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Italian Literature (Felicia Hemans)

Published onApr 12, 2024
Italian Literature (Felicia Hemans)

Italian Literature

By Felicia Hemans




Vincenzo Monti, a native of Ferrara, is acknowledged, by the unanimous consent of the Italians, as the greatest of their living poets. Irritable, impassioned, variable to excess, he is always actuated by the impulse of the moment. Whatever he feels is felt with the most enthusiastic vehemence. He sees the objects of his thoughts—they are present, and clothed with life—before him, and a flexible and harmonious language is always at his command to paint them with the richest colouring. Persuaded that poetry is only another species of painting, he makes the art of the poet consist in rendering apparent, to the eyes of all, the pictures created by his imagination for himself; and he permits not a verse to escape him which does not contain an image. Deeply impressed by the study of Dante, he has restored to the character of Italian poetry those severe and exalted beauties by which it was distinguished at its birth; and he proceeds from one picture to another with a grandeur and dignity peculiar to himself. It is extraordinary that, with something so lofty in his manner and style of writing, the heart of so impassioned a character should not be regulated by principles of greater consistency. In many other poets, this defect might pass unobserved: but circumstances have thrown the fullest light upon the versatility of Monti, and his glory as a poet is attached to works which display him in continual opposition to himself. Writing in the midst of the various Italian revolutions, he has constantly chosen political subjects for his compositions, and he has successively celebrated opposite parties in proportion to their success. Let us suppose, in his justification, that he composes as an improvisatore, and that his feelings, becoming highly excited by the given theme, he seizes the political ideas it suggests, however foreign they may be to his individual sentiments. In these political poems—the object and purport of which are so different—the invention and manner are, perhaps, but too similar. The Basvigliana, or poem on the death of Basville, is the most celebrated; but, since its appearance, it has been discovered that Monti, who always imitated Dante, has now also very frequently imitated himself.

Hugh Basville was the French Envoy who was put to death at Rome by the people, for attempting, at the beginning of the Revolution, to excite a sedition against the Pontifical government. Monti, who was then the poet of the Pope, as he has since been of the Republic, supposes that, at the moment of Basville’s death, he is saved by a sudden repentance, from the condemnation which his philosophical principles had merited. But, as a punishment for his guilt, and a substitute for the pains of purgatory, he is condemned by Divine Justice to traverse France until the crimes of that country have received their due chastisement, and doomed to contemplate the misfortunes and reverses to which he has contributed by assisting to extend the progress of the Revolution.

An angel of heaven conducts Basville from province to province, that he may behold the desolation of his lovely country. He then conveys him to Paris, and makes him witness the sufferings and death of Louis XVI., and afterwards shows him the Allied armies prepared to burst upon France, and avenge the blood of her king. The poem concludes before the issue of the contest is known. It is divided into four cantos of three hundred lines each, and written in terza rima, like the poem of Dante. Not only many expressions, epithets, and lines are borrowed from the Divine Comedy, but the invention itself is similar. An angel conducts Basville through the suffering world; and this faithful guide, who consoles and supports the spectator-hero of the poem, acts precisely the same part which is performed by Virgil in Dante. Basville himself thinks, feels, and suffers, exactly as Dante would have done. Monti has not preserved any traces of his revolutionary character—he describes him as feeling more pity than remorse—and he seems to forget, in thus identifying himself with his hero, that he has at first represented Basville, and perhaps without foundation, as an infidel and a ferocious revolutionist. The Basvigliana is, perhaps, more remarkable than any other poem for the majesty of its verse, the sublimity of its expression, and the richness of its colouring. In the first canto the spirit of Basville thus takes leave of the body:—

“Sleep, O beloved companion of my woes,

Rest thou in deep and undisturb’d repose;

Till at the last great day, from slumber’s bed,

Heaven’s trumpet-summons shall awake the dead

“Be the earth light upon thee, mild the shower,

And soft the breeze’s wing, till that dread hour;

Nor let the wanderer passing o’er thee, breathe

Words of keen insult to the dust beneath.

“Sleep thou in peace! Beyond the funeral pyre,

There live no flames of vengeance or of ire;

And midst high hearts I leave thee, on a shore

Where mercy’s home hath been from days of yore.”

Thus to its earthly form the spirit cried,

Then turn’d to follow its celestial guide;

But with a downcast mien, a pensive sigh,

A lingering step, and oft reverted eye—

As when a child’s reluctant feet obey

Its mother’s voice, and slowly leave its play.

Night o’er the earth her dewy veil had cast,

When from th’ Eternal City’s towers they pass’d,

And rising in their flight, on that proud dome,

Whose walls enshrine the guardian saint of Rome,

Lo! where a cherub-form sublimely tower’d,

But dreadful in his glory! Sternly lower’d

Wrath in his kingly aspect. One he seem’d

Of the bright seven, whose dazzling splendour beam’d

On high amidst the burning lamps of heaven,

Seen in the dread, o’erwhelming visions given

To the rapt seer of Patmos. Wheels of fire

Seem’d his fierce eyes, all kindling in their ire;

And his loose tresses, floating as he stood,

A comet’s glare, presaging woe and blood.

He waved his sword—its red, terrific light

With fearful radiance tinged the clouds of night;

While his left hand sustain’d a shield so vast,

Far o’er the Vatican beneath was cast

Its broad, protecting shadow. As the plume

Of the strong eagle spreads in sheltering gloom

O’er its young brood, as yet untaught to soar;

And while, all trembling at the whirlwind’s roar,

Each humbler bird shrinks cowering in its nest,

Beneath that wing of power, and ample breast,

They sleep unheeding; while the storm on high

Breaks not their calm and proud security.

In the second canto, Basville enters Paris with his angelic guide, at the moment preceding the execution of Louis XVI.

The air was heavy, and the brooding skies

Look’d fraught with omens, as to harmonise

With his pale aspect. Through the forest round

Not a leaf whisper’d—and the only sound

That broke the stillness was a streamlet’s moan

Murmuring amidst the rocks with plaintive tone,

As if a storm within the woodland bowers

Were gathering. On they moved—and lo! the towers

Of a far city! Nearer now they drew;

And all reveal’d, expanding on their view,

The Babylon, the scene of crimes and woes—

Paris, the guilty, the devoted, rose!

* * * * *

In the dark mantle of a cloud array’d,

Viewless and hush’d, the angel and the shade

Enter’d that evil city. Onward pass’d

The heavenly being first, with brow o’ercast

And troubled mien, while in his glorious eyes

Tears had obscured the splendour of the skies.

Pale with dismay, the trembling spirit saw

That alter’d aspect, and, in breathless awe,

Mark’d the strange silence round. The deep-toned swell

Of life’s full tide was hush’d; the sacred bell,

The clamorous anvil, mute; all sounds were fled

Of labour or of mirth, and in their stead

Terror and stillness, boding signs of woe,

Inquiring glances, rumours whisper’d low,

Questions half-utter’d, jealous looks that keep

A fearful watch around, and sadness deep

That weighs upon the heart; and voices, heard

At intervals, in many a broken word—

Voices of mothers, trembling as they press’d

Th’ unconscious infant closer to their breast;

Voices of wives, with fond imploring cries,

And the wild eloquence of tears and sighs,

On their own thresholds striving to detain

Their fierce impatient lords; but weak and vain

Affection’s gentle bonds, in that dread hour

Of fate and fury—Love hath lost his power!

For evil spirits are abroad, the air

Breathes of their influence. Druid phantoms there,

Fired by that thirst for victims which of old

Raged in their bosoms fierce and uncontroll’d,

Rush, in ferocious transport, to survey

The deepest crime that e’er hath dimm’d the day.

Blood, human blood, hath stain’d their vests and hair,

On the winds tossing, with a sanguine glare,

Scattering red showers around them! Flaming brands

And serpent scourges in their restless hands

Are wildly shaken. Others lift on high

The steel, th’ envenom’d bowl; and, hurrying by,

With touch of fire contagious fury dart

Through human veins, fast kindling to the heart.

Then comes the rush of crowds! restrain’d no more,

Fast from each home the frenzied inmates pour;

From every heart affrighted mercy flies,

While her soft voice amidst the tumult dies.

Then the earth trembles, as from street to street

The tramp of steeds, the press of hastening feet,

The roll of wheels, all mingling in the breeze,

Come deepening onward, as the swell of seas

Heard at the dead of midnight; or the moan

Of distant tempests, or the hollow tone

Of the far thunder! Then what feelings press’d,

O wretched Basville! on thy guilty breast;

What pangs were thine, thus fated to behold

Death’s awful banner to the winds unfold!

To see the axe, the scaffold, raised on high—

The dark impatience of the murderer’s eye,

Eager for crime! And he, the great, the good,

Thy martyr-king, by men athirst for blood

Dragg’d to a felon’s death! Yet still his mien,

Midst that wild throng, is loftily serene;

And his step falters not. O hearts unmoved!

Where have you borne your monarch?—He who loved—

Loved you so well! Behold! the sun grows pale,

Shrouding his glory in a tearful veil;

The misty air is silent, as in dread,

And the dim sky with shadowy gloom o’erspread;

While saints and martyrs, spirits of the blest,

Look down, all weeping, from their bowers of rest.

* * * * *

In that dread moment, to the fatal pile

The regal victim came; and raised the while

His patient glance, with such an aspect high,

So firm, so calm, in holy majesty,

That e’en th’ assassins’ hearts a moment shook

Before the grandeur of that kingly look;

And a strange thrill of pity, half-renew’d,

Ran through the bosoms of the multitude.

* * * * *

Like Him, who, breathing mercy to the last,

Pray’d till the bitterness of death was past—

E’en for his murderers pray’d, in that dark hour

When his soul yielded to affliction’s power,

And the winds bore his dying cry abroad—

“Hast thou forsaken me, my God! my God?”—

E’en thus the monarch stood; his prayer arose,

Thus calling down forgiveness on his foes—

“To Thee my spirit I commend,” he cried;

“And my lost people, Father! be their guide!”

* * * * *

But the sharp steel descends—the blow is given,

And answer’d by a thunder-peal from heaven;

Earth, stain’d with blood, convulsive terrors owns,

And her kings tremble on their distant thrones!


The Alcestis of Alfieri is said to have been the last tragedy he composed, and is distinguished to a remarkable degree by that tenderness of which his former works present so few examples. It would appear as if the pure and exalted affection by which the impetuosity of his fiery spirit was ameliorated during the latter years of his life, had impressed its whole character on this work, as a record of that domestic happiness in whose bosom his heart at length found a resting-place. Most of his earlier writings bear witness to that “fever at the core,” that burning impatience of restraint, and those incessant and untameable aspirations after a wider sphere of action, by which his youth was consumed; but the poetry of Alcestis must find its echo in every heart which has known the power of domestic ties, or felt the bitterness of their dissolution. The interest of the piece, however, though entirely domestic, is not for a moment allowed to languish; nor does the conjugal affection, which forms the mainspring of the action, ever degenerate into the pastoral insipidity of Metastasio. The character of Alcestis herself, with all its lofty fortitude, heroic affection, and subdued anguish, powerfully recalls to our imagination the calm and tempered majesty distinguishing the masterpieces of Greek sculpture, in which the expression of mental or bodily suffering is never allowed to transgress the limits of beauty and sublimity. The union of dignity and affliction impressing more than earthly grandeur on the countenance of Niobe, would be, perhaps, the best illustration of this analogy.

The following scene, in which Alcestis announces to Pheres, the father of Admetus, the terms upon which the oracle of Delphos has declared that his son may be restored, has seldom been surpassed by the author, even in his most celebrated productions. It is, however, to be feared that little of its beauty can be transfused into a translation, as the severity of a style so completely devoid of imagery, must render it dependent for many incommunicable attractions upon the melody of the original language.

ACT I.—Scene II.

Alcestis, Pheres.

Alc. Weep thou no more! O monarch, dry thy tears!

For know, he shall not die; not now shall fate

Bereave thee of thy son.

Phe. What mean thy words?

Hath then Apollo—is there then a hope?

Alc. Yes! hope for thee—hope by the voice announced

From the prophetic cave. Nor would I yield

To other lips the tidings, meet alone

For thee to hear from mine.

Phe. But say! oh! say,

Shall then my son be spared?

Alc. He shall, to thee.

Thus hath Apollo said—Alcestis thus

Confirms the oracle—be thou secure.

Phe. O sounds of joy! He lives!

Alc. But not for this,

Think not that e’en for this the stranger Joy

Shall yet revisit these devoted walls.

Phe. Can there be grief when from his bed of death

Admetus rises? What deep mystery lurks

Within thy words? What mean’st thou? Gracious heaven!

Thou, whose deep love is all his own, who hear’st

The tidings of his safety, and dost bear

Transport and life in that glad oracle

To his despairing sire; thy cheek is tinged

With death, and on thy pure ingenuous brow,

To the brief lightning of a sudden joy,

Shades dark as night succeed, and thou art wrapt

In troubled silence. Speak! oh, speak!

Alc. The gods

Themselves have limitations to their power

Impassable, eternal—and their will

Resists not the tremendous laws of fate:

Nor small the boon they grant thee in the life

Of thy restored Admetus.

Phe. In thy looks

There is expression, more than in thy words,

Which thrills my shuddering heart. Declare, what terms

Can render fatal to thyself and us

The rescued life of him thy soul adores?

Alc. O father! could my silence aught avail

To keep that fearful secret from thine ear,

Still should it rest unheard, till all fulfill’d

Were the dread sacrifice. But vain the wish;

And since too soon, too well it must be known,

Hear it from me.

Phe. Throughout my curdling veins

Runs a cold, deathlike horror; and I feel

I am not all a father. In my heart

Strive many deep affections. Thee I love,

O fair and high-soul’d consort of my son!

More than a daughter; and thine infant race,

The cherish’d hope and glory of my age;

And, unimpair’d by time, within my breast,

High, holy, and unalterable love

For her, the partner of my cares and joys,

Dwells pure and perfect yet. Bethink thee, then,

In what suspense, what agony of fear,

I wait thy words; for well, too well, I see

Thy lips are fraught with fatal auguries,

To some one of my race.

Alc. Death hath his rights,

Of which not e’en the great Supernal Powers

May hope to rob him. By his ruthless hand,

Already seized, the noble victim lay,

The heir of empire, in his glowing prime

And noonday, struck:—Admetus, the revered,

The bless’d, the loved, by all who own’d his sway—

By his illustrious parents, by the realms

Surrounding his—and oh! what need to add,

How much by his Alcestis?—Such was he,

Already in th’ unsparing grasp of death

Withering, a certain prey. Apollo thence

Hath snatch’d him, and another in his stead,

Though not an equal—(who can equal him?)

Must fall a voluntary sacrifice.

Another, of his lineage or to him

By closest bonds united, must descend

To the dark realm of Orcus in his place,

Who thus alone is saved.

Phe. What do I hear?

Woe to us, woe!—what victim?—who shall be

Accepted in his stead?

Alc. The dread exchange

E’en now, O father! hath been made; the prey

Is ready, nor is wholly worthless him

For whom ’tis freely offer’d. Nor wilt thou,

O mighty goddess of th’ infernal shades!

Whose image sanctifies this threshold floor,

Disdain the victim.

Phe. All prepared the prey!

And to our blood allied! Oh, heaven!—and yet

Thou had’st me weep no more!

Alc. Yes! thus I said,

And thus again I say, thou shalt not weep

Thy son’s, nor I deplore my husband’s doom.

Let him be saved, and other sounds of woe

Less deep, less mournful far, shall here be heard,

Than those his death had caused.—With some few tears,

But grief, and mingled with a gleam of joy,

E’en while the involuntary tribute lasts,

The victim shall be honour’d who resign’d

Life for Admetus.—Would’st thou know the prey,

The vow’d, the willing, the devoted one,

Offer’d and hallow’d to th’ infernal gods,

Father!—’tis I.

Phe. What hast thou done? Oh, heaven!

What hast thou done? And think’st thou he is saved

By such a compact? Think’st thou he can live

Bereft of thee?—Of thee, his light of life,

His very soul!—Of thee, beloved far more

Than his loved parents—than his children more—

More than himself? Oh no! it shall not be?

Thou perish, O Alcestis! in the flower

Of thy young beauty!—perish, and destroy

Not him, not him alone, but us, but all,

Who as a child adore thee! Desolate

Would be the throne, the kingdom, reft of thee.

And think’st thou not of those whose tender years

Demand thy care?—thy children! think of them!

O thou, the source of each domestic joy,

Thou, in whose life alone Admetus lives,

His glory, his delight, thou shalt not die

While I can die for thee! Me, me alone,

The oracle demands—a wither’d stem,

Whose task, whose duty, is for him to die.

My race is run—the fulness of my years,

The faded hopes of age, and all the love

Which hath its dwelling in a father’s heart,

And the fond pity, half with wonder blent,

Inspired by thee, whose youth with heavenly gifts

So richly is endow’d;—all, all unite

To grave in adamant the just decree,

That I must die. But thou, I bid thee live!

Pheres commands thee, O Alcestis—live!

Ne’er, ne’er shall woman’s youthful love surpass

An aged sire’s devotedness.

Alc. I know

Thy lofty soul, thy fond paternal love;

Pheres, I know them well, and not in vain

Strove to anticipate their high resolves.

But if in silence I have heard thy words,

Now calmly list to mine, and thou shalt own

They may not be withstood.

Phe. What canst thou say

Which I should hear? I go, resolved to save

Him who with thee would perish;—to the shrine

E’en now I fly.

Alc. Stay, stay thee! ’tis too late.

Already hath consenting Proserpine,

From the remote abysses of her realms,

Heard and accepted the terrific vow

Which binds me, with indissoluble ties,

To death. And I am firm, and well I know

None can deprive me of the awful right

That vow hath won.

* * * * *

Yes! thou mayst weep my fate,

Mourn for me, father! but thou canst not blame

My lofty purpose. Oh! the more endear’d

My life by every tie—the more I feel

Death’s bitterness, the more my sacrifice

Is worthy of Admetus. I descend

To the dim shadowy regions of the dead

A guest more honour’d....

In thy presence here

Again I utter’d the tremendous vow,

Now more than half fulfill’d. I feel, I know,

Its dread effects. Through all my burning veins

Th’ insatiate fever revels. Doubt is o’er.

The Monarch of the Dead hath heard—he calls,

He summons me away—and thou art saved,

O my Admetus!

In the opening of the third act, Alcestis enters, with her son Eumeles, and her daughter, to complete the sacrifice by dying at the feet of Proserpine’s statue. The following scene ensues between her and Admetus.

Alc. Here, O my faithful handmaids! at the feet

Of Proserpine’s dread image spread my couch;

For I myself e’en now must offer here

The victim she requires. And you, meanwhile,

My children! seek your sire. Behold him there,

Sad, silent, and alone. But through his veins

Health’s genial current flows once more, as free

As in his brightest days: and he shall live—

Shall live for you. Go, hang upon his neck,

And with your innocent encircling arms

Twine round him fondly.

Eum. Can it be indeed,

Father, loved father! that we see thee thus

Restored? What joy is ours!

Adm. There is no joy!

Speak not of joy! Away, away! my grief

Is wild and desperate. Cling to me no more!

I know not of affection, and I feel

No more a father.

Eum. Oh! what words are these?

Are we no more thy children? Are we not

Thine own? Sweet sister! twine around his neck

More close; he must return the fond embrace.

Adm. O children! O my children! to my soul

Your innocent words and kisses are as darts,

That pierce it to the quick. I can no more

Sustain the bitter conflict. Every sound

Of your soft accents but too well recalls

The voice which was the music of my life.

Alcestis! my Alcestis!—was she not

Of all her sex the flower? Was woman e’er

Adored like her before? Yet this is she,

The cold of heart, th’ ungrateful, who hath left

Her husband and her infants! This is she,

O my deserted children! who at once

Bereaves you of your parents.

Alc. Woe is me!

I hear the bitter and reproachful cries

Of my despairing lord. With life’s last powers,

Oh! let me strive to soothe him still. Approach,

My handmaids, raise me, and support my steps

To the distracted mourner. Bear me hence,

That he may hear and see me.

Adm. Is it thou?

And do I see thee still? and com’st thou thus

To comfort me, Alcestis? Must I hear

The dying accents thus? Alas! return

To thy sad couch—return! ’tis meet for me

There by thy side for ever to remain.

Alc. For me thy care is vain. Though meet for


Adm. O voice! O looks of death! are these, are these,

Thus darkly shrouded with mortality,

The eyes that were the sunbeams and the life

Of my fond soul? Alas! how faint a ray

Falls from their faded orbs, so brilliant once,

Upon my drooping brow! How heavily,

With what a weight of death thy languid voice

Sinks on my heart! too faithful far, too fond.

Alcestis! thou art dying—and for me!

* * * * *

Alcestis! and thy feeble hand supports

With its last power, supports my sinking head,

E’en now, while death is on thee! Oh! the touch

Rekindles tenfold frenzy in my heart.

I rush, I fly impetuous to the shrine,

The image of yon ruthless Deity,

Impatient for her prey. Before thy death,

There, there, I too, self-sacrificed, will fall.

* * * * *

Vain is each obstacle—in vain the gods

Themselves would check my fury. I am lord

Of my own days—and thus I swear——

Alc. Yes! swear,

Admetus! for thy children to sustain

The load of life. All other impious vows,

Which thou, a rebel to the sovereign will

Of those who rule on high, mightst dare to form

Within thy breast, thy lip, by them enchain’d,

Would vainly seek to utter. Seest thou not,

It is from them the inspiration flows

Which in my language breathes? They lend me power,

They bid me through thy strengthen’d soul transfuse

High courage, noble constancy. Submit,

Bow down to them thy spirit. Be thou calm;

Be near me. Aid me. In the dread extreme

To which I now approach, from whom but thee

Should comfort be derived? Afflict me not,

In such an hour, with anguish worse than death.

O faithful and beloved, support me still!

* * * * *

The choruses with which this tragedy is interspersed are distinguished for their melody and classic beauty. The following translation will give our readers a faint idea of the one by which the third act is concluded.

Alc. My children! all is finish’d. Now, farewell!

To thy fond care, O Pheres! I commit

My widow’d lord: forsake him not.

Eum. Alas!

Sweet mother! wilt thou leave us? From thy side

Are we for ever parted?

Phe. Tears forbid

All utterance of our woes. Bereft of sense,

More lifeless than the dying victim, see

The desolate Admetus. Farther yet,

Still farther, let us bear him from the sight

Of his Alcestis.

Alc. O my handmaids! still

Lend me your pious aid, and thus compose

With sacred modesty these torpid limbs

When death’s last pang is o’er.


Alas! how weak

Her struggling voice! that last keen pang is near.

Peace, mourners, peace!

Be hush’d, be silent, in this hour of dread!

Our cries would but increase

The sufferer’s pang; let tears unheard be shed,

Cease, voice of weeping, cease!

Sustain, O friend!

Upon thy faithful breast,

The head that sinks with mortal pain opprest!

And thou assistance lend

To close the languid eye,

Still beautiful in life’s last agony.

Alas, how long a strife!

What anguish struggles in the parting breath,

Ere yet immortal life

Be won by death!

Death! death! thy work complete!

Let thy sad hour be fleet,

Speed, in thy mercy, the releasing sigh!

No more keen pangs impart

To her, the high in heart,

Th’ adored Alcestis, worthy ne’er to die.

Chorus of Admetus.

’Tis not enough, oh no!

To hide the scene of anguish from his eyes;

Still must our silent band

Around him watchful stand,

And on the mourner ceaseless care bestow,

That his ear catch not grief’s funereal cries.

Yet, yet hope is not dead,

All is not lost below,

While yet the gods have pity on our woe.

Oft when all joy is fled,

Heaven lends support to those

Who on its care in pious hope repose.

Then to the blessed skies

Let our submissive prayers in chorus rise.

Pray! bow the knee, and pray!

What other task have mortals, born to tears,

Whom fate controls with adamantine sway?

O ruler of the spheres!

Jove! Jove! enthroned immortally on high,

Our supplication hear!

Nor plunge in bitterest woes

Him, who nor footstep moves, nor lifts his eye

But as a child, which only knows

Its father to revere.




Francesco Bussone, the son of a peasant in Carmagnola, from whence his nom-de-guerre was derived, was born in the year 1390. Whilst yet a boy, and employed in the care of flocks and herds, the lofty character of his countenance was observed by a soldier of fortune, who invited the youth to forsake his rustic occupations, and accompany him to the busier scenes of the camp. His persuasions were successful, and Francesco entered with him into the service of Facino Cane, Lord of Alessandria. At the time when Facino died, leaving fourteen cities acquired by conquest to Beatrice di Tenda, his wife, Francesco di Carmagnola was amongst the most distinguished of his captains. Beatrice afterwards marrying Philip Visconti, Duke of Milan, (who rewarded her by an ignominious death for the regal dowery she had conferred upon him,) Carmagnola entered his army at the same time; and having, by his eminent services, firmly established the tottering power of that prince, received from him the title of Count, and was placed at the head of all his forces. The natural caprice and ingratitude of Philip’s disposition, however, at length prevailed; and Carmagnola, disgusted with the evident proof of his wavering friendship and doubtful faith, left his service and his territories, and after a variety of adventures took refuge in Venice. Thither the treachery of the Duke pursued him, and emissaries were employed to procure his assassination. The plot, however, proved abortive, and Carmagnola was elected captain-general of the Venetian armies, during the league formed by that republic against the Duke of Milan. The war was at first carried on with much spirit and success, and the battle of Maclodio, gained by Carmagnola, was one of the most important and decisive actions of those times. The night after the combat, the victorious soldiers gave liberty to almost all their prisoners. The Venetian envoys having made a complaint on this subject to the Count, he inquired what was become of the captives; and upon being informed that all, except four hundred, had been set free, he gave orders that the remaining ones also should be released immediately, according to the custom which prevailed amongst the armies of those days, the object of which was to prevent a speedy termination of the war. This proceeding of Carmagnola’s occasioned much distrust and irritation in the minds of the Venetian rulers; and their displeasure was increased when the armada of the Republic, commanded by Il Trevisani, was defeated upon the Po, without any attempt in its favour having been made by the Count. The failure of their attempt upon Cremona was also imputed to him as a crime; and the Senate, resolving to free themselves from a powerful chief, now become an object of suspicion, after many deliberations on the best method of carrying their designs into effect, at length determined to invite him to Venice, under pretence of consulting him on their negotiations for peace. He obeyed their summons without hesitation or mistrust, and was every where received with extraordinary honours during the course of his journey. On his arrival at Venice, and before he entered his own house, eight gentlemen were sent to meet him, by whom he was escorted to St Mark’s Place. When he was introduced into the ducal palace, his attendants were dismissed, and informed that he would be in private with the Doge for a considerable time. He was arrested in the palace, then examined by the Secret Council, put to the torture, which a wound he had received in the service of the Republic rendered still more agonising, and condemned to death. On the 5th May 1432 he was conducted to execution, with his mouth gagged, and beheaded between the two columns of St Mark’s Place. With regard to the innocence or guilt of this distinguished character, there exists no authentic information. The author of the tragedy, which we are about to analyse, has chosen to represent him as entirely innocent, and probability at least is on this side. It is possible, that the haughtiness of an aspiring warrior, accustomed to command, and impatient of control, might have been the principal cause of offence to the Venetians; or perhaps their jealousy was excited by his increasing power over the minds of an obedient army; and, not considering it expedient to displace him, they resolved upon his destruction.

This tragedy, which is formed upon the model of the English and German drama, comprises the history of Carmagnola’s life, from the day on which he was made commander of the Venetian armies to that of his execution, thus embracing a period of about seven years. The extracts we are about to present to our readers, will enable them to form their own opinion of a piece which has excited so much attention in Italy. The first act opens in Venice, in the hall of the Senate. The Doge proposes that the Count di Carmagnola should be consulted on the projected league between the Republic and the Florentines, against the Duke of Milan. To this all agree; and the Count is introduced. He begins by justifying his conduct from the imputations to which it might be liable, in consequence of his appearing as the enemy of the Prince whom he had so recently served:—

——He cast me down

From the high place my blood had dearly won;

And when I sought his presence, to appeal

For justice there, ’twas vain! My foes had form’d

Around his throne a barrier: e’en my life

Became the mark of hatred; but in this

Their hopes have fail’d—I gave them not the time.

My life!—I stand prepared to yield it up

On the proud field, and in some noble cause

For glory well exchanged; but not a prey,

Not to be caught ignobly in the toils

Of those I scorn. I left him, and obtain’d

With you a place of refuge; yet e’en here

His snares were cast around me. Now all ties

Are broke between us; to an open foe,

An open foe I come.

He then gives counsel in favour of war, and retires, leaving the Senate engaged in deliberation. War is resolved upon, and he is elected commander. The fourth scene represents the house of Carmagnola. His soliloquy is noble; but its character is much more that of English than of Italian poetry, and may be traced, without difficulty, to the celebrated monologue of Hamlet.

A leader—or a fugitive? To drag

Slow years along in idle vacancy,

As a worn veteran living on the fame

Of former deeds—to offer humble prayers

And blessings for protection—owing all

Yet left me of existence to the might

Of other swords, dependent on some arm

Which soon may cast me off; or on the field

To breathe once more, to feel the tide of life

Rush proudly through my veins—to hail again

My lofty star, and at the trumpet’s voice

To wake! to rule! to conquer!—Which must be

My fate, this hour decides. And yet, if peace

Should be the choice of Venice, shall I cling

Still poorly to ignoble safety here,

Secluded as a homicide, who cowers

Within a temple’s precincts? Shall not he

Is there not one among the many lords

Of this divided Italy—not one

With soul enough to envy that bright crown

Encircling Philip’s head? And know they not

’Twas won by me from many a tyrant’s grasp,

Snatch’d by my hand, and placed upon the brow

Of that ingrate, from whom my spirit burns

Again to wrest it, and bestow the prize

On him who best shall call the prowess forth

Which slumbers in my arm?

Marco, a senator, and a friend of the Count, now arrives, and announces to him that war is resolved upon, and that he is appointed to the command of the armies, at the same time advising him to act with caution towards his enemies in the Republic.

Car. Think’st thou I know not whom to deem my foes?

Ay, I could number all.

Mar. And know’st thou, too,

What fault hath made them such? ’Tis that thou art

So high above them: ’tis that thy disdain

Doth meet them undisguised. As yet not one

Hath done thee wrong; but who, when so resolved,

Finds not his time to injure? In thy thoughts,

Save when they cross thy path, no place is theirs;

But they remember thee. The high in soul

Scorn and forget; but to the grovelling heart

There is delight in hatred. Rouse it not;

Subdue it, while the power is yet thine own.

I counsel no vile arts, from which my soul

Revolts indignantly—thou know’st it well:

But there is yet a wisdom, not unmeet

For the most lofty nature,—there is power

Of winning meaner minds, without descent

From the high spirit’s glorious eminence,—

And would’st thou seek that magic, it were thine.

The first scene of the second act represents part of the Duke of Milan’s camp near Maclodio. Malatesti, the commander-in-chief, and Pergola, a Condottiere of great distinction, are deliberating upon the state of the war. Pergola considers it imprudent to give battle, Malatesti is of a contrary opinion. They are joined by Sforza and Fortebraccio, who are impatient for action, and Torello, who endeavours to convince them of its inexpediency.

Sfo. Torello, didst thou mark the ardent soul

Which fires each soldier’s eye?

Tor. I mark’d it well.

I heard th’ impatient shout, th’ exulting voice

Of Hope and Courage; and I turn’d aside,

That on my brow the warrior might not read

Th’ involuntary thought whose sudden gloom

Had cast deep shadows there. It was a thought,

That this vain semblance of delusive joy

Soon like a dream shall fade. It was a thought

On wasted valour doom’d to perish here.

* * * * *

For these—what boots it to disguise the truth?—

These are no wars in which, for all things loved,

And precious, and revered—for all the ties

Clinging around the heart—for those whose smile

Makes home so lovely—for his native land,

And for its laws, the patriot soldier fights!

These are no wars in which the chieftain’s aim

Is but to station his devoted bands,

And theirs, thus fix’d—to die! It is our fate

To lead a hireling train, whose spirits breathe

Fury, not fortitude. With burning hearts

They rush where Victory, smiling, waves them on;

But if delay’d, if between flight and death

Pausing they stand—is there no cause to doubt

What choice were theirs? And but too well our hearts

That choice might here foresee. Oh! evil times,

When for the leader care augments, the more

Bright glory fades away! Yet once again,

This is no field for us.

After various debates, Malatesti resolves to attack the enemy. The fourth and fifth scenes of the second act represent the tent of the Count in the Venetian camp, and his preparations for battle. And here a magnificent piece of lyric poetry is introduced, in which the battle is described, and its fatal effects lamented with all the feeling of a patriot and a Christian. It appears to us, however, that this ode, hymn, or chorus as the author has entitled it, striking as its effect may be in a separate recitation, produces a much less powerful impression in the situation it occupies at present. It is even necessary, in order to appreciate its singular beauty, that it should be re-perused, as a thing detached from the tragedy. The transition is too violent, in our opinion, from a tragic action, in which the characters are represented as clothed with existence, and passing before us with all their contending motives and feelings laid open to our inspection, to the comparative coldness of a lyric piece, where the author’s imagination expatiates alone. The poet may have been led into this error by a definition of Schlegel’s, who, speaking of the Greek choruses, gives it as his opinion, that “the chorus is to be considered as a personification of the moral thoughts inspired by the action—as the organ of the poet, who speaks in the name of the whole human race. The chorus, in short, is the ideal spectator.”

But the fact was not exactly thus. The Greek chorus was composed of real characters, and expressed the sentiments of the people before whose eyes the action was imagined to be passing: thus the true spectator, after witnessing in representation the triumphs or misfortunes of kings and heroes, heard from the chorus the idea supposed to be entertained on the subject by the more enlightened part of the multitude. If the author, availing himself of his talent for lyric poetry, and varying the measure in conformity to the subject, had brought his chorus into action—introducing, for example, a veteran looking down upon the battle from an eminence, and describing its vicissitudes to the persons below, with whom he might interchange a variety of national and moral reflections—it appears to us that the dramatic effect would have been considerably heightened, and the assertion that the Greek chorus is not compatible with the system of the modern drama possibly disapproved. We shall present our readers with the entire chorus of which we have spoken, as a piece to be read separately, and one to which the following title would be much more appropriate.

The Battle of Maclodio (or Macalo.) An Ode.

Hark! from the right bursts forth a trumpet’s sound,

A loud shrill trumpet from the left replies!

On every side hoarse echoes from the ground

To the quick tramp of steeds and warriors rise,

Hollow and deep—and banners, all around,

Meet hostile banners waving to the skies;

Here steel-clad bands in marshall’d order shine,

And there a host confronts their glittering line.

Lo! half the field already from the sight

Hath vanish’d, hid by closing groups of foes!

Swords crossing swords flash lightning o’er the fight,

And the strife deepens and the life-blood flows!

Oh! who are these? What stranger in his might

Comes bursting on the lovely land’s repose?

What patriot hearts have nobly vow’d to save

Their native soil, or make its dust their grave?

One race, alas! these foes—one kindred race,

Were born and rear’d the same fair scenes among!

The stranger calls them brothers—and each face

That brotherhood reveals;—one common tongue

Dwells on their lips—the earth on which we trace

Their heart’s blood is the soil from whence they sprung.

One mother gave them birth—this chosen land,

Circled with Alps and seas by Nature’s guardian hand.

Oh, grief and horror! who the first could dare

Against a brother’s breast the sword to wield?

What cause unhallow’d and accursed, declare,

Hath bathed with carnage this ignoble field?

Think’st thou they know?—they but inflict and share

Misery and death, the motive unreveal’d!

—Sold to a leader, sold himself to die,

With him they strive—they fall—and ask not why.

But are there none who love them? Have they none—

No wives, no mothers, who might rush between,

And win with tears the husband and the son

Back to his home, from this polluted scene?

And they whose hearts, when life’s bright day is done,

Unfold to thoughts more solemn and serene,

Thoughts of the tomb—why cannot they assuage

The storms of passion with the voice of age?

Ask not!—the peasant at his cabin-door

Sits calmly pointing to the distant cloud

Which skirts th’ horizon, menacing to pour

Destruction down o’er fields he hath not plough’d.

Thus, where no echo of the battle’s roar

Is heard afar, even thus the reckless crowd

In tranquil safety number o’er the slain,

Or tell of cities burning on the plain.

There mayst thou mark the boy, with earnest gaze

Fix’d on his mother’s lips, intent to know,

By names of insult, those whom future days

Shall see him meet in arms, their deadliest foe.

There proudly many a glittering dame displays

Bracelet and zone, with radiant gems that glow,

By lovers, husbands, home in triumph borne,

From the sad brides of fallen warriors torn.

Woe to the victors and the vanquish’d! woe!

The earth is heap’d, is loaded with the slain;

Loud and more loud the cries of fury grow—

A sea of blood is swelling o’er the plain.

But from th’ embattled front, already, lo!

A band recedes—it flies—all hope is vain,

And venal hearts, despairing of the strife,

Wake to the love, the clinging love of life.

As the light grain disperses in the air,

Borne from the winnowing by the gales around,

Thus fly the vanquish’d in their wild despair,

Chased, sever’d, scatter’d, o’er the ample ground.

But mightier bands, that lay in ambush there,

Burst on their flight; and hark! the deepening sound

Of fierce pursuit!—still nearer and more near,

The rush of war-steeds trampling in the rear.

The day is won! They fall—disarm’d they yield,

Low at the conqueror’s feet all suppliant lying!

Midst shouts of victory pealing o’er the field,

Ah! who may hear the murmurs of the dying?

Haste! let the tale of triumph be reveal’d!

E’en now the courier to his steed is flying,

He spurs—he speeds—with tidings of the day,

To rouse up cities in his lightning way.

Why pour ye forth from your deserted homes,

O eager multitudes! around him pressing?

Each hurrying where his breathless courser foams,

Each tongue, each eye, infatuate hope confessing!

Know ye not whence th’ ill-omen’d herald comes,

And dare ye dream he comes with words of blessing?—

Brothers, by brothers slain, lie low and cold,—

Be ye content! the glorious tale is told.

I hear the voice of joy, th’ exulting cry!

They deck the shrine, they swell the choral strains:

E’en now the homicides assail the sky

With pæans, which indignant heaven disdains!

But from the soaring Alps the stranger’s eye

Looks watchful down on our ensanguined plains,

And, with the cruel rapture of a foe,

Numbers the mighty, stretch’d in death below.

Haste! form your lines again, ye brave and true!

Haste, haste! your triumphs and your joys suspending.

Th’ invader comes: your banners raise anew,

Rush to the strife, your country’s call attending!

Victors! why pause ye?—Are ye weak and few?—

Ay! such he deem’d you, and for this descending,

He waits you on the field ye know too well,

The same red war-field where your brethren fell.

O thou devoted land! that canst not rear

In peace thine offspring; thou, the lost and won,

The fair and fatal soil, that dost appear

Too narrow still for each contending son;

Receive the stranger, in his fierce career

Parting thy spoils! Thy chastening is begun!

And, wresting from thy kings the guardian sword,

Foes whom thou ne’er hadst wrong’d sit proudly at thy board.

Are these infatuate too!—Oh! who hath known

A people e’er by guilt’s vain triumph blest?

The wrong’d, the vanquish’d, suffer not alone,

Brief is that joy that swells th’ oppressor’s breast.

What though not yet his day of pride be flown,

Though yet heaven’s vengeance spare his haughty crest,

Well hath it mark’d him—and decreed the hour,

When his last sigh shall own the terror of its power.

Are we not creatures of one hand divine,

Form’d in one mould, to one redemption born?

Kindred alike where’er our skies may shine,

Where’er our sight first drank the vital morn?

Brothers! one bond around our souls should twine,

And woe to him by whom that bond is torn!

Who mounts by trampling broken hearts to earth,

Who bows down spirits of immortal birth!

The third act, which passes entirely in the tent of the Count, is composed of long discourses between Carmagnola and the Venetian envoys. One of these requires him to pursue the fugitives after his victory, which he haughtily refuses to do, declaring that he will not leave the field until he has gained possession of the surrounding fortresses. Another complains that the Condottieri and the soldiers have released their prisoners, to which he replies, that it is an established military custom; and, sending for the remaining four hundred captives, he gives them their liberty also. This act, which terminates with the suspicious observations of the envoys on Carmagnola’s conduct, is rather barren of interest, though the episode of the younger Pergola, which we shall lay before our readers, is happily imagined.

As the prisoners are departing, the Count observes the younger Pergola, and stops him.

Car. Thou art not, youth!

One to be number’d with the vulgar crowd.

Thy garb, and more, thy towering mien, would speak

Of nobler parentage. Yet with the rest

Thou minglest, and art silent!

Per. Silence best,

O chief! befits the vanquish’d.

Car. Bearing up

Against thy fate thus proudly, thou art proved

Worthy a better star. Thy name?

Per. ’Tis one

Whose heritage doth impose no common task

On him that bears it; one which to adorn

With brighter blazonry were hard emprise:

My name is Pergola.

Car. And art thou, then,

That warrior’s son?

Per. I am.

Car. Approach! embrace

Thy father’s early friend! What thou art now

I was when first we met. Oh! thou dost bring

Back on my heart remembrance of the days,

The young, and joyous, and adventurous days,

Of hope and ardour. And despond not thou!

My dawn, ’tis true, with brighter omens smiled,

But still fair Fortune’s glorious promises

Are for the brave; and, though delay’d awhile,

She soon or late fulfils them. Youth! salute

Thy sire for me; and say, though not of thee

I ask’d it, yet my heart is well assured

He counsell’d not this battle.

Per. Oh! he gave

Far other counsels, but his fruitless words

Were spoken to the winds.

Car. Lament thou not.

Upon his chieftain’s head the shame will rest

Of this defeat; and he who firmly stood

Fix’d at his post of peril hath begun

A soldier’s race full nobly. Follow me,

I will restore thy sword.

The fourth act is occupied by the machinations of the Count’s enemies at Venice; and the jealous and complicated policy of that Republic, and the despotic authority of the Council of Ten, are skilfully developed in many of the scenes.

The first scene of the fifth act opens at Venice in the hall of the Council of Ten. Carmagnola is consulted by the Doge on the terms of peace offered by the Duke of Milan. His advice is received with disdain, and, after various insults, he is accused of treason. His astonishment and indignation at this unexpected charge are expressed with all the warmth and simplicity of innocence.

Car. A traitor! I!—that name of infamy

Reaches not me. Let him the title bear

Who best deserves such meed—it is not mine.

Call me a dupe, and I may well submit,

For such my part is here; yet would I not

Exchange that name, for ’tis the worthiest still.

A traitor!—I retrace in thought the time

When for your cause I fought; ’tis all one path

Strew’d o’er with flowers. Point out the day on which

A traitor’s deeds were mine; the day which pass’d

Unmark’d by thanks, and praise, and promises

Of high reward! What more? Behold me here!

And when I came to seeming honour call’d,

When in my heart most deeply spoke the voice

Of love, and grateful zeal, and trusting faith—

Of trusting faith!—Oh, no! Doth he who comes

Th’ invited guest of friendship dream of faith?

I came to be ensnared! Well! it is done,

And be it so! but since deceitful hate

Hath thrown at length her smiling mask aside,

Praise be to heaven! an open field at least

Is spread before us. Now ’tis yours to speak,

Mine to defend my cause; declare ye then

My treasons!

Doge. By the secret college soon

All shall be told thee.

Car. I appeal not there.

What I have done for you hath all been done

In the bright noonday, and its tale shall not

Be told in darkness. Of a warrior’s deeds

Warriors alone should judge; and such I choose

To be mine arbiters—my proud defence

Shall not be made in secret. All shall hear.

Doge. The time for choice is past.

Car. What! Is there force

Employ’d against me?—Guards! (raising his voice.)

Doge. They are not nigh.

Soldiers! (enter armed men.) Thy guards are these.

Car. I am betray’d!

Doge. ’Twas then a thought of wisdom to disperse

Thy followers. Well and justly was it deem’d

That the bold traitor, in his plots surprised,

Might prove a rebel too.

Car. E’en as ye list.

Now be it yours to charge me.

Doge. Bear him hence,

Before the secret college.

Car. Hear me yet

One moment first. That ye have doom’d my death

I well perceive; but with that death ye doom

Your own eternal shame. Far o’er these towers,

Beyond its ancient bounds, majestic floats

The banner of the Lion, in its pride

Of conquering power, and well doth Europe know

I bore it thus to empire. Here, ’tis true,

No voice will speak men’s thoughts; but far beyond

The limits of your sway, in other scenes,

Where that still, speechless terror hath not reach’d,

Which is your sceptre’s attribute, my deeds

And your reward will live in chronicles

For ever to endure. Yet, yet, respect

Your annals, and the future! Ye will need

A warrior soon, and who will then be yours?

Forget not, though your captive now I stand,

I was not born your subject. No! my birth

Was midst a warlike people, one in soul,

And watchful o’er its rights, and used to deem

The honour of each citizen its own.

Think ye this outrage will be there unheard?

There is some treachery here. Our common foes

Have urged you on to this. Full well ye know

I have been faithful still. There yet is time.

Doge. The time is past. When thou didst meditate

Thy guilt, and in thy pride of heart defy

Those destined to chastise it; then the hour

Of foresight should have been.

Car. O mean in soul!

And dost thou dare to think a warrior’s breast

For worthless life can tremble? Thou shalt soon

Learn how to die. Go! When the hour of fate

On thy vile couch o’ertakes thee, thou wilt meet

Its summons with far other mien than such

As I shall bear to ignominious death.

Scene II.—The House of Carmagnola.

Antonietta, Matilda.

Mat. The hours fly fast, the morn is risen, and yet

My father comes not!

Ant. Ah! thou hast not learn’d,

By sad experience, with how slow a pace

Joys ever come; expected long, and oft

Deceiving expectation! while the steps

Of grief o’ertake us ere we dream them nigh.

But night is past, the long and lingering hours

Of hope deferr’d are o’er, and those of bliss

Must soon succeed. A few short moments more,

And he is with us. E’en from this delay

I augur well. A council held so long

Must be to give us peace. He will be ours.

Perhaps for years our own.

Mat. O mother! thus

My hopes too whisper. Nights enough in tears,

And days in all the sickness of suspense,

Our anxious love hath pass’d. It is full time

That each sad moment, at each rumour’d tale,

Each idle murmur of the people’s voice,

We should not longer tremble, that no more

This thought should haunt our souls—E’en now,


He for whom thus your hearts are yearning—dies!

Ant. Oh! fearful thought—but vain and distant


Each joy, my daughter, must be bought with grief.

Hast thou forgot the day when, proudly led

In triumph midst the noble and the brave,

Thy glorious father to the temple bore

The banners won in battle from his foes?

Mat. A day to be remember’d!

Ant. By his side

Each seem’d inferior. Every breath of air

Swell’d with his echoing name; and we, the while

Station’d on high and sever’d from the throng,

Gazed on that one who drew the gaze of all,

While, with the tide of rapture half o’erwhelm’d,

Our hearts beat high, and whisper’d—“We are his.”

Mat. Moments of joy!

Ant. What have we done, my child,

To merit such? Heaven, for so high a fate,

Chose us from thousands, and upon thy brow

Inscribed a lofty name—a name so bright,

That he to whom thou bear’st the gift, whate’er

His race, may boast it proudly. What a mark

For envy is the glory of our lot!

And we should weigh its joys against these hours

Of fear and sorrow.

Mat. They are past e’en now.

Hark! ’twas the sound of oars!—it swells—’tis hush’d!

The gates unclose. O mother! I behold

A warrior clad in mail—he comes, ’tis he!

Ant. Whom should it be if not himself?—my


(She comes forward.)

(Enter Gonzaga and others.)

Ant. Gonzaga!—Where is he we look’d for?


Thou answer’st not! Oh, heaven! thy looks are fraught

With prophecies of woe!

Gon. Alas! too true

The omens they reveal!

Mat. Of woe to whom?

Gon. Oh! why hath such a task of bitterness

Fallen to my lot?

Ant. Thou wouldst be pitiful,

And thou art cruel. Close this dread suspense;

Speak! I adjure thee, in the name of God!

Where is my husband?

Gon. Heaven sustain your souls

With fortitude to bear the tale! My chief——

Mat. Is he return’d unto the field?

Gon. Alas!

Thither the warrior shall return no more.

The senate’s wrath is on him. He is now

A prisoner!

Ant. He is a prisoner!—and for what?

Gon. He is accused of treason.

Mat. Treason! He

A traitor!—Oh! my father!

Ant. Haste! proceed,

And pause no more. Our hearts are nerved for all.

Say, what shall be his sentence?

Gon. From my lips

It shall not be reveal’d.

Ant. Oh! he is slain!

Gon. He lives, but yet his doom is fix’d.

Ant. He lives!

Weep not, my daughter! ’tis the time to act.

For pity’s sake, Gonzaga, be thou not

Wearied of our afflictions. Heaven to thee

Intrusts the care of two forsaken ones.

He was thy friend—ah! haste, then, be our guide;

Conduct us to his judges. Come, my child!

Poor innocent, come with me. There yet is left

Mercy upon the earth. Yes! they themselves

Are husbands, they are fathers! When they sign’d

The fearful sentence, they remember’d not

He was a father and a husband too.

But when their eyes behold the agony

One word of theirs hath caused, their hearts will melt:

They will, they must revoke it. Oh! the sight

Of mortal woe is terrible to man!

Perhaps the warrior’s lofty soul disdain’d

To vindicate his deeds, or to recall

His triumphs won for them. It is for us

To wake each high remembrance. Ah! we know

That he implored not, but our knees shall bend,

And we will pray.

Gon. Oh, heaven! that I could leave

Your hearts one ray of hope! There is no ear,

No place for prayers. The judges here are deaf,

Implacable, unknown. The thunderbolt

Falls heavy, and the hand by which ’tis launch’d

Is veil’d in clouds. There is one comfort still,

The sole sad comfort of a parting hour,

I come to bear. Ye may behold him yet.

The moments fly. Arouse your strength of heart.

Oh! fearful is the trial, but the God

Of mourners will be with you.

Mat. Is there not

One hope?

Ant. Alas! my child!

Scene IV.—A Prison.


They must have heard it now.—Oh! that at least

I might have died far from them! Though their hearts

Had bled to hear the tidings, yet the hour,

The solemn hour of nature’s parting pangs

Had then been past. It meets us darkly now,

And we must drain its draught of bitterness

Together, drop by drop. O ye wide fields,

Ye plains of fight, and thrilling sounds of arms!

O proud delights of danger! Battle-cries,

And thou, my war-steed! and ye trumpet-notes

Kindling the soul! Midst your tumultuous joys

Death seem’d all beautiful.—And must I then,

With shrinking cold reluctance, to my fate

Be dragg’d, e’en as a felon, on the winds

Pouring vain prayers and impotent complaints?

And Marco! hath he not betray’d me too?

Vile doubt! That I could cast it from my soul

Before I die!—But no! What boots it now

Thus to look back on life with eye that turns

To linger where my footstep may not tread?

Now, Philip! thou wilt triumph! Be it so!

I too have proved such vain and impious joys,

And know their value now. But oh! again

To see those loved ones, and to hear the last,

Last accents of their voices! By those arms

Once more to be encircled, and from thence

To tear myself for ever!—Hark! they come!—

O God of mercy, from thy throne look down

In pity on their woes!

Scene V.

Antonietta, Matilda, Gonzaga, and Carmagnola.

Ant. My husband!

Mat. O my father!

Ant. Is it thus

That thou returnest? and is this the hour

Desired so long!

Car. O ye afflicted ones!

Heaven knows I dread its pangs for you alone.

Long have my thoughts been used to look on Death,

And calmly wait his time. For you alone

My soul hath need of firmness; will ye, then,

Deprive me of its aid? When the Most High

On virtue pours afflictions, he bestows

The courage to sustain them. Oh! let yours

Equal your sorrows! Let us yet find joy

In this embrace: ’tis still a gift of heaven.

Thou weep’st, my child! and thou, beloved wife!

Ah! when I made thee mine, thy days flow’d on

In peace and gladness; I united thee

To my disastrous fate, and now the thought

Embitters death! Oh! that I had not seen

The woes I cause thee!

Ant. Husband of my youth!

Of my bright days, thou who didst make them bright,

Read thou my heart! the pangs of death are there,

And yet e’en now—I would not but be thine.

Car. Full well I know how much I lose in thee;

Oh! make me not too deeply feel it now.

Mat. The homicides!

Car. No, sweet Matilda, no!

Let no dark thought of rage or vengeance rise

To cloud thy gentle spirit, and disturb

These moments—they are sacred. Yes! my wrongs

Are deep, but thou, forgive them, and confess,

That, e’en midst all the fulness of our woe,

High, holy joy remains. Death! death!—our foes,

Our most relentless foes, can only speed

Th’ inevitable hour. Oh! man hath not

Invented death for man; it would be then

Madd’ning and insupportable: from heaven

’Tis sent, and heaven doth temper all its pangs

With such blest comfort as no mortal power

Can give or take away. My wife! my child!

Hear my last words—they wring your bosoms now

With agony, but yet, some future day,

’Twill soothe you to recall them. Live, my wife!

Sustain thy grief, and live! this ill-starr’d girl

Must not be reft of all. Fly swiftly hence,

Conduct her to thy kindred: she is theirs,

Of their own blood—and they so loved thee once!

Then, to their foe united, thou becamest

Less dear; for feuds and wrongs made warring sounds

Of Carmagnola’s and Visconti’s names.

But to their bosoms thou wilt now return

A mourner; and the object of their hate

Will be no more.—Oh! there is joy in death!—

And thou, my flower! that, midst the din of arms,

Wert born to cheer my soul, thy lovely head

Droops to the earth! Alas! the tempest’s rage

Is on thee now. Thou tremblest, and thy heart

Can scarce contain the heavings of its woe.

I feel thy burning tears upon my breast—

I feel, and cannot dry them. Dost thou claim

Pity from me, Matilda? Oh! thy sire

Hath now no power to aid thee, but thou know’st

That the forsaken have a Father still

On high. Confide in Him, and live to days

Of peace, if not of joy; for such to thee

He surely destines. Wherefore hath He pour’d

The torrent of affliction on thy youth,

If to thy future years be not reserved

All His benign compassion! Live! and soothe

Thy suffering mother. May she to the arms

Of no ignoble consort lead thee still!—

Gonzaga! take the hand which thou hast press’d

Oft in the morn of battle, when our hearts

Had cause to doubt if we should meet at eve.

Wilt thou yet press it, pledging me thy faith

To guide and guard these mourners, till they join

Their friends and kindred?

Gon. Rest assured, I will.

Car. I am content. And if, when this is done,

Thou to the field returnest, there for me

Salute my brethren; tell them that I died

Guiltless; thou hast been witness of my deeds,

Hast read my inmost thoughts—and know’st it well.

Tell them I never with a traitor’s shame

Stain’d my bright sword. Oh, never!—I myself

Have been ensnared by treachery. Think of me

When trumpet-notes are stirring every heart,

And banners proudly waving in the air,—

Think of thine ancient comrade! And the day

Following the combat, when upon the field,

Amidst the deep and solemn harmony

Of dirge and hymn, the priest of funeral rites,

With lifted hands, is offering for the slain

His sacrifice to heaven; forget me not!

For I, too, hoped upon the battle-plain

E’en so to die.

Ant. Have mercy on us, heaven!

Car. My wife! Matilda! Now the hour is nigh,

And we must part.—Farewell!

Mat. No, father! no!

Car. Come to this breast yet, yet once more, and then

For pity’s sake depart!

Ant. No! force alone

Shall tear us hence.

(A sound of arms is heard.)

Mat. Hark! what dread sound!

Ant. Great God!

(The door is half opened, and armed men enter, the chief of whom advances to the Count. His wife and daughter fall senseless.)

Car. O God! I thank thee. O most merciful!

Thus to withdraw their senses from the pangs

Of this dread moment’s conflict!

Thou, my friend,

Assist them, bear them from this scene of woe,

And tell them, when their eyes again unclose

To meet the day—that naught is left to fear.

Notwithstanding the pathetic beauties of the last act, the attention which this tragedy has excited in Italy must be principally attributed to the boldness of the author in so completely emancipating himself from the fetters of the dramatic unities. The severity with which the tragic poets of that country have, in general, restricted themselves to those rules has been sufficiently remarkable to obtain, at least, temporary distinction for the courage of the writer who should attempt to violate them. Although this piece comprises a period of several years, and that, too, in days so troubled and so “full of fate”—days in which the deepest passions and most powerful energies of the human mind were called into action by the strife of conflicting interests—there is, nevertheless, as great a deficiency of incident, as if “to be born and die” made all the history of aspiring natures contending for supremacy. The character of the hero is portrayed in words, not in actions; it does not unfold itself in any struggle of opposite feelings and passions, and the interest excited for him only commences at the moment when it ought to have reached its climax. The merits of the piece may be summed up in the occasional energy of the language and dignity of the thoughts; and the truth with which the spirit of the age is characterised, as well in the development of that suspicious policy distinguishing the system of the Venetian government, as in the pictures of the fiery Condottieri, holding their councils of war—

“Jealous of honour, sudden and quick in quarrel.”




This tragedy, though inferior in power and interest to the Aristodemo of the same author, is nevertheless distinguished by beauties of a high order, and such as, in our opinion, fully establish its claims to more general attention than it has hitherto received. Although the loftiness and severity of Roman manners, in the days of the Republic, have been sufficiently preserved to give an impressive character to the piece, yet those workings of passion and tenderness—without which dignity soon becomes monotonous, and heroism unnatural—have not been (as in the tragedies of Alfieri upon similar subjects) too rigidly suppressed.

The powerful character of the high-hearted Cornelia, with all the calm collected majesty which our ideas are wont to associate with the name of a Roman matron, and the depth and sublimity of maternal affection more particularly belonging to the mother of the Gracchi, are beautifully contrasted with the softer and more womanish feelings, the intense anxieties, the sensitive and passionate attachment, embodied in the person of Sicinia, the wife of Gracchus. The appeals made by Gracchus to the people are full of majestic eloquence; and the whole piece seems to be animated by that restless and untameable spirit of freedom, whose immortalised struggles for ascendency give so vivid a colouring, so exalted an interest, to the annals of the ancient republics.

The tragedy opens with the soliloquy of Caius Gracchus, who is returned in secret to Rome, after having been employed in rebuilding Carthage, which Scipio had utterly demolished.

Caius, in Rome behold thyself! The night

Hath spread her favouring shadows o’er thy path:

And thou, be strong, my country! for thy son

Gracchus is with thee! All is hush’d around,

And in deep slumber; from the cares of day

The worn plebeians rest. Oh! good and true,

And only Romans! your repose is sweet,

For toil hath given it zest; ’tis calm and pure,

For no remorse hath troubled it. Meanwhile,

My brother’s murderers, the patricians, hold

Inebriate vigils o’er their festal boards,

Or in dark midnight councils sentence me

To death, and Rome to chains. They little deem

Of the unlook’d-for and tremendous foe

So near at hand!—It is enough. I tread

In safety my paternal threshold.—Yes!

This is my own! O mother! O my wife!

My child!—I come to dry your tears. I come

Strengthen’d by three dread furies:—One is wrath,

Fired by my country’s wrongs; and one deep love,

For those, my bosom’s inmates; and the third—

Vengeance, fierce vengeance, for a brother’s blood!

His soliloquy is interrupted by the entrance of Fulvius, his friend, with whose profligate character and unprincipled designs he is represented as unacquainted. From the opening speech made by Fulvius (before he is aware of the presence of Caius) to the slave by whom he is attended, it appears that he is just returned from the perpetration of some crime, the nature of which is not disclosed until the second act.

The suspicions of Caius are, however, awakened, by the obscure allusions to some act of signal but secret vengeance, which Fulvius throws out in the course of the ensuing discussion.

Ful. This is no time for grief and feeble tears,

But for high deeds.

Caius. And we will make it such.

But prove we first our strength. Declare, what friends

(If yet misfortune hath her friends) remain

True to our cause?

Ful. Few, few, but valiant hearts!

* * * * *

Oh! what a change is here! There was a time

When, over all supreme, thy word gave law

To nations and their rulers; in thy presence

The senate trembled, and the citizens

Flock’d round thee in deep reverence. Then a word,

A look from Caius—a salute, a smile,

Fill’d them with pride. Each sought to be the friend,

The client, ay, the very slave, of him,

The people’s idol; and beholding them

Thus prostrate in thy path, thou, thou thyself,

Didst blush to see their vileness! But thy fortune

Is waning now, her glorious phantoms melt

Into dim vapour; and the earthly god,

So worshipp’d once, from his forsaken shrines

Down to the dust is hurl’d.

Caius. And what of this?

There is no power in fortune to deprive

Gracchus of Gracchus. Mine is such a heart

As meets the storm exultingly—a heart

Whose stem delight it is to strive with fate,

And conquer. Trust me, fate is terrible

But because man is vile. A coward first

Made her a deity.

* * * * *

But say, what thoughts

Are foster’d by the people? Have they lost

The sense of their misfortunes? Is the name

Of Gracchus in their hearts—reveal the truth—

Already number’d with forgotten things?

Ful. A breeze, a passing breeze, now here, now there,

Borne on light pinion—such the people’s love!

Yet have they claims on pardon, for their faults

Are of their miseries; and their feebleness

Is to their woes proportion’d. Haply still

The secret sigh of their full hearts is thine.

But their lips breathe it not. Their grief is mute;

And the deep paleness of their timid mien,

And eyes in fix’d despondence bent on earth,

And sometimes a faint murmur of thy name,

Alone accuse them. They are hush’d—for now

Not one, nor two, their tyrants; but a host

Whose numbers are the numbers of the rich,

And the patrician Romans. Yes! and well

May proud oppression dauntlessly go forth,

For Rome is widow’d! Distant wars engage

The noblest of her youth, by Fabius led,

And but the weak remain. Hence every heart

Sickens with voiceless terror; and the people,

Subdued and trembling, turn to thee in thought,

But yet are silent.

Caius. I will make them heard.

Rome is a slumbering lion, and my voice

Shall wake the mighty. Thou shalt see I came

Prepared for all; and as I track’d the deep

For Rome, my dangers to my spirit grew

Familiar in its musings. With a voice

Of wrath the loud winds fiercely swell’d; the waves

Mutter’d around; heaven flash’d in lightning forth,

And the pale steersman trembled: I the while

Stood on the tossing and bewilder’d bark,

Retired and shrouded in my mantle’s folds,

With thoughtful eyes cast down, and all absorb’d

In a far deeper storm! Around my heart,

Gathering in secret then, my spirit’s powers

Held council with themselves; and on my thoughts

My country rose,—and I foresaw the snares,

The treacheries of Opimius, and the senate,

And my false friends, awaiting my return.

* * * * *

Fulvius! I wept; but they were tears of rage!

For I was wrought to frenzy by the thought

Of my wrong’d country, and of him, that brother

Whose shade through ten long years hath sternly cried

“Vengeance!”—nor found it yet.

Ful. It is fulfill’d.

Caius. And how?

Ful. Thou shalt be told.

Caius. Explain thy words.

Ful. Then know—(incautious that I am!)

Caius. Why thus

Falters thy voice? Why speak’st thou not?

Ful. Forgive!

E’en friendship sometimes hath its secrets.

Caius. No!

True friendship never!

Caius afterwards inquires what part his brother-in-law, Scipio Emilianus, is likely to adopt in their enterprises.

His high renown—

The glorious deeds, whereby was earn’d his name

Of second Africanus; and the blind,

Deep reverence paid him by the people’s hearts,

Who, knowing him their foe, respect him still—

All this disturbs me: hardly will be won

Our day of victory, if by him withstood.

Ful. Yet won it shall be. If but this thou fear’st,

Then be at peace.

Caius. I understand thee not

Ful. Thou wilt ere long. But here we vainly waste

Our time and words. Soon, will the morning break,

Nor know thy friends as yet of thy return;

I fly to cheer them with the tidings.

Caius. Stay!

Ful. And wherefore?

Caius. To reveal thy meaning.

Ful. Peace!

I hear the sound of steps.

This conversation is interrupted by the entrance of Cornelia, with the wife and child of Caius. They are about to seek an asylum in the house of Emilianus, by whom Cornelia has been warned of the imminent danger which menaces the family of her son from the fury of the patricians, who intend, on the following day, to abrogate the laws enacted by the Gracchi in favour of the plebeians. The joy and emotion of Gracchus, on thus meeting with his family, may appear somewhat inconsistent with his having remained so long engaged in political discussion, on the threshold of their abode, without ever having made an inquiry after their welfare; but it would be somewhat unreasonable to try the conduct of a Roman (particularly in a tragedy) by the laws of nature. Before, however, we are disposed to condemn the principles which seem to be laid down for the delineation of Roman character in dramatic poetry, let us recollect that the general habits of the people whose institutions gave birth to the fearful grandeur displayed in the actions of the elder Brutus, and whose towering spirit was fostered to enthusiasm by the contemplation of it, must have been deeply tinctured by the austerity of even their virtues. Shakspeare alone, without compromising the dignity of his Romans, has disencumbered them of the formal scholastic drapery which seems to be their official garb, and has stamped their features with the general attributes of human nature, without effacing the impress which distinguished “the men of iron,” from the nations who “stood still before them.”

The first act concludes with the parting of Caius and Fulvius in wrath and suspicion—Cornelia having accused the latter of an attempt to seduce her daughter, the wife of Scipio, and of concealing the most atrocious designs under the mask of zeal for the cause of liberty.

Of liberty

What speak’st thou, and to whom? Thou hast no shame—

No virtue—and thy boast is, to be free!

Oh! zeal for liberty! eternal mask

Assumed by every crime!

In the second act, the death of Emilianus is announced to Opimius the consul, in the presence of Gracchus, and the intelligence is accompanied by a rumour of his having perished by assassination. The mysterious expressions of Fulvius, and the accusation of Cornelia, immediately recur to the mind of Caius. The following scene, in which his vehement emotion, and high sense of honour, are well contrasted with the cold-blooded sophistry of Fulvius, is powerfully wrought up.

Caius. Back on my thoughts the words of Fulvius rush,

Like darts of fire. All hell is in my heart!

(Fulvius enters.)

Thou comest in time. Speak, thou perfidious friend!

Scipio lies murder’d on his bed of death!—

Who slew him?

Ful. Ask’st thou me?

Caius. Thee! thee, who late

Didst in such words discourse of him as now

Assure me thou ’rt his murderer. Traitor, speak!

Ful. If thus his fate doth weigh upon thy heart,

Thou art no longer Gracchus, or thou ravest!

More grateful praise and warmer thanks might well

Reward the generous courage which hath freed

Rome from a tyrant, Gracchus from a foe.

Caius. Then he was slain by thee?

Ful. Ungrateful friend!

Why dost thou tempt me? Danger menaces

Thy honour. Freedom’s wavering light is dim;

Rome wears the fetters of a guilty senate;

One Scipio drove thy brother to a death

Of infamy, another seeks thy fall;

And when one noble, one determined stroke

To thee and thine assures the victory, wreaks

The people’s vengeance, gives thee life and fame

And pacifies thy brother’s angry shade,

Is it a cause for wailing? Am I call’d

For this a murderer? Go!—I say once more,

Thou art no longer Gracchus, or thou ravest!

Caius. I know thee now, barbarian! Would’st thou serve

My cause with crimes?

Ful. And those of that proud man

Whom I have slain, and thou dost mourn, are they

To be forgotten? Hath oblivion then

Shrouded the stern destroyer’s ruthless work,

The famine of Numantia? Such a deed

As on our name the world’s deep curses drew!

Or the four hundred Lusian youths betray’d,

And with their bleeding, mutilated limbs

Back to their parents sent? Is this forgot?

Go, ask of Carthage!—bid her wasted shores

Of him, this reveller in blood, recount

The terrible achievements! At the cries,

The groans, th’ unutterable pangs of those,

The more than hundred thousand wretches, doom’d

(Of every age and sex) to fire, and sword,

And fetters, I could marvel that the earth

In horror doth not open! They were foes,

They were barbarians, but unarm’d, subdued,

Weeping, imploring mercy! And the law

Of Roman virtue is, to spare the weak,

To tame the lofty! But in other lands,

Why should I seek for records of his crimes,

If there the suffering people ask in vain

A little earth to lay their bones in peace?

If the decree which yielded to their claims

So brief a heritage, and the which to seal

Thy brother’s blood was shed—if this remain

Still fruitless, still delusive, who was he

That mock’d its power?—Who to all Rome declared

Thy brother’s death was just, was needful?—Who

But Scipio? And remember thou the words

Which burst in thunder from thy lips e’en then,

Heard by the people! Caius, in my heart

They have been deeply treasured. He must die,

(Thus did’st thou speak) this tyrant! We have need

That he should perish! I have done the deed;

And call’st thou me his murderer? If the blow

Was guilt, then thou art guilty. From thy lips

The sentence came—the crime is thine alone.

I, thy devoted friend, did but obey

Thy mandate.

Caius. Thou my friend! I am not one

To call a villain friend. Let thunders, fraught

With fate and death, awake to scatter those

Who, bringing liberty through paths of blood,

Bring chains!—degrading Freedom’s lofty self

Below e’en Slavery’s level! Say thou not,

Wretch! that the sentence and the guilt were mine!

I wish’d him slain!—’tis so—but by the axe

Of high and public justice—that whose stroke

On thy vile head will fall. Thou hast disgraced

Unutterably my name: I bid thee tremble!

Ful. Caius, let insult cease, I counsel thee:

Let insult cease! Be the deed just or guilty,

Enjoy its fruits in silence. Force me not

To utter more.

Caius. And what hast thou to say?

Ful. That which I now suppress.

Caius. How! are there yet,

Perchance, more crimes to be reveal’d?

Ful. I know not.

Caius. Thou know’st not?—Horror chills my curdling veins;

I dare not ask thee further.

Ful. Thou dost well.

Caius. What saidst thou?

Ful. Nothing.

Caius. On my heart the words

Press heavily. Oh! what a fearful light

Bursts o’er my soul!—Hast thou accomplices?

Ful. Insensate! ask me not.

Caius. I must be told.

Ful. Away!—thou wilt repent.

Caius. No more of this, for I will know.

Ful. Thou wilt?

Ask then thy sister.

Caius. (alone.) Ask my sister! What!

Is she a murderess? Hath my sister slain

Her lord? Oh! crime of darkest dye! Oh! name

Till now unstain’d, name of the Gracchi, thus

Consign’d to infamy!—to infamy?

The very hair doth rise upon my head,

Thrill’d by the thought! Where shall I find a place

To hide my shame, to lave the branded stains

From this dishonour’d brow? What should I do?

There is a voice whose deep tremendous tones

Murmur within my heart, and sternly cry,

“Away!—and pause not—slay thy guilty sister!”

Voice of lost honour, of a noble line

Disgraced, I will obey thee!—terribly

Thou call’st for blood, and thou shalt be appeased.


Whoever has attentively studied the works of the Italian poets, from the days of Dante and Petrarch to those of Foscolo and Pindemonte, must have been struck with those allusions to the glory and the fall, the renown and the degradation, of Italy, which give a melancholy interest to their pages. Amidst all the vicissitudes of that devoted country, the warning voice of her bards has still been heard to prophesy the impending storm, and to call up such deep and spirit-stirring recollections from the glorious past, as have resounded through the land, notwithstanding the loudest tumults of those discords which have made her—

“Long, long, a bloody stage

For petty kinglings tame,

Their miserable game

Of puny war to wage.”

There is something very affecting in these vain, though exalted aspirations after that independence which the Italians, as a nation, seem destined never to regain. The strains in which their high-toned feelings on this subject are recorded, produce on our minds the same effect with the song of the imprisoned bird, whose melody is fraught, in our imagination, with recollections of the green woodland, the free air, and unbounded sky. We soon grow weary of the perpetual violets and zephyrs, whose cloying sweetness pervades the sonnets and canzoni of the minor Italian poets, till we are ready to “die in aromatic pain;” nor is our interest much more excited even by the everlasting laurel which inspires the enamoured Petrarch with so ingenious a variety of concetti, as might reasonably cause it to be doubted whether the beautiful Laura, or the emblematic tree, are the real object of the bard’s affection; but the moment a patriotic chord is struck, our feelings are awakened, and we find it easy to sympathise with the emotions of a modern Roman, surrounded by the ruins of the Capitol; a Venetian when contemplating the proud trophies won by his ancestors at Byzantium; or a Florentine amongst the tombs of the mighty dead, in the church of Santa Croce. It is not, perhaps, now the time to plead, with any effect, the cause of Italy; yet cannot we consider that nation as altogether degraded, whose literature, from the dawn of its majestic immortality, has been consecrated to the nurture of every generous principle and ennobling recollection; and whose “choice and master spirits,” under the most adverse circumstances, have kept alive a flame, which may well be considered as imperishable, since the “ten thousand tyrants” of the land have failed to quench its brightness. We present our readers with a few of the minor effusions, in which the indignant though unavailing regrets of those who, to use the words of Alfieri, are “slaves, yet still indignant slaves,”have been feelingly portrayed.

The first of these productions must, in the original, be familiar to every reader who has any acquaintance with Italian literature.


When from the mountain’s brow the gathering shades

Of twilight fall, on one deep thought I dwell:

Day beams o’er other lands, if here she fades,

Nor bids the universe at once farewell.

But thou, I cry, my country! what a night

Spreads o’er thy glories one dark sweeping pall!

Thy thousand triumphs, won by valour’s might

And wisdom’s voice—what now remains of all?

And see’st thou not th’ ascending flame of war

Burst through thy darkness, reddening from afar?

Is not thy misery’s evidence complete?

But if endurance can thy fall delay,

Still, still endure, devoted one! and say,

If it be victory thus but to retard defeat.


I cry aloud, and ye shall hear my call,

Arno, Sessino, Tiber, Adrian deep,

And blue Tyrrhene! Let him first roused from sleep

Startle the next! one peril broods o’er all.

It nought avails that Italy should plead,

Forgetting valour, sinking in despair,

At strangers’ feet!—our land is all too fair;

Nor tears, nor prayers, can check ambition’s speed.

In vain her faded cheek, her humbled eye,

For pardon sue; ’tis not her agony,

Her death alone may now appease her foes.

Be theirs to suffer who to combat shun!

But oh, weak pride! thus feeble and undone,

Nor to wage battle nor endure repose!


Italia! oh, no more Italia now!

Scarce of her form a vestige dost thou wear:

She was a queen with glory mantled—thou,

A slave, degraded, and compell’d to bear,

Chains gird thy hands and feet; deep clouds of care

Darken thy brow, once radiant as thy skies;

And shadows, born of terror and despair—

Shadows of death have dimm’d thy glorious eyes.

Italia! oh, Italia now no more!

For thee my tears of shame and anguish flow;

And the glad strains my lyre was wont to pour

Are changed to dirge-notes: but my deepest woe

Is, that base herds of thine own sons the while

Behold thy miseries with insulting smile.


She that cast down the empires of the world,

And, in her proud triumphal course through Rome,

Dragg’d them, from freedom and dominion hurl’d,

Bound by the hair, pale, humbled, and o’ercome:

I see her now, dismantled of her state,

Spoil’d of her sceptre, crouching to the ground

Beneath a hostile car—and lo! the weight

Of fetters, her imperial neck around!

Oh! that a stranger’s envious hands had wrought

This desolation! for I then would say,

“Vengeance, Italia!”—in the burning thought

Losing my grief: but ’tis th’ ignoble sway

Of vice hath bow’d thee! Discord, slothful ease,

Theirs is that victor car; thy tyrant lords are these.



Pilgrim! whose steps those desert sands explore,

Where verdure never spreads its bright array;

Know, ’twas on this inhospitable shore

From Pompey’s heart the life-blood ebb’d away.

Twas here betray’d he fell, neglected lay;

Nor found his relics a sepulchral stone,

Whose life, so long a bright triumphal day,

O’er Tiber’s wave supreme in glory shone!

Thou, stranger! if from barbarous climes thy birth,

Look round exultingly, and bless the earth

Where Rome, with him, saw power and virtue die;

But if ’tis Roman blood that fills thy veins,

Then, son of heroes! think upon thy chains,

And bathe with tears the grave of liberty.


The warrior donn’d his well-worn garb,

And proudly waved his crest,

He mounted on his jet-black barb,

And put his lance in rest.

Percy’s Reliques.

Eftsoons the wight, withouten more delay,

Spurr’d his brown barb, and rode full swiftly on his way.


Hark! was it not the trumpet’s voice I heard?

The soul of battle is awake within me!

The fate of ages and of empires hangs

On this dread hour. Why am I not in arms?

Bring my good lance, caparison my steed!

Base, idle grooms! are ye in league against me?

Haste with my barb, or, by the holy saints,

Ye shall not live to saddle him to-morrow!


No sooner had the pearl-shedding fingers of the young Aurora tremulously unlocked the oriental portals of the golden horizon, than the graceful flower of chivalry and the bright cynosure of ladies’ eyes—he of the dazzling breastplate and swanlike plume—sprang impatiently from the couch of slumber, and eagerly mounted the noble barb presented to him by the Emperor of Aspramontania.

Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia.

See’st thou yon chief whose presence seems to rule

The storm of battle? Lo! where’er he moves

Death follows. Carnage sits upon his crest—

Fate on his sword is throned—and his white barb,

As a proud courser of Apollo’s chariot,

Seems breathing fire. Potter’s Æschylus.

Oh! bonnie look’d my ain true knight,

His barb so proudly reining;

I watch’d him till my tearfu’ sight

Grew amaist dim wi’ straining. Border Minstrelsy.

Why, he can heel the lavolt, and wind a fiery barb, as well as any gallant in Christendom. He’s the very pink and mirror of accomplishment.


Fair star of beauty’s heaven! to call thee mine,

All other joys I joyously would yield;

My knightly crest, my bounding barb resign,

For the poor shepherd’s crook and daisied field;

For courts or camps no wish my soul would prove,

So thou wouldst live with me, and be my love!

Earl of Surrey’s Poems.

For thy dear love my weary soul hath grown

Heedless of youthful sports: I seek no more

Or joyous dance, or music’s thrilling tone,

Or joys that once could charm in minstrel lore,

Or knightly tilt where steel-clad champions meet,

Borne on impetuous barbs to bleed at beauty’s feet.

Shakspeare’s Sonnets.

As a warrior clad

In sable arms, like chaos dull and sad,

But mounted on a barb as white

As the fresh new-born light,—

So the black night too soon

Came riding on the bright and silver moon,

Whose radiant heavenly ark

Made all the clouds, beyond her influence, seem

E’en more than doubly dark,

Mourning, all widow’d of her glorious beam.



Apropos of your illness, pray give, if you please,

Some account of the converse you held on high seas

With Evelyn, the excellent author of “Sylva,”

A work that is very much prized at Bronwylfa.

I think that old Neptune was visited ne’er

In so well-rigg’d a ship, by so well-matched a pair.

There could not have fallen, dear H., to your lot any

Companion more pleasant, since you’re fond of botany,

And his horticultural talents are known,

Just as well as Canova’s for fashioning stone.

Of the vessel you sail’d in, I just will remark

That I ne’er heard before of so curious a bark.

Of gondola, coracle, pirogue, canoe,

I have read very often, as doubtless have you;

Of the Argo conveying that hero young Jason;

Of the ship moor’d by Trajan in Nemi’s deep basin;

Of the galley (in Plutarch you’ll find the description)

Which bore along Cydnus the royal Egyptian;

Of that wonderful frigate (see “Curse of Kehama”)

Which wafted fair Kailyal to regions of Brama,

And the venturous barks of Columbus and Gama.

But Columbus and Gama to you must resign a

Full half of their fame, since your voyage to China,

(I’m astonish’d no shocking disaster befel,)

In that swift-sailing first-rate—a cocoa-nut shell!

I hope, my dear H., that you touch’d at Loo Choo,

That abode of a people so gentle and true,

Who with arms and with money have nothing to do.

How calm must their lives be! so free from all fears

Of running in debt, or of running on spears!

Oh dear! what an Eden!—a land without money!

It excels e’en the region of milk and of honey,

Or the vale of Cashmere, as described in a book

Full of musk, gems, and roses, and call’d “Lalla Rookh.”

But, of all the enjoyments you have, none would e’er be

More valued by me than a chat with Acerbi,

Of whose travels—related in elegant phrases—

I have seen many extracts, and heard many praises,

And have copied (you know I let nothing escape)

His striking account of the frozen North Cape.

I think ’twas in his works I read long ago

(I’ve not the best memory for dates, as you know,)

Of a warehouse, where sugar and treacle were stored,

Which took fire (I suppose being made but of board)

In the icy domains of some rough northern hero,

Where the cold was some fifty degrees below zero.

Then from every burnt cask as the treacle ran out,

And in streams, just like lava, meander’d about,

You may fancy the curious effect of the weather,

The frost, and the fire, and the treacle together.

When my first for a moment had harden’d my last,

My second burst out, and all melted as fast;

To win their sweet prize long the rivals fought on,

But I quite forget which of the elements won.

But a truce with all joking—I hope you’ll excuse me,

Since I know you still love to instruct and amuse me,

For hastily putting a few questions down,

To which answers from you all my wishes will crown;

For you know I’m so fond of the land of Corinne

That my thoughts are still dwelling its precincts within,

And I read all that authors, or gravely or wittily,

Or wisely or foolishly, write about Italy;

From your shipmate John Evelyn’s amusing old tour,

To Forsyth’s one volume, and Eustace’s four,

In spite of Lord Byron, or Hobhouse, who glances

At the classical Eustace, and says he romances.

—Pray describe me from Venice, (don’t think it a bore,)

The literal state of the famed Bucentaur,

And whether the horses, that once were the sun’s,

Are of bright yellow brass, or of dark dingy bronze;

For some travellers say one thing, and some say another,

And I can’t find out which, they all make such a pother.

Oh! another thing, too, which I’d nearly forgot,

Are the songs of the gondoliers pleasing or not?

These are matters of moment, you’ll surely allow,

For Venice must interest all—even now.

These points being settled, I ask for no more hence,

But should wish for a few observations from Florence.

Let me know if the Palaces Strozzi and Pitti

Are finish’d; if not ’tis a shame for the city

To let one for ages—was e’er such a thing?—

Its entablature want, and the other its wing.

Say, too, if the Dove (should you be there at Easter,

And watch her swift flight, when the priests have released her)

Is a turtle, or ring-dove, or but a wood-pigeon,

Which makes people gulls in the name of Religion?

Pray tell if the forests of famed Vallombrosa

Are cut down or not; for this, too, is a Cosa

About which I’m anxious—as also to know

If the Pandects, so famous long ages ago,

Came back (above all, don’t forget this to mention)

To that manuscript library called the Laurentian.

Since I wrote the above, I by chance have found out,

That the horses are bright yellow brass beyond doubt;

So I’ll ask you but this, the same subject pursuing,

Do you think they are truly Lysippus’s doing?

—When to Naples you get, let me know, if you will,

If the Acqua Toffana’s in fashion there still;

For, not to fatigue you with needless verbosity,

’Tis a point upon which I feel much curiosity.

I should like to have also, and not written shabbily,

Your opinion about the Piscina mirabile;

And whether the tomb, which is near Sannazaro’s,

Is decided by you to be really Maro’s.

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