« PreviousContinue »
And, mingling all things earthly as in scorn,
Let us go round;
What the mountainous isle 200 Seen in the south ? 'Tis where a monster dwelt, Hurling his victims from the topmost cliff; Then and then only merciful, so slow, So subtle, were the tortures they endured. Fearing and feared he lived, cursing and cursed;
At a step
And still the dungeons in the rock breathe out
Let us turn the
prow, And in the track of him who went to die 293 Traverse this valley of waters, landing where A waking dream awaits us. Two thousand years roll backward, and we stand, Like those so long within that awful place, Immovable, nor asking, Can it be?
Once did I linger there alone till day Closed, and at length the calm of twilight came, So grateful, yet so solemn! At the fount, Just where the three ways meet, I stood and looked ('T was near a noble house, the house of Pansa), 235 And all was still as in the long, long night That followed, when the shower of ashes fell, When they that sought POMPEII sought in vain ; It was not to be found. But now a ray, Bright and yet brighter, on the pavement glanced, And on the wheel-track worn for centuries, And on the stepping-stones from side to side, O'er which the maidens, with their water-urns, Were wont to trip so lightly. Full and clear, The moon was rising, and at once revealed
The name of every dweller, and his craft;
Mark, where within, as though the embers lived,
But, lo! engraven on the threshold-stone,
— And now a harp-string as struck carelessly,
-along the corridor it comes I cannot err, a filling as of baths !
– Ah, no! 't is but a mockery of the sense, Idle and vain! We are but where we were ; Still wandering in a city of the dead !
THE BAG OF GOLD,
I DINE very often with the good old Cardinal * *, and, I should add, with his cats ; for they always sit at his table, and are much the gravest of the company. His beaming countenance makes us forget his age ;
nor did I ever see it clouded till yesterday, when, as we were contemplating the sunset from his terrace, he happened, in the course of our conversation, to allude to an affecting circumstance in his early life.
He had just left the University of PALERMO, and was entering the army, when he became acquainted with a young lady of great beauty and merit, a Sicilian of a family as illustrious as his own. Living near each other, they were often together; and, at an age like theirs, friendship soon turns to love But his father, for what reason I forget, refused his consent to their union; till, alarmed at the dcclining health of his son, he promised to oppose it no longer, if, after a separation of three years, they continued as much in love as ever.
Relying on that promise, he said, I set out on a long journey; but in my absence the usual arts were resorted to. Our letters were intercepted; and false rumors were spread - first of my indifference, then of my inconstancy, then of
my marriage with a rich heiress of SIENNA; and, when at length I returned to make her my own, I found her in a convent of Ursuline Nuns. She had taken the veil ; and I, said he with a sigh — what else remained for me? — I went into the church.
Yet many, he continued, as if to turn the conversation, very many have been happy, though we were not; and, if I am not abusing an old man's privilege, let me tell you a story with a better catastrophe. It was told to me when a : boy; and you may not be unwilling to hear it, for it bears some resemblance to that of the Merchant of Venice.
We were now arrived at a pavilion that commanded one of the noblest prospects imaginable ; the mountains, the sea, and the islands illuminated by the last beams of day; and, sitting down there, he proceeded with his usual vivacity; for the sadness that had come across him was gone.
There lived in the fourteenth century, near BOLOGNA, a widow-lady of the Lambertini family, called MADONNA LUCREZIA, who in a revolution of the state had known the bitterness of poverty, and had even begged her bread; kneeling day after day like a statue at the gate of the cathedral; her rosary in her left hand and her right held out for charity, her long black veil concealing a face that had once adorned a court, and had received the homage of as many sonnets as PETRARCH has written on LAURA.
But Fortune had at last relented; a legacy from a distant relation had come to her relief; and she was now the mistress of a small inn at the foot of the Apennines, where she entertained as well as she could, and where those only stopped who were contented with a little.
The house was still standing when in my youth I passed that way; though the sign of the White Cross,” the Cross of the Hospitallers,