the watchword of schools of “realists” in every branch of art
and literature, it has been reduced at last to a service as empty of
meaning as was ever the vaguest idealism empty of reality.

The tendency of the age has been unquestionably one of ultimation;
everything presses into the plane of outermost effect. We have seemed
to be no more satisfied with the contemplation of intangible ideals:
we rest content only with what hand can touch and eye rest upon. The
“power in ultimates” is the display of force characteristic of this age
of the world. The forces physical and mental have been always there: it
has taken a time like the present, an age of inventive frenzy filled
with a yearning for the doing and trying of things long dreamt of, to
give vent to these hidden forces.

This tendency to ultimation, the seeking expression of inmost emotions
and conceptions in material embodiments, has characterized of late
years every form of mental activity.

Religion exemplifies it in the impatience the people exhibit at fine
analyses of doctrines and laborious attempts at creed-patching, at
the same time that they are ready to engage in schemes of benevolence
and social reform unparalleled in the history of the past. They would
fain substitute a religion of doing for a religion of believing; and
so impatient are they of the restrictions of dogma that they resent
inquiry into the quality or inward motive of the doing, or even into
its moral effect in the long run, so only some “good work” be done and
done quickly.

We see the same tendency in music and the drama wonderfully
illustrated in the whole conception and effort of the Wagnerian school.
Expression is everything. The question is not—Is the thing in itself
noble, but is the expression of it complete, unhindered by previous
conventionalities? Is nothing kept back, or left to the imagination,
but everything, rather, brought out into the actuality of sound, of
color, of living performers, and material accessories?

The Ibsen drama, the Tourguenief and Tolstoi school of novelists, not
to speak of Zola and his followers in France, writers like Capuana
and Verga in Italy, and, although in a quite different vein, Howells
among novelists and Whitman among poets in America, have aimed chiefly
to give a faithful account of life as it is seen. Some have come
dangerously near the assertion that by some mysterious law the bold
doing ennobles even a commonplace motive, and that a regard for truth
is enough whether there be any beauty behind it or not.

The power realised in full and free expression is one of the most
exquisite delights known to man. We of a northern race who, according
to the saying of our French neighbor, “take our pleasures sadly,” do so
because of a hereditary conviction of the sanctity of the unexpressed.
We have therefore been slowest in arriving at these efforts towards
realism, or the untrammelled giving forth of the inward self into
outward embodiment. That pure externalism of the southern or Greek
nature which sought its highest satisfaction in a visible embodiment
of the divine in art, and which distinguishes still the Roman from the
Saxon religious nature, has been regarded as verging on the sinful.
It is not strange that a tendency so long suppressed when once set
free should rush even into lawless extremes, and that an age or school
of writers tasting the delights of this liberty for the first time
should be loth to resign it and be ready rather to sacrifice all to
its further extension. It is quite in accordance with this theory that
puritan America should have given birth to Walt Whitman, who, with all
his lawlessness, is in many respects the most of a Greek that modern
literature can show.

To what extremes this delight has sought indulgence is shown not
more plainly in Zola and his school above mentioned than in the
whole contemporary school of French pictorial art. We see here how
form, as expression, indulged in for its own sake, apart from a
due consideration of the substance within the form, becomes itself
monstrous and vicious. This is the essentially _immoral_ element in
art—the licentious worship of form, or of external shape, regardless of
an internal soul or motive.

When the realist says: “With the motive of nature, of society, of
man, I have nothing to do; it is enough if I portray faithfully his
conduct,” he thereby advertises the fact that he is not an artist,
but a kind of moral photographer. He falls short of being an artist
in just the degree in which he sees the details of form apart from
their soul or spiritual essence; and as this spiritual element is that
wherein the unity of the world as idea exists, therefore, failing to
apprehend this, he fails to lay hold of the universal aspects which
alone can assign true relation and true meaning to any of the details
treated of. It is the apprehension of the universal element underlying
the particulars that constitutes the peculiar gift of the artist. It
is indeed true that nature, or humanity, is its own interpreter and
its own preacher; and the most faithful servant of either will be he
who most exactly presents his subject as he finds it. But the subject
is never found by the true artist detached from its community-life, or
severed from the endless woof of combinations, of causes and effects,
of law and recompense, which go to make up any present moment of
its existence; these constitute its “story.” So far as these inner
conditions are recognized and felt in giving the ultimate expression,
so far alone is the portrayal a real one in the true sense.

Undoubtedly the inmost motive that can give form to the literature of
any age or race is the religious one, by which I mean the recognition
of a life within and above nature, not our own, but to which we
entertain a personal relation. This is in the truest sense that “soul”
which “is form, and doth the body make,” and its presence or absence is
what sufficiently distinguishes the true from a false realism.

An age without a religion can produce only a soulless, and so an
unreal, art. What it calls art may abound in shape, but will possess
no form in the true sense of the word. For form is the combination of
particulars with a view to a single purpose, for which every particular
exists and to which it is subordinate; it is therefore never a many,
but always a one out of many. This inward controlling motive that
constitutes out of many the one, is the living substance within every
true or real form. That which does not possess this motive of unity is
not form, but shape, or an artificial cast made to resemble the living
thing, but having no life within it. Art is thus the form that grows
from within, while shape is but the impression mechanically imposed on
passive and lifeless material from without. The modern French school of
realists in art are the fittest examples of this substitution of shape
for form, and so of pseudo-realism. They have given us corpses, whether
physical or moral, and called them human beings. They have preferred
the charnel-house, the dissecting-room, or the field of carnage, as the
subjects in which to display most effectively their realism. The more
revolting the subject, the more hideously exact the representation,
the more credit was claimed for the artist. In literature the case was
parallel. Nothing so vile but it was to be admired for its faithfulness
in representation. The inner motive, the moral purpose of the writing
or the painting, was not only not there, but the producer scorned the
judgment that would look for it. Never was religion, or the sentiment
of reverence for the spiritual as the world's idea, so manifestly
wanting as in these recent French materialists. The abjuring of the
romantic and the ideal has gone so far as to extinguish the human
element, and so we find in these schools skilfully painted bodies and
an almost matchless power of expression; but, after all, how little is
expressed!

Compare a Greek statue of Phidias's time with the latest production
of a Parisian studio. Both are alike of hard, colourless, senseless
marble; but can we not see in one the breathing of a god, while in the
other we, at the most, study with a critical vision the outlines of a
human animal?

Reality is not reached by the negative process of taking away
conventional guises and concealments; and yet modern artists and
writers have alike thought to get at truth in this way. But the nude
is not the more real for being nude. The reality of an object depends
on what is within it, and not on anything that men put on or take away
from it. How many writers of late years have been deluding themselves
with the idea that if one can only succeed in avoiding everything
like a moral purpose, or even interesting situations, and reveal what
they call the bare facts of experience, one may thereby attain to
the real? As if ever art existed except in the discovering of unity,
the interpretation of purpose, and in the suggesting of that which is
interesting to the human heart!

The emptiness of this kind of realism, which is as naked of soul within
as of garments without, is proved by the reaction that is already
setting in in France, where materialism has made its boldest claims
in the domain of art. Not only in art is there a strong movement
for restoring the lost elements of romance and piety, leading to a
religious severity almost like that of the pre-Raphaelites, but in
literature there is a similar protest against the degradation of the
real to the plane of mere soulless matter. M. Paul Bourget, who has
been through all phases of French expression and knows its extremes,
gives voice to this reaction in the following passage from his
“Sensations d'Italie”:

“Sans doute, les grands peintres ont vu d'abord et avant tout l'être
vivant; mais dans cet être, ils ont dégagé la _race_ et ils ne
pouvaient pas la sentir, cette race, sans démêler l'obscur idéal qui
s'agite en elle, qui végète dans les créatures inférieures, ignoré
d'elles-mêmes et cependant consubstantiel à leur sang. La langueur et
la robustesse à la fois de ce pays de montagnes dont le pied baigne
dans la fièvre, le mysticisme des compatriotes de Saint François
d'Assise et leur sauvagerie, la mélancolie songeuse prise devant
l'immobile sommeil des lacs, tous ces traits élaborés par le travail
séculaire de l'hérédité, le Pérugin les a dégagés plus nettement qu'un
autre, mais it n'a eu qu'à les dégager. Sa divination instinctive les
a reconnus, sans peut-être qu'il s'en rendît compte, dans des coupes de
joues, des nuances de prunelles, des airs de tête. C'est là, dans cette
interprétation à la fois soumise et géniale, que réside la véritable
copie de la nature où tout est âme, même et surtout la forme,—âme qui
se cherche, qui se méconnaît parfois, qui s'avilit, mais une âme tout
de même et qui ne se révèle qu'à l'âme.”[4]

A Frenchman of to-day become an admirer of Perugino!

A tendency to realism, unlike that of French art in subject, but
not unlike in method, is that which is exhibited in England in the
recent religious novelists of the class headed by the authoress of
“Robert Elsmere.” Here, again, the effort has been to get at the real
by stripping off conventional religious admissions, pretensions,
and errors, and depicting a moral basis of conduct which can exist
independently of creed and church. The result has been disappointing,
because a creed incapable of perversion or corruption becomes as
lifeless and as powerless a factor in human character-building as
is the multiplication table; and without a miraculous incarnation of
Deity as its basis and its imperative authority, the whole system of
Christian ethics, when thus reduced to a scientific conclusion or to an
invention of man's individual moral sense, loses not only its power to
influence morally, but even to interest other minds. The “real” basis
of religion thus arrived at is found to be no religion at all, but only
the private opinion of this authoress as to what is good and right,
with every divine and therefore every universal and obligatory element
in it left out.


I have spoken indiscriminately, above, of the realists in our
modern literature as all subject to the temptation to rest satisfied
with photographic imitations of nature rather than with a reality
created from their apprehension of its ideal form. The end sought
for is faithfulness in expression, and the danger is that of making
subordinate to this the substance of what is expressed. But among these
writers there are all degrees of approach to the genuine realism which
undoubtedly, like the art of the Greeks, is a thing that can never die,
and which, even if for a long interval set aside, is sure to return
again to its rightful place as the only true form of expression.

Among the various aspirants to the title of realist, we have no more
interesting examples than in our own Howells and Whitman, both being
avowed prophets of this school of writing. In Whitman we see a generous
nature run away with by the passion of expression. His words are heaped
like sand-dunes. There is a sound of roaring waves, but the landscape
is, too often, on the whole, shapeless and wearisome. One feels that
there is meaning in the poet's mind, but the expression is excessive,
and so without form. The delight of ultimation has become a frenzy
of word-piling or word-inventing. The disappointment is like that
experienced on seeing a piece of sculpture which reveals a bold and
vigorous design with magnificent anatomy and muscular strength, but
which has a weak line in the face. It just falls short of being art.

With Howells the charm of his realism lies in the subtlety of his
concealment of it. The deep moral purpose which, like a strong,
irresistible current, underlies his recent and more serious writing,
is all the more potent because it is not “pointed”; and the reader
is allowed to indulge, as if with the author himself, in the little
delusion that this is only the ordinary superficial aspect of an
every-day world which is being described, and that things do thus
merely happen as they happen, without design or reason. So perfect
is the form and so true to nature that, with the author, we keep up,
too, the little deception, that it is with the form itself that we are
pleased, and that this constitutes the realism of which the author is
so ardent an advocate. Meanwhile we learn, when the story is ended,
that this realism was all informed with a soul of moral and divine
purpose, and that this is all that is real in it as in anything else.


To distinguish from the pseudo-realism of matter the genuine realism
that is soul-informed, I do not know a better name for the latter
than the Classic Realism. I mean by this something as far remote as
possible from the classic formalism of the age of Pope and Dryden,
as remote indeed as form is from formalism. For in that period it was
neither truth to nature nor truth to the imagination that was aimed at
in expression, but rather a cold and rigid conformity to the rules of
correct writing as found in the recognized standards. “Classic” hence
got to mean merely according to the standards. But by a Classic Realism
we will certainly understand that effort to obtain a form of expression
which recognizes both the internal and the external reality of things,
and is able to combine both in one ultimation like the soul and body
that make the one man.

The subjectivity of the Saxon mind and a large inheritance of both the
classic formalism and the romanticism of former periods of English
literature have prevented our English writers from attaining that
spontaneous realism which was native to the Hellenic mind; and yet
they have the gift to recognise and interpret it when found. This did
Tennyson when he chose for translation the following lines closing the
Eighth Book of the “Iliad”:

    As when in heaven the stars about the moon
    Look beautiful, when all the winds are laid,
    And every height comes out, and jutting peak,
    And valley, and the immeasurable heavens
    Break open to their highest; and all the stars
    Shine, and the shepherd gladdens in his heart:
    So, many a fire between the ships and stream
    Of Xanthus blazed before the towers of Troy,
    A thousand on the plain: and close by each
    Sat fifty in the blaze of burning fire;
    And, champing golden grain, the horses stood,
    Hard by their chariots, waiting for the dawn.

The same vision into the charmed world of the classic realism had Keats
when he wrote his sonnet “On First Looking into Chapman's Homer,” and
put a whole age of ecstatic delight into these matchless lines:

    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
      That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne:
      Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
      When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes,
      He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
    Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
      Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Listen to Theocritus describing in most realistic language the Joys
of Peace. Notice how he does not so much as mention any emotion, but
awakens it by his faithful description of the objective world:

    And oh! that they might till rich fields, and that unnumbered
  sheep and fat might bleat cheerily through the plains, and that
  oxen, coming in herds to the stalls, should urge on the traveller
  by twilight. And oh! that the fallow lands might be broken up for
  sowing, when the cicada, sitting on his tree, watches the shepherd
  in the open day and chirps on the topmost spray; that spiders may
  draw their fine webs over martial arms, and not even the name of
  the battle-cry be heard. [Idyl XVI.]

Keats has felt the same appeal of nature to human sympathy in all
the humblest forms of life, and has expressed it in his sonnet on the
“Grasshopper and the Cricket”:

    The poetry of earth is never dead.
    When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
    And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
    From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead:
    That is the grasshopper's—he takes the lead
    In summer luxury—he has never done
    With his delights, for, when tired out with fun,
    He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
    The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
    On a lone winter evening, when the frost
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
    The cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
    And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
    The grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

This is realism, but a truly classic realism; it is earth, but the
“poetry of earth.”

Probably Whitman has here and there approached as nearly as any English
writer to this pure realism, and, when he has not allowed his delight
in words to outrun his inward conception, he has given us pictures
possessing much of the vivid objectivity of the Greek realists. Compare
with the above passage from Theocritus the Farm Picture drawn by
Whitman in these two lines:

    Through the ample open door of the peaceful country barn
    A sun-lit pasture field, with cattle and horses feeding.

Or this:

    Lo, 'tis autumn.
    Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
    Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages, with leaves fluttering in the
          moderate wind,
    Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd
          vines,
    (Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
    Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)
    Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and
          with wondrous clouds,
    Below, too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm
          prospers well.

Perhaps it is because Whitman is not the literary heir of the past, but
the beginner of his line, that he enjoys this freedom and completeness
of ultimation. He could dare what Keats, born to the purple, would
fain have dared, but, in his sonnet to Haydon, confesses his fear of
attempting:

    Haydon! forgive me that I cannot speak
    Definitively of these mighty things;
    Forgive me that I have not eagles' wings,
    That what I want I know not where to seek.
    And think that I would not be over meek
    In rolling out up-followed thunderings
    Even to the steep of Heliconian springs,
    Were I of ample strength for such a freak.

Undoubtedly true it is that a spring-like freshness and vigour in
Whitman's poems give voice to the life of a strong and youthful
nationality; and in grateful appreciation of this we will not stop to
inquire to what extent he owes his present popularity to the charm of
novelty. But, novel as his style may seem, it is but the re-discovered
secret of all true art, the realism that is the ultimation of the soul.

That Goethe was a realist in this sense is shown by the fact that
where the emotion was deepest and the moral substance of his writing
the most intense and unmistakable, the form was purely objective
and classic—dealing with the simplest and commonest of the world's
every-day material, and indulging in little or no reflection or
introspection. Such is he in the _Hermann und Dorothea_, at once the
most Teutonic and the most Hellenic of modern poems. Of this Professor
Dowden says in a recent essay:[5]

“Goethe never attempted to transform himself into a Greek; on the
contrary, it seemed to him essential for the object which he had in
view that he should remain a German, since it was from the alliance
of the Teutonic genius with the genius of Greece that he hoped for the
birth of the ardent child Euphorion. And in the representative poem of
this period, _Hermann und Dorothea_, if Goethe is more than elsewhere
a Greek in the bright purity of his art and its fine simplicity of
outline, here also more than elsewhere in the body of thought and
feeling he is a German of the Germans.”


Coming now to study Carducci as a poet who more perfectly than any
other living, perhaps, reflects the classic realism of his Hellenic
literary ancestry, I desire to emphasise as a point of peculiar
interest the fact that the religious element which I have spoken of
above as the most essential one in all art is here not Christian, but
avowedly pagan; but that, as such, it supplies that inward essence to
Carducci's poems that gives them reality. There is all the difference
imaginable between the description of landscape in his poem on the
peninsula of Sermione [XVI] and that of our modern writers who think
to have outgrown Christianity and see no suggestion of supernatural
presence or influence in the world around them. Were Carducci himself
a believer in the present existence of the Gods of Greece, he could
hardly have infused a more intense life into his writing than he has
done by the continually suggested presence of the happy gods, sirens,
and nymphs of the classic mythology. Our modern poets can use the
same mythologic personages in figurative embellishment or in allegoric
allusion. In Carducci they are real presences such as Wordsworth sighed
for in his sonnet, “The World is too much with us”:

                Great God! I'd rather be
    A pagan suckled in a creed outworn,—
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
    Or hear old Triton blow his wreathéd horn!

and as Keats felt when writing in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn” these
lines:

    Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
      Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on:
    Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
      Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
      · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
    · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
    O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
      Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
    With forest branches and the trodden weed;
      Thou silent form! dost tease us out of thought
    As doth eternity.

The same vivid realisation of the presence of the supernatural in
nature under truly pagan forms is seen in Carducci's poem “To Aurora”
[XVII]:

    Thou risest and kissest, O Goddess, with rosy breath the clouds,
    Kissest the dusky pinnacles of marble temples.

In this poem is contrasted in most realistic manner the Greek sense
of the sunlight as a divine presence, imparting only joy to men and
leading them to seek their delights under the open sky, with the
exhausting nightly dissipations of modern life and the hatred of
daylight which recalls men to their labour:

                              Ours is a wearied race:
    Sad is thy face, O Aurora, when thou risest over our towers.
    The dim street-lamps go out, and, not even glancing at thee,
    A pale-faced troop go home imagining they have been happy.
    Angrily at his door is pounding the ill-tempered labourer,
    Cursing the dawn that only calls him back to his bondage.

Next to the emotion of the supernatural, we are struck with the intense
sympathy with nature both animate and inanimate, which gives so lively
a glow to Carducci's description. The sonnet on “The Ox” [IX] I have
referred to in the previous essay; here I would call attention to that
addressed “To a Horse” [XVII], which, if the former can be called
Homeric, can equally claim to be Phidian in the pure outline of the
drawing and the Olympic spirit that seems to quiver in the poet's
words:

    O that for thee might blaze the sands Elean,
    For thee great hymns the godlike Pindar sing,
    Following thee there upon the waves Alphaean!

Keats proves how deeply he has imbibed the Greek poetic spirit in his
sonnet on the “Grasshopper and the Cricket”; for here he expresses
the same intense joy of communion with a certain soul in nature which
caused Theocritus to never tire of singing, or having his Sicilian
goatherds sing, of the bees that fed the imprisoned Comatas all through
the springtime, of the Oaks that sung the dirges of the shepherd
Daphnis, of the “shegoats feeding on the hill,” of “the young lambs
pasturing on the upland fields when the spring is on the wane,” of “the
white calves browsing on the arbutus,” of the “cicada to cicada dear,”
“the prattling locusts,” and “lizards that sleep at midday by the dry
stone wall.”

With the same zest Carducci delights to sing of the “forests awaking
with a cool shiver” at the rising of Aurora, of “the garrulous nests
that mutter amid the wet leaves” in the early dawn, of the “grey
gull far off that screams over the purple sea,” “the sorrel colt
breaking away with high lifted mane and neighing in the wind,” and
“the pack of hounds, wakeful, answering from their kennels.” What Mr.
Lang says of Theocritus may be as truly said of Carducci: “There is
nothing in Wordsworth more real, more full of the incommunicable sense
of nature.... It is as true to nature as the statue of the native
fisherman in the Vatican.” [Introduction to _Theocritus_.] Especially
are we aware of the almost oppressive feeling of nature's languor and
sweet melancholy on reading Carducci's poems on “A Dream in Summer”
[XVIII] and “On a Saint Peter's Eve” [XIX]. Here, indeed, the feeling
is more modern than ancient, but the mode of expressing it is the same.
How like Homer is the picture of

    The sun across the red vapours descending,
    And falling into the sea like a shield of brass
    Which shines wavering over the bloody field of war,
    Then drops and is seen no more.

It seems like the reverse of the figure in the “Iliad,” where the armed
Diomed is described:

        Forth from his helm and shield a fire-light
    Then flashed, like autumn star that brightest shines
    When newly risen from his ocean bath.

And further, when we read of the swallows that

    Wove and rewove their crooked flight around the gutters,
    While in shadows malarious the brown sparrows were chattering;

and how there comes

                                      through the humid air
    The song of the reapers, long, distant, mournful and wearied—

a line which can only tell its full tale of tender sadness in the
original:

                                  il canto
    de mietitori, longo, lontano, piangevole, stanco—

how the sun looks down

    like a cyclops heavy with wine—

and we are then as suddenly awakened out of our delicious reverie by
the screaming of a peacock and a bat's wing grazing our head, we know
that the poetry is real not by its mere accuracy of description, but by
the feeling that it awakens as only nature itself could awaken it.

The “Summer Dream” recalls, in the vividness and delicacy of its
landscape and tenderness of feeling, perhaps more of Dante than of the
ancient poets. There is a vision of the mother walking with the poet's
little brother by the river bank,

    the happy mother walking in the sunlight,

which suggests Dante's glimpse of the Countess Matilda in the
daisy-sprinkled meadow, described in the twenty-eighth canto of the
“Purgatory.” The bells of Easter-eve are telling from a high tower that

    on the morrow Christ would rise again.

From the sea far below comes up the odorous breeze, while

    on its waters four white sails rock slowly to and fro in the sun.

The poet's thoughts wander to where, in the solemn shades of Certosa
and on the flowering banks of the Arno, lie at rest the beloved ones.
But quickly, with the sudden waking from the nap, is dispelled the
vision of the poet and with it the modern introspective gloom; these
give place to the realism and the day-light contentment of the old
time:

    Lauretta's joyous song was ringing through all the chambers
    While Bice,[6] bending over her frame, followed silent the work of
          the needle.

There is something majestic in the moral portraiture of the poem on
“The Mother.” [XX] We seem to be looking on a colossal bronze figure,
in which are blended pure natural joy and an instinct of the divine
holiness of motherhood. The reproach contained in the last verse
belongs to the present time of social unrest; it is hard to convey in
English the full intent of the subtle phrase:

    la giustizia pia del lavoro—.

Paul Bourget speaks, in his _Sensations d'Italie_, of the simplicity
“peculiar to the lofty style of Italian poetry introduced by Dante,
under which one feels the glorious origin of the language”; and he
quotes, as illustrating this simplicity, Carducci's “divine sonnet”
commencing:

    Passa la nave mia, sola, tra il pianto.

[XXI] On this he remarks:

“The quality of the words in which Roman vigour still palpitates,
the direct force of the image, the construction, at once flowing and
concise, of the sentence, give this poetry the charm of precision which
is the distinctive characteristic of the genius of the Romans. It is at
once sober and grand.” Surely no better example of such writing could
anywhere be found than in the poem on “The Mother.”

With what awful severity such a style lends itself to the exposure
of the corruption and inhumanity of society, like a veritable Juvenal
returned to hurl his satire at these modern times, is shown in the poem
on “The Carnival.” [XXII]


Another phase of Carducci's genuine realism is the subtle art of
blending with nature, not his own personality, but that of great souls
of the past who have lived amid the scenes described. Of this a fine
example is the poem “Sermione” mentioned above. [XVI] The peninsula
so named, which juts boldly out into the southern bay of the Lago di
Garda, the _Lacus Benacus_ of the Romans, is about equidistant from
Mantua on the south, the birthplace of Virgil, and from Verona on
the east, the birthplace of Catullus. Near by is situated one of the
castles of the Scaligers, where Dante may have had his abode when
taking refuge with that family on his banishment from Florence in 1316.
At the extremity of the promontory are still seen the relics of the
villa of Catullus, in which he is supposed to have written many of his
poems, especially the one beginning

    Peninsularum, Sirmio, insularumque
    Ocelle.

How endeared was the lake to the tender-hearted poet, and how its cool
and placid shores brought solace to his bosom, rent with the passions
of Rome's giddy life, Carducci tells in the song of the Sirens—

    Come to us, Quintus Valerius!
    Here to our grottos descend still the sunrays, but silvery, and
          mild as those of Cynthia.
    Here the assiduous tumults that burden thy life but resemble the
          distant humming of bees.

We feel ourselves to be listening for the poet, and would fain with him
enjoy the fresh air, the soothing calm,

    While Hesperus over the waters broadens his rosy face.
    And the waves are lapping the shore.

In the glimpses afforded, in this poem, of Garda lifting her dusky
shoulders over the liquid mirror,

    Singing the while a saga of cities ancient and buried,
    And their barbaric kings;

of Catullus,

    Mooring all day long to the wet rocks his pitched canoe
    And watching in the phosphorescent waves the eyes of his Lesbia;

of the

    white swans swimming down through the silvery Mincio;

and,

    from the green pastures where sleeps Bianore, the sound of
          Virgilius' voice;

and of the

    face stern and grand looking out from the tower of the Scaligers,

centuries of literary history seem to pass before our eyes in living
procession.

Most tender of all these tributes of the poet, interweaving the memory
of his revered predecessors and masters with the nature loved by them,
and by himself for them, is the sonnet addressed to Petrarch [XXIII]:

    If far from turbid thoughts and gloomy mood.

It is as delicate as the odour of jessamine

    in the green blackness of the tangled wood,

and breathes a rich melancholy, as if,

                          when day is done,
    A nightingale from bough to bough were singing.

The sonnets addressed to the more recent poets, his fellow-countrymen,
seem mainly to have served as vents for Carducci's own indignation at
the literary and political degeneracy of the present time. Many of them
are from among the poet's earlier productions, and the changes which
have occurred since their writing make them seem to belong already to
a past period when perhaps more than at present his severe reflections
on his country and countrymen were deserved. A foreigner can hardly
enter into the bitterness of vituperation which finds utterance in such
poems as those “In Santa Croce” [XXVIII], or “The Voice of the Priests”
[XXIX], the sonnet addressed to Vittorio Alfieri [XXV],

    O de l'italo agon supremo atleta,

and that to Goldoni, the “Terence of the Adria”; but all of these,
which we may call the literary sonnets, have a certain universal value
in that they reflect more than individual feeling. Each poet addressed
is identified in some way with the nation's weal or woe; and the soul
of the patriot, and no mere dilettante admiration, is what pours forth
those fervid utterances which, in another tongue and to the ear of
strangers, will naturally often seem overwrought.

No less truly does the soul of the father speak in the beautiful
verses “On my Daughter's Marriage,” and the soul of manly friendship in
that little song “At the Table of a Friend,” which seems as if it had
dropped from the pages of Horace like a purple grape from the cluster
all odorous with its bloom.


Over all others in stern and majestic portraiture rise those verses,
both of the earlier and later period, in which Carducci treats of Dante
and his influence. Nowhere are we more impressed than here with the
strange fascination of that man who

    made things good and evil to tell their tale through him the fatal
          prophet;

against whose Gothic sphere Carducci's Hellenic spirit continually
fretted and rebelled. Yet his soul is ever thrilled (see the Sonnet on
the Sixth Centenary of Dante [XXXIV]) with awe at the reappearing of
that “mighty Form,”

    when shook the Adrian shore and all the land Italia trembled,

which,

                      like a morning mist
    Did march along the Apenninian strand,
    Glancing adown the vales on either hand,
        Then vanished like the dawn;

while “in earthly hearts a fear arose, discovering the awful presence
of a God,” and there,

    where, beyond the gates, the sun is burning,
      The races dead, of war-like men and wise,
    With joy saluted the great soul's returning.

The antagonism between the pagan and the Christian religious instincts
comes to light in all that Carducci writes of his revered master. Half
in anger he chides the awful singer who

    Comes down from heaven bringing the Hymn Supreme,

while upon his brow shines

                        a radiance divine
    Like his who spake with God in Sinai,—

because he cared not for

    His poor country and the endless strife that rent its cities.

With the splendours of the holy kingdom, amid which Dante stood,
Carducci contrasts the mortal fields of civil war and the wastes
deserted and malignant,

    whence comes the sound, dreary and dull, of dying warriors' sighs;

and yet no commentator seems to become so transformed as Carducci into
Dante's own being and manner when contemplating and describing him. The
poem on Dante, beginning with the words [XXXIII]:

    Forte sembianze di novella vita,

recalls, in its statuesque strength and supple beauty, Michael Angelo's
“Sleeping Slave.” It breathes all through with the spirit of the
Italian Renaissance. In the narrative of Dante's secret heart-life and
soul-life it seems as if we were turning new leaves of _La Vita Nova_
rather than those of a nineteenth-century critic. No voice but Dante's
seems to speak in lines like these, describing the first awaking of the
passion of love in the youthful poet's heart:

    Sighing and pensive, yet with locks aglow
    With rosy splendour from another air,
          Love made long stay:
    And such the gentle things
    He talked to thee with bashful lips: so sweetly
    He entered all the chambers of thy heart
    That no one ever knew to love like thee.

This surely is the “intelletto d'amore” of Dante himself.

Hardly less like Dante is the picture of Beatrice in that half-playful,
half-worshipful poem on that mysterious personage [XXXV]:

          Like our Lady from heaven
          She passes before me,
    An angel in seeming, and yet all so ardent
          My mind stopped thinking
          But to look at her,
    And the soul was at rest,—but for sighing!

How sweet and true an echo from Sonnet XXV in _La Vita Nova_:

    Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare!

Here Carducci treats Beatrice under the favourite character of the Idea
which is to elevate mankind from its rude savagery. As in Goethe,

    Das ewig weibliche zieht uns hinan.

    Not a woman, but the Idea,
    Am I, which heaven did offer
    For man to study when seeking things on high.

Nevertheless, we cannot forget the satirical tone in which, in another
poem, he contrasts the ideal love of Dante with the passion of a lower
kind that found its home in the Greek nature, and sings rather of
Lalage and Lesbia than of this “Angel in seeming.”


It is in his poetic power of interpretation that here, as in the poems
on nature, Carducci proves himself the true realist. Whatever form
he chooses, is for the time filled with its own life, and speaks from
that and no other. I have introduced the “Hymn to the Redeemer” [XI],
that _Lauda Spirituale_, which the poet describes in the passage from
his autobiography quoted in the previous essay as a youthful literary
experiment, in which he attempted to clothe the spiritual idea of the
Christ with the form of the pagan triumphal ode. The heroic picture
of the Redeemer of the world returning from Battle as a Victor and
receiving triumphal honour and applause, is novel, and not without a
high order of beauty. It seems, indeed, to minds trained to modern
religious thought, more pagan than Christian; but one may question
whether this aspect of Christ as the Hero is not one which the Church
has erroneously overlooked in her tendency to lay stress on the
vicarious sacrifice of Christ, rather than on the actual deliverance
wrought for man by Him in His warfare against the infernal hosts,
setting the race thereby spiritually free from bondage. Do we not see
here the same attempt to present the Christian Redemption in ancient
heroic form, as the Pisan sculptors made when they copied from pagan
sarcophagi the figures of their apostles and saints? It was not the
conventional way; but we feel that they might have done worse.


A few poems from Carducci's youthful period, in which he indulges in
the meaningless melancholy, the passion and despair, incident to that
stage of the poet's growth, I have introduced, as showing that he too
had his sentimental side. In these he describes his emotions. They
are the sonnets from the _Juvenilia_, beginning respectively with the
following lines:

      O questi di prima io la vidi. Uscia. [XXXVI]
      · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
    Non son quell'io che già d'amiche cene. [XXXVII]
      · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
      Passa la nave mia, sola, tra il pianto. [XXI]

As such they are beautiful, but they lack that objectivity and
realistic power which is felt in those poems where, as in life, the
emotion tells itself, and does not need to be described.


In the _Odi Barbare_, for which title I am unable to find a better
rendering than “Barbaric Odes,” foreign as it may seem to the character
of these exquisitely finished verses, I have followed the poet's choice
in omitting to capitalize the initial words of the lines. Many of these
poems are without rhyme, and, for the sake of greater faithfulness in
translating them, I have sometimes discarded both the rhyme and the
strict rhythmical form.

                                                                F. S.

  WASHINGTON, D. C., June, 1892.



POEMS


I

ROMA

    Give to the wind thy locks; all glittering
    Thy sea-blue eyes, and thy white bosom bared,
    Mount to thy chariots, while in speechless roaring
    Terror and Force before thee clear the way!

    The shadow of thy helmet like the flashing
    Of brazen star strikes through the trembling air.
    The dust of broken empires, cloud-like rising,
    Follows the awful rumbling of thy wheels.

    So once, O Rome, beheld the conquered nations
    Thy image, object of their ancient dread.[7]
    To-day a mitre they would place upon

    Thy head, and fold a rosary between
    Thy hands. O name! again to terrors old
    Awake the tired ages and the world!

                                        DECENNALI.


II

TO SATAN

    To thee my verses,
    Unbridled and daring,
    Shall mount, O Satan,
    King of the banquet.

    Away with thy sprinkling,
    O Priest, and thy droning,
    For never shall Satan,
    O Priest, stand behind thee.

    See how the rust is
    Gnawing the mystical
    Sword of St. Michael;
    And how the faithful

    Wind-plucked archangel
    Falls into emptiness!
    Frozen the thunder in
    Hand of Jehovah.

    Like to pale meteors, or
    Planets exhausted,
    Out of the firmament
    Rain down the angels.

    Here in the matter
    Which never sleeps,
    King of phenomena,
    King of all forms,

    Thou, Satan, livest!
    Thine is the empire
    Felt in the dark eyes'
    Tremulous flashing,

    Whether their languishing
    Glances resist, or,
    Glittering and tearful, they
    Call and invite.

    How shine the clusters
    With happy blood,
    So that the furious
    Joy may not perish!

    So that the languishing
    Love be restored,
    And sorrow be banished
    And love be increased!

    Thy breath, O Satan,
    My verses inspires
    When from my bosom
    The gods I defy

    Of Kings pontifical,
    Of Kings inhuman:
    Thine is the lightning that
    Sets minds to shaking.

    For thee Arimane,
    Adonis, Astarte;
    For thee lived the marbles,
    The pictures, the parchments,

    When the fair Venus
    Anadiomene
    Blessed the Ionian
    Heavens serene.

    For thee were roaring the
    Forests of Lebanon,
    Of the fair Cyprian
    Lover reborn;

    For thee rose the chorus,
    For thee raved the dances,
    For thee the pure shining
    Loves of the virgins,

    Under the sweet-odoured
    Palms of Idume,
    Where break in white foam
    The Cyprian waves.

    What if the barbarous
    Nazarene fury,
    Fed by the base rites
    Of secret feastings,

    Lights sacred torches
    To burn down the temples,
    Scattering abroad
    The scrolls hieroglyphic?

    In thee find refuge
    The humble-roofed plebs,
    Who have not forgotten
    The gods of their household.

    Thence comes the power,
    Fervid and loving, that,
    Filling the quick-throbbing
    Bosom of woman,

    Turns to the succour
    Of nature enfeebled,
    A sorceress pallid,
    With endless care laden.

    Thou to the trance-holden
    Eye of the alchemist,
    Thou to the view of the
    Bigoted mago,

    Showest the lightning-flash
    Of the new time
    Shining behind the dark
    Bars of the cloister.

    Seeking to fly from thee
    Here in the world-life,
    Hides him the gloomy monk
    In Theban deserts.

    O soul that wanderest
    Far from the straight way,
    Satan is merciful.
    See Héloïsa!

    In vain you wear yourself
    Thin in rough gown; I
    Still murmur the verses
    Of Maro and Flaccus

    Amid the Davidic
    Psalming and wailing;
    And—Delphic figures
    Close to thy side—

    Rosy, amid the dark
    Cowls of the friars,
    Enters Licorida,
    Enters Glicera.

    Then other images
    Of days more fair
    Come to dwell with thee
    In thy secret cell.

    Lo! from the pages of
    Livy, the Tribunes
    All ardent, the Consuls,
    The crowds tumultuous,

    Awake; and the fantastic
    Pride of Italian
    Drives thee, O Monk,
    Up to the Capitol;

    And you, whom the flaming
    Pyre never melted,
    Conjuring voices,
    Wiclif and Huss,

    Send to the broad breeze
    The cry of the watchman:
    “The age renews itself;
    Full is the time!”

    Already tremble
    The mitres and crowns.
    Forth from the cloister
    Moves the rebellion.

    Under his stole, see,
    Fighting and preaching,
    Brother Girolamo
    Savonarola.

    Off goes the tunic
    Of Martin Luther;
    Off go the fetters
    That bound human thought.

    It flashes and lightens,
    Girdled with flame.
    Matter, exalt thyself!
    Satan has won!

    A fair and terrible
    Monster unchained
    Courses the oceans,
    Courses the earth;

    Flashing and smoking,
    Like the volcanoes, he
    Climbs over mountains,
    Ravages plains,

    Skims the abysses;
    Then he is lost
    In unknown caverns
    And ways profound,

    Till lo! unconquered,
    From shore to shore,
    Like to the whirlwind,
    He sends forth his cry.

    Like to the whirlwind
    Spreading its wings...
    He passes, O people,
    Satan the great!

    Hail to thee, Satan!
    Hail, the Rebellion!
    Hail, of the reason the
    Great Vindicator!

    Sacred to thee shall rise
    Incense and vows!
    Thou hast the god
    Of the priests disenthroned!


III

HOMER

    And from the savage Urals to the plain
      A new barbarian folk shall send alarms,
    The coast of Agenorean Thebes again
      Be waked with sound of chariots and of arms;

    And Rome shall fall; and Tiber's current drain
      The nameless lands of long-deserted farms:
    But thou, like Hercules, shalt still remain,
      Untouched by fiery Etna's deadly charms;

    And with thy youthful temples laurel-crowned
    Shalt rise to the eternal Form's embrace
    Whose unveiled smile all earliest was thine;

    And till the Alps to gulfing sea give place,
    By Latin shore or on Achæan ground,
    Like heaven's sun, shalt thou, O Homer, shine!

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


IV

VIRGIL

    As when above the heated fields the moon
      Hovers to spread its veil of summer frost,
      The brook between its narrow banks half lost
    Glitters in pale light, murmuring its low tune;

    The nightingale pours forth her secret boon,
      Whose strains the lonely traveller accost;
      He sees his dear one's golden tresses tossed,
    And time forgets in love's entrancing swoon;

    And the orphaned mother who has grieved in vain
    Upon the tomb looks to the silent skies
    And feels their white light on her sorrow shine;

    Meanwhile the mountains laugh, and the far-off main,
    And through the lofty trees a fresh wind sighs:
    Such is thy verse to me, Poet divine!

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


V

INVOCATION TO THE LYRE

    If once I cut thee with a trembling hand
    From Latin bough to Phœbus that belongs,
    So now, O Lyre, shalt thou rehearse the songs
          Of the Tuscan land.

    What consolations fierce to bosoms hard
    Of bristling warriors thou wast wont to bring,
    Or else in peace the soothing verse to sing
          Of the Lesbian bard!

    Thou taughtest them of Venus and of Love,
    And of the immortal son of Semele,
    The Lycian's hair, the glowing majesty
          Of deep-browed Jove.

    Now, when I strike, comes smiling to my side
    The spirit of Flaccus, and through choirs divine
    Of laurelled nymphs that radiant round me shine,
          Calmly I glide.

    O dear to Jove and Phœbus! Sway benignant
    Which art chief guardian of our cities' peace,
    Answer our prayers! and bid the discord cease
          Of souls malignant!

                                        JUVENILIA.


VI

SUN AND LOVE

    Fleecy and white into the western space
    Hurry the clouds; the wet sky laughs
    Over the market and streets; and the labour of man
      Is hailed by the sun, benign, triumphal.

    High in the rosy light lifts the cathedral
    Its thousand pinnacles white and its saints of gold
    Flashing forth its hosannas; while all around
      Flutter the wings and the notes of the brown-plumed choir.

    So 'tis when love and its sweet smile dispel
    The clouds which had so sorely me oppressed;
    The sun again arises in my soul
      With all life's holiest ideals renewed

    And multiplied, the while each thought becomes
      A harmony and every sense a song.

                                        NUOVE POESIE.


VII

TO AURORA

    Thou risest and kissest, O Goddess, with rosy breath, the clouds,
    Kissest the dusky pinnacles of marble temples.

    The forests feel thee and with a cool shiver awake;
    Up soars the falcon flashing in eager joy.

    Meanwhile amid the wet leaves mutter the garrulous nests,
    And far off the grey gull screams over the purple sea.

    First to delight in thee, down in the laborious plain,
    Are the streams which glisten amid the rustling poplars.

    Daringly the sorrel colt breaks away from his feeding,
    Runs to the brooks with high-lifted mane, neighing in the wind.

    Wakeful answers from the huts the great pack of the hounds,
    And the whole valley is filled with the sound of their noisy
          barking.

    But the man whom thou awakest to life-consuming labour,
    He, O ancient Youth, O Youth eternal,

    Still thoughtful admires thee, even as on the mountain
    The Aryan Fathers adored thee, standing amid their white oxen.

    Again upon the wing of the fresh morning flies forth
    The hymn which to thee they sang over their heaped-up spears.

    “Shepherdess thou of heaven! from the stalls of thy jealous sister
    Thou loosest the rosy kine and leadest them back to the skies:

    Thou leadest the rosy kine, and the white herds, and the horses
    With the blond flowing manes dear to the brothers Asvini.”

    Like a youthful bride who goes from her bath to her spouse,
    Reflecting in her eyes the love of him her lover,

    So dost thou smiling let fall the light garments that veil thee,
    And serene to the heavens thy virgin figure reveal.

    Flushed thy cheeks, with white breast panting, thou runnest
    To the sovereign of worlds, to the fair flaming Suria.

    And he joins and, in a bow, stretches around his mighty neck
    Thy rosy arms: but at his terrible glances thou fleest.

    'Tis then the Asvinian Twins, the cavaliers of heaven,
    Welcome thee rosily trembling in thy chariot of gold,

    And thither thou turnest where, measured the road of glory,
    Wearied, the god awaits thee in the dull gloaming of eve.

    “Gracious thy flight be above us!” so invoked thee the fathers,
    “Gracious the going of thy radiant car over our houses.

    “Come from the coasts of the East with thy good fortune,
    Come, with thy flowering oats and thy foaming milk.

    “And in the midst of the calves, dancing, with yellow locks,
    An offspring vast shall adore thee, O Shepherdess of heaven!”

    So sang the Aryans. But better pleased thee Hymettus,
    Fresh with the twenty brooks whose banks smelt to heaven of thyme;

    Better pleased thee on Hymettus the nimble-limbed, mortal huntsman,
    Who with the buskined foot pressed the first dews of the morn.

    The heavens bent down. A sweet blush tinged the forest and the
          hills,
    When thou, O Goddess, didst descend.

    But thou descendedst not; rather did Cephalus, drawn by thy kiss,
    Mount, all alert, through the air, fair as a beautiful god,—

    Mount on the amorous winds and amid the sweet odours,
    While all around were the nuptials of flowers and the marriage of
          streams.

    Wet lies upon his neck the heavy tress of gold and the golden
          quiver
    Reaches above his white shoulder, held by the belt of vermilion.

    O fragrant kisses of a goddess among the dews!
    O ambrosia of love in the world's youth-time!

    Dost thou also love, O goddess? But ours is a wearied race;
    Sad is thy face, O Aurora, when thou risest over our towers.

    The dim street-lamps go out; and without even glancing at thee,
    A pale-faced troop go home imagining they have been happy.

    Angrily at his door is pounding the ill-tempered labourer,
    Cursing the dawn that only calls him back to his bondage.

    Only the lover, perhaps, fresh from the dreams of the loved one,
    His blood still warm from her kisses, salutes thee with joy,

    Beholds with delight thy face, and feels thy cool breathing upon
          him:
    Then cries, “O bear me, Aurora, upon thy swift courser of flame,—

    “Bear me up into the fields of the stars, that there, looking down,
    I may behold the earth beneath thy rosy light smiling,—

    “Behold my fair one in the face of the rising day,
    Let fall her black tresses down over her blushing bosom.”

                                        ODI BARBARE.


VIII

RUIT HORA

    O green and silent solitudes far from the rumours of men!
    Hither come to meet us true friends divine, O Lidia,
              Wine and love.

    O tell me why the sea far under the flaming Hesperus
    Sends such mysterious moanings; and what songs are these, O Lidia,
              The pines are chanting?

    See with what longing the hills stretch their arms to the setting
          sun!
    The shadow lengthens and holds them; they seem to be asking
              A last kiss, O Lidia!

                                        ODI BARBARE.


IX

THE OX

T'amo, pio bove

    I love thee, pious ox; a gentle feeling
    Of vigour and of peace thou giv'st my heart.
    How solemn, like a monument, thou art!
    Over wide fertile fields thy calm gaze stealing,
    Unto the yoke with grave contentment kneeling,
    To man's quick work thou dost thy strength impart.
    He shouts and goads, and answering thy smart,
    Thou turn'st on him thy patient eyes appealing.

    From thy broad nostrils, black and wet, arise
    Thy breath's soft fumes; and on the still air swells,
    Like happy hymn, thy lowing's mellow strain.
    In the grave sweetness of thy tranquil eyes
    Of emerald, broad and still reflected dwells
    All the divine green silence of the plain.


X

TO PHŒBUS APOLLO

    The sovereign driver
    Of the ethereal chariot
    Whips the fiery wing-footed steeds—
    A Titan most beautiful.
    · · · · · · · · · · ·
    From the Thessalian valley,
    From the Ægean shores,
    The vision divine of the prophets
    Hellenic saw thee arise,

    The youthful god most fair;
    Rising through the deserted skies,
    Thy feet had wings of fire,
    Thy chariot was a flame,

    And around thee danced
    In the sphere serene
    The twenty-four virgins,
    In colours tawny and bright.

    Didst thou not live? Did the
    Mæonian verse never reach thee?
    And did Proclus in vain call thee
    The Love of the universe?

    The inexorable truth
    With its cold shadow covered
    Thee, the phantom of ages past,
    Hellas' god and mine.

    Now, where is the chariot and the golden,
    Radiant brow of youth?
    An unsightly mouldering heap
    Gloomily flashing remains.

    Alas, from the Ausonian lands
    All the gods are flown!
    In a vast solitude
    Thou remainest, my Muse.

    In vain, O Ionian virgin,
    Thy songs and thy calling on Homer;
    Truth, the sallow-faced, rises
    From her deserts and threatens.

    Farewell, O Titan Apollo,
    Who governed the rolling year;
    Alone is left to lead me
    Love, the last delusion.

    Let us go: in the acts and the smiles
    Of my Delia still do the Graces
    Reveal themselves, as of old
    Cephisus beheld them.

    Perish the sober age
    That quenches the life in me,
    That freezes in souls Phœbean
    The Hellenic song!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XI

HYMN TO THE REDEEMER

(_For the Feast of Corpus Domini_)

                  Open, O human race,
                  Open wide the gates!
    Behold there comes to you a mighty One,
    Who brings you glory and has conquered death.

    Before Him let no sound of fear arise,
    No sad complaints from dolorous companies.
    All nature makes a feast as if to adorn
    Herself, in presence of the coming Spouse.
    Bring then, O Children, scatter in the way
    The immortal laurel and the blushing rose
    With the pure whiteness of the jessamine.

    Behold He comes, the mighty King encrowned
    With victory's trophies hither to your midst.
    Before His face fly Death and Sin away,
    While Peace and Health move at His either side.
    Behold the Lord who of rebellious man
          Suffered Himself the doom
    And payed our ransom with His own heart's blood.

    He made Himself the fellow of our grief,
    He bore our burden and endured our shame.
    Black over Him did fall the shadow of death.
    Nor turned the Father to His cry the face—
    That day when, seeing again the sacred Mount,
          Came from their tombs
    The prophets and the saints of Israel!

    Behold the Isaac of the ancient time,
    Who bends beneath the sword his gentle neck
    And looks upon his slayer with a smile,
    Kneeling to him in all humility.
    No pity for the blooming flower of youth;
          None for that bitter end,
    Nor for the robbed embraces of the mother.

    And now, His death forever witnessing,
    He brings with Him Divine Humanity,
    Irradiating all the earth with joy
    As when the sun dispels the gloomy cloud;
    And all the abodes of woe and that dark land
          Where dwelt the shadow of death
    He comforts with His presence all divine.

    To Him upon His throne of victory
    Be lifted up the gaze of every art,
    Whom glory like a cloud doth gird around
    And love angelical encompasseth.
    Fly thither from the world where grief still sighs,
          Where death still bides and reigns,
    Fly, O my song, to Him who thee deserves,

    And there relate the sorrows of His people
    Who, from the good astray, still seek the good,
    Like hart that panteth for the cooling stream,
    Or bird imprisoned for its native air:
    He from the sphere divine wherein He dwells
          May send a ray benign
    To souls perplexed and lost in their life's way.

                Lift, O human race,
                Lift up your minds
    And chastened hearts to this most clement King,
    Who welcomes those who turn to Him in faith!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XII

OUTSIDE THE CERTOSA

    The dead are saying: “Blessed are ye who walk along the hillsides
    Flooded with the warm rays of the golden sun.

    “Cool murmur the waters through flowery slopes descending.
    Singing are the birds to the verdure, singing the leaves to the
          wind.

    “For you are smiling the flowers ever new on the earth;
    For you smile the stars, the flowers eternal of heaven.”

    The dead are saying: “Gather the flowers, for they too pass away;
    Adore the stars, for they pass never away.

    “Rotted away are the garlands that lay around our damp skulls.
    Roses place ye around the tresses golden and black.

    “Down here it is cold. We are alone. Oh, love ye the sun!
    Shine, constant star of Love, on the life which passes away!”

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XIII

DANTE

    O Dante, why is it that I adoring
      Still lift my songs and vows to thy stern face,
      And sunset to the morning grey gives place
    To find me still thy restless verse exploring?

    Lucia prays not for my poor soul's resting;
      For me Matilda tends no sacred fount;
      For me in vain the sacred lovers mount,
    O'er star and star to the eternal soaring.

    I hate the Holy Empire, and the crown
    And sword alike relentless would have riven
    From thy good Frederic on Olona's plains.

    Empire and Church to ruin have gone down,
    And yet for them thy songs did scale high heaven.
    Great Jove is dead. Only the song remains.

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


XIV

IN A GOTHIC CHURCH

    They rise aloft, marching in awful file,
    The polished shafts immense of marble grey,
    And in the sacred darkness seem to be
            An army of giants

    Who wage a war with the invisible;
    The silent arches soar and spring apart
    In distant flight, then re-embrace again
            And droop on high.

    So in the discord of unhappy men,
    From out their barbarous tumult there go up
    To God the sighs of solitary souls
            In Him united.

    Of you I ask no God, ye marble shafts,
    Ye airy vaults! I tremble—but I watch
    To hear a dainty well-known footstep waken
            The solemn echoes.

    'Tis Lidia, and she turns, and, slowly turning,
    Her tresses full of light reveal themselves,
    And love is shining from a pale shy face
            Behind the veil.


XV

INNANZI, INNANZI!

    On, on! through dusky shadows up the hill
      Stretches the shining level of the snow,
      Which yields and creaks each laboured step I go,
    My breath preceding in a vapour chill.

    Now silent all. There where the clouds stand still
      The moon leaps forth into the blank, to throw
      An awful shadow, a gaunt pine below,
    Of branches crossed and bent in manner ill.

    They seem like the uneasy thought of death.
      O Winter vast, embrace me and quick stay
        In icy hold my heart's tempestuous waves!
    For yet that thought, shipwrecked, again draws breath,
      And cries to heaven: O Night, O Winter, say,
        What are the dead doing down there in their graves?


XVI

SERMIONE

    “Peninsularum, Sirmio, insularumque
    Ocelle.”—CATULLUS.

    See how green Sermio laughs in the lake's lucid waters,
    she the peninsula's flower!

    The Sun pours down his caresses, while, all around, the Benaco
    shines like a great silver cup

    along whose rim is entwined a wreath of peaceful olive
    mixed with the laurel eternal;

    and so the radiant goblet Italia the Mother holds forth
    with lofty arms to the gods;

    and they from the skies have let thee fall in, O Sermio,
    thee, the peninsular jewel!

    Above, the paternal mountain boldly stands guard o'er thy beauty,
    watching with gloomy eyebrow.

    Beneath lies the land like a Titan slain in some desperate battle,
    prostrate, but threatening revenge.

    But along the curved shores of the bay at the left of the mountain
    stretch out the fair white arms

    like unto those of a child who, happy on entering the dance,
    throws to the breeze her hair,

    laughs, and with generous hand deals out her flowers right and
          left,
    and crowns the chief youth with her garland.

    Garda there, far below, lifts up her dusky shoulders
    over the liquid mirror,

    singing the while a saga of cities ancient and buried,
    and their barbaric kings.

    But here, O Lalage, whence, through the holy joys of the azure,
    thou sendest thy soul-glance;

    here Valerius Catullus moored to the wet rocks, of old,
    his frail pitched canoe,

    sat through the long days and watched in the waves, phosphorescent
          and tremulous,
    the eyes of his Lesbia;

    yea, and saw in those waves the changing moods of his Lesbia,
    saw her perfidious smile,

    the while she beguiled with her charms, through darksome haunts of
          the town,
    the princely nephews of Romulus.

    To him from the humid depths sang forth the nymph of the lake,
    “Come to us, Quintus Valerius!

    “Here to our grottoes descend still the sun rays, but silvery
    and mild as those of Cynthia.

    “Here the assiduous tumults that burden thy life but resemble
    the distant humming of bees,

    “and, in the silence cool, thy cares, all frenzied and fearful,
    gently fade into oblivion.

    “Here the fresh air, here the sleep, the soothing music and chorus
    of the cerulean virgins,

    “while Hesperus over the waters broadens his rosy face,
    and the waves are lapping the shore.”

    Alas for sad Love! how the Muses he hates; how the poet he shatters
    with lust, or with jealousy kills!

    But who from thine eyes and the wars they are plotting afar,
    O Lalage, who shall protect?

    Pluck for the Muses three boughs of sacred laurel and myrtle,
    wave them in sunlight eternal!

    Seest thou not from Peschiera how the flocks of white swans are
          swimming
    down through the silvery Mincio?

    Dost thou not hear from the green pastures where sleeps Bianore
    the sound of Virgilius' voice?

    O Lalage, turn and adore! From yonder tower of the Scaligers
    looks out a face stern and grand.

    “Suso in Italia bella,” smiling he murmurs, and looks
    at the water, the earth, and the sky.

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XVII

TO A HORSE

    Hail to thee, valiant steed! To thee the palm,
      To thee its wild applause the ring is raising.
    Who slanders thee sings an ignoble psalm,
      In vain his own poor wit and judgment praising.

    Thy body, fair as with no shining balm,
      But with the spirit's inward ardour blazing,
    Speeds to the prize. Then in what beauty calm
      Dost thou stand still, upon thy rivals gazing!

    Thou wouldst have been among the conquering
      To gain for brave Automedon the pæan
    That once from Grecian lips did joyous ring!

      O, that for thee might blaze the sands Elean,
    For thee great hymns the godlike Pindar sing,
      Following thee there upon the waves Alphaean!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XVIII

A DREAM IN SUMMER

    In the midst of thy song, O Homer, with battles ever resounding,
    the midsummer heat overcame me; my head fell asleep
    there on Scamander's bank; but my heart fled at once,
    as soon as set free, back again to the shore of Tyrrhenia.

    I dreamed—dreamed pleasant things of the new years coming to me,
    of books no more! My chamber, stifled with the heat of the July
          sun,
    and noisy with the endless rolling of carriages in the streets,
    opened wide. I dreamed myself among my hills,—
    the dear forest hills which an April-time youth was reflowering.
    A stream gushed down the hillside, widening into a brook
    with murmuring cool, and along the brook wandered my mother,
    still in the flower of her youth, and leading a child by the hand.
    On his bare white shoulder lay shining his golden curls.
    He walked with a childish step, but stately, too,
    proud of the mother's love, and thrilled to the heart
    with the great gladness of that Festival
    which everywhere sweet Nature was intoning.
    For high up in yon tower the bells were telling
    that on the morrow Christ would rise again!
    And over the hills and vales, through air and boughs and streams,
    flowed everywhere the great Hymn of the Spring.
    The apple-trees and the peach-trees were blossoming white and red,
    underneath laughed the meadow with yellow flowers and blue;
    the red trefoil was clambering up to cover the sloping fields,
    and beyond the hills lay veiled in the glow of the golden broom.
    From the sea below came up an odorous breeze;
    on its waters four white sails rocked slowly to and fro in the sun,
    whose dazzling rays were quivering over sea and land and sky.
    I watched the happy mother walking in the sunlight;
    I watched the mother: thoughtful I watched my brother,
    him who now lies at rest on the flowering banks of the Arno,
    while she is sleeping alone in the solemn shade of Certosa.
    Thoughtful I gazed, and wondered if still they live,
    and, mindful of my grief, come back from where
    their happy years glide on 'mid forms well known.
    So passed the vision blessed; quick with my nap it went—
    · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
    Lauretta's joyous song was ringing through all the chambers,
    and Bice, bending over her frame, followed silent the work of the
          needle.

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XIX

ON A SAINT PETER'S EVE

    I remember the sun across the red vapours descending,
    and falling into the sea like a great shield of brass,
    which shines wavering over the bloody field of war,
    then drops and is seen no more.
    Little Castiglioncello, high amid heaps of oaks,
    blushing in her glazed windows, returned a coquettish smile.
    I, meanwhile, languid and sad [with fever still lingering in me,
    and my nerves all heavy and lifeless as if they were weighted with
          lead],
    looked from my window. Swiftly the swallows
    wove and rewove their crooked flight around the eaves,
    while in shadows malarious the brown sparrows were chattering.
    Beyond the wood were the varied hills and the plain
    partly razed by the scythe, partly still yellow and waving.
    Away through the grey furrows rose the smoke of the smouldering
          stubble,
    and whether or no did there come through the humid air
    the song of the reapers, long, distant, mournful, and wearied?
    Everywhere brooded a heaviness, in the air, in the woods, on the
          shore.
    I gazed at the falling sun—“Proud light of the world,
    Like a Cyclops heavy with wine thou lookest down on our life”—
    Then screamed the peacocks, mocking me from among the pomegranates,
    and a vagrant bat as it passed me grazed my head.

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XX

THE MOTHER

[A GROUP BY ADRIAN CECIONI]

    Surely admired her the rosy day-dawn when,
    summoning the farmers to the still grey fields,
    it saw her barefooted, with quick step passing
    among the dewy odours of the hay.

    Heard her at midday the elm-trees white with dust,
    as, with broad shoulders bent o'er the yellow winrows,
    she challenges in cheery song the grasshoppers
    whose hoarse chirping rings from the hot hillsides.

    And when from her toil she lifted her turgid bosom,
    her sunbrowned face with glossy curls surrounded,
    how, then, thy vesper fires, O Tuscany,
    did richly tinge with colour her bold figure!

    'T is then the strong mother plays at ball with her infant,
    the lusty child whom her naked breasts have just sated:
    tosses him on high and prattles sweetly with him,
    while he, with eye fixed on the shining eyes of his mother,

    his little body trembling all over with fear, holds out
    his tiny fingers imploring; then loud laughs the mother,
    and into the one great embrace of love
    lets him fall clasped close to her bosom.

    Around her smiles the scene of homely labor;
    tremulous nod the oats on the green hillsides;
    one hears the distant mooing of the ox,
    and on the barn roof the gay plumed cock is crowing.
    · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·
    Nature has her brave ones who for her despise
    the masks of glory dear to the vulgar throng.
    'T is thus, O Adrian, with holy visions
    thou comfortest the souls of fellow-men.

    'T is thus, O artist, with thy blow severe
    thou putt'st in stone the ages' ancient hope,
    the lofty hope that cries, “O when shall labor
    be happy? and faithful love secure from harm?”

    When shall a mighty nation of freemen
    say in the face of the sun: “Shine no more
    on the idle ease and the selfish wars of tyrants;
    but on the pious justice of labour”—?

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XXI

“Passa la nave mia, sola, tra il pianto”

    My lonely bark beneath the seagull's screaming
      Pursues her way across the stormy sea;
      Around her mingle, in tumultuous glee,
    The roar of waters and the lightning's gleaming.

    And memory, down whose face the tears are streaming,
      Looks for the shore it can no longer see;
      While hope, that struggled long and wearily
    With broken oar, at last gives up its dreaming.

    Still at the helm erect my spirit stands,
      Gazing at sea and sky, and bravely crying
    Amid the howling winds and groaning strands:
      Sail on, sail on, O crew, all fates defying,
    Till at the gate of dark oblivion's lands
      We see afar the white shores of the dying.

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXII

CARNIVAL


VOICE FROM THE PALACE

    Couldst thou, O north wind, coming
    From the deep bosom of the moaning valley,
    Or, wandering in the aisles of songful pines,
    Or through a lonely cloister's corridors,
    Chant to me in a thousand sounds—
    The piping of reeds, the roaring of wild beasts,
    And cries of human woe!
      That would be my delight, the while I know
      On yon cold height there lies the winter's snow.

    A shower of white darkness
    Fills all the sleepy air; the snowy plain
    Fades into the horizon far away.
    Meanwhile, the sun's great disk grows faintly red
    As wearily it sinks behind the clouds,
    Staring as 'twere a lidless human eye.
      No breeze, no breath among the hills is stirred,
      Nor traveller's voice, nor song of children heard,

    But the loud crash of branches
    Too heavily bent by burden of the snow,
    And sharp explosions of the cracking ice,
    Arcadia sing and Zephyrus invite
    To your sweet company in meadows fair.
    Now nature's mute and haughty horror doth
      Add zest to pleasure! Come, Eurilla, make
      The drowsy coals a livelier sparkle take!

    On me let them be casting
    A light serenely flashing, such as spring
    Doth carry with her wheresoever she goeth.
    The mouthing actor
    No more the boxes heed, when 'mid the sight
    Of all that crowded brilliancy and beauty,
      And perfumed tresses, and enwreathéd flowers,
      There comes the scent of April's fruitful showers.


VOICE FROM THE HOVEL

    O if, with living blood
    From my heart streaming, I could thee restore,
    Poor, frozen body of my little son!
    But my heart dies within me,
    And feeble is the hold of my embraces,
    And man is deaf and God above too high.
      Lay, my poor little one, thy tear-wet cheek
      Close to thy mother's whilst I with thee speak.

    Not so thy brother lay;
    Hardly he drew amid the stifling snow
    His failing breath, as on his way he crept.
    After the toilsome day,
    Beneath a heavy load, his little steps
    Failed to keep even pace with th' hurrying men,
      While the rough path and the night's stormy frown
      Conspired with man to drag his courage down.

    The gusts of whirling snow
    Beat through his ragged clothes, his wearied limbs.
    He falls, and, bleeding, tries to lift himself,
    But 'tis in vain; and hunger
    Now drains his little strength, and at the end
    Of the dolorous way he gives the struggle over;
    Then pious Death comes down and looks upon
      The bruiséd form; and from its grave of snow
      Home to the mother's roof they bring it so.

    Alas! with better reason
    The eagle flies for refuge from the blast
    Unto her eyrie on the jagged cliff,
    And the aged beast to his cave.
    A kennel warm protects the mastiff's sleep,
    Full fed, within the palace there, near by
      To where, O child, born of love's mightier breath,
      An icy hand leads thee away to death.


VOICE FROM THE BANQUET

    Pour! and keep on pouring,
    The vintage which the ancient Rhine doth yield,
    Crowned with her hundred castles!
    Let it foam and bubble
    Forth to our sight, and then deep in the breast
    Tell what rare treasure hath the sun matured
      Within the hills which well may England crave,
      And France, land of good wines and heroes brave!

    Then let the maddening dance
    Whirl thee away! O what a waving sea
    Of tresses blond and dark all proudly blending!
    O the hot breath that mingles
    Itself with thine! O roses quickly faded!
    O eyes that know to exchange the hasty flash
      The while, of a thousand mingled notes the strain
      Pours forth the sigh of pleasure acute to pain!

    O sweet deflowering
    Of burning cheeks, and pressure of hand in hand,
    The hurried beating of the breast near breast,
    The cunning strategy,
    Now in the ear to lodge the precious secret,
    The little parleys carried on by smiles,
      The sweet imagining of joys that hide
      'Neath her shy glance one presses at his side.

    See how from these our feasts
    The common people get the benefit,
    And civil charity finds large increase!
    Thanks to the heavenly power
    That ill and good allots, a judgment stern
    Has easement in a graceful piety;
      And we the happy progeny of mirth,
      Shed like the sun a radiance o'er the earth!


VOICE FROM THE GARRET.

    The bread gave out, the work
    Fell off on which did hang our life,
    And trembling sat before the fireless hearth
    My mother, and watched me.
    Pale was the face and mute with some great fear
    The while she watched: until, as if pursued
      By that mute stare, after the long, long day
      I could endure no more, and stole away.

    Down through the winter's mist
    Poured the high moon a livid radiance
    Above the muddy alley, then disappeared
    Behind the clouds. So did
    The light of youth but shine to disappear
    Upon the sorrow-mingled pathway of my life.
      A hand touched me. I felt a foul glance fall
      Upon me, and words that did my heart appal.

    Appal! but more appalling
    The hunger, O ye proud ones, that did drive me,
    And the old mother's mute and maddening stare!
    And so it came that I took bread to her!
    But all desire for me her fast had stilled.
    Hardly on me she raised her heavy eyes,
      While I on my poor mother's breast would claim
      A place where I might hide my face and shame.

    Adieu, O tearful visions
    Of a once holy love and you, the fond
    Companions of a maiden most unhappy!
    For you may shine the whiteness
    Of that pure veil the mother, weeping, binds!
    For you the thought that to the cradle turns;—
      I, to my sin abandoned, keep me near
      The track of darkness and, so, disappear.


VOICE FROM BENEATH.

    Be still, thou maiden sad,
    Be still, O grieving mother, and thou, child,
    Found starving, when shut down the night's great gloom!
    Behold! what festive lights
    Gleam in the palace windows, where unite
    The ruling orders of our favoured land,
      And magistrates and soldiers of renown,
      And doctors, mix with merchants of the town.

    The bloom of thy best years
    Thou spoilest, girl, while thou dost pine in vain
    For that sweet love and life that all desire.
    Laugh rather, and be gay,
    In dazzling robes of silk and gold held up
    By hand fair as a countess's, while you haste
      To join the dance! Then weep and wait—what for?
      The garb of shame that's waiting at thy door!

    As if the tears had frozen
    Between the eyelids of the dying boy
    Whom thou couldst not revive, O wretched mother,
    And turned to precious gems,
    So shines the fillet in the dame's black hair,
    With whom the economist, gallant and suave,
      Holds speech! His lips a smile do wear,
      As if a kiss each honied word did bear.

    Seize and enjoy your triumph,
    O Masks! so happy and so powerful.
    And when the coming dawn drives folk to work,
    Go out and show yourselves,
    Belching your ill-digested orgies forth;
    Flaunting your pomp before their humble fast;
      Nor dream the day when, at your gilded gate,
      Grim Hunger and his brother Death shall wait.

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


XXIII

F. PETRARCA

    If far from turbid thoughts and gloomy mood
      Some smiling day should see my wish fulfilled
      Where breathe the vales with gentle brooks enrilled
    The soft air of my Tuscan neighbourhood,
    There, where is heard no more the garrulous brood
      Of thoughtless minds, in deep oblivion stilled,
      Would I to thee my heart's pure altar build
    In the green blackness of the tangled wood.

    There with the dying splendours of the sun
      Thy song should glow amid the flowers springing
    On breezy banks where whispering streams do run;
      As if, still sweeter sounds and odours flinging
    Upward to heaven when the day is done,
      A nightingale from bough to bough were singing.

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


XXIV

CARLO GOLDONI

    O Terence of the Adria, to whose pen
      Italia's land did give such vengeful power
      That, as from rebel soil a noble flower,
    So rose alive the Latin soul again.

    See! where should rule a race of noble men,
      Sharing in righteous deal their bounteous dower,
      There art, beshadowed with base passion's glower,
    Goes reeling to the jeering harlot's den!

    Laugh! and drive out these Goths, and of their shame
      Tear down the altars, and to the muse impart
      The laurel crown the ancients loved to view.
    But no! To-day thou hast no dower but blame;
      And the base crowd proclaims in vileness new
      How low has fallen our Italian art!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXV

VITTORIO ALFIERI

“O de l'italo agon supremo atleta”

    O supreme wrestler on Italia's plains!
      See how a race grown feeble and despairing,
      Even from thee the sacred laurel tearing,
    The rising of thy holy wrath restrains!

    To what high prize thou hold'st the guiding reins,
      Whither aloft the stars with thee are faring,
      The while the age, to its vile feasts repairing,
    Each day tastes viands new and still complains.

    “Ungrateful world, O son; and made still worse
      By listless souls who on their way proceed
      With neither word of chiding nor of praising.
    And where to evil thought is linked the curse
      Of instincts vile, what heart or mind can read
        Those distant heights on which my soul is gazing!”

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXVI

VINCENZO MONTI

    When burst thy rapid songs from out a brain
      A god had struck, his ready kindred knowing,
    In mighty flood like that which from the plain
      Of Eridanus to the sea is going,

    Then rose the immortal siren whose domain
      Holds Virgil's ashes, and her breath bestowing
    As from an ancient urn disturbed again,
      Sweet harmonies as of lyres and reeds were flowing.

    Along the circling shores its measures flinging
      Came as of bees hid in Ravenna's gloom
    The Tuscan verse of Dante softly ringing;
      The Po sent back its trumpet note of doom.
    Thou ceased. No more was heard the holy singing,
      Virgil was still, and Allighieri's tomb.

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXVII

GIOVAN BATTISTA NICCOLINI

    The time will come when the ancient mother, raising
      Her eyes upon the examples of the past,
      Shall see our land its lot with virtue cast,
    And virtuous souls virtue as friend appraising.

    But now, from where the Alpine herds are grazing
      To far Sicilian shore, in slumber fast
      Like jealous nurse she lulls them to the last,
    Lest they should wake and on those forms be gazing.

    What worth to thee our feeble note of praise,
      Only the people's lullaby to mar?
    To thee but shame, to us but harm befalling!
      O happy those who 'mid the din of war,
    On thee, a prophet worthy of better days,
      With Dante and Vittorio shall be calling!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXVIII

IN SANTA CROCE

    O great Ones born in that our Nation's hour
      To which the world did long look back admiring
      As to a springtime when the heavens' inspiring
    Poured equal gifts of anger, love, and power,

    For slavery has Italia sold her dower,
      And feasts with those against her weal conspiring;
      At your high shrines in vain were my requiring
    Of what may soothe the griefs that on me lower.

    The present race such ancestry belying
      Seeks but the ease of death, as in its tomb.
    Here lives, and only here, the ancient Nation!
      And here I stay shivering amid the gloom,
    Breathing upon the world my imprecation,
      Doomed to live ever by my scorn undying.

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXIX

VOICE OF THE PRIESTS

    O school of vileness, treachery and lying,
      “Asylum of the oppressed,” in evil days
      Sounding to heaven the cruel oppressor's praise,
    While God and King and Fatherland denying!

    O wicked was your heartless justifying,
      Your benediction on the torturer's blaze,
      Your curses on the doomed who dared to raise
    A voice against thy tyranny outcrying.

    Ready the Empire's brutal force to crave,
      Thou smil'st upon its prize unjustly won;
    God's prophet is become a lying knave.
      O saddest day the sun e'er shone upon
    When cowers the Cross, the standard of the slave,
      And Christ is made the tyrant's champion!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXX

VOICE OF GOD

    Hark! In the temple the voice of God is sounding.
      “O people of one speech and one endeavour
    Yours is the land with my best gifts abounding
      Whereon the smile of heaven is resting ever!

    “Away the armed hosts your gates surrounding!
      The barbarous hordes that come your speech to sever,
    To raze the fortunes of your fathers' founding,
      And call you slaves! That will I pardon never!

    “Rather within your tombs the flame be stirred
      As from an awful flash in heaven burning,
    Such as gave forth the Maccabean's word.”
      Hail Voice divine! be ours the quick discerning
    Of what thy message means: in thee be heard
      Savonarola's spirit to us returning!

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXXI

ON MY DAUGHTER'S MARRIAGE

    O born when over my poor roof did pass
    hope like a homeless, wandering nightingale,
    and I, disdainful of the present world,
    knocked fretful at the portals of the morrow;

    now that I stand as at my journey's end,
    and see around my threshold flocking come,
    in turn, the jackdaws' noisy company,
    screaming their flattering plaudits at my door;

    't is thou, my dove, dost steal thyself away,
    willing a new nest for thyself to weave
    beyond the Apennines, where thou may'st feel
    the native sweet air of the Tuscan hills.

    Go then with love; go then with joy: O go
    with all thy pure white faith! The eye
    grows dim in gazing at the flying sail.
    Meanwhile my Camena is still and thinks,—

    thinks of the days when thou, my little one,
    went gathering flowers beneath the acacia-trees,
    and she who led thee gently by the hand
    was reading visions fanciful in heaven,—

    thinks of the days when over thy soft tresses
    were breathed in the wild ecstasy of freedom
    my strophes aimed against the oligarchs
    and the base cringing slaves of Italy.

    Meanwhile didst thou grow on, a thoughtful virgin,
    and she our country with intrepid step
    began to climb the lofty heights of art,
    to plant thereon the flag of liberty.

    Looks back and thinks!—Across the path of years
    With thee shall it be sweet one day to dream
    the old sweet dreams again, while gazing fondly
    upon the smiling faces of thy sons?

    Or shall it be my better destiny
    to fight on till the sacred summons comes?
    Then, O my daughter, let no Beatrice
    my soul upon its heavenward flight attend,—

    then, on that way where Homer of the Greeks
    and Christian Dante long ago did pass,
    there be thy gentle look my only guide,
    thy voice familiar all my company.


XXXII

AT THE TABLE OF A FRIEND

    Not since when on me a child
    Heaven's gracious radiance smiled
    Hast thou, O Sun, such splendour poured
    As on my friend's Livornian board.

    Never, O God of Feasts, was sent
    A solace so benevolent
    As wisely glowed within the wines
    We drank beneath the Apennines.

    O Sun, O Bromius, grant that whole
    In loving heart and virtuous soul
    We to the quiet shades descend
    (Where Horace is)—I and my friend.

    Thy fortune smile upon the young
    Like flowers around our banquet flung;
    Peace to the mothers give, and fame
    To valiant youth and love's sweet flame!

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XXXIII

DANTE

    Strong forms were those of the New Life, that stood
      Around thy cradle,
    O Master of the song that looks above!

    A brave young giantess,
    Unknown before to Greek or Latin shores,
    Daring in love and hate, and fair withal,
      Came Tuscan Libertade, and the child
    Already with bounteous breast did comfort thee.

    And all a-glowing with her spheral rays,
      Mild and austere in one,
    Came Faith: and she, across a shore
    Obscure with crowds of visions and of shades,
    Opened for thee the Gate of the Infinite.

    Sighing and pensive, yet with locks aglow
    With rosy splendour from another air,
      Love made long stay.
      And such the gentle things
    He talked to thee with bashful lips, so sweetly
    He entered all the chambers of thy heart,
    That no one ever knew to love like thee.

    But soon away from lonely meditating,
      O youthful recluse,
    Wild clamour and fierce tumult tore thee, and
    The fury of brothers seeking brothers' blood.
    Thou heard'st the hissing flames of civil war
    On neighbour's walls; thou heardest women shriek
    To heaven that altars and the marriage bed,
    The dear hearth-stone and the infant's cradle,—
    All that made fair the marital abode,
    Were swept away in one great gulf of flame.
    Their men had rushed from their embrace to arms;
    The youth breathed only anger and destruction.
    Thou sawest the raging of swords
    Seeking the breast-plunge;
    Thou heardest the dying warrior
    Blaspheme and curse:
    Before thee, streaming with gore,
    Gold locks and grey;
    And the Furies offering
    To Liberty the execrated host
    Of human victims;
    And Death, the cruel arbiter of fates,
    Crumbling the mighty towers and opening
    The long-barred gates.
    Amid wild scenes
    So grew thy Italian soul,
    And prayed that the long civil hate might end.

    Meanwhile he saw
    Of love such pure revealings and so strange,
    The which depicted in the shade
    Of a young myrtle-tree,
    Each one who saw must bow the head in reverence.

    But o'er this gentle dream
    There came the voice of weeping,
    Bitterly sounding from the maternal source.
    Alas! broken by the whirlwind,
    Lies the fair myrtle,
    And with wide-spread wings
    The dove of sweet affection is flown forth
    To seek a purer aura for its flight.

    He, driven here and there
    In the thick darkness of the turbulent age,
    Sought refuge with the famous shades of old;
    So learned to hate himself and present things.
    And in the twilight came he forth a giant,
    Seeming a shade himself—an angry shade
    Who through the desert went from tomb to tomb,
    Now questioning and now embracing them:
    Until before him rose across the ruin
    And dust of these barbaric ages gone,
    Like a cloudy pillar, the ancient Latin valour.
    Then all that such a ruin tells did burst
    Upon the silent air in one great cry.
    In the exalted vision
    Arose the poet divine; and now, disdaining
    His stricken land and time that only wasted
    In petty aimless strife the ancient strength,
    He, in the seeing of his heart's desire,
    Saluted thee, O modern Italy,—
    One, in thy valiant arms, thy laws, thy speech.

    And then, to truly tell
    What such a vision meant, he sought to know
    The life that rolls through all the sea of being.
    From beneath the dust of buried centuries
    He made things good and ill to tell their tale
    Through him the fatal prophet: till his voice
    Resounded through the world, and made the ages
    Turn and behold themselves. Judge and lord,
    He placed them where they could themselves behold,
    Admired and wept, disdained and laughed at them;
    Then shut them up in his eternal song,
    Well pleased that he had power to do this much.

    And meanwhile this poor tangle
    Where the weeping and the wailing still goes on,
    This endless fraud and shadow
    Which has the name of life and is so base,—
    All this didst thou despise! Thy sacred muse
    Explored the depths of all the universe.
    Following the good gentile Philosopher
    Who placed thee in the midst of secret things,
    Thou didst desire to see as angels see
    There where there is no intervening veil;
    And thou wouldst love as they do love in heaven.
    Up through the ways of love
    The humble creature
    Pushing his way to the Creator's presence,
    Wished to find rest in that eternal Truth
    Which taught thee the great love and the great thought.
    Here Virgil failed thee,
    And thou, deserted,
    A lonely human spirit as if drowned
    Within the abyss of thy immense desire,
    Didst vanish overwhelmed in doubt,—
                        When as on wings
    Angelical there came unto thy grief
    She who is love and light and vision
    Between the understanding and the True.
    No mortal tongue like mine may give her name,
    But thou who lovedst didst call her Beatrice.
    And so from sphere to sphere
    'T was naught but melody that thou didst hear,
    'T was naught but one great light that thou didst see,
    And every single sense thou hadst was love,
    And verse and spirit made one harmony
    Like unto her who there revealed herself.
    Alas! what caredst thou then
    For thy poor country and the endless strife
    That rent its cities like, alas! even those
    That make forever dark the vales of hell!
    From heaven descending thou didst thrice bring down
    The Hymn Supreme, and all the while there shone
    Upon thy brow a radiance divine
    Like his who spake with God in Sinai.

    Before thee shining
    In all the splendour of the holy Kingdom
    Flashed in its crimson light the mortal field
    Of Montaperto, and along the wastes
    Deserted and malignant came the sound,
    Dreary and dull, of dying warriors' sighs:
    To which far off responded
    With a great cry of mingled human woe
    The cursed battle-field of Campaldino.
    And thou, Rea Meloria,
    Didst rise from the Tuscan sea
    To tell the glory of this horrid slaughter,
    And of the Thyrrenian shores made desolate
    With this our madness, and the sea's great bosom
    All stained with blood, and far Liguria's strand
    Filled with the moan of lonely Pisan exiles
    And children born for fratricidal war.
     · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXXIV

ON THE SIXTH CENTENARY OF DANTE

    I saw him, from the uncovered tomb uplifting
      His mighty form, the imperial prophet stand.
      Then shook the Adrian shore, and all the land
    Italia trembled as at an earthquake drifting.

    Like morning mist from purest ether sifting,
      It marched along the Apenninian strand,
      Glancing adown the vales on either hand,
    Then vanished like the dawn to daylight shifting.

    Meanwhile in earthly hearts a fear did rise,
      The awful presence of a god discerning,
    To which no mortal dared to lift the eyes.
      But where, beyond the gates, the sun is burning,
    The races dead of warlike men and wise
      With joy saluted the great soul's returning.

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


XXXV

BEATRICE

    The shining face
    Smiled straight into the skies;
    A rosy glow was on her archéd neck;

    Her radiant brow,
    Lofty, serene, and fair,
    And her glance like a rose new-blown,

    And the fresh smile
    Of pure youth,
    Awakened in the heart new ecstasies:

    But awe-inspiring
    And with fear entrancing
    Was her presence.

    Floating on the wind
    In the morning air
    Was her sky-blue mantle, her white veil.

    Like Our Lady from heaven
    She passed before me,
    An angel in seeming and yet all so ardent.

    My mind stopped thinking
    But to look at her,
    And the soul was at rest—but for sighing.

    Then said I: O how or when
    Did earth deserve
    That such a mark of love be given her?

    What reckless ancestors
    Gave thee to the world?
    What age ever bore so fair a thing as thou?

    What serener star
    Produced thy form?
    What love divine evolved thee from its light?

    Easily the ways of man
    Following the blessed guidance
    Of thee, Beatrice, were all made new!

    —“Not a woman, but the Idea
    Am I, which heaven did offer
    For man to study when seeking things on high.

    “When hearts, not wholly cooled
    Of their potential fires,
    Fought hard with life severe, and with the truth,

    “And to the valiant thinking
    And courageous hope
    Faith and true love lent arms of constancy,—

    “Then, from my airy seat descending,
    Among these gallant souls I came,
    Kindled and kept alive their ardent zeal;

    “And, faithful to my champions,
    Clasped in their mighty embrace,
    I made them worship Death—yea, and Defeat,

    “While, traced by dreamy souls
    In verse and colours,
    I wandered through the laurels on Arno's banks.

    “In vain you look for me
    'Mong your poor household gods—
    No Bice Portinari—I am the Idea!”

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXXVI

“A questi dí prima io la vidi. Uscia”

    These were the days when first I saw her growing
      Like bud to flower in the time of spring,
      Her figure such a sweet and lovely thing
    As if one heard love's richest music flowing.

    The bashful blushes on her cheeks were showing
      What native grace her gentle speech could bring;
      As on smooth seas the stars their radiance fling,
    So in her laughing eyes the soul was glowing.

    'T was such I saw her. Now with mad desire
      As in a world of stifling air alone
    I wander, weak and worn with my inquiring,

      Till strength remains only her name to moan
    As with each breath I feel my life expiring:
      O Light of all my years, where art thou flown?
     · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXXVII

“Non son quell'io che già d'amiche cene”

    I am not he who amid wine cups flowing
      Rouses to joy the festive board of friends:
    Heavy with bitter weariness is going
      The time that to my mind no banquet sends.

    Anger alone is that fierce life bestowing
      Over whose board my heart all ravenous bends.
    O fair green years when brightest hopes were growing
      That now lie withered as when summer ends!

    Even the charm of sweet imagination
      No more its soul-beguiling power retains,
        But in its place stands life, mute, dread, appalling,
    And over all a shade whose intonation
      As if of grief that it alone remains
        To some still shore afar is ever calling.
     · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · · ·

                                        JUVENILIA.


XXXVIII

THE ANCIENT TUSCAN POETRY

    A child in gardens, fields, and city squares
      I grew 'mid war's alarms and love's alluring;
    But manhood's school of mysteries and cares
      Enticed me to the temple's dark immuring.

    Where now the lofty dames, with glance securing
      What free-born knight or brave civilian dares?
    Bright April days the roses bloom assuring?
      The oak that through the castle rampart stares?

    Poor and alone, again to that dear dwelling
      I come where pious love did once deny
    That I should heed the Enchantress' sweet impelling.
      Open! O Child: though be the times awry,
    Thy vision, Beatrice, wakes my heart's rebelling,—
      Open! The Tuscan poesy am I!

                                        LEVIA GRAVIA.


XXXIX

OLD FIGURINES

    Like as an infant, beaten by its mother
    or but half conquered in a wayward quarrel,
    tired, falls asleep, with its little fists
    tight clenched and with tear-wet eyelids,—

    So does my passion, O fair Lalage,
    sleep in my bosom; nor thinking, nor caring,
    whether in rosy May-time wander playing
    the other happy infants in the sun.

    O wake 't not, Lalage! or thou shalt hear
    my passion, like a very God of battles,
    putting an end to sports so innocent,
    to flay the very heavens with its raging!

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XL

MADRIGAL

    Breaking his way through the white clouds in the azure,
    The sun laughs out and cries:
                  “O Springtime, come!”

    Across the greening hills with placid murmurs
    The streams sing back to the breeze:
                  “O Springtime, come!”

    “O Springtime, come!” to his heart the poet is saying,
    While gazing, O pure Lalage, in thine eyes!

                                        ODI BARBARE.


XLI

SNOWED UNDER

    Slowly the snow-flakes fall through the ashen heavens: no clamour
    nor sound whatever comes up from the street.

    No cry of the vender of fruits, no rumbling of cart-wheels,
    no ballad of love wailing forth from the lips of youth.

    Hoarse from the towers of the square the hours groan out,—
    Sighs that come from a world far remote from our daylight.

    Birds, that homeless wander, peck at the darkened window:
    Souls of the lost ones returning! they watch me and call me to
          them.

    Shortly, O dear Ones, shortly—Heart! tame thy restless rebelling—
    down to your silence, down to your peaceful shades will I come!

                                        ODI BARBARE.



FOOTNOTES:


[1] “Rome itself had never gathered the Italian cities into what
we call a nation; and when Rome, the world's head, fell, the
municipalities of Italy remained, and the Italian people sprang to
life again by contact with their irrecoverable past. Then, though the
church swayed Europe from Italian soil, she had nowhere less devoted
subjects than in Italy. Proud as the Italians had been of the empire,
proud as they now were of the church, still neither the Roman Empire
nor the Roman Church imposed on the Italian character.”—_Symonds's_
“Renaissance in Italy.” _Literature._ II., p. 524.

[2] See _La Poesia e l'Italia nella Quarta Crociata_. Discourses in the
presence of her Majesty the Queen. _Nuova Antologia_, Rome, February,
1889.

The poems of Carducci have been published for the most part in the
following collections: _Poesie_ (Florence, G. Barbera, 1871) comprises
the poems previously published under the pseudonym Enotrio Romano in
three successive issues—1, _Juvenilia_, the author's early productions
in the years 1850-1857, 2, _Levia Gravia_, written between the years
1857 and 1870, and 3, _Decennali_, produced in the decade 1860-1870;
_Nuove Poesie_, 1879; _Odi Barbare_, Bologna, 1877; _Nuove Odi
Barbare_, 1886; _Nuove Rime_, Bologna, 1887. Besides the last named
the publisher Zanichelli, in Bologna, has also issued editions of
the author's _Discorsi Letterari e Storici_ and _Primi Saggi_; and a
complete edition of the author's writings, in twenty vols. 16mo, is
promised by the same publisher.

[3] Is there an allusion here to Michael Angelo's Christ in the Church
of Santa Maria sopra Minerva at Rome?

[4] “Doubtless the great painters saw, first and before all things, the
human being; but in this being they saw the race, and they could not
discern the race without disengaging the vague ideal which struggles in
it, which exists even in inferior creatures, unknown to themselves and
yet consubstantial with their blood. The languor and, at the same time,
the strength of this land of mountains, whose feet are bathed by the
waters of fever-breeding marshes, the mysticism and the wildness of the
compatriots of St. Francis of Assisi, the dreamy melancholy inspired
by the contemplation of sleeping lakes—all those traits, elaborated by
the working of heredity through centuries, Perugino saw more clearly
than any one else, but he had only to detect them. He divined them
instinctively in the outline of the cheek, the colour of the eye,
the turn of the head. It is in this interpretation, at once humble
and sympathetic, that the veritable imitation of nature consists, in
which all is soul, even, and above all the form—a soul which seeks
itself, disguises itself at times and even debases itself, but a soul
nevertheless and one that reveals itself only to the soul.”

[5] Goethe's Friendship with Schiller. _Fortnightly Review_, Aug., 1891.

[6] Familiar contraction of the name Beatrice.

[7] The allusion is to the figure of “Roma” as seen upon ancient coins.



Transcriber's Notes

Original spelling and punctuation have been preserved as much as
possible. Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.





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