Walter Savage Landor.

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V. 2.



Ovid and a Prince of the Get^e .
Ines de Castro, Don Pedro, and Dona Blanca
Pio-NoNO and Antonelli
Nicholas and Diogenes
Nicholas and Nesselrode


The Idyls of Theocritus

The Poems of Catullus

Francesco Petrarca ....















This volume contains the " Pentameron," five additional Con-
versations, and the three critical essays on Theocritus, Catullus,
and Petrarca. The "Pentameron" was first published in 1837,
and again in 1846 and 1876. Four of the additional conversa-
tions appeared at various times in the Examiner — " Ovid and
Prince of the Getae " on April 7, 1855; " Pio Nono and
Antonelli," Dec. 2, 1854; "Nicholas and Diogenes," Feb. 1 1,
1854; "Nicholas and Nesselrode," June 11, 1853. None of
these four conversations have been since reprinted. The fifth,
" Ines di Castro," may be found in the form here given in
Vol. III. of the first edition, published in 1828. Landor after-
wards enlarged it and turned it into verse. The metrical version
will be found in the volume of poems published in 1 8 3 1 and in
the collected works, 1846 and 1876. The Critical Essays all
appeared in the Foreign Quarterly Revieiv — the one on Catullus
in July 1842, that on Theocritus in October of the same year,
and that on Petrarch in July 1843.

The Index found at the end of the book has been prepared by
Lucy Crump. The main object has been to indicate as far as
possible allusions to Landor's own life scattered throughout the
volumes, and to illustrate his opinions. A word is needful to
explain the method adopted in the numbering of the volumes in
the Index. For the sake of clearness and brevity Vols. I. and
II. of " Poems and Dialogues " are called Vols. VII. and VIII. ,
and Vols. I. and II. of the " Longer Prose Works," Vols. IX.
and X. respectively.





Wanting a bell for my church at San Vivaldo, and hearing that
our holy religion is rapidly gaining ground in England, to the un-
speakable comfort and refreshment of the Faithful, I bethought
myself that I might peradventure obtain such effectual aid, from
the piety and liberality of the converts, as well-nigh to accomplish
the purchase of one. Desirous moreover of visiting that famous
nation, of whose spiritual prosperity we all entertain such animated
hopes, now that the clouds of ignorance begin to break and vanish,
I resolved that nothing on my part should be wanting to so blessed
a consummation. Therefore, while I am executing my mission
in regard to the bell, I omit no opportunity of demonstrating how
much happier and peacefuller are we who live in unity, than those
who, abandoning the household of Faith, clothe themselves with
shreds and warm themselves with shavings.

Subsidiaiy to the aid I solicit, I brought with me, and here
lay before the public, translated by the best hand I could afford
to engage, " Certain Interinetus of Messer Francesco Petrarca
and Messer Giovanni Boccaccio, etc.," which, the booksellers tell
me, should be entitled " The Pentameron" unless I would return
with nothing in my pocket. I am ignorant what gave them this
idea of my intent, unless it be my deficiency in the language, for
certainly I had come to no such resolution. Assurances are
made to me by the intelligent and experienced in such merchan-
dise, that the manuscript is honestly worth from twenty-five to
thirty francesconi, or dollars. To such a pitch hath England
risen up again, within these few years, after all the expenditure of
her protracted war.

Is there any true Italian, above all is there any worthy native
of Certaldo or San Vivaldo, who revolveth not in his mind what

4 Longer Prose Works.

a surprise and delight it will be to Giovanni in Paradise, the first
time he hears, instead of that cracked and jarring tumbril (which
must have grated in his ear most grievously ever since its accident,
and have often tried his patience), just such another as he was
wont to hear when he rode over to join our townspeople at their
festa ? It will do his heart good, and make him think of old
times ; and perhaps he may drop a couple of prayers to the
Madonna for whoso had a hand in it.

Lest it should be bruited in England or elsewhere, that being
in my seventieth year, I have unadvisedly quitted my parish,
'■'■fond of change ^^ to use the blessed words of Saint Paul, I am
ready to show the certificate of Monsignore, my diocesan, approv-
ing of my voyage. Monsignore was pleased to think me capable
of undertaking it, telling me that I looked hale, spoke without
quavering, and, by the blessing of our lady, had nigh upon half
my teeth in their sockets, while, pointing to his own and shaking
his head, he repeated the celebrated lines of Horatius Flaccus,
who lived in the reign of Augustus, a short time before the
Incarnation : —

" Non ebur, sed horridum
Bucca dehiscit in mea lacuna ! "

Then, turning the discourse from so melancholy a topic, he was
pleased to relate from the inexhaustible stores of his archasological
requirements, that no new bell whatever had been consecrated in
his diocese of Samminiato since the year of our Lord 1611 : in
which year, on the first Sunday of August, a thunderbolt fell
into the belfry of the Duomo, by the negligence of Canonico
Malatesta, who, according to history, in his hurry to dine with
Conte Geronimo Bardi, at our San Vivaldo, omitted a word in
the mass. While he was playing at bowls after dinner on that
Sunday, or, as some will have it, while he was beating Ser
Matteo Filicaia at backgammon, and the younger men and ladies
of those two noble families were bird-catching with the civetta,
it began to thunder : and, within the evening, intelligence of the
thunderbolt was brought to the Canonico. On his return the
day following it was remarked, says the chronicler, that the
people took off their caps at the distance of only two or three
paces, instead of fifteen or twenty, and few stopped who met him ;

The Pentameron. 5

for the rumour had aheady gone abroad of his omission. He
often rode, as usual, to Conte Geronimo's, gammoned Ser
Matteo, hooded the civetta, lined a twig or two, stood behind the
spinette, hummed the next note, turned over the pages of the
music-book of the contess'ine, beating time on the chair-back, and
showing them what he could do now and then on the viola di
gamba. Only eight years had elapsed when, in the flower of his
age (for he had scarcely seen sixty), he was found dead in his
bed, after as hearty and convivial a supper as ever Canonico ate.
No warning, no olio santo, no viaticum, poor man ! Candles he
had ; and it was as much as he had, poor sinner ! And this
also happened in the month of August ! Monsignore, in his
great liberality, laid no heavy stress on the coincidence ; but
merely said,

" Well, Pievano ! a mass or two can do him no harm ; let us
hope he stands in need of few more ; but when you happen to
have leisure, and nobody else to think about, prythee clap
a wet clout on the fire there below in behalf of Canonico

I have done it gratis, and I trust he finds the benefit of it.
In the same spirit and by the same authority I gird myself for
this greater enterprise. Unable to form a satisfactory opinion
on the manuscript, I must again refer to my superior. It is the
opinion then of Monsignore, that our five dialogues were written
down by neither of the interlocutors, but rather by some intimate,
who loved them equally. " For," said Monsignore, " it was the
practice of Boccaccio to stand up among his personages, and to
take part himself in their discourses. Petrarca, who was fonder
of sheer dialogue and had much practice in it, never acquired any
dexterity in this species of composition, it being all question and
answer, short, snappish, quibbling, and uncomfortable. I speak
only of his Remedies of Adversity aud Prosperity, which indeed
leave his wisdom all its wholesomeness, but render it somewhat
apt to cleave to the roof of the mouth. The better parts of
Homer are in dialogue : and downward from him to Galileo
the noblest works of human genius have assumed this form :
among the rest I am sorry to find no few heretics and scoffers.
At the present day the fashion is over : every man pushes every
other man behind him, and will let none speak out but himself.

6 Longer Prose Works.

The Interviews took place not witliin the walls of Ceitaldo,
although within the parish, at Boccaccio's villa. It should be
notified to the curious, that about this ancient town, small,
deserted, dilapidated as it is, there are several towers and turrets
yet standing, one of which belongs to the mansion inhabited in
its day by Ser Giovanni. His tomb and effigy are in the church.
Nobody has opened the grave to throw light upon his relics ;
nobody has painted the marble ; nobody has broken off a foot or
a finger to do him honour ; not even an English name is engraven
on the face ; although the English hold confessedly the highest
rank in this department of literature. In Italy, and particularly
in Tuscany, the remains of the illustrious are inviolable ; and,
among the illustrious, men of genius hold the highest rank.
The arts are more potent than curiosity, more authoritative than
churchwardens : what Englishman will believe it ? Well ! let it
pass, courteous strangers ! ye shall find me in future less addicted
to the marvellous. At present I have only to lay before you an
ancient and (doubt it not) an authentic account of what passed
between my countrymen, Giovanni and Francesco, before they
parted for ever. It seemed probable, at this meeting, that
Giovanni would have been called away first ; for heavy and of
long continuance had been his infirmity : but he outlived it three
whole years. He could not outlive his friend so many months,
but followed him to the tomb before he had worn the glossiness
off the cloak Francesco in his will bequeathed to him.

We struggle with Death while we have friends around to
cheer us ; the moment we miss them we lose all heart for the
contest. Pardon my reflection ! I ought to have remembered I
am not in my stone pulpit, nor at home.

Prete Domenico Grigi,

Pievano of San Vtvaldo,

London, October i, 1836.


Boccaccio. Who is he that entered, and now steps so silently
and softly, yet with a foot so heavy it shakes my curtains ?

Frate Biagio ! can it possibly be you ?

No more physic for me, nor masses neither, at present.

Assunta ! Assuntina ! who is it ?

Assimta.^ I can not say. Signer Padrone ! he puts his finger
in the dimple of his chin, and smiles to make me hold my tongue.

Boccaccio. Fra Biagio ! are you come from Samminiato for
this ! You need not put your finger there. We want no secrets.
The girl knows her duty and does her business. I have slept well,
and wake better. \^ Raising himself up a little.

Why ? who are you ? It makes my eyes ache to look aslant

P First Edition has the following note : I am inclined to believe it
must have been Assunta Nardi, who was probably at this time
the only servant of Ser Giovanni ; for we find in the register at
Certaldo the marriage of Fiamminga Nardi, daughter of Simplizio
Nardi and of Assunta his wife ; and, on her tombstone that ' she
was erewhile nurse and governess in the house of Ser Giovanni Boccaccio
of this Parish.' What her name was before marriage is uncertain. She
left behind several sons and daughters : one son, the second, was a plumber;
and our account-booli informs us that on the 14th of March, 1388, six
lire and three soldi were disbursed to him ' for an entirely new tongue, and
red pigments thereunto applied, in the dragon at the market-place ; like-
wise for iron bars ; likewise for solder round the perforation for keeping
the saint (viz. George) upon his horse.' His daughter Lisa married
Agapeto Camarelli of Colli ; which Agapeto rose to be sacristan in that
burg; and his great nephew Claudio Neri was sub-librarian in the library
of the Duomo at Samminiato. His son-in-law, Simone Mazzuoli, became
a most distinguished carpenter, and erected the canopy, still extant, over
the episcopal throne in said Duomo. His descendant, in the third degree,
was nothing less than page to the Cardinal Uberto degli Albizzi. We
may augur from the prosperity of Assunta's descendants, that her life
was discreet and irreproachable. — D.G.]

8 Longer Prose Works.

over the sheets ; and I can not get to sit quite upright so con-
veniently ; and 1 must not have the window-shutters opened, they
tell me.

Petrarca. Dear Giovanni ! have you then been very unwell ?

Boccaccio. O that sweet voice ! and this fat friendly hand of
thine, Francesco !

Thou hast distilled all the pleasantest flowers, and all the whole-
somest herbs of spring, into my breast already.

What showers we have had this April, ay ! How could you
come along such roads ? If the devil were my labourer, 1 would
make him work upon these of Certaldo. He would have little
time and little itch for mischief ere he had finished them, but
would gladly fan himself with an Agnus-castus, and go to sleep
all through the carnival.

Petrarca. Let us cease to talk both of the labour and the
labourer. You have then been dangerously ill ?

Boccaccio. I do not know : they told me I was : and truly a
man might be unwell enough, who has twenty masses said for him,
and fain sigh when he thinks what he has paid for them. As 1
hope to be saved, they cost me a lira each. Assunta is a good
market-girl in eggs, and mutton, and cow-heel ; but I would not
allow her to argue and haggle about the masses. Indeed she
knows best whether they were not fairly wortli all that was asked
for them, although I could have bought a winter cloak for less
money. However, we do not want both at the same time. I
did not want the cloak : I wanted them it seems. And yet I
begin to think God would have had mercy on me, if I had begged
it of him myself in my own house. What think you ?

Petrarca. I think he might.

Boccaccio. Particularly if I offered him the sacrifice on which
I wrote to you.

Petrarca. That letter has brought me hither.

Boccaccio. You do then insist on my fulfilling my promise, the
moment I can leave my bed. I am ready and willing.

Petrarca. Promise ! none was made. You only told me
that, if it pleased God to restore you to your health again, you
are ready to acknowledge his mercy by the holocaust of your
Decameron. What proof have you that God would exact it ? If
you could destroy the Inferno of Dante, would you ?

The Pentameron. 9

Boccaccio. Not I, upon my life ! I would not promise to
burn a copy of it on the condition of a recovery for twenty

Pdrarca. You are the only author who would not rather
demolish another's work than his own ; especially if he thought it
better : a thought wliich seldom goes beyond suspicion.

Boccaccio. I am not jealous of any one : I think admiration
pleasanter. Moreover, Dante and I did not come forward at the
same time, nor take the same walks. His flames are too fierce
for you and me : we had trouble enough with milder. I never
felt any high gratification in hearing of people being damned ; and
much less woidd I toss them into the fire myself. I might in-
deed have put a nettle under the nose of the learned judge in
Florence, when he banished you and your family ; but I hardly
think I could have voted for more than a scourging to the foulest
and fiercest of the party.

Petrarca. Be as compassionate, be as amiably irresolute, to-
ward your own Novelle, which have injured no friend of yours,
and deserve more affection.

Boccaccio. Francesco ! no character I ever knew, ever heard
of, or ever feigned, deserves the same affection as you do ; the
tenderest lover, the truest friend, the firmest patriot, and, rarest
of glories ! the poet who cherishes another's fame as dearly as
his own.

Petrarca. If aught of this is true, let it be recorded of
me that my exhortations and intreaties have been successful,
in preserving the works of the most imaginative and creative
genius that our Italy, or indeed our world, hath in any age

Boccaccio. I would not destroy his poems, as I told you, or
think I told you. Even the worst of the Florentines, who in
general keep only one of God's commandments, keep it rigidly in
regard to Dante —

Love them who curse you.

He called them all scoundrels, with somewhat less courtesy than
cordiality, and less afraid of censure for veracity than adulation :
he sent their fathers to hell, with no inclination to separate the
child and parent : and now they are hugging him for it in his

lo Longer Prose Works.

shroud ! Would you ever have suspected them of being such
lovers of justice ?

You must have mistaken my meaning ; the thought never en-
tered my head : the idea of destroying a single copy of Dante !
And what effect would that produce ! There must be fifty, or
near it, in various parts of Italy.

Petrarca. I spoke of you.

Boccaccio. Of me ! My poetry is vile ; 1 have already
thrown into the fire all of it within my reach.

Petrarca. Poetry was not the question. We neither of us
are such poets as we thought ourselves when we were younger,
and as younger men think us still. I meant your Decameron ,• in
which there is more character, more nature, more invention, than
either modern or ancient Italy, or than Greece, from whom she
derived her whole inheritance, ever claimed or ever knew.
Would you consume a beautiful meadow because there are reptiles
in it ; or because a few grubs hereafter may be generated by the
succulence of the grass ?

Boccaccio. You amaze me : you utterly confound me.

Petrarca. If you would eradicate twelve or thirteen of the
Novelle, and insert the same number of better, which you could
easily do within as many weeks, I should be heartily glad to see
it done. Little more than a tenth of the Decameron is bad ; less
than a twentieth of the Divina Commedia is good.

Boccaccio. So little ?

Petrarca. Let me never seem irreverent to our master.

Boccaccio. Speak plainly and fearlessly, Francesco ! Malice
and detraction are strangers to you.

Petrarca. Well then : at least sixteen parts in twenty of the
Inferno and Purgatorio are detestable, both in poetry and principle :
the higher parts are excellent indeed.

Boccaccio. I have been reading the Paradiso more recently.
Here it is, under the pillow. It brings me happier dreams than
the others, and takes no more time in bringing them. Prepara-
tion for my lectures made me remember a great deal of the poem.
I did not request my auditors to admire the beauty of the metrical
version :

Osanna sanctus deus Sabbaoth,
Super-illustrans charitate tua
Felices ignes horum Malahoth,

The Pentameron. 1 1

nor these, with a slip of Italian between two pales of Latin :

Modicum,* ct noil videbitis me,
Et iterum, sorelle mie dilette,
Modicum, et vos videbitis me.

I dare not repeat all I recollect of

Pape Setan, Pape Setan, aleppe.

as there is no holy-water-sprinkler in the room : and you are
aware that other dangers awaited me, had I been so imprudent as
to show the Florentines the allusion of our poet. His gergo is
perpetually in play, and sometimes plays very roughly.

Petrarca. We will talk again of him presently. I must now
rejoice with you over the recovery and safety of your prodigal son,
the Decameron.

Boccaccio. So then, you would preserve at any rate my
favourite volume from the threatened conflagration.

Petrarca. Had I lived at the time of Dante, I would have
given him the same advice in the same circumstances. Yet how
different is the tendency of the two productions ! Yours is some-
what too licentious ; and young men, in whose nature, or rather
in whose education and habits, there is usually this failing, will
read you with more pleasure than is commendable or innocent.
Yet the very time they occupy with you, would perhaps be spent
in the midst of those excesses or irregularities, to which the
moralist, in his utmost severity, will argue that your pen directs
them. Now there are many who are fond of standing on the
brink of precipices, and who nevertheless are as cautious as any
of falling in. And there are minds desirous of being warmed by
description, which without this warmth, might seek excitement
among the things described.

I would not tell you in health what I tell you in convalescence,
nor urge you to compose what I dissuade you from cancelling.
After this avowal, I do declare to you, Giovanni, that in my
opinion, the very idlest of your tales will do the world as much

* It may puzzle an Englishman to read the lines beginning with
Modicum, SO as to give the metre. The secret is, to draw out et into a
dissyllable, et te, as the Italians do, who pronounce Latin verse, if pos-
sible, worse than we, adding a syllable to such as end with a consonant.

1 2 Longer Prose Works.

good as evil ; not reckoning the pleasure of reading, nor the exer-
cise and recreation of the mind, which in themselves are good.
What I reprove you for, is the indecorous and uncleanly ; and
these, I trust, you will abolish. Even these, however, may repel
from vice the ingenuous and graceful spirit, and J^can never lead
any such toward them. Never have you taken an inhuman
pleasure in blunting and fusing the affections at the furnace of the
passions ; never, in hardening by sour sagacity and ungenial stric-
tures, that delicacy which is more productive of innocence and
happiness, more estranged from every track and tendency of their
opposites, than what in cold, crude systems hath holden the place
and dignity of the highest virtue. May you live, O my friend,
in the enjoyment of health, to substitute the facetious for the
licentious, the simple for tlie extravagant, the true and character-
istic for the indefinite and diffuse.

Boccaccio. I dare not defend myself under the bad example
of any : and the bad example of a great man is the worst defence
of all. Since, however, you have mentioned Messer Dante Ali-
ghieri, to whose genius I never thought of approaching, I may
perhaps have been formerly the less cautious of offending by my
levity, after seeing him display as much or more of it in hell

Petrarca. The best apology for Dante, in his poetical char-
acter, is presented by the indulgence of criticism, in considering
the Inferno and Purgator'io as a string of Satires, part in narrative
and part in action ; which renders the title of Commedia more
applicable. The fikhincss of some passages would disgrace the
drunkenest horse-dealer ; and the names of such criminals are
recorded by the poet as would be forgotten by the hangman in six
months. I wish I could expatiate rather on his injudiciousness
than on his ferocity, in devising punishments for various crimes ; or
rather, than on his malignity in composing catalogues of criminals
to inflict them on. Among the rest we find a gang of coiners.
He calls by name all the rogues and vagabonds of every city in
Tuscany, and curses every city for not sending him more of them.
You would fancy that Pisa might have contented him ; no such
thing. He hoots,

" Ah Pisa ! scandal to the people in whose fine country si
means yes, why are thy neighbours slack to punish thee ? May

The Pentameron. i 3

Capraia and Gorgona stop up the mouth of the Arno, and drown
every soul within thee ! "

Boccaccio. None but a prophet is privileged to swear and curse
at this rate, and several of those got broken heads for it.

Petrarca. It did not happen to Dante, though he once was
very near it, in the expedition of the exiles to recover the city.
Scarcely had he taken breath after this imprecation against the
Pisans, than he asks the Genoese why such a parcel of knaves as
themselves were not scattered over the face of the earth.

Boccaccio. Here he is equitable. I wonder he did not incline
to one or other of these rival republics.

Petrarca. In fact, the Genoese fare a trifle better under him

Online LibraryWalter Savage LandorThe longer prose works of Walter Savage Landor; (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 34)