smiling again at the dignity with which this title invested their
playful friend, "you know we could never see their shape, on account of
his clustering curls. Nay, I remember, he once started back, as shyly as
a wild deer, when Miriam made a pretence of examining them. How do you
"O, I certainly shall not contend against such a weight of evidence,
the fact of his faunship being otherwise so probable," answered the
sculptor, still hardly retaining his gravity. "Faun or not, Donatello or
the Count di Monte Beni - is a singularly wild creature, and, as I have
remarked on other occasions, though very gentle, does not love to be
touched. Speaking in no harsh sense, there is a great deal of animal
nature in him, as if he had been born in the woods, and had run wild all
his childhood, and were as yet but imperfectly domesticated. Life, even
in our day, is very simple and unsophisticated in some of the shaggy
nooks of the Apennines."
"It annoys me very much," said Hilda, "this inclination, which
most people have, to explain away the wonder and the mystery out
of everything. Why could not you allow me - and yourself, too - the
satisfaction of thinking him a Faun?"
"Pray keep your belief, dear Hilda, if it makes you any happier," said
the sculptor; "and I shall do my best to become a convert. Donatello has
asked me to spend the summer with him, in his ancestral tower, where
I purpose investigating the pedigree of these sylvan counts, his
forefathers; and if their shadows beckon me into dreamland, I shall
willingly follow. By the bye, speaking of Donatello, there is a point on
which I should like to be enlightened."
"Can I help you, then?" said Hilda, in answer to his look.
"Is there the slightest chance of his winning Miriam's affections?"
"Miriam! she, so accomplished and gifted!" exclaimed Hilda; "and he, a
rude, uncultivated boy! No, no, no!"
"It would seem impossible," said the sculptor. "But, on the other hand,
a gifted woman flings away her affections so unaccountably, sometimes!
Miriam of late has been very morbid and miserable, as we both know.
Young as she is, the morning light seems already to have faded out of
her life; and now comes Donatello, with natural sunshine enough for
himself and her, and offers her the opportunity of making her heart and
life all new and cheery again. People of high intellectual endowments do
not require similar ones in those they love. They are just the persons
to appreciate the wholesome gush of natural feeling, the honest
affection, the simple joy, the fulness of contentment with what
he loves, which Miriam sees in Donatello. True; she may call him a
simpleton. It is a necessity of the case; for a man loses the capacity
for this kind of affection, in proportion as he cultivates and refines
"Dear me!" said Hilda, drawing imperceptibly away from her companion.
"Is this the penalty of refinement? Pardon me; I do not believe it.
It is because you are a sculptor, that you think nothing can be finely
wrought except it be cold and hard, like the marble in which your ideas
take shape. I am a painter, and know that the most delicate beauty may
be softened and warmed throughout."
"I said a foolish thing, indeed," answered the sculptor. "It surprises
me, for I might have drawn a wiser knowledge out of my own experience.
It is the surest test of genuine love, that it brings back our early
simplicity to the worldliest of us."
Thus talking, they loitered slowly along beside the parapet which
borders the level summit of the Pincian with its irregular sweep. At
intervals they looked through the lattice-work of their thoughts at the
varied prospects that lay before and beneath them.
From the terrace where they now stood there is an abrupt descent towards
the Piazza del Popolo; and looking down into its broad space they
beheld the tall palatial edifices, the church domes, and the ornamented
gateway, which grew and were consolidated out of the thought of Michael
Angelo. They saw, too, the red granite obelisk, oldest of things,
even in Rome, which rises in the centre of the piazza, with a fourfold
fountain at its base. All Roman works and ruins (whether of the
empire, the far-off republic, or the still more distant kings) assume a
transient, visionary, and impalpable character when we think that this
indestructible monument supplied one of the recollections which Moses
and the Israelites bore from Egypt into the desert. Perchance, on
beholding the cloudy pillar and the fiery column, they whispered
awestricken to one another, "In its shape it is like that old obelisk
which we and our fathers have so often seen on the borders of the Nile."
And now that very obelisk, with hardly a trace of decay upon it, is the
first thing that the modern traveller sees after entering the Flaminian
Lifting their eyes, Hilda and her companion gazed westward, and saw
beyond the invisible Tiber the Castle of St. Angelo; that immense tomb
of a pagan emperor, with the archangel at its summit.
Still farther off appeared a mighty pile of buildings, surmounted by the
vast dome, which all of us have shaped and swelled outward, like a huge
bubble, to the utmost Scope of our imaginations, long before we see it
floating over the worship of the city. It may be most worthily seen
from precisely the point where our two friends were now standing. At
any nearer view the grandeur of St. Peter's hides itself behind the
immensity of its separate parts, - so that we see only the front, only
the sides, only the pillared length and loftiness of the portico, and
not the mighty whole. But at this distance the entire outline of the
world's cathedral, as well as that of the palace of the world's
chief priest, is taken in at once. In such remoteness, moreover, the
imagination is not debarred from lending its assistance, even while
we have the reality before our eyes, and helping the weakness of human
sense to do justice to so grand an object. It requires both faith and
fancy to enable us to feel, what is nevertheless so true, that yonder,
in front of the purple outline of hills, is the grandest edifice ever
built by man, painted against God's loveliest sky.
After contemplating a little while a scene which their long residence in
Rome had made familiar to them, Kenyon and Hilda again let their glances
fall into the piazza at their feet. They there beheld Miriam, who had
just entered the Porta del Popolo, and was standing by the obelisk and
fountain. With a gesture that impressed Kenyon as at once suppliant and
imperious, she seemed to intimate to a figure which had attended her
thus far, that it was now her desire to be left alone. The pertinacious
model, however, remained immovable.
And the sculptor here noted a circumstance, which, according to the
interpretation he might put upon it, was either too trivial to be
mentioned, or else so mysteriously significant that he found it
difficult to believe his eyes. Miriam knelt down on the steps of the
fountain; so far there could be no question of the fact. To other
observers, if any there were, she probably appeared to take this
attitude merely for the convenience of dipping her fingers into the gush
of water from the mouth of one of the stone lions. But as she clasped
her hands together after thus bathing them, and glanced upward at the
model, an idea took strong possession of Kenyon's mind that Miriam was
kneeling to this dark follower there in the world's face!
"Do you see it?" he said to Hilda.
"See what?" asked she, surprised at the emotion of his tone. "I see
Miriam, who has just bathed her hands in that delightfully cool water. I
often dip my fingers into a Roman fountain, and think of the brook that
used to be one of my playmates in my New England village."
"I fancied I saw something else," said Kenyon; "but it was doubtless a
But, allowing that he had caught a true glimpse into the hidden
significance of Miriam's gesture, what a terrible thraldom did it
suggest! Free as she seemed to be, - beggar as he looked, - the nameless
vagrant must then be dragging the beautiful Miriam through the streets
of Rome, fettered and shackled more cruelly than any captive queen of
yore following in an emperor's triumph. And was it conceivable that
she would have been thus enthralled unless some great error - how great
Kenyon dared not think - or some fatal weakness had given this dark
adversary a vantage ground?
"Hilda," said he abruptly, "who and what is Miriam? Pardon me; but are
you sure of her?"
"Sure of her!" repeated Hilda, with an angry blush, for her friend's
sake. "I am sure that she is kind, good, and generous; a true and
faithful friend, whom I love dearly, and who loves me as well! What more
than this need I be sure of?"
"And your delicate instincts say all this in her favor? - nothing against
her?" continued the sculptor, without heeding the irritation of Hilda's
tone. "These are my own impressions, too. But she is such a mystery!
We do not even know whether she is a countrywoman of ours, or an
Englishwoman, or a German. There is Anglo-Saxon blood in her veins, one
would say, and a right English accent on her tongue, but much that is
not English breeding, nor American. Nowhere else but in Rome, and as an
artist, could she hold a place in society without giving some clew to
her past life."
"I love her dearly," said Hilda, still with displeasure in her tone,
"and trust her most entirely."
"My heart trusts her at least, whatever my head may do," replied Kenyon;
"and Rome is not like one of our New England villages, where we need the
permission of each individual neighbor for every act that we do, every
word that we utter, and every friend that we make or keep. In these
particulars the papal despotism allows us freer breath than our native
air; and if we like to take generous views of our associates, we can do
so, to a reasonable extent, without ruining ourselves."
"The music has ceased," said Hilda; "I am going now."
There are three streets that, beginning close beside each other, diverge
from the Piazza del Popolo towards the heart of Rome: on the left, the
Via del Babuino; on the right, the Via della Ripetta; and between these
two that world-famous avenue, the Corso. It appeared that Miriam and her
strange companion were passing up the first mentioned of these three,
and were soon hidden from Hilda and the sculptor.
The two latter left the Pincian by the broad and stately walk that
skirts along its brow. Beneath them, from the base of the abrupt
descent, the city spread wide away in a close contiguity of red-earthen
roofs, above which rose eminent the domes of a hundred churches, beside
here and there a tower, and the upper windows of some taller or higher
situated palace, looking down on a multitude of palatial abodes. At a
distance, ascending out of the central mass of edifices, they could see
the top of the Antonine column, and near it the circular roof of the
Pantheon looking heavenward with its ever-open eye.
Except these two objects, almost everything that they beheld was
mediaeval, though built, indeed, of the massive old stones and
indestructible bricks of imperial Rome; for the ruins of the Coliseum,
the Golden House, and innumerable temples of Roman gods, and mansions of
Caesars and senators, had supplied the material for all those gigantic
hovels, and their walls were cemented with mortar of inestimable cost,
being made of precious antique statues, burnt long ago for this petty
Rome, as it now exists, has grown up under the Popes, and seems like
nothing but a heap of broken rubbish, thrown into the great chasm
between our own days and the Empire, merely to fill it up; and, for the
better part of two thousand years, its annals of obscure policies,
and wars, and continually recurring misfortunes, seem also but broken
rubbish, as compared with its classic history.
If we consider the present city as at all connected with the famous one
of old, it is only because we find it built over its grave. A depth of
thirty feet of soil has covered up the Rome of ancient days, so that it
lies like the dead corpse of a giant, decaying for centuries, with no
survivor mighty enough even to bury it, until the dust of all those
years has gathered slowly over its recumbent form and made a casual
We know not how to characterize, in any accordant and compatible
terms, the Rome that lies before us; its sunless alleys, and streets
of palaces; its churches, lined with the gorgeous marbles that were
originally polished for the adornment of pagan temples; its thousands of
evil smells, mixed up with fragrance of rich incense, diffused from as
many censers; its little life, deriving feeble nutriment from what
has long been dead. Everywhere, some fragment of ruin suggesting the
magnificence of a former epoch; everywhere, moreover, a Cross, - and
nastiness at the foot of it. As the sum of all, there are recollections
that kindle the soul, and a gloom and languor that depress it beyond any
depth of melancholic sentiment that can be elsewhere known.
Yet how is it possible to say an unkind or irreverential word of Rome?
The city of all time, and of all the world! The spot for which man's
great life and deeds have done so much, and for which decay has done
whatever glory and dominion could not do! At this moment, the evening
sunshine is flinging its golden mantle over it, making all that we
thought mean magnificent; the bells of all the churches suddenly ring
out, as if it were a peal of triumph because Rome is still imperial.
"I sometimes fancy," said Hilda, on whose susceptibility the scene
always made a strong impression, "that Rome - mere Rome - will crowd
everything else out of my heart."
"Heaven forbid!" ejaculated the sculptor. They had now reached the grand
stairs that ascend from the Piazza di Spagna to the hither brow of the
Pincian Hill. Old Beppo, the millionnaire of his ragged fraternity,
it is a wonder that no artist paints him as the cripple whom St. Peter
heals at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, - was just mounting his donkey
to depart, laden with the rich spoil of the day's beggary.
Up the stairs, drawing his tattered cloak about his face, came the
model, at whom Beppo looked askance, jealous of an encroacher on his
rightful domain. The figure passed away, however, up the Via Sistina. In
the piazza below, near the foot of the magnificent steps, stood Miriam,
with her eyes bent on the ground, as if she were counting those
little, square, uncomfortable paving-stones, that make it a penitential
pilgrimage to walk in Rome. She kept this attitude for several minutes,
and when, at last, the importunities of a beggar disturbed her from it,
she seemed bewildered and pressed her hand upon her brow.
"She has been in some sad dream or other, poor thing!" said Kenyon
sympathizingly; "and even now she is imprisoned there in a kind of cage,
the iron bars of which are made of her own thoughts."
"I fear she is not well," said Hilda. "I am going down the stairs, and
will join Miriam."
"Farewell, then," said the sculptor. "Dear Hilda, this is a perplexed
and troubled world! It soothes me inexpressibly to think of you in your
tower, with white doves and white thoughts for your companions, so high
above us all, and With the Virgin for your household friend. You know
not how far it throws its light, that lamp which you keep burning at her
shrine! I passed beneath the tower last night, and the ray cheered me,
because you lighted it."
"It has for me a religious significance," replied Hilda quietly, "and
yet I am no Catholic."
They parted, and Kenyon made haste along the Via Sistina, in the hope
of overtaking the model, whose haunts and character he was anxious to
investigate, for Miriam's sake. He fancied that he saw him a long way
in advance, but before he reached the Fountain of the Triton the dusky
figure had vanished.
A SCULPTOR'S STUDIO
About this period, Miriam seems to have been goaded by a weary
restlessness that drove her abroad on any errand or none. She went one
morning to visit Kenyon in his studio, whither he had invited her to
see a new statue, on which he had staked many hopes, and which was now
almost completed in the clay. Next to Hilda, the person for whom
Miriam felt most affection and confidence was Kenyon; and in all the
difficulties that beset her life, it was her impulse to draw near Hilda
for feminine sympathy, and the sculptor for brotherly counsel.
Yet it was to little purpose that she approached the edge of the
voiceless gulf between herself and them. Standing on the utmost verge of
that dark chasm, she might stretch out her hand, and never clasp a hand
of theirs; she might strive to call out, "Help, friends! help!" but, as
with dreamers when they shout, her voice would perish inaudibly in
the remoteness that seemed such a little way. This perception of an
infinite, shivering solitude, amid which we cannot come close enough to
human beings to be warmed by them, and where they turn to cold, chilly
shapes of mist, is one of the most forlorn results of any accident,
misfortune, crime, or peculiarity of character, that puts an individual
ajar with the world. Very often, as in Miriam's case, there is an
insatiable instinct that demands friendship, love, and intimate
communion, but is forced to pine in empty forms; a hunger of the heart,
which finds only shadows to feed upon.
Kenyon's studio was in a cross-street, or, rather, an ugly and dirty
little lane, between the Corso and the Via della Ripetta; and though
chill, narrow, gloomy, and bordered with tall and shabby structures,
the lane was not a whit more disagreeable than nine tenths of the Roman
streets. Over the door of one of the houses was a marble tablet, bearing
an inscription, to the purport that the sculpture-rooms within had
formerly been occupied by the illustrious artist Canova. In these
precincts (which Canova's genius was not quite of a character to render
sacred, though it certainly made them interesting) the young American
sculptor had now established himself.
The studio of a sculptor is generally but a rough and dreary-looking
place, with a good deal the aspect, indeed, of a stone-mason's workshop.
Bare floors of brick or plank, and plastered walls, - an old chair
or two, or perhaps only a block of marble (containing, however, the
possibility of ideal grace within it) to sit down upon; some hastily
scrawled sketches of nude figures on the whitewash of the wall. These
last are probably the sculptor's earliest glimpses of ideas that may
hereafter be solidified into imperishable stone, or perhaps may remain
as impalpable as a dream. Next there are a few very roughly modelled
little figures in clay or plaster, exhibiting the second stage of the
idea as it advances towards a marble immortality; and then is seen the
exquisitely designed shape of clay, more interesting than even the
final marble, as being the intimate production of the sculptor himself,
moulded throughout with his loving hands, and nearest to his imagination
and heart. In the plaster-cast, from this clay model, the beauty of
the statue strangely disappears, to shine forth again with pure white
radiance, in the precious marble of Carrara. Works in all these stages
of advancement, and some with the final touch upon them, might be found
in Kenyon's studio.
Here might be witnessed the process of actually chiselling the marble,
with which (as it is not quite satisfactory to think) a sculptor in
these days has very little to do. In Italy, there is a class of men
whose merely mechanical skill is perhaps more exquisite than was
possessed by the ancient artificers, who wrought out the designs of
Praxiteles; or, very possibly, by Praxiteles himself. Whatever of
illusive representation can be effected in marble, they are capable of
achieving, if the object be before their eyes. The sculptor has but to
present these men with a plaster-cast of his design, and a sufficient
block of marble, and tell them that the figure is imbedded in the stone,
and must be freed from its encumbering superfluities; and, in due time,
without the necessity of his touching the work with his own finger,
he will see before him the statue that is to make him renowned. His
creative power has wrought it with a word.
In no other art, surely, does genius find such effective instruments,
and so happily relieve itself of the drudgery, of actual performance;
doing wonderfully nice things by the hands of other people, when it may
be suspected they could not always be done by the sculptor's own. And
how much of the admiration which our artists get for their buttons
and buttonholes, their shoe-ties, their neckcloths, - and these, at our
present epoch of taste, make a large share of the renown, - would be
abated, if we were generally aware that the sculptor can claim no credit
for such pretty performances, as immortalized in marble! They are not
his work, but that of some nameless machine in human shape.
Miriam stopped an instant in an antechamber, to look at a half-finished
bust, the features of which seemed to be struggling out of the stone;
and, as it were, scattering and dissolving its hard substance by the
glow of feeling and intelligence. As the skilful workman gave stroke
after stroke of the chisel with apparent carelessness, but sure effect,
it was impossible not to think that the outer marble was merely an
extraneous environment; the human countenance within its embrace must
have existed there since the limestone ledges of Carrara were first
made. Another bust was nearly completed, though still one of Kenyon's
most trustworthy assistants was at work, giving delicate touches,
shaving off an impalpable something, and leaving little heaps of marble
dust to attest it.
"As these busts in the block of marble," thought Miriam, "so does our
individual fate exist in the limestone of time. We fancy that we carve
it out; but its ultimate shape is prior to all our action."
Kenyon was in the inner room, but, hearing a step in the antechamber, he
threw a veil over what he was at work upon, and came out to receive his
visitor. He was dressed in a gray blouse, with a little cap on the top
of his head; a costume which became him better than the formal garments
which he wore whenever he passed out of his own domains. The sculptor
had a face which, when time had done a little more for it, would offer a
worthy subject for as good an artist as himself: features finely cut, as
if already marble; an ideal forehead, deeply set eyes, and a mouth much
hidden in a light-brown beard, but apparently sensitive and delicate.
"I will not offer you my hand," said he; "it is grimy with Cleopatra's
"No; I will not touch clay; it is earthy and human," answered Miriam.
"I have come to try whether there is any calm and coolness among
your marbles. My own art is too nervous, too passionate, too full of
agitation, for me to work at it whole days together, without intervals
of repose. So, what have you to show me?"
"Pray look at everything here," said Kenyon. "I love to have painters
see my work. Their judgment is unprejudiced, and more valuable than that
of the world generally, from the light which their own art throws on
mine. More valuable, too, than that of my brother sculptors, who never
judge me fairly, - nor I them, perhaps."
To gratify him, Miriam looked round at the specimens in marble or
plaster, of which there were several in the room, comprising originals
or casts of most of the designs that Kenyon had thus far produced. He
was still too young to have accumulated a large gallery of such things.
What he had to show were chiefly the attempts and experiments, in
various directions, of a beginner in art, acting as a stern tutor to
himself, and profiting more by his failures than by any successes of
which he was yet capable. Some of them, however, had great merit; and
in the pure, fine glow of the new marble, it may be, they dazzled the
judgment into awarding them higher praise than they deserved. Miriam
admired the statue of a beautiful youth, a pearlfisher; who had got
entangled in the weeds at the bottom of the sea, and lay dead among the
pearl-oysters, the rich shells, and the seaweeds, all of like value to
"The poor young man has perished among the prizes that he sought,"
remarked she. "But what a strange efficacy there is in death! If we
cannot all win pearls, it causes an empty shell to satisfy us just as
well. I like this statue, though it is too cold and stern in its moral