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O Italy, how beautiful thou art !
Yet I could weep-for thou art lying, alas,
Low in the dust; and we admire thee now
As we admire the beautiful in death.
Thine was a dangerous gift, when thou wast born,
The gift of Beauty. Would thou hadst it not;
Or wert as once, awing the caitiffs vile
That now beset thee, making thee their slave !
Would they had loved thee less, or feared thee more!
-But why despair? Twice hast thou lived already;
Twice shone among the nations of the world,
As the sun shines among the lesser lights
Of heaven; and shalt again. The hour shall come,
When they who think to bind the ethereal spirit,
Who, like the eagle cowering o'er his prey,
Watch with quick eye, and strike and strike again
If but a sinew vibrate, shall confess
Their wisdom folly. Even now the flame
Bursts forth where once it burnt so gloriously,
And, dying, left a splendour like the day,
That like the day diffused itself, and still
Blesses the earth—the light of genius, virtue,
Greatness in thought and act, contempt of death,
God-like example. Echoes that have slept
Since Athens, Lacedæmon, were Themselves,
Since men invoked 'By Those in Marathon!'
Awake along the Ægean; and the dead,
They of that sacred shore, have heard the call,
And thro' the ranks, from wing to wing, are seen
Moving as once they were-instead of rage
Breathing deliberate valour.
[From the same.]
If thou shouldst ever come by choice or chance
To Modena, where still religiously
Among her ancient trophies is preserved
Bologna's bucket (in its chain it hangs
Within that reverend tower, the Guirlandine)
Stop at a Palace near the Reggio-gate,
Dwelt in of old by one of the Orsini.
Its noble gardens, terrace above terrace,
And rich in fountains, statues, cypresses,
Will long detain thee; thro' their arched walks,
Dim at noon-day, discovering many a glimpse
Of knights and dames, such as in old romance,
And lovers, such as in heroic song,
Perhaps the two, for groves were their delight,
That in the spring-time, as alone they sat,
Venturing together on a tale of love,
Read only part that day.A summer-sun
Sets ere one half is seen; but, ere thou go,
Enter the house-prythee, forget it not-
And look awhile upon a picture there.
'Tis of a Lady in her earliest youth,
The very last of that illustrious race,
Done by Zampieri-but I care not whom.
He, who observes it-ere he passes on,
Gazes his fill, and comes and comes again,
That he may call it up, when far away.
She sits, inclining forward as to speak,
Her lips half-open, and her finger up,
As tho' she said 'Beware!' her vest of gold
Broidered with flowers, and clasped from head to foot,
An emerald-stone in every golden clasp;
And on her brow, fairer than alabaster,
A coronet of pearls. But then her face,
So lovely, yet so arch, so full of mirth,
The overflowings of an innocent heart-
It haunts me still, tho' many a year has fled,
Like some wild melody!
Alone it hangs
Over a mouldering heir-loom, its companion,
An oaken-chest, half-eaten by the worm,
But richly carved by Anthony of Trent
With scripture-stories from the Life of Christ;
A chest that came from Venice, and had held
The ducal robes of some old Ancestor.
That by the way—it may be true or false-,
But don't forget the picture; and thou wilt not,
When thou hast heard the tale they told me there.
She was an only child; from infancy
The joy, the pride of an indulgent Sire.
Her Mother dying of the gift she gave,
That precious gift, what else remained to him?
The young Ginevra was his all in life,
Still as she grew, for ever in his sight;
And in her fifteenth year became a bride,
Marrying an only son, Francesco Doria,
Her playmate from her birth, and her first love.
Just as she looks there in her bridal dress,
She was all gentleness, all gaiety;
Her pranks the favourite theme of every tongue.
But now the day was come, the day, the hour;
Now, frowning, smiling, for the hundredth time,
The nurse, that ancient lady, preached decorum ;
And, in the lustre of her youth, she gave
Her hand, with her heart in it, to Francesco.
Great was the joy; but at the Bridal feast,
When all sat down, the Bride was wanting there.
Nor was she to be found! Her Father cried
"Tis but to make a trial of our love!'
And filled his glass to all; but his hand shook,
And soon from guest to guest the panic spread.
'Twas but that instant she had left Francesco,
Laughing and looking back and flying still,
Her ivory tooth imprinted on his finger.
But now, alas, she was not to be found;
Nor from that hour could anything be guessed,
But that she was not!
Weary of his life, Francesco flew to Venice, and forthwith Flung it away in battle with the Turk. Orsini lived; and long might'st thou have seen An old man wandering as in quest of something, Something he could not find- he knew not what. When he was gone, the house remained awhile
Silent and tenantless-then went to strangers.
Full fifty years were past, and all forgot,
When on an idle day, a day of search
Mid the old lumber in the Gallery,
That mouldering chest was noticed; and 'twas said
By.one as young, as thoughtless as Ginevra,
'Why not remove it from its lurking place!'
'Twas done as soon as said; but on the way
It burst, it fell; and lo, a skeleton,
With here and there a pearl, an emerald-stone,
A golden clasp, clasping a shred of gold.
All else had perished-save a nuptial ring,
And a small seal, her mother's legacy,
Engraven with a name, the name of both,
[THE REV. WILLIAM LISLE BOWLES was born at King's Sutton in 1762. His chief work is his Sonnets, first published in 1789. He died at Salisbury in 1850.]
It was the candle of Bowles that lit the fire of Coleridge. We have it on record in the Biographia Literaria that to the author of The Ancient Mariner, bewildered at seventeen between metaphysics and theological controversy, and utterly out of sympathy with the artificialities of the Popesque school, the early sonnets of Bowles came almost in the light of a revelation. In a copy preserved at South Kensington he writes of them later as 'having done his heart more good than all the other books he ever read excepting his Bible.' Those who to-day turn to the much-praised verses will scarcely find in their pensive amenity that enduring charm which they presented to the hungry and restless soul of Coleridge, seeking its fitting food in unpropitious places. They exhibit a grace of expression, a delicate sensibility, and above all a 'musical sweet melancholy' that is especially grateful in certain moods of mind; but with lapse of time and change of fashion they have grown a little thin and faint and colourless. Of Bowles's remaining works it is not necessary to speak. He was overmatched in his controversy with Byron as to Pope, and the blunt
'Stick to thy sonnets, Bowles,—at least they pay' of the former must be accepted as the final word upon the poetical efforts of the cultivated and amiable Canon of Salisbury.