Samuel Rogers.

The poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir online

. (page 5 of 16)
Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 5 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


On slight foundations : and, if in thy life
Not happy, in thy death thou surely wert,
Thy wish accomplish' d ; dying in the land

• They wait fcr the traveller's carriage at the foot ol
•reiy hill.



86 ITALY.

Where thy young inind had caught ethereal tirei
Dying in Greece, and in a cause so glorious !

They in thy train — ah, little did they think,
As round we went, that tliey so soon should sit
Mourning beside thee, while a Nation mourn'd,
Changing her festal for her funeral song ;
That they so soon should hear the minute-gun,
As morning gleam'd on what remain'd of thee,
Roll o'er the sea, the mountains, numbering
Thy years of joy and sorrow.

Thou art gone ;
And he who would assail thee in thy grave.
Oh, let him pause ! For who among us all,
Tried as thou wert — even from thine earliest

years,
When wandering, yet unspoilt, a highland boy-
Tried as thou wert, and with thy soul of flame ;
Pleasure, while yet the down was on thy cheek,
Uplifting, pressing, and to lips like thine
Her charmed cup — ah, who among us all
Could say he had not err'd as much, and mort ?

XX.

FLORENCE.

Of all the fairest cities of the earth
None are so fair as Florence. 'T is a gem
Of purest ray, a treasure for a casket !
And what a glorious lustre did it shed,
When it emerged from darkness! Search
within,



ITALY. 87

Wiihout, all is eiichantment ! 'T is the past
Contending with the present ; and in turn
Each has the mastery.

in this chapel wrought (32)
Massaccio ; and he slumbers underneath.
Wouldst thou behold his monument? liOok

round .
And know that where we stand, stood oft and

long
Oft till the day was gone, Raphael himself,
He and his haughty Rival — patiently,
Humbly, to learn of those who came before,
To steal a spark from their authentic fire,
Theirs, who first broke the gloom, Sons of the

jMorning.

There, on the seat that runs along the wall,
South of the Church, east of the belfry-tower
(Thou canst not miss it), in the sultry time
Would Dante sit conversing, and with those
Who little thought that in his hand he held
The balance, and assign' d at his good pleasure
To each his place in the invisible world,
To some an upper, some a lov/er region ;
R-Cserving in his secret mind a niche
For thee, Saltrello, who with quirks of law
Hadst plagued him sore, and carefully requi-
ting
Such as ere-Iong condemn'd hi? nt^rtalpart
To fu-e. (33) Sit down awhile - ./\on by th«

gates
Wondrously wrought, so beautiful, nb ^loriooa,



30 ITALY.

Thai they might serve to be the gates of Heaven,
Enter the Baptistery. That place he loved,
Calling it his ! And in his visits there
Well might he take delight ! 1 or, when a child,
Playing, vv'ith venlm-ous feet, near and yet

nearer
One of the fonts, fell in, he flew and saved him,
Flew with an energy, a violence,
That broke the marble — a mishap ascribed
To evil motives ; his, alas ! to lead
A life of trouble, and ere-long to leave
All things most dear to him, ere-long to know
Hov/ salt another's bread is, and how toilsome
The going up and down another's stairs.

Nor then forget the Chamber of the Dead, (34)
Where the gigantic forms of Night and Pay,
Turn'd into stone, rest everlastingly.
Yet still are breathing ; and shed round at noon
A two-fold inlliience — only to be felt —
A light, a darkness, mingled each with each ;
Both and yet neither. There, from age to age.
Two Ghosts are sitting on their sepulchres.
That is the Duke Lorenzo. Mark him well. (35)
He meditates, his head upon his hand.
What scowls beneath his broad and helm-like

bonnet ?
Is it a face, or but an eyeless skull ?
'T is hid in shade ; yet, like the basilisk,
It fascinates, and is intolerable.
His mien is noble, most majestical !
Then most so, when the distant choir is heard,



ITALY. 89

At morn or eve — nor fail thou to attend
On that thrice-liallow'd day, when all are there ;
When all, propitiating with solemn songs,
With light, and frankincense, and holy water,
Visit the Dead. Then wilt thou feel his power I

But let not Sculpture, Painting, Poesy,
Or they, the masters of these mighty spells,
Detain us. Our first homage is to Virtue.
Where, in what dungeon of the Citadel,
(It must be known — the writing on the wall (36)
Cannot be gone — 't was cut in with his dagger,
Ere, on his knees to God, h( slew himself),
Where, in what dungeon, did Filippo Strozzi,
The last, the greatest of the Men of Florence,
Breathe out his soul — lest in his agony.
When on the rack and call'd upon to answer.
He might accuse the guiltless.

That debt paid,
But with a sigh, a tear for human frailty,
AVe may return, and once more give a loose
To the delighted spirit — worshipping,
In her small temple of rich workmanship,*
Venus herself, who, when she left the skies
Came hither.

XXT.

DON GARZIA.

Aaiong the awful forms that s'and assembled
In the g eat square of Florence may be seen

* The Tribune



JO ITALV.

That Cosmo, (37) not the Father of his Country,

Not he so styled, but he who play'd the tyrant.

Clad in rich armour like a paladin,

But with his helmet off — in kingly state,

Aloft he sits upon his horse of brass ;

And they, who read the legend underneath,

Go and pronounce him happy. Yet there is

A Chamber at Grosseto, that, if walls

Could speak, and tell of what is done within.

Would turn your admiration into pity.

Half of what pass'd died with him ; but the rest,

All he discover'd when the fit was on.

All that, by those who listen' d, could be glean'd

From broken sentences and starts in sleep,

Is told, and by an honest Chronicler.

Two of his sons, Giovanni and Garzia
(The eldest had not seen his sixteenth summer),
Went to the chase ; but one of them. Giovanni;
His best beloved, the glory of his house,
Return' d not ; and at close of day was found
Bathed in his innocent blood. Too well, alas !
The trembling Cosmo guess'd the deed, the

doer ;
And having caused the body to be borne
In secret to that chamber — at an hour
When all slept sound, save the disconsolate

Mother,* (38)
Who little thought of what was yrt to come,
And lived but to be told — he bads Garzia

* Eleonora di Toledo.



IT/L^. 91

A.rise and follow him. Holding in one hand
A. winking lamp, and in tiie otlier a key
Massive and dungeon-like, ihiiher he led ;
And, having enter'd in and lock'd the door,
The father hx'd his eyes upon the son.
And closely questioned him. No change betray' i
Or guilt or fear. Then Cosmo lifted up
The bloody sheet. " Look there ! Look there !'

he cried,
' ' Blood calls for blood — and from a father's hand !
— Unless thyself wilt save him that sad office.
Vv^'hatl" he exclaim'd, when, shuddering at the

sight.
The boy breath'd out, "I stood but on my

guard."
" Darest thou then bLicken one who never

wrong'd thee.
Who would not set his foot upon a worm ? —
Yes, thou must die, lest others fall by thee,
And thou shouldst be the slayer of us all."
Then from Garzia's side he took the dagger,
That fatal one which spilt his brother's blood;
And, kneeUng on the ground, " Great God !"

he cried,
" Grant me the strength to do an act of Justice.
Thou knowest what it cos's me ; but, alas,
How can I spare myself, spiring none else?
Grant me the strength, the will — and oh forgive
The sinful soul of a most svretched son.
'T is a most wretched fa' her who implores it."
hgng on Garzia's neck he hung, and wept
Tenderly, long press'd him to his bosom ;



i2 ITALY

And then, but while he held him by the arm,
Thrusting him backward, turn'd away his face,
And stabb'd him to the heart.

Well might De Thou,
"When in his youth he came to Cosmo's court,
Think on the past ; and, as he wander' d through
The Ancient Palace— through those ample spaces
Silent, deserted — slop awhile to dwell
Upon two portraits there, drawn on the wall
Together, as of two in bonds of love,
One in a Cardinal's habit, one in black,
Those of the unhappy brothers, and infer
From the deep silence that his questions drew,
The terrible truth.

Well might he heave a sigh
For poor humanity, when he beheld
That very Cosmo shaking o'er his fire,
Drowsy aod deaf and inarticulate.
Wrapt in his night-gown, o'er a sick man's

mess.
In the last stage — death- struck and deadly pale ;
His wife, another, not his Eleonora,
At once his nurse and his interpreter.

XXII.

THE CAMPAGNA OF FLORENCE.

'T IS morning. Let us wander through the
fields.
Where Cimabue fcmd a shepherd-boy *

*Gioiio.



ITALY. 93

Tracing his idle fancies on the grouad ;
And let us from the top of Fiesole,
Whence GaHleo's glass by night observed
The phases of the moon, look round below
On Arno's vale, where the dove-colour'd oxen
Are plowing up and down among the vines,
While many a careless note is sung aloud,
Filling the air with sweetness — and on thee
Beautiful Florence, all within thy walls,
Thy groves and gardens, pinnacles and towers,
Drawn to our feet.

From that small spire, just caught
By the bright ray, that church among the rest
By One of Old distinguish'd as The Bride,
Let us pursue in thought (what can we better ?)
Those who assembled there at matin-prayers ;*
Who, when Vice revell'd, and along the street
Tables were set, what time the bearer's bell
Rang to demand the dead at every door,
Came out into the meadows ; (39) and, awhile
Wandering in idleness, but not in folly,
Sate down in the high grass and in the shade
Of many a tree sun-proof — day after day.
When all was still and nothing to be heard
But the Cicala's voice among the olives,
Relating in a ring, to banish care,
Their hundred novels.

Round the hill they went.
Round underneath — first to a splendid house,

♦ See the Decameron First Day.



94 ITALY.

Gherardi, as an old tradition runs,
That on the left, just rising from the vale ;
A place for Luxury — he painted rooms,
The open galleries and middle court
Not unprepared, fragrant and gay with flowers.
Then westward to ano;her, nobler yet ;
Then on the right, now known as the Palmieri,
Where Art with Nature vied — a Paradise,
With verdurous walls, and many a trellis'd walk
All rose and jasmine, many a forest-vista
Cross'd by the deer. Then to the Ladies' Val-
ley ;
And the clear lake, that seem'd as by enchant*

ment
To lift up to the surface every stone
Of lustre there, and the diminutive fish
Innumerable, dropt with crimson and gold,
Now motionless, now glancing to the sun.

Who has not dwelt on their voluptuous day?
The morning-banquet by the fountain-side, (40)
The dance that folic w'd, and the noon-tide

slumber ;
Then the tales told in turn, as round they lay
On carpets, the fresh waters murmuring;
And the short interval fiU'd up with games
Of Chess, and talk, and reading old Romances,
Till supper-time, when many a syren-voice
Sung down the stars, and in the grass the

torches
Burnt brighvr for their absence.



ITALi. 95

He,* whose dream
It was (it was no more) sleeps in Val d'Elsa,
Sleeps in the church, where (in his ear I ween)
The Friar pour'd out his catalogue of treasures ;
A ray, imprimis, of the star that shone
To the Wise Men ; a phial-full of sounds,
The musical chimes of the great bells that hung
In Solomon's Temple ; and, though last not

least,
A feather from the Angel Gabriel's wing,
Dropt in the Virgin's chamber.

That dark ridge
Stretching away in the South-east, conceals it ;
Not so his lowly roof and scanty farm,
His copse and rill, if yet a trace be left,
Who lived in Val di Pesa, suffering long
Exile and want, and the keen shafts of Malice,
With an unclouded mind.t The ghmmering

tower
On the grey rock beneath, his land-mark once,
Now serves for ours, and points out where he ate
His bread with cheerfulness.

Who sees him not
('T is his own sketch — he drew it from himself)
Playing the bird-catcher, and sallying forth
In an autumnal morn, laden with cages,
To catch a thrush on every lime-twig there ;
Or in the wood among his wood-cutters ;
Or in the tavern by the highway-side

♦ Boccaccio. t jMachiaveL



St'i ITALY.

At irioirac wiih the miller; or at night,
Dolling hid rustic suit, and, duly clad,
Entering his closet, and, among his books,
Among the Great of every age and clime,
A numerous court, turning to whom he pleased,
Questioning each why he did this or that,
And learning how to overcome the fear
Of poverty and death ?

Nearer we hail
Thy sunny slope, Arcetri, sung of Old
For its green wine — dearer to me, to most,
As dwelt on by that great Astronomer,*
Seven years a pri.^oner at the city gate,
Let in but in his grave-clothes. Sacred be
His cottage (justly was it call'd The Jewel!)
Sacred the vineyard, where, while yet his sight
Glimmer' d, at blush of dawn he dress' d his

vines,
Chanting aloud in gaiety of heart
Some verse of Ariosto. There, unseen, (41)
In manly beauty Milton stood before him,
Gazing with reverent awe — Milton, his guest,
Just then come forth, all life and enterprise ;
He in his old age and extremity,
Blind, at noon-day exploring with his staff;
His eyes upturn'd as to the golden sun,
His eye-balls idly rolling. Little then
Did Galileo think whom he bade welcome ;
That in his hand he held the hand of one

♦ Galileo.



ITALY. 97

Who could requite him — who would spread hia

name
O'er lands and seas — great as himself, nay

greater ;
Milton as little that in him he saw,
As in a glass, what he himself should be,
Destined so soon to fall on evil days
And evil tongues — so soon, alas, to live
In darkness, and with dangers compass' d round,
And sohtude.

Well pleased, could we pursue
The Arno, from his birth-place in the clouds.
So near the yellow Tiber's (42) — springing up
From his four fountains on the Apennine,
That mountain-ridge a sea-mark to the ships
Sailing on either Sea. Downward he runs,
Scattering fresh verdure through the desolate

wild,
Down by the City of Hermits, and, ere-long,
The venerable woods of Vallombrosa ;
Then through these gardens to the Tuscan sea,
Reflecting castles, convents, villages.
And those great Rivals in an elder day,
Florence and Pisa — who have given him fame,
Fame everlasting, but who stain'd so oft
His troubled waters. Oft, alas, were seen,
When flight, pursuit, and hideous rout were

there,
Hands, clad in gloves of steel, held up implor-
ing ; (43)
Tht man, the hero, on his foaming steed,
7



Borne underneath— already in the reahna
Of Darkness.

Nor did night or burning noon
Bring respite. Oft, as that great Artist saw,*
Whose pencil had a voice, the cry " To arms !'*
And the shrill trumpet, hurried up tlie bank
Those who had stolen an hour to breast the tide
And wash from their unharness' d limbs the

blood
And sweat of battle. Sudden was the rush,
Violent the tumult ; for, already in sight.
Nearer and nearer yet the danger drew ;
Each every sinew straining, every feature,
Each snatching up, and girding, buckling on
Morion and greave and shirt of twisted mail,
As for his life — no more perchance to taste,
Arno, the grateful freshness of thy glades,
Thy waters— where, exulting, he had felt
A swimmer's transport, there, alas, to float
And welter. Nor between the gusts of War,
When flocks were feeding, and the shepherd's

pipe
Gladden'd the valley, when, but not unarm'd,
The sower came forth, and, following him who

plow'd.
Threw in the seed— did thy indignant waves
Escape pollution. Sullen was the splash.
Heavy and swift the plunge, when they received
The key that just had grated on the ear

•Michael AngeU)



ITALT. 99

Of Ugolino— closing up for ever

That dismal dimgeon hericeforth to be named

The Tower of Famine.

Once indeed 't was thine
When majiy a winter-flood, thy tributary,
Was through its rocky glen rushing, resounding,
And thou wert in thy might, to save, restore
A charge most precious. To the nearest ford,
Hastening, a horseman from Arezzo carae.
Careless, impatient of delay, a babe
Slung in a basket to the knotty staff
That lay athwart his saddle-bow. He spurs,
He enters ; and his horse, alarm'd, perplex'd,
flalts in the m.idst. Great is the stir, the strife ',
And lo, an atom on that dangerous sea.
The babe is floating ! Fast and far he flies ;
Now tempest-rock' d, now whirling round and

round,
But not to perish. By thy willing waves
Borne to the shore, among the bulrushes
The ark has rested ; and unhurt, secure,
As on his mother's breast he sleeps within,
All peace ! or never had the nations heard
That voice so sweet, which still enchants, in-
spires ;
That voice, which sung of love, of liberty.

Petrarch lay there I And such the images

That cluster' d round our .Milton, when at CyO
Reclined beside thee, Amo ; when at eve
Led on by thee, he wander'd witJi delight,
Framing Ovidian verse, and through thy-groves
Gathering wild myrtle. Such the PoeVs d.-eams;



100 ITAI,T.

Yet not such only. For look round and saff ,
Where is the ground that did not drink waros

blood,
The echo that had learnt not to articulate
The cry of murder ? — Fatal was the day
To Florence, when ('t was in a street behind
The church and convent of the Holy Cross-
There is the house — that house of ihe Donati,
Towerless, and left long since, but to the last
Braving assault — all rugged, all emboss'd
Below, and still distinguish'd by the rings
Of brass, that held in war and festival-time
Their family-standards) fatal was the day
To Florence, when, at morn, at tlie ninth hour,
A noble Dame in weeds of widowhood,
Weeds to be worn hereafter by so many,
Stood at her door ; and, like a sorceress, flung
Her dazzling spell. Subtle she was, and rich,
Rich in a hidden pearl of heavenly light.
Her daughter's beauty ; and too well she knew
Its virtue f Patiently she stood and watch'd ;
Nor stood alone — but spoke not. — In her breasl
Her purpose lay ; and, as a youth pass'd by.
Clad for the nuptial rite, she smiled and said.
Lifting a corner of the maiden's veil,
" This had I treasured up in secret for thee.
This hast thou lost !" He gazed and was un-
done I
Forgetting — ^not forgot — he broke the bond,
And paid the penalty, losing his hfe
At the bridge-foot ; (44) and hence a world of
woe !



ITALT. 101

Vengearxe for vengeance crying, blood for

blood ;
No intermission ! Law, that slumbers not,
And, like the Angel with the flaming sword,
Sits over all, at once chastising, healing,
Himself the Avenger, went ; and every street
Ran red with mutual slaughter — though some-
times
The young forgot the lessons they had learnt,
And loved when they should hate — like thee,

Imelda,
Thee and thy Paolo. When last ye met
In that still hour (the heat, the glare was gone,
Not so the splendour — through the cedar-grove
A radiance streamM like a consuming fire,
As though the glorious orb, in its descent.
Had come and rested there) when last ye met.
And those relentless brothers dragg'd him forth,
It had been well, hadst thou slept on, Imelda,(45)
Nor from thy trance of fear awaked, as night
Fell on that fatal spot, to wish thee dead,
To track him by his blood, to search, to find,
Then fling thee down to catch a word, a look,
A sigh, if yet thou couldst (alas, thou couldsl

not)
And die, unseen, unthought of— from the wound
Sucking the poison. (4G)

Yet, when Slavery came
Worse folio w'd.ClT"* Genius, Valour left the land,
Indignant — all that had from age to age
Adorn'd, ennobled ; and headlong they fell,
Tyrant and slave. For deeds of violence,



102 ITA LY.

Done in broad day and more than ha!f-redeem*d
By many a great and generous sacrifice
Of self to others, came the unpledged bowl.
The stab of the stiletto. Gliding by
Unnoticed, in sloueh'd hat and muffling cloak,
That just discover'd, Caravaggio-Iike,
A swarthy cheek, black brow, and eye of flame»
The Cravo took his stand, and o'er the shouldes
Plunged to the hilt, or from beneath the ribs
Slanting (a surer path, as some averr'd)
Struck upward — then slunk off, or, if pursued.
Made for the Sanctuary, and there along
The glimmering aisle among the worshippers
Wander'd with restless step and jealous look.
Dropping thick gore.

Misnamed to lull suspicion^
In every Palace was The Laboratory,
Where he within brew'd poisons swift and slow.
That scatter' d terror till all things seem'd

poisonous.
And brave men trembled if a hand held out
A nosegay or a letter ; while the Great
Drank from the Venice-glass, that broke, thai

shiver'd.
If aught malignant, aught of thine was there,
Cruel Tophana ; (48) and pawn'd provinces
For the miraculous gem that to the wearer
Gave signs infallible of coming ill.
That clouded though the vehicle of death
Were an invisible perfume.

Happy then
The guest to whom at sleeping- time 't was said.



ITA^T. 103

But in an under- vc ice (a lady's page
Speaks in no louder) " Pass not on. That door
Leads to another which awaits your coming,
One in the floor — now left, alas, unbolted,
No eye detects it — lying under-foot,
Just as you enter, at the threshold-stone ;
Ready to fall and plunge you into darkness,
Darkness and long obhvion !"

Then indeed
Where lurk'd not danger ? Through the fairy-

land
No seat of pleasure glittering half-way down,
No hunting-place — but with some damning spot
That will not be wash'd out I There, at Caiano,
Where, when the hawks were hooded and

iSTight came,
Pulci would set ihe table in a roar
With his wild lay — there where the Sun de.

scends,
And hill and dale are lost, veil'd with his beams,
The fair Venetian* died — she and her lord,
Died of a posset drugg'd by him who sate
And saw them suffer, flinging back the charge,
The murderer on the murder' d.

Sobs of Grief,
Sounds inarticulate — suddenly stopt,
And foUow'd by a struggle and a gasp,
A gasp in death, are heard yet in Cerreto,
Along the marble halls and staircases.
Nightly at twelve ; and, at the self-same houTy

♦ Bianca Capello.



104 ITALY.

Shrieks, such as penetrate the inmost soul,
Such as awake the innocent babe to long,
Long waihng, echo through the emptiness
Of that old den far up among the hills, (49)
Frowning on him who comes from Pietra-Mala
In them, in both, within five days and less,
Two unsuspecting victims, passing fair,
Welcomed with kisses, and slain cruelly.
One with the knife, one with the fatal noose.

But lo, the Sun is setting ; earth and sky
One blaze of glory — What but now we saw
As though it were not, though it had not been !
He lingers yet, and, lessening to a point.
Shines like the eye of Heaven — then withdraws ;
And from the zenith to the utmost skirts
All is celestial red ! The hour is come.
When they that sail along the distant seas
Languish for home ; and they that in the morn
Said to sweet friends "farewell," melt as at

parting ; _
When, journeying on, the pilgrim, as he hears,
As now we hear it, echoing round the hill,
The bell that seems to mourn the dying day,
Slackens his pace and sighs, and those he loved
Loves more than ever. Rut who feels it not f
And well may we, for we are far away.
Let us retire, and, hril it in our hearts.



ITALY.



PART II.

I.

THE PILGRIM.

It was an hour of universal joy.
The lark was up and at the gate of heaven,
Singing, as sure to enter when he came ;
The butterfly was basking in my path,
His radiant wings unfolded. From below
The bell of prayer rose slowly, plaintively ;
And odours, such as welcome in the day,
Such as salute the early traveller,
And come and go, each sweeter than the last,
Were rising. Hill and valley breathed delight
And not a living thing but bless' d the hour !
In every bush and brake there was a voice
Responsive !

From the Thrasymene, that now
Slept in the sun, a lake of molten gold,
Rock'd to and fro unfelt, so terrible
The ra^e, the slaughter, I had turn'd away ;

105



106 ITALY.

The path, that led m^, leading through a wood
A fairy-wilderness oi fruits and flowers,
And by a brook that, in the day of strife,
Ran blood, but now runs amber — when a glade,
Far, far wiihin, sunn'd only at noon-day,
Suddenly open'd. Many a bench was there,
Kach round its ancient elm ; and many a track,
Well known to them that from the highway

loved
Awhile to deviate. In the midst a cross
Of mouldering stone as in a temple stood,
Solemn, severe ; coeval with the trees
That round it in majestic order rose ;
And on the lowest step a Pilgrim knelt,
Clasping his hands in prayer. He was the firrt
Yet seen by me (save in a midnight-masque,
A revel, where none cares to play his part,
And they, that speak, at once dissolve the

charm)


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 5 of 16)