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• What hangs behind that curtain ?'— Wouldst thou
If thou art wise, thou wouldst not. 'Tis by some
Believed to be His master-work, who looked
Beyond the grave, and on the chapel-wall,
As tho' the day were come, were come and past,
Drew the Last Judgment.t But the Wisest err.
He who in secret wrought, and gave it life,
For life is surely there and visible change, $
The abbey of Monte Cassino is the most ancient and venerable house of the Benedictine Order. It is situated within fifteen leagues of Naples on the inland-road to Rome; and no house is more hospitable.
+ Michael Angelo.
# There are many miraculous pictures in Italy; but none, I believe, were ever before described as malignant in their influence.- At Arezzo in the church of St. Angelo there is indeed over the great altar a fresco-painting of the Fall of the Angels, which has a singular story belonging to it. It was painted in the fourteenth century by Spinello Aretino, who has there represented
Life, such as none could of himself impart, (They who behold it, go not as they came, But meditate for
many a day) Sleeps in the vault beneath. We know not much; But what we know, we will communicate. 'Tis in an ancient record of the House ; And may it make thee tremble, lest thou fall !
Once-on a Christmas-eve—ere yet the roof
Rung with the hymn of the Nativity,
There came a stranger to the convent-gate,
And asked admittance ; ever and anon,
As if he sought what most he feared to find,
Looking behind him. When within the walls,
These walls so sacred and inviolate,
Still did he look behind him; oft and long,
With curling, quivering lip and haggard eye,
Catching at vacancy. Between the fits,
For here, 'tis said, he lingered while he lived,
Lucifer as changed into a shape so monstrous and terrible, that he is said in that very shape to have haunted the Artist in his dreams and to have hastened his death; crying, night after night, “Where hast thou seen me in a shape so monstrous ?” In the upper part St. Michael is seen in combat with the dragon: the fatal transformation is in the lower part of the picture. VASARI.
He would discourse and with a mastery,
A charm by none resisted, none explained,
Unfelt before ; but when his cheek grew pale,
(Nor was the respite longer, if so long,
Than while a shepherd in the vale below
Counts, as he folds, five hundred of his flock)
All was forgotten. Then, howe'er employed,
He would break off and start as if he caught
A glimpse of something that would not be gone;
And turn and gaze and shrink into himself,
As though the Fiend were there and, face to face,
Scowled o'er his shoulder.
Most devout he was ;
Most unremitting in the Services;
Then, only then, untroubled, unassailed;
And, to beguile a melancholy hour,
Would sometimes exercise that noble art
He learnt in FLORENCE; with a master's hand,
As to this day the Sacristy attests,
Painting the wonders of the APOCALYPSE.
At length he sunk to rest and in his cell Left, when he went, a work in secret done, The portrait, for a portrait it must be, That hangs behind the curtain. Whence he drew,
None here can doubt; for they that come to catch
The faintest glimpse—to catch it and be gone,
Gaze as he gazed, then shrink into themselves,
Acting the self-same part. But why 'twas drawn,
Whether, in penance, to atone for Guilt,
Or to record the anguish Guilt inflicts,
Or haply to familiarize his mind
With what he could not fly from, none can say,
For none could learn the burden of his soul.'
It was a Harper, wandering with his harp,
His only treasure; a majestic man,
By time and grief ennobled, not subdued ;
Though from his height descending, day by day,
And, as his upward look at once betrayed,
Blind as old HOMER. At a fount he sate,
Well-known to many a weary traveller;
His little guide, a boy not seven years old,
But grave, considerate beyond his years,
Sitting beside him. Each had ate his crust
In silence, drinking of the virgin-spring;
And now in silence, as their custom was,
The sun's decline awaited.
But the child
Was worn with travel. Heavy sleep weighed down
His eye-lids ; and the grandsire, when we came,
Emboldened by his love and by his fear,
His fear lest night o'ertake them on the road,