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Will see the sun, the moon, the stars, no more.
Never ! no, never ! When the deed is done,
(I shall reward thee with a thousand ducats)
Lead him, I charge thee, to a precipice.
Nay, why d'ye start?-I say, a precipice !
There let him toil and totter as he
And where he plants his pestilential foot,
May the grass wither and the earth grow poison.
All deaf to sighs—be blind as rocks to tears.
Spurn all the eloquence of convulsive hands,
Low-bending knees, and wild, impang'd, entreaty.
Leave him,—'tis meet—unto the care of him,
Who watches ever, as good canons say,
The wise inan's fortunes. Let him see what fate
This power, benignant, has reserv'd for him.
Till, grasping air, all breathless he shall stand,
On the cragg’d margin of a yawning gulf;
Where, hopeless, helpless, desolate, the blast
Shall hurl him, headlong, down th’ o’er-hanging steep,
And whelm his grey hairs in the thundering deep.'--pp. 10, 11, In the mean time we are introduced to Romano, whose abode is in a cave of the Appenines, mourning the loss of his daughter, and vowing vengeance against the king of Naples, the protector of Schidoni, who is his prime minister.
· Nine years, vine anxious, agonizing, years
Have crept their circuits, since I first took refuge
In the deep bosom of this Appenine.
And here, -till now some few short nights,-alone,
Palsied and dumb with anguish, I have watch'd
The changeful moon, and stars unnumber'd, roll
Their silent courses through the firmament.
Here, too, amid these awful piles, which seem
Disjointed fragments of some ruin'd world,
I've heard, all breathless, intonations loud
Echo, and then re-echo; while the lightning
Flash'd in wild glory through the dark serene
Of heaven's imperial concave.
As I gazed
Space, time, motion, death, the past, the future,
All have been melted to one awful chaos,
In my mind's kingdom. Many a silent prayer,
Heart-struck, I've breathed ; and many a secret vow,
Ere life should fade in emptiness away,
To lay yon hated palaces in ruins,
Long did I vow in vanity. At length,
Venice and Mantua promise me revenge ;
And Naples shudders at the oath, I've taken.'-pp. 12, 13. His companions are Fracastro, Lepardo, and others, who, in the intervals of his hostile combinations, endeavour to amuse his mind with falconry. Can it be denied that the following lines are animated by genuine poetic feeling ?
• Fra. Now then, until these messengers returri,
Let us all brace our sinews for the chase.
I love the forest, where the chamois sips
The morning dew-drops off the mountain moss.
I love the precipice, whence the ibex throws
His hairy form from ridge to hanging steep,
And yet falls harmless on his horns below.
I love the peak, where ancient eagles sit,
Measuring in silence, with undazzled eye,
The shapeless spots that speck meridian suns :
While at their feet their wild, impatient, young
Make the rocks echo with their cries and clamours.
Romano. Such was the picture each returning spring
On the lone peaks, that screen’d my father's castle
From the gigantic fury of the storms,
That rule sublime the Adriatic waste.
Sweet were the days and honours of my youth!
Glens, forests, cliffs, high mountains, and the ocean,
Then had their graces and sublimities.
Now, e'en the magic of the rising sun,
-Sublimest image of eternal glory!
Colours yon clouds with golden tints in vain.
But come we'll give all sorrow to the winds.
Rocks, cliffs, and glens, shall answer to our shouts ;
Till Hesper, glittering in the vault of heaven,
Shall give rich promise for the morrow's dawn.'-pp. 18, 19. Velutri after blinding Fontano by the process already mentioned, leads him toward a precipice; but his heart fails him on the way, and he hands over his charge to a youthful Improvisatore, or rather Improvisatrice, named Floranthe, dressed in the garments of a boy, whom he meets by chance. Fioranthe, of course, does all she can to serve the old nobleman; she sings to him, talks in verse and prose a great deal of nonsensical sentiment, and leads him toward the camp of Romano, whither he wishes to be directed. The chieftain having returned from the chase, and the excitement of the sport having subsided, falls into a train of indignant reflections upon the condition in which he is placed. The lines in which his burning thoughts are poured forth, furnish a fine example of poetic energy.
* Rom. Yon glorious firmament-behold! It spreads
In one vast arch of azure; mild, transparent,
Pure, and magnificent :-an emblem sacred
Of man's first virtue-gratitude! Though now
All steel, all granite to my foes; yet once
All heart I was, all life, all soul. To friends
Plastic; to enemies, I knew none.
Now 'tis far different. I am charged with murder,
Not of an enemy, a deadly enemy;
But,-'tis beyond all human language !-of
My wife, all beautiful ! my hope; the sum
of life and excellence; my paradise.
As a fond mother draws her mantle round
Her sleeping infant ; clasps him to her breast;
And hangs, delighted, o'er his smiling lips :
So o'er the lineaments of her, now laid
In death's dark cell, Imagination hangs
Entranced, enamoured, -nay, enraptured! Yet
In some men's wild, horrific, estimation,
I am more savage than the pest, that drops
Hard, putrid, tears, amid the reeds of Nile;
More harsh, more cruel, than Caucasian bear,
Riphean tiger, or fork'd Libyan serpent.
Say—stand I thus? Or like some hoary peak,
Which peers, gigantic, mid dark rolling clouds,
Surcharged with thunder and the electric fluid,
O’er the vast solitudes of th' antarctic zone,
Careless, and reckless, of the piercing shrieks,
Which o'er the bosom of the boisterous main
Waft many a league; and tell to distant lands
The awful agony of some ruin'd crew,
Whelm'd in wild eddies down the angry deep?
Am I all this? Am I shrewd, cunning, heartless?
Ain I regardless of another's woe?
Can I look friendship, smile, and yet-betray?
Can I, with manna, mix some deadly poison,
Which shall consume the vitals of the mind,
And thrust a deeper agony in the soul,
Than e'er was thrust on human heart before ?
If I can meditate, and act, all this ;
Then am I guilty of my wife's foul murder.
Have I, in fact, the lineaments of man?
I have? 'tis well! Yon battlements are those
Of that soft, cruel, and luxurious wanton,
Naples the curst.
Yes-though an outcast, a condemn'd, scorn’d, outcast,-
I will reduce her palaces, her walls,
Her towers, her arsenals, and all
Those sea-girt ships, that crowd her azure bay,
To dust so small, that e'en a summer's breeze
May waft them o'er Vesuvius. Fracastro,
[Taking him aside.
In this vile frame dwell two contrasted spirits.
One, like the palm-tree, which defies the storm;
The other, trembling, like the feather'd reed,
Which bends obsequious to each passing touch.
This woos the skies; that clings to parent earth ;
And each rules absolute, when the other sleeps.
I have a silent, unexampled sorrow
Gnawing this bosom like a vulture. Shall
I yield, or conquer ? l’ve a strange temptation.
Say, say; which shall I ? Thrust this dagger deep
Into my heart, and end my woes at once;
Or live a monument for the world's loud laugh ?
Fra. The laugh of worldlings and the scoff of fools
Are far beyond a wise man's notice. Live!
Live here; live here ;—that thou may'st live hereafter.
* Rom. (aside.) I was a fool to ask him such a question.
Has he been wrongfully accused ? Has he
Lost, ever lost, a wife, on whom he doted ?
Has he e'er felt the agony of having
A fair, mild, innocent, and blooming daughter,
Torn from his arms, and never heard of after ?
How, then, can he appreciate the pangs
Of one so paralyzed ?'--pp. 43—46. Though Fracastro is but a minor character in the piece, yet we wish that he, as well as Floranthe, had not appeared in it. He is by profession, a poet. He seems to have been introduced only for the purpose of uttering rhapsodies, which would have been too fine for the Improvisatrice. Among his effusions, is the following simile, which, though in itself by no means destitute of fancy or beauty, becomes disagreeable merely because it is misplaced. It almost immediately follows the burst of anger and menace, which we have just heard from Romano, and has no sort of application to anything that he has been saying. It is brought forth simply as a gratuitous ornament. Fracastro loquitur. Fra.
No, no ;-no,
Why, sir, a poet is all haggard, wan.
Yet I would be a poet, if I could.
Now, if I am a poet, I can turn
Each rough and unhewn stone into a gem;
And see a likeness where the world sees none.
Now, let me try. A subject ? Stop:-I see one.
Yon stream reminds me of man's varied course,
From childhood, youth, and manhood, to old age.
At first, a fountain in earth’s mossy lap;
A streamlet next, through wild Arcadian scenes,
Winding, through flowers, its fascinating way.
Now through vast plains, and continents of shade,
It rolls in many a wild and broken wave ;
And next through empires, choked with drifting sand.
Lo! on a sudden, cliffs and mountains rise,
Belted with storms. Insinuating winds
The flood mature. The stubborn rocks give way.
Down the hoar precipice, unterrified,
The wild waves rush; the woods, remote, resound;
And mountains echo back the deafening roar.
Escaped the agitated whirlpool's reign,
Beneath deep shades, where bees secrete their wealth,
And mild dove-turtles build their hallow'd nests,
It issues wide ; and rolling calmly down
The Earth’s vast surface, weds, in one proud flood,
Th' attracting majesty of the boundless main'.--pp. 47, 48.
The author, for the sake, we suppose, of contrast, -a purpose in itself not blameable as a matter of taste, provided it be skilfully accomplished, -exhibits on the scene a fisherman and his wife, under whose care he places Schidoni, wounded and almost breathing his last, in consequence of a rencontre which that villain had with his rival Lorenzo. We do not know in what dialect these poor people speak our mother English. It has, however, in it neither wit nor nature, and is quite unsuitable to our epic drama. Schidoni recovers his health under their roof; but in the mean time Lavinia, who had been liberated from her prison by Lorenzo, finds her way, attended by her lover, to the camp of Romano. But before she meets her hapless father, Fontano, and before Floranthe, who is no other than Romano's daughter in disguise, is discovered, we must once more behold the chieftain in his moody and indignant temper. The whole scene is unquestionably, a noble piece of writing. Romano and his companions are resting in a forest of the Appenines, on their march to Naples. Fracastro had in vain attempted to beguile him from his grief with music.
• Rom. Music could once entrance my soul; but now,
Feeling no music in my heart, mine ear,
Tuneless and dull, denies its wonted office.
That air, once heard with joy unspeakable,
I hear as one, who listens to the sound
Of some dull curfew, that, in distant land,
Benumbs the night, and stuns the owl to silence.
• Fra. (aside) I'll play no more. The hour returns again ;
And all his soul relapses into sadness.
Rom. Hush'd are the waters of Ethiopia ; hush'd
The suffocating solitudes of Senegal ;
Awfully hush'd the vast precincts of Nile.
But if the Hyads o'er the wilderness
Breathe on the midnight and distil soft showers ;
The condor, pelican, and ostrich, sip
The drops aerial, and the leopard laps.
• Fra. (aside.) Awful it is to see him trace i' the sand,
Such forms and shapes. Alas! his soul's disorder’d.
Would I'd been born so much the mind's physician,
That, when in Greece, I had the skill to cull,
From off the mountains of the Cyclades,
That sacred plant, Nepenthe, which has power
To calm the tumults of a wounded spirit!
That med'cine now had lull’d his soul to peace.
· Rom. What late seem'd wrinkled with old
Verdant and rife; and every palm-tree bends
With liquid crystal and depending gems.
So in the midnight of my grief, my soul
Wakes from its sterile palsy; when Francesca,
Rising serene in beauty to my thought,
Hallows the past, disarms th' horrific present,
Clothes hope in smiles, and whispers to my heart,