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And when he reaches Rome, and all that classic city welcomes him ; when princes, cardinals, and learned men go forth to greet him—with what pride we note this noble of nature's making, bearing his honours with so meek a grace, that envy's self lies captive at his feet: for he, though fattered and caressed by all, counts too little of his own desert, to wear the wreath of pride.
When, leaving Rome by stealth, lest partial friends should mar the wishes of his heart, he turns his eye to fair Sorrento, the city of his birth, within whose well-remembered and “ time-honoured walls resides his widowed sister, the dear companion of his by-gone years. Again we follow him over unknown paths, from early dawn to twilight, and in the shepherd's cot, perched high like eaglet's nest among the lonely mountains of Veletri, share in his homely meal. Next, reaching Gaieta, we enter the trim bark that bears him to Sorrento, where he acts that little drama of the heart affection planned to try a sister's love. Now, habited as shepherd might beseem, he enters Cornelia's dwelling : feigning well the story of a brother's danger, he sees his sister swoon; and touched with such sweet proof of her unchanged regard, throws off his peasant garb, and tells her all. And now with pleasant haste the board is spread, and Tasso sits him down between the widow and her orphans: and while all eyes look lovingly on him, and every hand is busy in his service, much wonders he how he could live so long in courts, apart from such dear ties; he will return no more to dwell with worldlings,
He asks not happiness but longs for rest. And here it may be found. So reasons Tasso; as men will reason when after slumbering long, the heart awakes to early feelings, and finds the freshness of those spring-time hours dispel the visions of life's cheating dreams. Alas I too powerful love again invites him to the court of Alphonso ; and Leonora's voice, like the charmed syren's, tempts him to his ruin. Once more we follow him, the wandering Tasso; and again behold him in the prince's power, the tenant of a cell at St. Anne's, the dwelling of the dreamy lunatic, his lofty spirit, like the captive bird, beating its silver wings against the wires of his cramped cage; till with disturbed and wildered thoughts his mind grows fanciful, and images to itself strange phantasies and mystic shapes, that haunt his cell,* scaring sweet rest and wholesome appetite. Look there ! mute hangs his stringless harp, no longer tuned for listening beauty's ear. Thus he addresses it:
“ Tu che ne vai in Pindo
Ivi pende mia cetra ad un cipresso,
Ch'io son dagl' anni e da fortuna oppresso.” Yet sometimes he will woo a happier mood; and sitting in the moonlight, deem an angel, stealing to his side, whispers of joys eternal.
The methods that were made use of to cure Tasso of his pretended madness, nearly threw him into an absolute delirium. His imagination became so disturbed, tbat he fancied himself haunted by a spirit, that continually disordered his books and papers.
Hark! he speaks to it, his own “ familiar spirit," as he calls it ; and questions it of things invisible to mortal ken. Then, soothed by glimpses of a future heaven, he forgets the woes and wrongs of this dark earth; and soaring on the eagle wings of mind, he weaves into golden numbers the glowing thoughts that crowd upon him.
Sure never bard was more honoured by great souls, or more maligned by little ones, than Tasso. Yet his trials would, to the ambitious man, have been but as feathers in the scale, compared with that triumphant crown awarded to his genius by all the wise and the good of his time, both in his native Italy, and in other nations. The sprightly Frenchman, the grave Spaniard, and the ardent sons of Oriental skies, all hung alike enamoured over the pages of his famed Jerusalem,* and wandered untired through the Arcady of his pastoral Aminta.t From the gilded walls of the proud Vatican, to the deep solitudes of the wild Alps, Tasso's name was a sweet familiar sound to every ear. The young maids of Tuscany sang among their sylvan shades the love-songs of Tasso : the Venetian gondolier, as he rowed his fairy bark over the moonlight waters of the Adriatic, chaunted in chorus with his rude co-mates the stanzas of Tasso: and even the savage bandit, Sciarra, at the name of Tasso, smoothed his rugged features into peace, and compelled his outlawed bands to let the poet pass in safety.
But oh! how grand, yet touching, and withal instructive, is the closing scene of his eventful life! When entering Rome for the last time, invited to receive the honour of a solemn crowning in the capitol, he is met by all the noble and the learned of that city of the cross, and told by holy lips, that “his merit would add more honour to the laurel he was going to receive, than that crown had given to those on whom it had hitherto been bestowed."S Alas! he never lived to realize the hope his coming gave. Death snapped the tuneful chords of his sweet lyre before its crowning day; and flowers were strewed upon his bier, that had been gathered for his triumph. Triumph, did I say? his triumph was in death. “ That was the crown he came to receive at Rome."|| That the laurel, for whose deathless leaf, the Christian hero fights, and overcomes all that arms man against himself.
Methinks I see the dying bard-his look composed and sweet, his clear blue eye lit up with light from heaven, and his mild solemn voice blessing that blessing God, who, as he said, “was pleased at last to bring him safe into port, after so long a storm.” It is the festival of St. Mark. The shrines are dressed with flowers of early spring; the altars glittering with their golden gifts, and sweet with
“ The success of his Jerusalem was most unexampled; it was translated into the Latin, French, Spanish, and even the Oriental languages, almost as soon as it appeared. No performance ever before raised its reputation to such a height in so short a period."
+ The original of the Pastor Fido and Filli di Sciro.
# "A famous captain of banditti, who at that time infested the confines of the ecclesiastical states. This outlaw, hearing that Tasso was one of the company, sent a message to assure him that he might pass in safety."
ø Pope Clement's words to Tasso.
frankincense. And now the pealing organ and the hymning voices waft melody around those holy walls,* where Tasso lies, and silvery bells, chiming at intervals from turrets grey, requiem his parting spirit. See l he clasps the symbol of his faith! his dying lips essay to kiss the cross: he speaks—but faint the music of his voice—“ In manus tuas Domine.”+
So died this Christian poet: and so let all poets die, by living as Tasso lived. Let the scholar imitate his humility; let the wit practice his forbearance ; let the lover of society carry into social life his holy virtues; and let the recluse visit his cell at Ferrara, and there learn how to keep green his human sympathies.
In short, let the youthful reader not merely consider Tasso as the poet of Italy, or the lover of Leonora, but as the Christian philosopher, and the practical moralist, whose life was a model which all men may study to advantage. To that model let the vain author, go and compare himself with the humble, self-abased Tasso; who thought nothing of his own works, when all the world applauded them. To that model let the rich man also go, and learn of Tasso to value wealth, only for the good it yields to others. And last, let him who pines in the shade of poverty, learn of Tasso, who was contented when he wanted for every thing; nor blush to leave behind him as poor a catalogue of his worldly effects, as did that “prince of song," whose sole wealth was in abeyance, in the mines of eternity.
* The monastery of St. Onuphrius. + Tasso's last words.
" Amongst the MSS. in the Duke of Modena's library is an accurate inventory of Tasso's books and wardrobe, made by the poet himself, when confined in the bospital of St. Anna. It is in every respect a curiosity, and has never yet met the public eye. Tasso's library appears to have consisted of seventy-two volumes only, of all kinds. Amongst them were a New Testament, copies of most of the Greek poets and prose writers, Cicero's rhetoric, isolated volumes of Boccacio, Suissine, Rembo, Capoali, and Salviato, and in his own handwriting a volume of his own rhymes, an additional volume to the same, a volume of his letters, letters to the Duke of Urbino, a dialogue · On avoiding the Multitude,' fifty Stanzas to the Pope, two other volumes of his own works, and some minor MSS., including 3 add. vols.' viz. the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd parts of my works. Alas! what penury does the wardrobe of this heir to immortality exbibit! Four good shirts, and 5 * unfit for wear;' item, 3 good shirts in a box by themselves ; 2 pair of linnen stockings, and one pair for wearing under boots;' bandkerchiefs, and 4 others in a box just named ; 4 towels 'not worn out;' a dozen silk garters; 2 bonnets, the one new, and the other old.'"- Morning Herald, Nov. 1, 1833.
JOURNEY FROM GIRGENTI TO PALERMO,
Alicata“Palma–Girgenti—Saint Albert and the Jews–Our party
poisoned—Warm Baths of Sciacca — The Mysterious Castle-Curious Adventure- The Prisoners and the Castellano-Calatabellotta -Castel Veterano-Selenuntium-Marsala.
At Alicata, I received a letter from my friend, Count A- -, who, with his lady and only son, a boy of about twelve years of age, were proceeding, as well as ourselves, to Palermo. We were to have left Catania together, but some unexpected occurrence having detained them, our journey in company had been given up. I was now agreeably surprised to find they would join us at Girgenti, with an English friend, Captain L- -, provided we could manage to wait three or four days in that town, which had before been my intention, as it is impossible to examine the interesting antiquities in the neighbourhood in less. The company of a female friend, too, was an agreeable prospect for Mrs. B. and the conclusion of our trip promised to be still more pleasant than the commencement.
The country between Alicata and Palma is highly beautiful, interspersed with corn fields, orange groves, vineyards, and orchards. The almond tree is here of great size; the hedges, for miles, often consist almost entirely of them, or occasionally varied with the carubba, the aloe, the fig, the palm, and the olive. Sicily was still beautiful as ever, but the life and energy of its inhabitants seemed fled. The peasantry were no longer cheerful and communicative, but discontented and reserved: they were worse clothed, and appeared worse fed, than what I recollected of them only nine years before. With such frightful celerity does a bad government plunge a people into an abyss of misery and ruin. The higher classes also participated in the general deterioration, although there was more ostentation, the women in particular dressing in a more expensive style ; the superb si!ks of Italy, France, Palermo, and Catania, having succeeded to the humbler productions of the British loom, in which I remember to have seen ladies of rank appear at the parties in Messina. The Sicilians have also learnt from the English to attend more to female education; there are no longer instances of girls of respectable families unable to read or write. These are the only cases of amelioration I observed during my second visit, which form but a poor set off against the desolation and misery which pervade every angle of the country, oppressed by the presence of a foreign army, and groaning under the exactions of the Neapolitan minister of finance. Everywhere are to be seen families perishing for want, lands untilled, manufactories abandoned, empty ports, and crowded prisons. In the superb harbour of Messina, in which I have often numbered one hundred sail of different vessels, I found, on my arrival this time, but half a dozen of the country craft, one English brig, and two Genoese polaccas.
The state of Sicily is such that, though a succession of exuberant harvests and vintages has filled the granaries and magazines, and bread, wine, and meat are lower than at any time within these last thirty years, the great body of the peasantry is almost starving, and obliged to support itself on beans, lupines, and chesnuts, whilst the corn is rotting in the hands of the proprietors, several of whom have caused their stores to be opened to the public; for which act of humanity, it can scarcely be called generosity, they have incurred the ill will of their suspicious and vindictive court. The consequence has been, that half the country has this year remained unsown, and that the general misery is daily increasing. The towns are many of them nearly dispeopled, and several of the finest palaces are fast going to ruin. The following beautiful lines of Lucan, descriptive of the state of Italy after the civil wars, are strictly applicable to the present condition of Sicily.
At nunc semirutis pendant quod mænia tectis,
PHARS. lib, i.
Palma is rather a neat town, abounding in good wine, bread, macaroni, and provisions of all sorts, at reasonable prices. It is of very modern origin, having been built towards the middle of the seventeenth century, by one of the family of Chiaramonte. The population is rated at eight thousand souls, perhaps a rather exaggerated calculation. There are some sulphur mines in the neighbourhood.
Leaving Palma, we did not continue to keep the road along the coast, but made a circuit inland, passing through the village of Camastro, and the towns of Naro and Comicati: the last is a fine and populous place, superbly posted on the side of a hill. Castro Filippe is situated near the river Naro, which some, and among them Cluverius, have mistaken for the Acgragas, the modern Drago. We found the Naro, which formerly bore the name of Hypsas, an insignificant and shallow rivulet, which, though it rained during the night, scarcely wetted the knees of our horses ; but we forded it high up,—in the vicinity of Girgenti it is a somewhat more respectable stream. Favara, a town with six thousand inhabitants, lies prettily on the declivity of a hill, at the distance of about five miles from Girgenti. Our journey was this day long and fatiguing, and it was late before we arrived at the above city. We were received by Signore S---, the British consul, a gentleman of much antiquarian research and information. He possesses a small cabinet very tastily arranged, most of the articles of which have been procured from the ruins of Agrigentum, which are, without douht, the most important and interesting remains in Sicily.
Acgragas, corrupted by the Romans into Agrigentum, was founded