Page images

The tyrant slain; though then the grass of years
Grew in their streets.

There now to him who sails
Under the shore, a few white villages
Scattered above, below, some in the clouds,
Some on the margin of the dark-blue sea
And glittering through their lemon-groves, announce
The region of AMALFI. Then, half-fallen,

A lonely watch-tower on the precipice,
Their ancient landmark, comes. Long may it last;
And to the seaman in a distant age,
Though now he little thinks how large his debt,
Serve for their monument !



"What hangs behind that curtain ?? "Wouldst thou

If thou art wise, thou wouldst not.

’T is by some
Believed to be his master-work who looked
Beyond the grave, and on the chapel-wall,
As though the day were come, were come and past,
Drew the Last Judgment.36 But the wisest err.
He who in secret wrought, and gave it life,
For life is surely there and visible change,
Life such as none could of himself impart
(They who behold it go not as they came,
But meditate for many and 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, 't is said, he lingered while he lived,
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 't was 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,
Bút 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 eyelids; and the grandsire, when we came,
Emboldened by his love and by his fear,
His fear lest night o'ertake them on the road,
Humbly besought me to convey them both
A little onward. Such small services
Who can refuse? Not I; and him who can,
Blest though he be with every earthly gift,
I cannot envy. He, if wealth be his,
Knows not its uses. So from noon till night,
Within a crazed and tattered vehicle, 318
That yet displayed, in rich emblazonry,
A shield as splendid as the BARDI wear, si
We lumbered on together; the old man
Beguiling many a league of half its length,
When questioned the adventures of his life,
And all the dangers he had undergone;
His shipwrecks on inhospitable coasts,
And his long warfare.-They were bound, he said,
To a great fair at REGGIO; and the boy,
Believing all the world were to be there,
And I among the rest, let loose his tongue,
And promised me much pleasure. His short trance,
Short as it was, had, like a charmed cup,
Restored his spirit, and, as on we crawled,
Slow as the snail (my muleteer dismounting,
And now his mules addressing, now his pipe,
And now Luigi), he poured out his heart,
Largely repaying me. At length the sun
Departed, setting in a sea of gold;
And, as we gazed, he bade me rest assured
That like the setting would the rising be.

Their harp — it had a voice oracular,

And in the desert, in the crowded street,
Spoke when consulted. If the treble chord
Twanged shrill and clear, o'er hill and dale they went,
The grandsire, step by step, led by the child;
And not a rain-drop from a passing cloud
Fell on their garments. Thus it spoke to-day;
Inspiring joy, and, in the young one's mind,
Brightening a path already full of sunshine.


Day glimmered; and beyond the precipice
(Which my mule followed as in love with fear,
Or as in scorn, yet more and more inclining
To tempt the danger where it menaced most)
A sea of vapor rolled. Methought we went
Along the utmost edge of this, our world,
And the next step had hurled us headlong down
Into the wild and infinite abyss;
But soon the surges fled, and we descried,
Nor dimly, though the lark was silent yet,
Thy gulf, LA SPEZZIA. Ere the morning-gun,
Ere the first day-streak, we alighted there;
And not a breath, a murmur! Every sail
Slept in the offing. Yet along the shore
Great was the stir; as at the noontide hour,
None unemployed. Where from its native rock
A streamlet, clear and full, ran to the sea,
The maidens knelt and sung as they were wont,
Washing their garments. Where it met the tide,
Sparkling and lost, an ancient pinnace lay

« PreviousContinue »