Page images
PDF
EPUB

HA

children may be, on an average, made to grow up of the type or class of character which they shall be in childhood inspired to admire with enthusiasm. This conclusion seems to amount to a self-evident proposition.

Among the lower propensities, those most necessary to the preservation of the individual and of the species are the strongest, and therefore, when misdirected, have done the most mischief in their sphere. In like manner, among the higher faculties, those which are destined, when enlightened, to elevate the soul of man to its utmost attainable perfection, are those which have, while misdirected, most devastated the world ; doubtless in consequence of the irrepressible fire and force with which they have been endowed for the ultimate fulfilment of their high mission !

And the very reason why false glory, false honour, romantic chivalry, and even the various fanaticisms of superstition, have so easily deceived the soul, seems to be this,--that all these mistaken objects were less low than grovelling animal appetites; and that the soul, naturally hating degradation, has endeavoured to rise on the worship of each in turn ; while each, in turn, has produced its race of men, each living according to the fallacy they worshipped, yet all having more affinity with spiritual nature, showing more signs of the soul within them than the mere matter-of-fact animal of daily routine, with no ambition above his personal comfort. So that even in their abuses, and notwithstanding the wide-spread mischiefs those abuses have wrought, these soul-stirring principles have always had their use; for, in the absence of true enthusiasm and true ambition, man, without false enthusiasm and false ambition, must have sunk into a state of animal degradation scarcely a step removed from the mere beasts of the field. But still, the incongruity of each and all of those erroneous ambitions and superstitions with the natural roots of the faculties of benevolence, justice, and reason, has prevented the soul's worship of any of them, being satisfying to the instinct implanted within us whereby to adore that we may emulate perfection!

When, however, we see what heroic sacrifices have been made for soul-stirring principles, even when mistaken ones; what wonders have been wrought by enthusiasm, even when the grounds of that enthusiasm have been false, surely our path is clearly traced out for us. Let it be our endeavour to raise enthusiasm on true grounds, by presenting to the worship of the soul those principles which are in harmony with all the natural laws of her inward being, those soul-stirring principles, the harmony of which with the soul herself consciousness can look within and trace. Such enthusiasm cannot, like the various false enthusiasms, be extinguished by the breaking in of further light : once arisen, it must continue to rule the moral and intellectual day of which its rising had been the dawn.

As, then, enthusiasm and ambition, under some of their many Proteus shapes, have always been the strongest motive-engines of the human mind, we may fairly conclude that they will for ever continue to be such. But the enthusiasm, to be inextinguishable, must be that which the veneration of moral perfection excites; the ambition, that of the soul to attain to such perfection!

An objector may arise and say that such ambition is ill suited to the sordid, money-getting propensities of our nineteenth century. But he woulx be mistaken. The sordid, money-getting propensities of our nineteenth century, are so many altars raised by instinct to an unknown God! The worshippers of Mammon feel the smothered flame within them; they know not how to be great by moral and intellectual grandeur ; they fain would be so by the only means they understand-accumulated riches.

In short, from the child that shoes its new shows to Alexander weeping for a second world to subdue, it is still the immortal soul stirring beneath the weight of ignorance, and striving to rise above the mere daily routine of feeding the body.

This exertion of moral ideality, or of the power of forming to ourselves the idea of perfect goodness and greatness, together with that beautifully adjusted link in the mental laws between ardent admiration and ultimate assimilation, have been thus insisted upon and oft repeated, because they involve the great purifying, elevating, and spiritualizing principle of our nature, and mark (by the most decided line of demarcation) the distinction between the faculties of man and those of the lower animals.* For the lower animals do reason, though in an inferior degree, and do possess certain instincts of attachment, sometimes in a superior degree ; but they certainly do not possess the power of forming within their own minds the mental image of moral and intellectual perfection, and of admiring that image with an intensity and enthusiasm which awaken the sympathies of the moral sentiments, and elevate the desire of approbation out of a mere instinct into the noble ambition of the soul to assimilate itself with the mental image thus perceived.

All inspiration, and all appreciation of the ideal, even in the fine arts, is derived from some particle of this sentiment; and no animal but man is capable of feeling any particle of inspiration! [We have much pleasure in stating, that this able and eloquent essay from the pen of Mrs. Loudon, one of the most original and gifted writers of the present day. is but the first of a series which will appear in successive numbers.--Ed.]

• Some writers have been so much at a loss to point out a difference, which was not of degree, that they have seriously suggested, as the distinguishing attribute of our species, man's being "the only laughing animal."

THE GLEE-SINGERS ;1

OR,

THE GUELPHS AND ĢHI BELLINES.

CHAPTER X.

Compare her beauty and my youth together,
And you will find the fair effects of love
No miracle at all.

Webster.

The morning after the festival of La Donati, Buondelmonte presented himself as a visitor at the Palazzo. The widow had anticipated his visit, and was ready to receive him with no other companions than her daughter and Carlo.

In order to try the power of contrast, she had previously directed Imma to wear the dress to which she had been accustomed in the convent. It was that of a novice, but without the white veil; a loose black robe with hanging sleeves, and gathered round the waist by a black silk rope. Her beautiful hair, released from the confinement of tight braids, was suffered to fall upon her shoulders in luxuriant and graceful curls. The young noble was, if possible, still more struck with her loveliness than even he had been the night before. The black dress set off to the utmost advantage her uncommon fairness, and suited the character of her serene and innocent countenance. Radiantly beautiful in full dress, simply and touchingly beautiful in her plain convent garb, she seemed another yet the same exquisite Imma.

Buondelmonte sat gazing on her and looking away his heart, and replying at random to the desultory conversation of the widow and Carlo. He forgot Amidea-all the Amidei; and La Donati took care that no word of hers should remind him of them to startle him aside in the middle of his career, ere he reached the goal she had set for him. Imma, with a secret instinct, avoided their names also ; perhaps she too forgot them; and Buondelmonte was then all the world to her, and the present hour a life, unheeding of past or future.

Something the widow spoke of compliment to Buondelmonte on his singing; Imma looked her approval-she was too timid to speak it; but Buondelmonte understood her expressive look, and

1 Continued from page 441, vol. XLII.

was more gratified than he would have been by the eulogiums of all Florence.

It was not merely to flatter him that the Signora Donati introduced the subject, but to find a pretext for causing Imma to sing. Affecting a wish to know from such a competent judge if her daughter had been properly instructed, she desired her to sing one of the chants she had learned in the convent at Livorno. Imma, blushing and timid, but not unwilling (for she knew her powers), obeyed her mother's command, or rather, complied with the earnest request of Buondelmonte. She sang to an old and beautiful chant the hymn “ Te Lucis ante," &c. She had been well taught, her voice was sweet, expressive, and flexible ; just of such intonation as suited the style of her gentle beauty. The solemn religious chant was in unison with her novice garb and her innocent loveliness; her song, her countenance, her appearance, all were harmony.

Buondelmonte was so affected tha the knew not how to express his feelings. A few enthusiastic expressions of delight were all he ventured to utter; but his eyes and his varying colour said enough to the widow, and too much to Imma. He was so thoroughly in love, that he forgot time, place, and etiquette. In those early days society in Florence lay under less restrictions than it did in after times. The Florentines were then a social, cheerful, and even garrulous people. In after years, when the Medici became their tyrannical masters, they changed their manners, and grew formal, reserved, and taciturn. But even at the period of which we write, etiquette had its laws, and Buondelmonte was sadly outraging them by the protracted length of his visit; besides the risk he was unconsciously making the widow incur of his being found there in a state of enchantment by some intrusive and gossiping visitor.

Her end was answered for this day, and she was anxious to get rid of him while all was well. But his lengthened stay was now inflicting a sort of petty torment on her mind—the first-fruits of the bitter harvest sown by dishonourable schemes. At last she gave a significant glance to the watchful and understanding Carlo, who, gliding out of the room, sent a domestic to say that the maestro di casa (or house steward) requested an audience of his lady; and Buondelmonte starting, and perceiving that his continued presence would be an intrusion, took his leave of the mother with words, of the daughter with looks.

Alone in his Palazzo, Buondelmonte remembered that he was expected at the Palazzo Amidei that evening, to consult with men of the law concerning some documents to be prepared relative to his marriage. He felt a sadness and almost a disgust at the recollection. He now knew that his love was given to Imma, and only his esteem to Amidea ; his heart had chosen Imma, his friends Amidea ; and worse, if possible, she had not chosen him.

HIT

Were it not for his political engagement, he would have had the gratifying triumph of being the first love of Imma's innocent bosom; all Amidea's first and freshest feelings had been given to another, and he was but second there: an humbling idea when he thought of what he might have been to Imma.

How cordially he wished no cloud had ever interposed between Florestan and Amidea; or that some unexpected event would discover Florestan living and acquitted ; but he felt that wish was mere delirium. He thought of many things, but never once of deliberately breaking his contract; it had gone too far; his honour was implicated; and he deemed he had firmness enough to fulfil his pow distasteful engagement.

But what to do with respect to Imma ? her society was dangerous to his peace. At first he determined never to see her more till he met her a married man. Then, with a lover's sophistry, he said to himself that would be a difficult matter amid the society of their native city; that it would be better for him to accustom himself at once to her fatal charms, till habit, and the necessity of combatting them, had lessened their impression. He concluded neither to seek nor to shun her, but to be led by circumstances ; forgetful that a strong-minded man would govern circumstances by his own resolution. And finally, he determined that when they met he would scrupulously abstain from any attempt to render himself interesting to her, unconscious that his own love for her would involuntarily render that resolution nugatory.

In this mood of honourable meaning, but of depression and secret dissatisfaction, he repaired to the Palazzo Amidei, where, besides Almanno, he met the near kinsmen of the family, Stiatta Uberti and Oderigo Fifanti. They spoke to him of arrangements, of legal business; he heard them with indifference; his heart was not in the subject; it was too much occupied with sad feelings to find room for the promptings of self-interest. He suggested nothing, objected to nothing ; but, with the listlessness of depression, suffered the Amidei to direct, and arrange, and dictate as they would. And this indifference they mistook for the careless generosity of Buondelmonte's character: so often and so easily are we deceived in the source of each other's actions.

When the interview of business was over, Buondelmonte repaired to the apartment of Amidea ; partly because he knew it would be expected of him, partly because he hoped in her presence to combat with some success his troubled feelings. He found her alone with Padre Severino as depressed and as agitated as himself, but with less concealment. She was, however, glad to see him ; for, with more candour than he at that time possessed, she wished to speak to him on the subject uppermost in her mind.

Extending her hand to him, she greeted him with a languid smile, and with the friendly familiarity which their mutual position sanctioned

dly familiari e greeted himnin her mind

« PreviousContinue »