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My leisure for Catullus on his lake,
Though to fare worse, or VIRGIL at his farm
A little further on the way to MANTUA.
But such things cannot be. So I sit still,
And let the boatman shift his little sail,
His sail so forkéd and so swallow-like,
Well-pleased with all that comes. The morning-air
Plays on my cheek how gently, flinging round
A silvery gleam! and now the purple mists
Rise like a curtain; now the sun looks out,
Filling, o'erflowing with his glorious light
This noble amphitheatre of hills;
And now appear as on a phosphor-sea
Numberless barks, from MILAN, from PAVIA;
Some sailing up, some down, and some at rest,
Lading, unlading at that small port-town
Under the promontory — its tall tower
And long flat roofs, just such as GASPAR drew,
Caught by a sunbeam slanting through a cloud;
A quay-like scene, glittering and full of life,
And doubled by reflection.
After so long a sojourn in the wild,
To hear once more the peasant at his work!
But in a clime like this where is he not?
Along the shores, among the hills, 't is now
The hey-day of the vintage; all abroad,
But most the young and of the gentler sex,
Busy in gathering; all among the vines,
Some on the ladder and some underneath,
Filling their baskets of green wicker-work,
While many a canzonet and frolic laugh
Come through the leaves; the vines in light festoons
From tree to tree, the trees in avenues,
And every avenue a covered walk
Hung with black clusters. 'Tis enough to make
The sad man merry, the benevolent one
Melt into tears so general is the joy!
While up and down the cliffs, over the lake,
Wains oxen-drawn and panniered mules are seen,
Laden with grapes and dropping rosy wine.
Here I received from thee, BASILICO,
One of those courtesies so sweet, so rare!
When, as I rambled through thy vineyard ground
On the hill-side, thy little son was sent,
Charged with a bunch almost as big as he,
To press it on the stranger. May thy vats
O'erflow, and he, thy willing gift-bearer,
Live to become a giver; and, at length,
When thou art full of honor and wouldst rest,
The staff of thine old age!
In a strange land
Such things, however trivial, reach the heart,
And through the heart the head, clearing away
The narrow notions that grow up at home,
And in their place grafting good-will to all.
At least I found it so, nor less at eve,
When, bidden as a lonely traveller
('T was by a little boat that gave me chase
With oar and sail, as homeward-bound I crossed
The bay of TRAMEZZINE), right readily
I turned my prow and followed, landing soon
Where steps of purest marble met the wave;
Where, through the trellises and corridors,
Soft music came as from ARMIDA's palace,
Breathing enchantment o'er the woods and waters;
And through a bright pavilion, bright as day,
Forms such as hers were flitting, lost among
Such as of old in sober pomp swept by,
Such as adorn the triumphs and the feasts
By PAOLO painted; where a fairy-queen,
That night her birth-night, from her throne received
(Young as she was, no floweret in her crown,
Hyacinth or rose, so fair and fresh as she)
Our willing vows, and by the fountain-side
Led in the dance, disporting as she pleased,
Under a starry sky — while I looked on,
As in a glade of CASHMERE or SHIRAZ,
Reclining, quenching my sherbet in snow,
And reading in the eyes that sparkled round
The thousand love-adventures written there.
Can I forget-no, never, such a scene,
So full of witchery. Night lingered still,
When with a dying breeze I left BELLAGGIO;
But the strain followed me; and still I saw
Thy smile, ANGELICA; and still I heard
Thy voice-once and again bidding adieu.
THE song was one that I had heard before,
But where I knew not. It inclined to sadness;
And, turning round from the delicious fare
My landlord's little daughter BARBARA
Had from her apron just rolled out before me,
Figs and rock-melons at the door I saw
Two boys of lively aspect. Peasant-like
They were, and poorly clad, but not unskilled;
With their small voices and an old guitar
Winning their way to my unguarded heart
In that, the only universal tongue.
But soon they changed the measure, entering on
A pleasant dialogue of sweet and sour,
A war of words, with looks and gestures waged
Between TRAPPANTI and his ancient dame,
MONA LUCILIA. To and fro it went;
While many a titter on the stairs was heard,
And BARBARA's among them. When it ceased,
Their dark eyes flashed no longer, yet, methought.
In many a glance as from the soul, disclosed
More than enough to serve them.
Few looked not for their coming ere they came,
Few, when they went, but looked till they were gone;
And not a matron, sitting at her wheel,
Far or near,
But could repeat their story. Twins they were,
And orphans, as I learnt, cast on the world;
Their parents lost in an old ferry-boat
That, three years since, last Martinmas, went down,
Crossing the rough BENACUS." - May they live
Blameless and happy-rich they cannot be,
Like him who, in the days of minstrelsy,"
Came in a beggar's weeds to PETRARCH's door,
Asking, beseeching for a lay to sing,
And soon in silk (such then the power of song)
Returned to thank him; or like that old man,
Old not in heart, who by the torrent-side
Descending from the TYROL, as night fell,
Knocked at a city-gate near the hill-foot,
The gate that bore so long, sculptured in stone,
An eagle on a ladder, and at once
Found welcome-nightly in the bannered hall
Tuning his harp to tales of chivalry
Before the great MASTINO, and his guests,
The three-and-twenty kings, by adverse fate,
By war or treason or domestic strife,
Reft of their kingdoms, friendless, shelterless,
And living on his bounty.
But who comes,
Brushing the floor with what was once, methinks,
A hat of ceremony? On he glides,
Slip-shod, ungartered; his long suit of black
Dingy, thread-bare, though, patch by patch, renewed Till it has almost ceased to be the same.
At length arrived, and with a shrug that pleads
"T is my necessity!" he stops and speaks,
Screwing a smile into his dinnerless face.
"Blame not a poet, signor, for his zeal-
When all are on the wing, who would be last?
The splendor of thy name has gone before thee;
And ITALY from sea to sea exults,
As well indeed she may! But I transgress."
He, who has known the weight of praise himself,
Should spare another." Saying so, he laid
His sonnet, an impromptu, at my feet
(If his, then PETRARCH must have stolen it from him),
And bowed and left me; in his hollow hand
Receiving my small tribute, a zecchine,
Unconsciously, as doctors do their fees.