Imágenes de páginas

seemed all too blue, too much of the colour of indigo. But I believed, and wondered. I could no longer admire these specimens of the artist at present, but assuredly my admiration of the artist himself was not less than before; for since then, I had seen other works by the same vand,

-" Inimitable on earth

By model or by shading pencil drawn,”— surpassing every idea that the mind could form of art, except by having seen them. I remember one in particular that Walsh Porter had (a bow-shot beyond all others)-a vernal landscape, an “ Hesperian fable true," with a blue unclouded sky, and green trees and grey turrets and the unruffled sea beyond. But never was there sky so soft or trees so clad with spring, such air-drawn towers or such halcyon seas; Zephyr seemed to fan the air, and Nature looked on and smiled. The name of Claude has alone something in it that soften and harmonizes the mind. It touches a magic chord. Oh! matchless scenes, oh! orient skies, bright with purple and gold, ye opening glades and distant sunny vales, glittering with fleecy Hocks, pour all your enchantment into my soul, let it reflect your chastened image, and forget all meaner things? Perhaps the most affecting tribute to the memory of this great artist is the character drawn of him by an eminent master in his Dream of a Painter.

“On a sudden I was surrounded by a thick cloud or mist, and my guide wafted me through the air till we alighted on a most delicious rural spot. I perceived it was the early hour of the morn, when the sun had not risen above the horizon. We were alone, except that at a little distance a young shepherd played on his flageolet as he walked before his herd, conducting them from the fold to the pasture. The elevated pastoral air he played charmed me by its simplicity, and seemed to ani. mate his obedient flock. The atmosphere was clear and perfectly calm : and now the rising sun gradually illumined the fine landscape, and began to discover to our view the distant country of immense extent. I stood awhile in expectation of what might next present itself of dazzling splendour, when the only object which ap. peared to fill this natural, grand and simple scene, was a rustic who entered, not far from the place where we stood, who by bis habiliments seemed nothing better than a peasant; he led a poor little ass, which was loaded with all the imple. ments required by a painter in his work. After advancing a few paces, he stood still, and with an air of rapture seemed to contemplate the rising sun ; he next fell on his knees, directed his eyes towards Heaven, crossed himself, and then went on with eager looks, as if to make choice of the most advantageous spot from which to make his studies as a painter. “This,' said my conductor, “is that Claude Gelée of Lorraine, who nobly disdaining the low employment to which he was originally bred, left it with all its advantages of competence and ease to embrace his present state of poverty, in order to adorn the world with works of most accomplished excellence.""

There is a little Paul Brill at Burleigh, in the same room with the Rembrandts, that dazzled me many years ago and delighted me the other day. It looked as sparkling as if the sky came through the frame. I found or fancied I found, those pictures the best that I remembered before, though they might in the interval have faded a little to my eyes, or lost some of their original brightness. I did not see the small head of Queen Mary by Holbein, which formerly struck me so forcibly; but I have litile doubt of it, for Holbein was a sure hand, he only wanted effect, and this picture looked through you. One of my old favourites was the head of an angel by Guido, nearly a profile, looking up, and with wings behind the back. It was hung lower than it used to be, and had, I thought, a look less aërial, less heavenly; but there was still a pulpy softness in it, a tender grace, an expression unutterable—which only the pencil, his pencil, could convey. And are we not then beholden to the art for these glimpses of Paradise ? Surely, there is a sweetness in Guido's heads, as there is also a music in his name. If Raphael did more, it was not with the same ease. His heads have more meaning, but the others have a look of youthful innocence which his are without. As to the boasted picture of Christ by Carlo Dolce, if a well-painted table-cloth and silver cup are worth three thousand guineas, the picture is, but not else. Yet one touch of Paul Veronese is worth all this enamelling twice over. The head has a wretched mawkish expression, utterly unbecoming the character it professes to represent. But I will say no more about it. The Bath of Seneca is one of Luca Jordano's best performances, and has considerable interest and effect. Among other historical designs, there is one of Jacob's Dreams, with the angels ascending and descending on a kind of stairs. The conception is very answerable to the subject, but the execution is not in any high degree spirited or graceful. The mind goes away no gainer by the bargain. Rembrandt alone perhaps could add any thing to this subject. Of him it might be said, that his light shone in darkness." The wreaths of flowers and foliage carved in wood on the wainscots and ceiling of many of the rooms, by the celebrated Grinling Gibbons in Charles the Second's time, show a wonderful lightness and facility of hand, and give pleasure to the eye. The other ornaments and curiosities I need not mention, as they are carefully pointed out by the housekeeper to the admiring visiter. There are two heads, however, (one of them happens to have a screen placed before it) which I would by no means have him to pass over, if he is an artist, or feels the slightest interest in the art. They are, I should suppose unquestionably, the original studies by Raphael of the heads of the Virgin and Joseph in his famous picture of the Madonna of the Cradle. The Virgin is particularly beautiful, and in the finest preservation, as indeed are all his genuine pictures. The canvass is not quite covered in some places; the colours are as fresh as if newly laid on, and the execution is as firm and vigorous as if his hand had just left it. It shows how this artist wrought. The head is, no doubt, a highly-finished study from nature, done for a particular purpose, and worked up according to the painter's conception of that purpose, but still retaining all the force and truth of individuality. He got all he could from Nature, and gave all he could to her in return. If Raphael had merely sketched this divine face on the canvass from the idea in his own mind, why not stamp it on the larger composition at once? He could work it up and refine upon it there just as well, and it would almost necessarily undergo some alteration in being transferred thither afterwards. But if it was done as a careful copy from Nature in the first instance, this was the only way in which he could proceed, or indeed by which he could arrive at such consummate excellence. The head of the Joseph (leaning on the hand and looking down) is fine, but neither so fine as the companion to it, nor is it by any means so elaborately worked up in the present sketch.

I am no teller of stories; but there is one belonging to BurleighHouse, of which I happen to know some of the particulars. The late Earl of Exeter had been divorced from his first wife, a woman of fashion, and of somewhat more gaiety of manners than “ lords who love their ladies like.” He determined to seek out a second wife in a humbler sphere of life, and that it should be one who, having no knowledge of his rank, should love him for himself alone. For this purpose, he went and settled incognito (under the name of Mr. Jones) at Hodnet, an obscure village in Shropshire. He made overtures to one or two damsels in the neighbourhood, but they were too knowing to be taken in by him. His manners were not boorish, his mode of life was retired, it was odd how he got his livelihood, and at last, he began to be taken for a highwayman. In this dilemma he turned to Miss Hoggins, the eldest daughter of a small farmer, at whose house he lodged. Miss Hoggins, it might seem, had not been used to romp with the clowns: there was something in the manners of their quiet, but eccentric guest, that she liked. As he found that he had inspired her with that kind of regard which he wished for, he made honourable proposals to her, and at the end of some months, they were married, without his letting her know who he was. They set off in a post-chaise from her father's house, and travelled across the country. In this manner, they arrived at Stamford, and passed through the town without stopping till they came to the entrance of Burleigh-Park, which is on the outside of it. The gates flew open, the chaise entered, and drove down the long avenue of trees that leads up to the front of this fine old mansion. As they drew nearer to it, and she seemed a little surprised where they were going, he said, “Well, my dear, this is Burleigh-House, it is the home I have promised to bring you to, and you are the Countess of Exeter!" It is said the shock of this discovery was too much for this young creature, and that she never recovered it. It was a sensation worth dying for. The world we live in was worth making, had it been only for this. Ye Thousand and One Tales of the Arabian Night's Entertainment! hide your diminished heads! I neyer wished to have been a lord but when I think of this story,



Darkness! I love thee, for methinks my soul

Steps from its earthly threshold forth at large

Into thee, fleet and free, as is the barge
To whom th' horizon is the only goal.
Darkness! I love thee, for thou art the birth

Of infant thought; and though thy hue be sad

And thy dusk form in sombre garment clad,
Still there are in the worlds of dreamy mirth.
. E'en when the weary thoughts are sleeping, then
The tingling minutes sound like tiny bell
From distant sheep-fold heard, and to the ken
Is dimly ministrant the vision's spell.
Darkness! I love thee, and to be all thine

In death, methinks I would not much repine.
Vol. III. No. 17.-1822.





“I have done penance for contemning love ;
Whose high imperious thoughts have punish'd me
With bitter fasts, and penitential groans,
With nightly tears, and daily heart-sore sighs:
For, in revenge of my contempt of love,
Love hath chased sleep from my enthralled eyes,
And made them watchers of my own heart's sorrow."

Old Play. And must I bring to an end the relation of this my first delightful excursion into the confines of Love's Kingdom; I would fain have left it where it is. I might then have half-fancied, as I more than half wish, that it never had ended. They might then have written on my tomb, “ He too was an Arcadian.” But this was not to be. I was reserved to write these Confessions, which is a little hard upon me, considering that, however sanguine I may be as to the good effect they will produce, I cannot believe the world will gain by them what I have Jost-so that the sacrifice will not be an equitable one. But it is worse than useless to think of this now. This first love ended, then, as all first-love should end, if at all,-namely, just where it began. These nightly meetings were repeated as often as I chose to seek them; that is to say, every night, night after night, for months and months. I used to go to the corner of the little court at dusk every evening, as regularly as the dusk came; and the stately daughter of the old fortune-teller used to look for the one as naturally as she did for the other. Spring, summer, or winter-hail, rain, or shine there I was, as regular a watcher as the stars, and as happy a one. Whether the object for which I was watching came to me in person, or not, very soon became a matter almost of indifference to me. She always came to me in idea, and this was enough for me; for it was the idea of her that I had all along been loving. On fine warm moonlight nights in particular, this idea used to come to me of itself, and compass me all about, as the halo does the moon which it seems to love. And even on bitter cold or rainy nights, if the frost for a moment pinched this one self-existent idea out of ine, or the rain washed it away, one glance at her window when a light was flitting by it, or one moment of anxious listening at the door as her footstep was heard on the stairs, brought it back to me in all its strength and beauty.* And when the time came for me to go home, I went contentedly, almost forgetting that I had not seen her.

How long my love could have sustained itself on this last seemingly meagre diet, there is no telling. I doubt, not long; for they say it cannot even “ live on flowers." How, then, must it have fared on the mere shadows of flowers ? But about twice a week upon an average I was permitted to look on the fruit itself, in all its ripe fragrance; and one of these visitations was enough to feed even to fulness an imagination that has always had the power of sustaining itself for a long while

The reader will be good enough to bear in mind that these insights into love's mysteries have come to me since. Happily for me, I knew as little of the rationale of them then, as the stock-dove knows of the murmuring that it sends into the haunted air, after its absent mate.

together, on the cameleon's dish.” And as to its hankering after any change of fair, what does the young unbacked colt seek for, but the green grass and the fresh spring? And do not these sustain his spirits and his strength, so that, naked as he is, he can hunt the wind for sport, and toss up his head and send forth his happy voice, to greet the descending rain-storm? But when he has been a little while in harness, alas! the case is altered. He finds grass and water but washy fare ; and if you would keep up his courage and his beauty, and have him do his work without flogging, young as he is, you must pamper him with heating hay, stimulating corn, and warm mashes; and his body must be "clothed in purple and fine linen,” even in the hot stable.

Thus it was with me, and thus it is. But I am at present only to speak of what was. This thinking, and looking, and listening, varied as it now and then was by the sauce piquante of smilings and handpressings,—this toujours perdrix—was to me dainty fare; and I call love to witness that I could have been content with it all my days, without ever looking for better, or even fancying that there was better; which, indeed, I am far from being satisfied of to this day, unless the natural effect of better be to waste and wither one away to a mere anatomy, mind and body, leaving one no faith in goodness but as the absence of evil, no knowledge of joy but as the opposite of sorrow, no sense of life but that which consists in the fear of death.

No; sans question, mind is a kind of cameleon, in more respects than that of changing its colour in compliment to that with which it is in contact. “ Air, thin air," is its natural and favourite food; and without this it dies, or worse than dies—becoming absorbed and blended with its antagonist, body. True, it is a perfect epicure in this one dish, and loves to have it dressed in as many different fashions as the king's cook boasted that he could dress an old pair of boots; but air it must be still. For this it has a stronger affinity than for all other substances, and consequently attracts it from them all, as the metals attract oxygen. And truth to say, in virtue of this affinity, it not seldom (like them) forms somewhat unseemly and intractable calxes, not much available for the common purposes of life, until they are again purged and purified (as it is called) by passing them through the fire of custom and society. This purification, such as it is, brings all right again, as the abettors of it would have us believe: and perhaps they are not very far from the truth after all; for by this process the vital air becomes again liberated, to be again absorbed by fresh aspirants after it; and thus is fulfilled that perpetual change which seems to be the fiat of Nature-thus circles the wheel of human life—"thus runs the world away.

But my spirit is getting into its laboratory again, and, with a “strange alchemy," is once more pursuing what it knows to be a fruitless search after the only elixir vitæ. And oh-to have been a real alchymist! In those days the hieroglyphical robe, and the velvet cap, were “ your only wear.” To have been a sincere and confirmed alchymist must have been even better than to be a lover, in the proportion of a whole long life to a triad of short years. But to have been a lover for the first three years of youth, and an alchymist all the rest of one's days, must doubtless have been the ne plus ultra of

« AnteriorContinuar »