Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

heart, Venitia's only my body; and yet we both love each other dearly. Let me describe her as she looked, standing by my window a few moments since, gazing out on the night and the lake, and talking of Italy and our journey with all the keen fresh taste for novelty which youth gives.

Venitia, whose rather fanciful name was given her from her birthplace, Venice, is really a beautiful woman. Her figure has the majesty of an empress and the grace of a nymph, which give her that double charm of infantile innocence and womanly reserve. Her height is full, her development fine; large, well-formed limbs, statuelike in their mould. She has a well-shaped, well-poised head, with a great wealth of waving hair, a rich brown in its hue. Her fine brow expresses capability of thought as her eyes do of feeling, and these eyes are the glory of her face.

The arch of the brow is a little prominent, and gives her a stern expression; the setting and shape of the eye and whole facial outline is Greek; but the full face, owing to the firm brow, is not so flat as the Greek form, and therefore not so insipid. Her eyes are large, their expression, and that of the mouth, as imperious as those of a Juno. Indeed, she has often been likened to the Juno in the Villa Ludovisi at Rome, a profile engraving of which I have had framed, and christened it playfully “ Venitia.” There is the same mouth line, the same liquid reflective eyeball and resolute curve of the brow and lip, the firm, high-arched lines, indicative of strong will, contending with the soft flowing ones of loveliness.

The color of the eyes is a tender poetic gray, which deepens to an intense black in earnest moments from the enlarging of the pupil, and there is an expression in them sometimes that amounts almost to inspiration; but the fire is too redundant, too intrepid, and at times there is a sombre mysterious look in them which tells of distant thunder and far-off lightning; they need toning down, with some great emotion that shall shake her being to its

very centre.

Her mouth, that feature which tells so much of one's character and culture, is faultless. Some one has well said, that all the features of the human face are made for us but our mouths; these we make for ourselves. Venitia’s is full of expression; the rich hued lips are as quivering and trembling as "shadowy water with a sweet south wind breathing over it”; and the curves are those soft, delicate ones, which only culture and the early discipline of refinement can give ; but there is that same imperious line triumphant, which hardens her whole face, and which must be the one that makes the striking resemblance to the Juno ; for I have seen a simple fragment of a female head on a mutilated gem pronounced to be that of the haughty queen of the gods, simply from this imperious mouth line.

A pallor which the Italians call morbidezza is the hue of her skin, golden and transparent in its high lights like ivory. Titian knew and felt to the very tingling point of his fingers the rich loveliness of such flesh.

Does this description sound exaggerated ? To me it seems tame ; for words can scarcely give the effect produced on me by such beauty as Venitia’s. I lie on the lounge sometimes and watch her with half-closed eyes, as I would a picture or statue, her graceful motions, every attitude an unconscious pose of statue-like beauty, and think of luscious fruit, delightful sounds, warm coloring, and great sculptors' creations. Why, to paint Venitia, a Raphael and Titian should unite; for she has the pure beauty of a Madonna, combined with the rich full size and attraction of a Magdalen.

She has all the organization of an artist, too, - quick perceptions, keen enjoyments, is sympathetic, and to a certain point creative; but, with all this beauty of mind and mould, there is a mysterious, veiled, inexplicable something about her, which keeps her from developing completely; she is by some enchantment locked up from herself and from others.

Venitia's life melody is not only yet unwritten, but even unprefigured; here is the fine human instrument with its rich assemblage of strings and keys; preluding chords, too, are heard full of promising beauty, but the life-theme is not hinted at. To some women this theme never comes; the whole human existence is but a gentle soft preluding; and others even have preludes full of complicated harmonies, sounding like intricate themes, but the life pieces end as mere voluntaries, nothing more, and so it may be with our Venitia.

We are very proud of her. She gives us no cause for uneasiness or discomfort. There is none of the restlessness and caprice about her which might be pardoned in one so gifted and charming. She is pure and sparkling, too, like a first-water diamond, - yes, that is just it, — for she is almost as hard.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

E left Vevay last Thursday for Geneva. On board the lake steamer Rhone, we met a Milanese whose conversation amused us; she

was not young, about mid-age; not at all pretty, but had an intelligent face. Some chance accident introduced us, a courtesy, I think, such as the offer of a seat or something of the like. She talked rapidly, freely, and well; described Milan, Genoa, and Turin with graphic distinctness; drew a rapid sketch of Italian literature, and touched on Italian politics with a forked tongue.

We talked of books over Heine's “ Lutèce,” which I was reading, and a novel of De Balzac she held in her hands. She spoke contemptuously of French authors, was well read in English literature, as cultivated Italians are apt to be, -- and said she “adored the classic writers of England,” as she called the poets and dramatists of the Elizabethan day. When we approached Geneva we all leaned over the guards of the boat together.

“ Look !” she cried, " at the ugly place. It is a great phalanstery town; but that is the spirit of the day,no wonder. In the last age this community idea' was dreamed of by philosophers; in this nineteenth century the people carry it into execution. The philosophers meant it for the improvement of the mind and condition

[ocr errors]

of the poor; the people of this day use it to give to themselves the luxuries of the old noblesse, — the temporal sensual ones, -- and ragged half-price business they make of it, with their mammoth hotels and community-cafés, their woven cotton lace, and their thin coatings of silver and gold.”

Her lips curled scornfully, she drew in her sharp pointed chin and threw bacķ her head with a haughty, resentful air, as she added, in low hissing words with half-closed lips, as Italians speak when at white-heat rage,

“Ah, the influence of the South is over! No more beauty, no more poesy in life. The reign of the cold, rigid North is supreme, with its chemins de fer (railways), its fils de fer (telegraphs), and all other choses de fer" (iron things).

Then she muttered from Dante's Inferno this passage:

“Lo’mperador del doloroso regno
Da mezzo 'l petto uscia fuor della ghiaccia.
" That Emperor who sways

The realm of sorrow, at mid breast from the ice." *

I have no doubt she felt full of gall and bitterness as she thought how prone to earth lay her beloved Italy under this detested rule of the Teuton.

Venitia, with graceful kindness said to her: “ Beautiful Italy, seated in your loveliness on the earth, like poor uncrowned Constance !

• Here I in sorrow sit ; Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it.'" The Italian turned sharply, with tears actually glittering in her keen black eyes, and looked at the lovely girl as if she adored her. The boat touched the pier and

* Cary's Dante ; Inferno, Canto XXXIV.

« AnteriorContinuar »