Page images
PDF
EPUB

'Mid sights and sounds like these my life may close: As dwells the gather'd lightning in its cloud,
So let it be for then I shall repose.

Encompass'd with its dark and rolling shroud,
Till struck,-forth flies the all-ethereal dart!
And thus, at the collision of thy name,

IV.

I have been patient, let me be so yet,

I had forgotten half I would forget,

But it revives-Oh! would it were my lot

340

To be forgetful as I am forgot!-
Feel I not wroth with those who bade me dwell
In this vast lazar-house of many woes?
Where laughter is not mirth, nor thought the mind,
Nor words a language, nor even men mankind;
Where cries reply to curses, shrieks to blows,
And each is tortured in his separate hell-
For we are crowded in our solitudes-
Many, but each divided by the wall,

Which echoes Madness in her babbling moods ;-
While all can hear, none heed his neighbour's call
None! save that one, the veriest wretch of all,(1)
Who was not made to be the mate of these,
Nor bound between Distraction and Disease.
Feel I not wroth with those who placed me here ?
Who have debased me in the minds of men,
Debarring me the usage of my own,
Blighting my life in best of its career,
Branding my thoughts as things to shun and fear?
Would I not pay them back these pangs again,
And teach them inward Sorrow's stifled groan?
The struggle to be calm, and cold distress,
Which undermines our stoical success?
No!-still too proud to be vindictive-l
Have pardon'd princes' insults, and would die.
Yes, sister of my sovereign! for thy sake
I weed all bitterness from out my breast,
It hath no business where thou art a guest ;
Thy brother hates-but I can not detest; (2)
Thou pitiest not-but I can not forsake.

V.

Look on a love which knows not to despair, (3)
But all unquench'd is still my better part,
Dwelling deep in my shut and silent heart

The vivid thought still flashes through my frame,
And for a moment all things as they were
Flit by me;-they are gone-I am the same.
And yet my love without ambition grew;
I knew thy state, my station, and I knew
A princess was no love-mate for a bard;.
I told it not, I breathed it not, it was
Sufficient to itself, its own reward;
And if my eyes reveal'd it, they, alas!
Were punish'd by the silentness of thine,
And yet I did not venture to repine.
Thou wert to me a crystal-girded shrine,
Worshipp'd at holy distance, and around
Hallow'd and meekly kiss'd the saintly ground;
Not for thou wert a princess, but that Love
Had robed thee with a glory, and array'd
Thy lineaments in beauty that dismay'd-
Oh! not dismay'd—but awed, like one above;
And in that sweet severity there was

A something which all softness did surpass—
I know not how-thy genius master'd mine-
My star stood still before thee :-if it were
Presumptuous thus to love without design,
That sad fatality hath cost me dear;
But thou art dearest still, and I should be
Fit for this cell, which wrongs me-but for ther.
The very love which lock'd me to my chain
Hath lighten'd half its weight; and for the rest,
Though heavy, lent me vigour to sustain,
And look to thee with undivided breast,
And foil the ingenuity of Pain. (4)

VI.

His name was Agostino Mosti. Tasso says of him, in a letter to his sister, ed usa meco ogni sorte di rigore ed inumanità.'" Hobhouse.

·

was, however, impregnable to the appeal; and Tasso, in another ode to the princesses, whose pity be invoked in the name of their own mother, who had herself known, if not the like horrors, "Conthe like solitude of imprisonment, and bitterness of soul. sidered merely as poems," says Black, "these canzoni are exIn-tremely beautiful; but, if we contemplate them as the productions of a mind diseased, they form important documents in the history of man." Life of Tasso.

It is no marvel-from my very birth

My soul was drunk with love, which did pervade
And mingle with whate'er I saw on earth;
Of objects all inanimate I made
Idols, and out of wild and lonely flowers,

(1) "This fearful picture is finely contrasted with that which youth, when nature and meditation Tasso draws of himself were forming his wild, romantic, and impassioned genius. deed, the great excellence of the Lament consists in the ebbing and flowing of the noble prisoner's soul;-his feelings often come suddenly from afar off,-sometimes gentle airs are breathing, and then all at once arise the storms and tempest, -the gloom, though black as night while it endures, gives way to fre-made to obtain his liberty, this is one of the negative arguments quent bursts of radiance,-and when the wild strain is closed, founded on an hypothesis, that may be easily destroyed by a our pity and commiseration are blended with a sustaining and thousand others equally plausible. Was not the Princess anxious elevating sense of the grandeur and majesty of his character." to avoid her own ruin? In taking too warm an interest for the poet, did she not risk destroying herself, without saving him?” Wilson. Foscolo.

66

(4) Tasso's profound and unconquerable love for Leonora, sustaining itself without hope throughout years of darkness and solitude, breathes a moral dignity over all his sentiments, and

(2) Not long after his imprisonment, Tasso appealed to the mercy of Alfonso, in a canzone of great beauty, couched in terms so respectful and pathetic, as must have moved, it might be thought, the severest bosom to relent. The heart of Alfonso

(5) "As to the indifference which the Princess is said to have exhibited for the misfortunes of Tasso, and the little effort she

And rocks, whereby they grew, a paradise,
Where I did lay me down within the shade
Of waving trees, and dream'd uncounted hours,
Though I was chid for wandering; and the wise
Shook their white aged heads o'er me, and said
Of such materials wretched men were made,
And such a truant boy would end in woe,
And that the only lesson was a blow ;-
And then they smote me, and I did not weep,
But cursed them in my heart, and to my haunt
Return'd and wept alone, and dream'd again
The visions which arise without a sleep.
And with my years my soul began to pant
With feelings of strange tumult and soft pain;
And the whole heart exhaled into one want,
But undefined and wandering, till the day

I found the thing I sought—and that was thee;
And then I lost my being, all to be
Absorb'd in thine-the world was past away-
'Thou didst annihilate the earth to me!

VII.

I loved all solitude-but little thought
To spend I know not what of life, remote
From all communion with existence, save
The maniac and his tyrant;—had I been
Their fellow, many years ere this had seen
My mind like theirs corrupted to its grave,
But who hath seen me writhe, or heard me rave ?
Perchance in such a cell we suffer more
Than the wreck'd sailor on his desert shore;
The world is all before him-mine is here,
Scarce twice the space they must accord my bier.
What though he perish, he may lift his eye
And with a dying glance upbraid the sky-
I will not raise my own in such reproof,
Although 't is clouded by my dungeon roof.
VIII.
Yet do I feel at times my mind decline, (1)
But with a sense of its decay:—I see
Unwonted lights along my prison shine,
And a strange demon, who is vexing me
With pilfering pranks and petty pains, below
The feeling of the healthful and the free;
But much to one, who long hath suffer'd so,
Sickness of heart, and narrowness of place,
And all that may be borne, or can debase.

we feel the strength and power of his noble spirit in the unupbraiding devotedness of his passion." Wilson.

1) "Nor do I lament," wrote Tasso, shortly after his confinement," that my heart is deluged with almost constant misery, that my head is always heavy and often painful, that my sight and hearing are much impaired, and that all my frame is become spare and meagre; but passing all this with a short sigh, what I would bewail is the infirmity of my mind. My mind sleeps, not thinks; my fancy is chill, and forms no pictures; my negligent senses will no longer furnish the images of things; my hand is sluggish in writing, and my pen seems as if it shrunk from the office. I feel as if I were chained in all my operations,

I thought mine enemies had been but man,
But spirits may be leagued with them-all Earth
Abandons-Heaven forgets me;—in the dearth
Of such defence the Powers of Evil can,
It may be, tempt me further,-and prevail
Against the outworn creature they assail.
Why in this furnace is my spirit proved
Like steel in tempering fire ? because I loved ?
Because I loved what not to love, and see,
Was more or less than mortal, and than me.

IX.

I once was quick in feeling—that is o'er ;—
My scars are callous, or I should have dash'd
My brain against these bars, as the sun flash'd
In mockery through them ;-if I bear and bore
The much I have recounted, and the more
Which hath no words,-'t is that I would not die,
And sanction with self-slaughter the dull lie
Which snared me here, and with the brand of
shame

Stamp Madness deep into my memory,
And woo Compassion to a blighted name,
Sealing the sentence which my foes proclaim.
No-it shall be immortal!-and I make
A future temple of my present cell,
Which nations yet shall visit for my sake.
While thou, Ferrara! when no longer dwell
The ducal chiefs within thee, shalt fall down,
And crumbling piecemeal view thy hearthless halls,
A poet's wreath shall be thine only crown,-
A poet's dungeon thy most far renown,

While strangers wonder o'er thy unpeopled walls!(2)
And thou, Leonora!-thou who wert ashamed
That such as I could love-who blush'd to hear
To less than monarchs that thou couldst be dear,
Go! tell thy brother, that my heart, untamed
By grief, years, weariness-and it may be
A taint of that he would impute to me—
From long infection of a den like this,
Where the mind rots congenial with the abyss,
Adores thee still:-and add-that when the towers
And battlements which guard his joyous hours
Of banquet, dance, and revel, are forgot,
Or left untended in a dull repose,
This-this-shall be a consecrated spot!
But thou-when all that Birth and Beauty throy's

and as if I were overcome by an unwonted numbness and oppres sive stupor."-Opere, t. viii. p. 258.

(2) "Those who indulge in the dreams of earthly retribution will observe, that the cruelty of Alfonso was not left without its recompense, even in his own person. He survived the affection of his subjects and of his dependants, who deserted him at his death; and suffered his body to be interred without princely or decent honours. His last wishes were neglected; his testament cancelled. His kinsman, Don Cæsar, shrank from the excommunication of the Vatican, and, after a short struggle, or rather suspense, Ferrara passed away for ever from the dominion of the house of Este." Hobhouse.

342

Of magic round thee is extinct-shalt have

As none in life could rend thee from my heart.

One half the laurel which o'ershades my grave. (1) Yes, Leonora ! it shall be our fate
To be entwined for ever-but too late! (2)
No power in death can tear our names apart,

(1) In July, 1586, after a confinement of more than seven years, Tasso was released from his dungeon. In the hope of receiving his inother's dowry, and of again beholding his sister Cornelia, he shortly after visited Naples, where his presence was welcomed with every demon tration of esteem and admiration. Being on a visit at Mola di Gaeta, he received the following remarkable tribute of respect. Marco di Sciarra, the notorious captain of a numerous troop of banditti, hearing where the great poet was, sent to compliment him, and offered him not only a free passage, but protection by the way, and assured him that he and his followers would be proud to execute his orders. See Manso, Vila del Tasso, p. 219.-E.

(2) "The 'pleasures of imagination' have been explained and justified by Addison in prose, and by Akenside in verse; but there are moments of real life when its miseries and its necessities seem to overpower and destroy them. The history of mankind, however, furnishes proofs, that no bodily suffering, no adverse circumstances, operating on our material nature, will extinguish the

Beppo :

A VENETIAN STORY. (1)

ROSALIND. Farewell, Monsieur Traveller look you lisp, and wear strange suits;
disable all the benefits of your own country; be out of love with your nativity; and
almost chide God for making you that countenance you are; or I will scarce 'hink
that you have swam in a Gondola.-As you Like it, Act IV. Sc. 1.

Annotation of the Commentators.

That is, been at Venice, which was much visited by the young English gentlemen
of those times, and was then what Paris is now-the seat of all dissoluteness. S. A.

I.

spirit of imagination. Perhaps there is no instance of this so
very affecting and so very sublime as the case of Tasso. They
who have seen the dark, horror-striking dungeon-hole at Fer-
rara, in which he was confined seven years under the imputation
of madness, will have had this truth impressed upon their hearts
in a manner never to be erased. In this vault, of which the sight
makes the bardest heart shudder, the poet employed himself in
finishing and correcting his immortal epic poem. Lord Byron's
Lament on this subject is as sublime and profound a lesson in
morality, and in the pictures of the recesses of the human soul,
as it is a production most eloquent, most pathetic, most vigorous,
and most elevating among the gifts of the Muse. The bosom
which is not touched with it-the fancy which is not warmed,—
the understanding which is not enlightened and exalted by it, is
not fit for human intercourse. If Lord Byron had written nothing
but this, to deny him the praise of a grand poet would have been
flagrant injustice or gross stupidity." Sir E. Brydges.

'Tis known, at least it should be, that throughout
All countries of the Catholic persuasion,
Some weeks before Shrove Tuesday comes about,

The people take their fill of recreation,
And buy repentance, ere they grow devout,
However high their rank, or low their station,

(1) Roger Ascham, Queen Elizabeth's tutor, says, in his Schoolmaster-" Although I was only nine days at Venice, I saw, in that little time, more liberty to sin, than ever I heard tell of in the city of London in nine years."

Beppo was written at Venice, in October 1847, and acquired great popularity immediately on its publication in the May of the following year. Lord Byron's letters show that he attached very little importance to it at the time. Ile was not aware that he had opened a new vein, in which his genius was destined to work out some of its brightest triumphs, "I have written," he says to Mr. Murray, "a poem humorous, in or after the excellent manner of Mr. Whistlecraft,* and founded on a Venetian anecdote which amused me. It is called Beppo-the short name for Giuseppo,—that is, the Joe of the Italian Joseph. It has politics and ferocity." Again-"Whistlecraft is my immediate model, but Berni is the father of that kind of writing; which, I think, suits our language, too, very well. We shall see by this experiment.

"He one day received by the mail a copy of Whistlecraft's spectus and specimen of an inter.ded national work, and, moved by its playfulness, immediately after receiving it began Beppo, which he finished at a sitting."" Galt,

With fiddling, feasting, dancing, drinking, masquing,

And other things which may be had for asking.

II.

The moment night with dusky mantle covers

The skies (and the more duskily the better),

It will, at any rate, show that I can write cheerfully, and repel the charge of monotony and mannerism." He wished Mr. Murray to accept of Beppo as a free gift, or, as he chose to express it, "as part of the contract for Canto Fourth of Childe Harold;" adding, however,-"if it pleases, you shall have more in the same mood; for I know the Italian way of life, and, as for the verse and the passions, I have them still in tolerable vigour."

The Right Honourable John Hookham Frere has, then, by Lord Byron's confession, the merit of having first introduced the Bernesque style into our language; but his performance, entitled "Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work, by William and Robert Whistlecraft, of Stowmarket, in Suffolk, Harness and Collar Makers, intended to comprise the most interesting Particulars relating to King Arthur and his Round Table," though it delighted all elegant and learned readers, obtained at the time little notice from the public at large, and is already almost forgotten. For the causes of this failure, about which Mr. Rose and others have written at some length, it appears needless to look further than the last sentence we have been quoting from the letters of the author of the more successful Beppo. Whistlecraft had the verse: it had also the humour, the

The time less liked by husbands than by lovers
Begins, and prudery flings aside her fetter;
And gaiety on restless tiptoe hovers,

Giggling with all the gallants who beset her;
And there are songs and quavers, roaring, humming,
Guitars, and every other sort of strumming.
III.

And there are dresses splendid, but fantastical,

Masks of all times and nations, Turks and Jews, And harlequins and clowns, with feats gymnastical, Greeks, Romans, Yankee-doodles, and Hindoos; All kinds of dress, except the ecclesiastical,

All people, as their fancies hit, may choose, But no one in these parts may quiz the clergy,— Therefore take heed, ye freethinkers! I charge ye. IV. You'd better walk about begirt with briars, Instead of coat and small-clothes, than put on A single stitch reflecting upon friars,

Although you swore it only was in fun; They'd haul you o'er the coals, and stir the fires

Of Phlegethon with every mother's son, Nor say one mass to cool the caldron's bubble That boil'd your bones, unless you paid them double. V. But, saving this, you may put on whate'er

You like by way of doublet, cape, or cloak, Such as in Monmouth-street, or in Rag Fair,

Would rig you out in seriousness or joke; And even in Italy such places are,

'Tis as we take a glass with friends at parting, In the stage-coach or packet, just at starting. VII.

And thus they bid farewell to carnal dishes, And solid meats, and highly-spiced ragouts, To live for forty days on ill-dress'd fishes,

With prettier names in softer accents spoke, For, bating Covent Garden, I can hit on

X.

This feast is named the carnival, (2) which, being
Interpreted, implies "farewell to flesh :"
So call'd, because the name and thing agreeing,
Through Lent they live on fish both salt and fresh.
But why they usher Lent with so much glee in,

Is more than I can tell, although I guess

wit, and even the poetry of the Italian model; but it wanted the life of actual manners, and the strength of stirring passions. Mr. Frere had forgot, or was, with all his genius, unfit to profit by remembering, that the poets, whose style he was adopting, always made their style appear a secondary matter. They never failed to embroider their merriment on the texture of a really interesting story. Lord Byron perceived this; and avoiding his immediate master's one fatal error, and at least equalling him in the excellences which he did display, engaged at once the sympathy of readers of every class, and became substantially the founder of a new species of English poetry.

The reader will find an elaborate critique on Mr. Frere's Whis-
thecraft, by Ugo Foscolo, in the Quarterly Review, vol. xxi.-E.
(1) In the original MS.-

"For, bating Covent Garden, I can't hit on
A place," ete.-E.

(2) "The carnival," says Mr. Rose, "though it is gayer or duller, according to the genius of the nations which celebrate it, is, in its general character, nearly the same all over the peninsula.

No place that's call'd "Piazza” in Great Britain. (1) Of all the places where the carnival

VI.

Because they have no sauces to their stews, A thing which causes many" poohs" and "pishes," And several oaths (which would not suit the Muse), From travellers accustom'd from a boy To eat their salmon, at the least, with soy;

VIII.

And therefore humbly I would recommend

"The curious in fish-sauce," before they cross The sea, to bid their cook, or wife, or friend,

Walk or ride to the Strand, and buy in gross (Or if set out beforehand, these may send

By any means least liable to loss) Ketchup, Soy, Chili-vinegar, and Harvey, Or, by the Lord! a Lent will well nigh starve ye; IX.

That is to say, if your religion's Roman,

And you at Rome would do as Romans do, According to the proverb,-although no man, If foreign, is obliged to fast; and you, If Protestant, or sickly, or a woman,

Would rather dine in sin on a ragoutDine and be d--d! I don't mean to be coarse, But that's the penalty, to say no worse.

Was most facetious in the days of yore, For dance, and song, and serenade, and ball,

And masque, and mime, and mystery, and more Than I have time to tell now, or at all,

Venice the bell from every city bore,And at the moment when I fix my story, That sea-born city was in all her glory.

The beginning is like any other season; towards the middle you begin to meet masques and mummers in sunshine: in the last fifteen days the plot thickens; and during the three last all is hurly-burly. But to paint these, which may be almost considered as a separate festival, I must avail myself of the words of Messrs. William and Thomas Whistlecraft, in whose 'Prospectus and Specimen of an intended National Work' I find the description ready made to my hand, observing that, besides the ordinary dra matis personæ,

[ocr errors]

Beggars and vagabonds, blind, lame, and sturdy, Minstrels and singers, with their various airs,

The pipe, the tabor, and the hurdy-gurdy,

Jugglers and mountebanks, with apes and bears, Continue, from the first day to the third day,

An uproar like ten thousand Smithfield fairs.'

The shops are shut, all business is at a stand, and the drunken cries heard at night afford a clear proof of the pleasures to which these days of leisure are dedicated. These holidays may surely be reckoned amongst the secondary causes which contribute to the indolence of the Italian, since they reconcile this to his con

XI.

Whosc course and home we knew not, nor shall They've pretty faces yet, those same Venetians, Like the lost Pleiad (5) seen no more below. [know, Black eyes, arch'd brows, and sweet expressions

XV.
Such as ofold were copied from the Grecians, [still, I said that like a picture by Giorgione
In ancient arts by moderns miinick'd ill;

Venetian women were, and so they are,
And like so many Venuses of Titian's

Particularly seen from a balcony (The best 's at Florence (1)-see it, if ye will),

(For beauty 's sometimes best set off afar), They look when leaning over the balcony,

And there, just like a heroine of Goldoni, Or stepp'd from out a picture by Giorgione, (2)

They peep from out the blind, or o'er the bar , XII.

And, truth to say, they ’re mostly very pretty, Whose tints are truth and beauty at their best;

And rather like to show it, more 's the pity! And when you to Manfrini's palace go,(3)

XVI. That picture (howsoever fine the rest)

For glances beget ogles, ogles sighs, Is loveliest to my mind of all the show;

Sighs wishes, wishes words, and words a letter, It may perhaps be also to your zest,

Which flies on wings of light-heeld Mercuries, And that's the cause I rhyme upon it so:

Who do such things because they know no better;! | ’T is but a portrait of his son, and wife,

And then, God knows, what mischief may arise, And self; but such a woman! love in life !(4) When love links two young people in one fetter, XIII.

Vile assignations, and adulterous beds, Love in full life and length, not love ideal,

Elopements, broken vows, and hearts, and heads. No, nor ideal beauty, that fine name,

XVII.
But something better still, so very real,

Shakspeare described the sex in Desdemona
That the sweet model must have been the same, As very fair, but yet suspect in fame,(6)
A thing that you would purchase, beg, or steal, And to this day from Venice to Verona
Were't not impossible, besides a shame:

Such malters may be probably the same,
The face recalls some face, as 't were with pain, Except that since those times was never known a
You once have seen, but ne'er will see again; Husband whom mere suspicion could inflame
XIV.

To suffocate a wife no more than twenty,

Because she had a “cavalier servente."
One of those forms which flit by us, when we
Are young, and fix our eyes on every face:

XVIII.
And, oh! the loveliness at limes we see

Their jealousy (if they are ever jealous) In momentary gliding; the soft grace,

Is of a fair complexion altogether, The youth, the bloom, the beauty which agree, Not like that sooty devil of Othello's In many a nameless being we retrace,

Which smothers women in a bed of feather,

a

science, as being of religious institution. Now there is, perhaps, or wisdom ;-it is the kind of face to go mad for, because it cannot no offence which is so unproportionably punished by conscience walk out of its frame. There is also a famous dead Christ and live as that of indolence. With the wicked man, it is an intermittent Apostles, for which Bonaparte offered in vain five thousand louis; disease; with the idle man, it is a chronic one." Lellers from and of which, though it is a capo d'opera of Titian, as I am no con the North of Italy, vol. ii. p. 171.

noisseur, I say little, and thought less, except of one figure in it. (1) “At Florence I remained but a day, having a hurry for There are ten thousand others, and some very fine Giorgiones Rome. However, I went to the two galleries, from which one re- amongst them. There is an original Laura and Petrarch, very lurns drunk with beauty; but there are sculpture and painting, hideous both. Petrarch has not only the dress, but the seawhich, for the first time, gave me an idea of what people mean by Lures and air of an old woman; and Laura looks by no means like their cant, about those lwo most artificial of the arts. What struck a young one, or a prelly one. What struck me most in the general me most were,-the mistress of Raphael, a portrait; the mistress collection, was the extreme resemblance of the style of the female of Tilian, a portrait; a Venus of Titian, in the Medici gallery-the races in the mass of pictures, so many centuries or generalions Venus ; Canova's Venus, also in the other gallery,” etc. B. I.et-old, to those you see and meet every day among the existing ltalers, 1817.

lians. The Queen of Cyprus and Giorgione's wife, particularly (2) “I know nothing of pictures myself, and care almost as the latter, are Venetians as it were of yesterday; the same eyes little; but to me there are none like the Venetian-above all, and expression, and to my mind, there is none tiner. You must Giorgione. I remember well his Judgment of Solomon, in the recollect, however, tbal i know nothing of painting, and that I Mariscalchi gallery in Bologna. The real mother is beautiful, detest it, unless it reminds me of something I have seen, or think exquisitely beautiful.” B. Lelters, 1820.

il possible to see."-E. (3) The following is Lord Byron's account of his visit to this (4) This appears to be an incorrect description of the picture; as, palace, in April, 1817:—“To-day, I have been over the Manfrini according to Vasari and others, Giorgione never was married, and paiace, famous for its pictures. Amongst them, there is a por- died young.-E. trait of Ariosto, by Titian, surpassing all my anticipation of the (8) " Quæ septem dici sex tamen esse solent."-Ooid. power of painting or human expression: it is the poetry of portrait, (6) "Look to 'l:and the portrait of poetry. There was also one of some learned in Venice they do let heaven see the pranks lady centuries old, whose name I forgel, but whose features must They dare not show their husbands; their best conscience always be remembered. I never saw greater beauty, or sweetness, Is- not to leave undone, but keep unknown."--Othello.-E,

« PreviousContinue »