« ÎnapoiContinuă »
own heart, and there, like the inhabitant of a beleaguered city, she knoweth no repose.
At last, perhaps, she meets with an idol for the shrine she fain would consecrate, and her first offerings are all those sources of innocent delight which have hitherto occupied her joyous days; but she cheerfully lays them down; nay, if it were required, she would give up life itself, for her life is bound up in that of another. Vain folly !—as if truth and constancy were blossoms for earth,—as if death, with his shadowy wing, did not hover over every blessing, ready to snatch it away when most intensely we feel its worth! But who cares to profit by the experience of others? There are lessons which, however wearisome, however bitter, we must learn for ourselves; and too often, even when we have passed the dark stream of mortal passion, when, weary and worn, we have gained the opposite shore,too often, even then, we hang our harps upon the willows, and sit down, mournful and lonely to wail with lingering regret over the past, to sigh over the illusions which spread their own bright hue over our early days,—to sigh, because those illusions can return to cheat and charm no more.
"Will you buy some flowers, Signorina," said a young peasant coming down to the water's edge, as our boat stopped for a few minutes at Fusina. She was a pretty dark-eyed girl; her profusion of black hair was fastened up in one large plait, like a piece of matting at the back of her head, and ornamented with a silver bodkin and a few roses. "Do buy this wreath," she continued to Violet; "it is fit for a bride!" She held out, as she spoke, a garland of
the delicate mountain cistus. The buds of purest white embedded in pale green leaves, seemed to justify her assertion.
"Why so?" asked Violet, laughingly,-" because they will fade so soon?"
"Not so," answered the girl, with quick wit, "Not so, Signorina. It is rather because these flowers only bud in this cold Lombardy: they blossom in a fairer climate." And with a look of deep meaning, she slightly raised her finger to the sky. There was a world of philosophy in these few words.
"Poveretta," said a man who stood by, "è pazzaè morto suo marito il giorno delle nozze.
The way to the city is marked by piles of wood set in the water. Harry asked the gondolier to chaunt some of Tasso's verses; but the man said, with a smile and shake of the head, that the custom was a good custom, but that it had passed away; so May, to please her cousin, took up her guitar, and although she would not murder the poetry of the immortal bard, began the pretty and truly national air, "Oh pescator dell'onde." Thus we made, you may perceive, our entry properly; but long before the song was finished, the guitar, and the Pescator, and the cheerful party in the gondola, were as though they were not for me; for domes and spires, and statuecrowned pinnacles, afar off, like dim shadows in the thin blue air, reminded me of that truest of all sweet visions, the fairy Morgana's airy city. Then I tried to remember, that this sea of palaces was indeed founded by a few poor exiled fishermen, and was still dreaming of doges and crusades, when Sir Mark observed: "A pleasant place this enough in carnival
time," and Lady Julian replied, "Yes; Lord A. and Lady Mary were here last spring." Away went the image of doge and crusade :-impossible to think of them and Lady Mary, little Lady Mary, with gigot sleeves and tulle bonnet in the same moment!
On, on! over the broad smooth canal, hedged in to the right and left by palaces, marble palaces, crowned with statues and ornamented with high pointed windows and balconies of stone wrought into every form of arabesque and gothic beauty. We went, pausing now a moment, to peep down through the narrow dark water streets, that opened from the canal, and crept noiselessly between the princely mansions; - then breaking out into exclamations of disgust at the various groups and objects which disfigured the noble marble steps reaching down into the water;or lamenting the signs of ruin, and poverty, and decay, which hang over the dwellings, where feasted in ancient days the Dandoli, the Pescari, and the Foscari. I will not give you any description of church, palace, or even cathedral, for you may satisfy your curiosity by looking at Canaletti's views.
I will only say, that we found, soon after landing, that the same mixture of fallen grandeur, with want of comfort, pervades the interior as well as the exterior of a Venetian dwelling-place. The rooms of our hotel open into a long gallery, ornamented with statues, busts, and a cabinet of exquisite mosaic; the doors are double, and carved with flowers and figures, but never shut closely; the outer one is of mahogany or ebony, the inner one painted deal. Mirrors and paintings there are in abundance, while a bit of dirty baize presents an apology for a carpet.
It is (so the almanack informs us) November; but to the inhabitants of Venice the seasons bring no change. They know nought, alas for them! of the sweet and holy mysteries of spring; to them the book of nature is a sealed book indeed. They never wander in valley green, and by hedge-row wild, to watch the fairest and sweetest of earth's children wake up from their long sleep. To them the words anemone, and snowdrop, and crocus, which are to us familiar as the names of our household gods, convey no emotion of pleasure; they know not the deep joy of listening to the notes of the woodlark, or to the hum of insect voices among the tall waving grass. They repose not in the burning heats of summer under the green arches of a forest glade.
They know nought of the joy of leaning from a casement after a gentle May shower, and inhaling the sweet breath of the wall-flowers and stocks in the tiny garden. For them the nightingale has no voice, and the grasshopper raises his merry note in vain. Therefore, with their statue-crowned palaces and galleries peopled by Titian, I pity them! There are two affections of the soul, which outlive every other, and which, methinks, ever increase in ardour, as other affections blight and decay, and these are the love of nature and the love of God.
In England, sweet England, green bowery England, I remember how often vainly sorrowing for that which would not now cause a tear or a sigh; I went out alone in the daisied meadows, and wandering on under the hawthorn hedge, by the brook side, my heavy grief was comforted. Tracing the narrow footpath, and looking over a wild luxuriance of clover,
and yellow buttercup, and bright sorrel; then resting a while under a canopy of snowy blossoms more fragrant than the breath of Araby, listening to the deep call of the thrush, or the rich low song of the nightingale, how was it possible for the cloud to rest on the brow, or the tear in the eye? How was it possible still to deem that all of life and hope was vested in the veering affection of a fellow mortal? Gradually, very gradually, but surely, the gloom of discontent would pass away; and reading the blessed assurance of God's bounty in every leaf and blade and bud, with which he has robed the fair world in beauty, how was it possible to feel otherwise, than certain, that his mercy also is over all his works, and that the griefs which darken over youth's pathway, are but sent as rough-faced messengers to call the heart, in its first flush of warm and generous feeling, unto Himself, as the alone object worthy of its pure, its disinterested worship.
Ah! for the mourner who lives on memory, society may be good, but solitude is better. We early learn to look through words and smiles, to read motives; and when we find that they whom we have been accustomed to esteem and approve, have been esteemed and approved only because we were too inexperienced to pierce the veil, how sorrowful is the knowledge! how we sicken at the idea of forming new friendships, new attachments,-at the idle task of rearing new palaces, of sweet hopes and tender wishes, which the first blast will overthrow! Then we turn again to nature, beautiful nature, and there we heed not the storm, because sunshine follows; and we