Samuel Rogers.

The poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir online

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(Duly replenish'd from the vintner's cask),
Slung from his shoulder ; in his breadth of belt
Two pistols and a dagger yet uncleansed,
A parchment scrawFd with uncouth characters,
And a small vial, his last remedy,
His cure, when all things fail. No noise is heard,
Save when the rugged bear and the gaunt wolf
Howl in the upper region, or a fish
Leaps in the gulph beneath. — But now he kneels
And (like a scout when listening to the tramp
Of horse or foot) lays his experienced ear
Close to the ground, then rises and explores,
Then kneels again, and, his short rifle-gun
Against his cheek, waits patiently.

Two Monke,
Portly, grey-headed, on their gallant steeds,
Descend where yet a mouldering cross o'erhanga
The grave of one that from the piecipice
Fell in an evil hour. Their bridle-bells
Ring merrily ; and many a loud, long laugh
Re-echoes ; but at once the sounds are losi.



ITALY. 147

Unconscious of the good in stord below,
The holy fathers have turn'd off, and now
Cross the brown heath, ere-long to wag their

beards
Before my lady-abbess, and discuss
Things only known to the devout and pure
O'er her spiced bowl — then shrive the sisterhood,
Sitting by turns with an inclining ear
In the confessional.

He moves his lips
As with a curse — then paces up and down,
Now fast, now slow, brooding and muttering on;
Gloomy alike to him the past, the future.

But hark, the nimble tread of numerous feet :
— 'T is but a dappled herd, come down to slake
Their thirst in the cool wave. He turns and aims —
Then checks himself, unwiUing to disturb
The sleeping echoes.

Once again he earths ;
Slipping away to house with them beneath,
His old companions in that hiding-place.
The bat, the toad, the blind-worm, and the

newt ;
And hark, a footstep, firm and confident,
As of a man in has^e. Nearer it draws ;
And now is at the entrance of the den.
Ha! 'tis a comrade, sent to gather in
The band for some great enterprise.

Who wants
A sequel, may read on. The unvarnish'd tale,
That follows, will supply the place of one.



148 ITALY.

'T was told ; le by the Marquis of Ravina,
When in a blustering night he shelter'd me
In that brave castle ot his ancestors
O'er Garigliano, and is such indeed
As every day brings with it — in a land
Where laws are trampled on, and lawless raea
Walk in the sun ; but it should not be lost,
For it may serve to bind us to our country.

XIV.

AN ADVENTURE.

Three days they lav in ambush at my gate,

Tiien sprung and led me capiive. Many a wild

We traversed ; but Rusconi, 'twas no less,

March 'd by my fide, and, when I thirsted,

climb'd
The cliffs for waiw ; though, whene'er he spoke,
'T was briefly, sullenly ; and on he led,
Distinguished only by an amulet,
That in a golden chain hung from his neck,
A crystal of rare virtue. N ight fell fast,
When on a heath, black and immeasurable,
He turn'd and bade them halt. 'T was where

the earth
Heaves o'er the dead — where erst some Alaric
Fought hiS last fight, and every warrior threw
A stone to tell for ages where he lay.

Then all advanced, and, ranging in a square.
Stretch' d forth their arms as on the holy cross
From each to each their sable cloaks extending,



ITALY. 149

That, like the solemn hangings of a tent,
Cover'd us round ; and in the midst I stood,
Weary and faint, and tace to face withonej
Whose voice, whose look dispenses life and

death,
Whose heart knows no relentings. Instantly
A light was kindled, and the Bandit spoke.
'•I know thee. Thou hast sought us, for the

sport
Slipping thy blood -hounds with a hunter's cry,
And thou hast found at last. Were I as thou,
I in thy grasp as thou art now in ours,
Soon should I make a midnight-spectacle,
Soon, limb by limb, be mangled on a wheel,
Then gibbeted to blacken for the vultures.
But I would teach thee better — how to spare.
Write as I dictate. If thy ransom comes.
Thou livest. If not — but answer not, I pray,
Lest thou provoke me. I may strike thee dead ;
And know, young man, it is an easier thing
To do it than to say it. Write, and thus." —

I wrote. '"Tiswell," he cried. " Apeasant-

boy,
Trusty and swift of foot, shall bear it hence.
Meanwhile lie down and rest. This cloak of

mine
Will serve thee ; it has weather'd many a storm."
The watch was set ; and twice it had been

changed,
When morning broke, and a wild bird, a hawk.
Flew in a circle, screaming. I look'd up



150 ITAL7.

And all were gone, save hJm who new kepi

guard,
And on his arms .ay musing. Young he seem'd,
And sad, as though he could indulge at will
Some secret sorrow. " Thou shrink' st back,"

he said.
" Well may' St thou, lying, as thou dost, so near
A ruffian — one for ever link'd and bound
To guilt and infamy. There was a time
When he had not perhaps been deem'd unwor-
thy,
When he had watch'd that planet to its setting,
And dwelt with pleasure on the hieanest thing
That Nature has given birth to. Now 'tis past.

" Wouldst thou know more ? My story is an

old one.
I loved, was scorn'd ; I trusted, was betray'd;
And in my anguish, my necessity,
Met with the fiend, the tempter — in Rusconi.
' Why thus ?' he cried. ' Thou wouldst be free,

and darest not.
Come and assert thy birth-right while thou canst,
A robber's cave is better than a dungeon;
And death itself, what is it at the worst.
What, but a harlequin's leap?' Him I had

known,
Had served with, suffer' d with ; and on the walls
Of Capua, when the moon went down, I swore
Allegiance on his dagger.

Dost thou ask
How I have kept my oath ? Thou shaltbe told,



ITALT. 151

Cost what it may. — But grant me, I implore,
Grant me a j assport to some distant land,
That I may never, never more be named.
Thou wilt, J know thou wilt.

Two months ago,
When on a vineyard-hill we lay conceal' d
And scattered up and down as we were wont,
I heard a damsel suiging to herself,
And soon espied her, coming all alone,
In her first beauty. Up a path she came
Leafy and intricate, singing her song,
A song of love, by snatches ; breaking off
If but a tlower, an insect in the sun
Pleased for an instant ; then as carelessly
The strain resuming, and, where'er she stopt,
Rising on tiptoe underneath the boughs
To pluck a grape in very wantonness.
Her look, her mien and maiden-ornaments
Show'd gentle birth ; and, step by step, she

came
Nearer and nearer to the dreadful snare.
None else were by ; and, as I gazed unseen,
Ber youth, her innocence and gaiety
Went to my heart ; and, starting up, I cried,
*Fly — for your life r Alas, she shriek'd, sho

fell;
And. as I caught her falhng, all rush'd forth.

A Wood-nymph I' said Rusconi. ' By the light.
Lovely as Hebe ! Lay her in the shade.*
I heard him not. I stood as in a trance.

* What,' he exclaim'd with a malicious smile,

• Wouldst thou rebel ?' 1 did as he required.



158 ITALY.

• Now bear her hence fo the wcli-hcad below,
A few cold drops will animate this marble.
Go ! 'T is aji office all will envy thee ;

3ut (hou bast earn'd it.'

As I stagger'd down,
Un-v/illing to surrender her sweet body ;
Her golden hair dishevell'd on a neck
Of snow, and her fair eyes closed as in sleep,
Frantic with love, with hate, ' Great God!' I

cried
(I had almost forgotten how to pray)

* Why may I not, while yet — while yet I can,
Release her from a thraldom worse than death ?'
'Twas done as soon as said. I kiss'd hei

brow
And smote her with my dagger. A short cry
She utter'd, but she stirr'd not ; and to heaven
Her gentle spirit fled. 'T was v/here the path
In its descent tnrn'd suddenly. No eye
Observed me, though their steps were following

fast.
But soon a yell broke forth, and all at once
Levell'd their deadly aim. Then I had ceased
To trouble or be troubled, and had now
^Would I were there !) been slumbering in my

grave
Had not Rusconi with a terrible shout
Thrown himself in between us, and exclaim'd,
Grasping my arm, ' 'T is bravely, nobly done I
Is it for deeds like these thou wear'st a svvord ?
Was this the business that thou earnest upon?
—But 't is his lirst oife rce, and let it pass.



ITALY. 153

Like the young tiger he has tasted blood,
And may do mach hereafter. He can strike
Home to the hih.' Then in an undertone,
'Thus wouldst thou justify the pledge I gave,
When in the eyes of aJl I read distrust ?
For once,' and on his cheek, methought, I saw
The blush of virtue, ' I will save thee, Albert ;
A /an. I cannot.' "

Ere his tale was told,
A.-» on the heath we lay, my ransom came ;
And in six days, with no ungrateful mind,
Albert was sailing on a quiet sea.
— But the night wears, and thou art much in

need
Of rest. The young Antonio with his torch,
Is waiting to conduct thee to thy chamber.

XV.

NAPLES.

This region, surely, is not of the earth.*
Was it not dropt from heaven. Not a grov?.
Citron, or pine, or cedar, not a grot
Sea-worn and mantled with the gadding vine.
But breathes enchantment. Not a cliff but llinga
On the clear wave some image of delight,
Some cabin-roof glowing with crimson flowers,
Some ruin'd temple or fallen monument,
To muse on as the bark is gliding by.
And be it mine to muse there mine to glide,

• Un pezzo di cielo caduto in lerm.—SjiTmazaro.



iS'i ITALV.

FroiK daybreak, when the mountain Dales his £je
Yet more and more, and from the mountain-top,
Till then invisible, a smoke ascends,
Solemn and slow, as erst Irom Ararat,
When he, the Patriarch, who escaped the Flood.
Was with his liousehold sacrificing there —
From day-break to that hour, the last and best.
When, one by one, the fishing-boats come forth,
Each with its glimmering lantern at the prow.
And, when the nets are thrown, the evening

hymn
Steals o'er the trembling waters.

Everywhere
Fable and truth have shed, in rivalry,
Each her peculiar influence. Fable came,
And laugh'd and sung, arraying Truth in

flowers.
Like a young child her grandam. Fable came ;
Earth, sea aiid sky reflecting, as she flew,
A thousand, thousand colours not their own :
And at her bidding lo ! a dark descent
To Tartarus, and those thrice happy fields,
Those fields with ether pure and purple light
Ever invested, scenes by him described,*
Who here was wont to wander, record
What they reveal' d, and on the western shore
Sleeps in a silent grove, o'erlooking thee,
Beloved Parthenope.

Yet here, methinks,
Truth wants no ornament, in her own shape

* Virgil.



ITALY. 154

Filling the mind by turns witli awe and Icve,
By turns inclining to wild ecstacy,
And soberest meditation.

Here the vines
Wed, each her elm, and o'er the golden grain
tiang their luxuriant clusters, chequering
The sunshine; where, when cooler shadows fall;
And the mild moon hei .airy net-work weaves,
The lute, or mandoline, accompanied
By many a voice yet sweeter than their own,
Kindles, nor slowly ; and the dance* displays
The gentle arts and witcheries of love,
Its hopes and fears and feignings, till the youth
Drops on his knee as vanquish' d, and the maid,
Her tambourine uplifting with a grace,
Nature's and Nature's only, bids him rise.

But here the mighty Monarch underneath,
He in his palace of fire, diffuses round
A dazzling splendour. Here, unseen, unheard.
Opening another Eden in the wild,
He works his wonders ; save, when issuing

forth
In thunder, he blots out the sun, the sky,
And, minghng all things earthly as in scorn,
Exalts the valley, lays the mountain low.
Pours many a torrent from his burning lake,
And in an hour of universal mirth.
What time the trump proclaims the festival,
Buries some capital city, there to sleep

* The Tai-anlella.



156 ITALY.

The deep of ages — till a plow, a spade
Discloce the secret, and the eye of day
Glares coldly on the streets, the skeletons,
Each in his place, each in his gay attire,
And eager to enjoy.

Let us go round,
And let the sail be slack, the course be slow,
That at our leisure, as we coast along.
We may contemplate, and from every scene
Receive its influence. The Cumasan towers,
There did they rise, sun-gilt ; and here tbj

groves
Delicious Baiae. Here (what would they not ?
The masters of the earth, unsatisfied,
Built in the sea ; and now the boatman steers
O'er many a crypt and vault yet glimmerings
O'er many a broad and indestructible arch,
The deep foundations of their palaces ;
Nothing now heard ashore, so great the change,
Save when the sea-mew clamours, or the owl
Hoots in the temple.

What the mountainous Isle,*
Seen in the South? 'Tis where a Monster

dwelt,t
Who hurl'd his victims from the topmost clifT;
Then and then only merciful, so slow,
So subtle were the tortures they endured.
Fearing and fear'd he lived, cursing and curs' d ;
And still the dungeons in the rock breathe out
Darkness, distemper. — S;range, that one so vile

♦ Cnpreae. t T/berius.



ITALY. 157

Should from his den strike terror through the

world !
Should, whore withdrawn in his decrepitude,
Say to the noblest, be they where they might,
" Go from the earth !" and from the earth they

went.
Yet such things were — and will be, when man-
kind.
Losing all virtue, lose all energy ;
And for the loss incur the penalty,
Trodden down and trampled.

Let us turn the prow,
And in the track of him who went to die,*
Traverse this valley of waters, landing where
A waking dream awaits us. At a step
Two thousand years roll backward, and we

stand.
Like those so long within that awful place, t
Immovable, nor asking, Can it be ?

Once did I linger there alon^, till day
Closed, and at length the calm of twilight came,
So grateful, yet so solemn ! At the fount.
Just where the three ways meet, I stood and

look'd,
['T was near a noble house, the house of Pansa),
And all was still as in the long, long night
That follow'd, when the shower of ashes fell,
When they that sought Pompeii, sought in vain;
It was not to be found. But now a ray,

• The Elder Pliny. t PoinpeU.



158 I^ALT.

Bright a.id yet brighter, on the pavement

glanced,
And on the wheel-track worn for centuries,
And on the stepping-stones from side to side,
O'er which the maidens, with iheir water-urna,
Were wont to trip so lightly. Full and clear,
The moon was rising, and at once reveal'd
The name of every dweller, and his craft ;
Shining throughout with an unusual lustre,
And hghting up this City of the Dead.

Here lived a miller ; silent and at rest
His mill-stones now. In old companionship
Still do they stand as on the day he went,
Each ready for its office — but he comes not.
And here, hard by, (where one in idleness
Has stopp'd to scrawl a ship, an armed man;
And in a tablet on the wall we read
Of shows ere long to be) a sculptor wrought,
Nor meanly ; blocks, half chisell'd into life,
Waiting his call. Here long, as yet attests
The trodden floor, an olive-merchant drew
from many an ample jar, no more replenisli'd ;
And here from his a vintner served his guests
Largely, the stain of his o'erflowing cups
Fresh on the marble. On the bench, beneath,
They sate, and quafT'd, and look'd on them

that pass'd.
Gravely discussing the last news from Rome.

But lo, engraven on a threshold stone,
That word of courtesy, so sacred once.



ITALY. 155

Hail . At a master's greeting we may enter.

And lo, a fairy palace ! everywhere,

As through the courts and chambers we advance,

Floors of mosaic, walls of arabesque,

And columns clustering in patrician splendour.

But hark, a footstep ! May we not intrude ?

And now, methinks, I hear a gentle laugh,

And gentle voices mingling as in converse !

— And now a harp-string as struck carelessly,

And now — along the corridoi it comes^ ■

I cannot err, a filling as of baths !

— Ah, no, 't is but a mockery of the sense,

Idle and vain 1 We are but where we were ;

Still wandering in a City of the Dead !

XVI.

THE BAG OF GOLD.

I DINE very often with the good old Cardinal
*** and, I should add, with his cats ; for they
always sit at his table, and are much the gravest
of the company. His beaming countenance
makes us forget his age ; nor did I ever see it
clouded till yesterday, when, as we were con-
templating the sunset from his terrace, he hap-
pened, in the course of our conversation, to
allude to an affecting circumstance in his early
life.

He had just left the University of Palermo
and was entering the army, when he became
acquainted with a young lady of great beauty
and merit, a Sicilian of a family as illostrious aa



!0 ITALY.

his own. Living near each other, they werv
often together ; and, at an age like theirs,
friendship soon turns to love. But his father,
for what reason I forget, refused hia corvsent to
their union ; till, alarmed at the declining health
of his son, lie promised to oppose it no longer,
if, after a separation of three years, they con-
tinued as much in love as ever.

Relying on that promise, he said, I set out on
a long journey, but in my absence the usual
arts were resorted to. Our letters were inter-
cepted ; and false rumours were spread — first
of my indifference, then of my inconstancy,
then of my marriage with a rich heiress of
Sienna; and, when at length I returned to
make her my own, I found her in a convent of
Ursuline Nuns. She had taken the veil ; and
I, said he with a sigh — what else remained for
me ? — I went into the church.

Yet many, he continued, as if to turn the
conversation, very many have been happy
though we were not ; and, if I am not abusing
an old man's privilege, let me tell you a story
with a better catastrophe. It was told to me
when a boy ; and you may not be unwilling to
hear it, for it bears some resemblance to that of
the Merchant of Venice.

We were now arrived at a pavilion that com-
manded one of the noblest prospects imaginable ;
the mountains, the sea, and the islands illumi-
nated by the last beams of day ; and, sitting
down there, he proceeded with his usual viva-



ITALY. 161

city ; for the sadness, which had come across
him, was gone.

There Uved in the fourteenth century, near
Bologna, a widow-lady of the Lambertini family,
called Madonna Lucrezia, who in a revolution
of the state had known the bitterness of poverty,
and had even begged her bread ; kneeling day
after day like a statue at the gate of the cathe-
dral ; her rosary in her left hand, and her right
held out for charity ; her long black veil con-
cealing a face that had once adorned a court,
and had received the homage of as many son-
nets as Petrarch has written on Laura.

But fortune had at last relented ; a legacy
from a distant relation had come to her relief;
and she was now the mistress of a small inn at
the foot of the Appennines ; where she enter-
tained as well as she could, and vvhere those
only stopped who were contented with a little.
The house was still standing, when in my
youth I passed that way ; though the sign of
the White Cross, the Cross of the Hospitallers,
was no longer to be seen over the door ; a sign
which she had taken, if we may believe the
tradition there, in honour of a maternal uncle, a
grand-master of that Order, whose achieve-
ments in Palestine she would sometimes relate
A mountain-stream ran through the garden ; and
at no great distance, where the road turned on its
way to Bologna, stood a little chapel, in which a
lamp was always burning before a picture of the
11



162 ITALY.

Virgin, a picture of great antiquity, the work of
Bome Greek artist.

Here she was dwelhng, respected by all who
knew her; when an event took place, which
threw her into the deepest affliction. It was at
noon-day in September that three foot-travellers
arrived, and, seating themselves on a bench
under her vine-trellis, were supplied with a
flagon of Aleatico by a lovely girl, her only
child, the image of her former self. The
eldest spoke like a Venetian, and his beard
was short and pointed after the fashion of
Venice. In his demeanour he affected great
courtesy, but his look inspired little confidence ;
for when he smiled, which he did continually,
it was with his lips only, not with his eyes ;
and they were always turned from yours. His
companions were bluff and frank in their man-
ner, and on their tongues had many a soldier's
oath. In their hats they wore a medal, such as
in that age was often distributed in war ; and
they were evidently subalterns in one of those
Free Bands which were always ready to serve
in any quarrel, if a service it could be called,
where a battle was little more than a mockery ;
and the slain, as on an opera«stage, were up and
fighting to-morrow. Overcome with the heat,
they threw aside their cloaks ; and, with their
gloves tucked under their belts, continued for
some time in earnest conversation.

At length they rose to go ; and the Venetians
thus addressed their Hostess. ' ' Excellent Lady,



ITALY. 16i

yoy we leave under your roof, for a day or two.
'b\s bag of gold ?" " You may," she replied
gaily. "Bat remember, we fasten only with a
latch. Bars and bolts, we have none in our
village ; and, if we had, where would be your
security ?"

"In your word, Lady."

"But what if I died to-night ? Where would
it be then ?" said she, laughing. " The money
would go to the church ; for none could claim it.' '

"Perhaps you will favour us with an ac-
knowledgment."

" If you will write it,'

An acknowledgment was written according-
ly, and she signed it before Master Bartolo, the
village physician who had just called by chance
to learn the news of the day ; the gold to be
delivered when applied for, but to be delivered
Uhese were the words) not to one — nor to two —
but to the three ; words wisely introduced by
those to whom it belonged, knowing what
they knew of each other. The gold they had
just released from a miser's chest in Perugia •
and they were now on a scent that promised
more.

They and their shadows were no sooner de-
parted, than the Venetian returned, saying,
" Give me leave to set my seal on the bag, as
the others have done; ' and she placed it on a
table before him. But in that moment she was
callsd away to receive a Cavalier, who had just



164 ITALY.

dismounted from his horse ; and, when sfee
came back, it was gone. The temptation had
proved irresistible ; and the man and the money
had vanished together,

" Wretched woman that I am !" she cried, as
in an agony of grief she fell on her daughter's
neck, " What will become of us ? Are we again
to be cast out into the wide world ? — Unhappy
child, would that thou hadst never been born !"
and all day long she lamented ; but her tears
availed her little. The others were not slow in
returning to claim their due ; and there were no
tidings of the thief: he had fled far away with
his plunder. A process against her was instantly
begun in Bologna ; and what defence could she
make ? — how release herself from the obligation
of the bond ? Wilfully or in negligence she had
parted with it to one, when she should have
kept it for all ; and inevitable ruin awaited her !

" Go, Gianetta," said she to her daughter,
"take this veil which your mother has worn
and wept under so often, and implore the Coun-
sellor Calderino to plead for us on the day of
trial. He is generous, and will listen to the un-
fortunate. But, if he will not, go from door to
door ; Monaldi cannot refuse us. Make haste,
jmy child ; but remember the chapel as you pasa
by it. Nothing prospers without a prayer."

Alas, she went, but in vain. These were re-
tained against them ; those demanded more
than they had to give ; and all bade them despair.



ITALY. |65

What was to be doao ? No advocate ; and the
cause to come on to-morrow !

Now Gianetta had a lover; and he v/as a
student of the lav/, a young man of great pro-
mise. Lorenzo Martelli. He had studied long
and diligently under that learned lawyer, Gio-
vanni Andreas, who, though little of stature,
was great in renown, and by his contemporaries
was called the Arch-doctor, the Rabbi of Doc-
tors, the Light of the World. Under him he
had studied, sitting on the same bench with Pe-
trarch ; and also under his daughter, Novella,
v.'ho would often lecture to the scholars, when
her father was otherwise engaged, placing her-
self behind a small curtain, lest her beauty
should divert their thoughts ; a precaution in this
instance at least unnecessary, Lorenzo having
lost his heart to another.*

To him she flies in her'necessity ; but of what
Essistance can he be ? He has just taken his
place at the bar, but he has never spoken; and
how stand up alone, unpractised and unprepared
as he is, against an array that v»^ould alarm the


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Online LibrarySamuel RogersThe poems of Samuel Rogers, with a memoir → online text (page 8 of 16)