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Did thy capacious wisdom ne'er explore
An unseen world, where fame should be no more?
The view of the Lake of Como from the town is confined to a small circular basin, surrounded by high hills, and enlivened by villas. On doubling a low headland, a very beautiful reach is seen. The mountains rise on each side boldly from the water's edge, and their summits terminate in peaks of varied form and elevation. Their gradual ascent (in Gibbon's words) is covered by a triple plantation of olives, of vines, and of chesnut-trees, and they are clothed nearly to their summits with verdure. The green mass of the woods is agreeably interrupted in various places by small villages, clustering round the slender tower of the church, or by the solitary convent or chapel, whilst the white villas which crowd the shores are reflected in the transparent waters which flow close under their walls. About three miles from Como we came to the promontory and small village of Torno. It forms a very picturesque object, sloping gradually from the higher hills, and projecting far into the lake, with its houses, church, and cypress-trees. Here some have placed Pliny's two villas -his Tragedy and Comedy. The situation has sufficient beauty, and agrees well enough with Pliny's description to warrant us in placing them here; but there is nothing like conclusive evidence of their having occupied this site. We coasted the Eastern shore of the lake from Torno, admiring, as we advanced, the beauty and boldness of the scenery, and, about two miles farther, landed at a modern villa called the Pliniana. Here, in the inner court of the house, is the intermitting fountain described by both Plinys. Its source is under a low cavern; it runs with great rapidity, and is as clear as crystal. attendant informed us, that it still rises and falls thrice a-day, but at uncertain hours. It does not, I think, appear from Pliny's account, that he had a villa close to this fountain; and, indeed, the confined situation, hardly allowing room for a house, is very ill adapted to the space of a Roman mansion. The site, however, of the Pliniana is very beautiful; it is embosomed in a grove of chesnuts, laurel, and cypress; it clings close to the rocky hill which rises immediately above it; and commands an extensive and magnificent view of the lake.
I shall subjoin Pliny's description of his villas on the lake, as tending to illustrate the beautiful scenery in which his elegant genius seems so much to have delighted.
"On this shore I have many villas, but two, as they please me most, so principally engage me. The one placed on rocks, after the Baian fashion, looks over the lake; the other, also, in the Baian man.
ner, touches its waters: wherefore, that I am accustomed to call Tragedy, because she is supported on buskins; this, Comedy, because her feet are sandaled. Each has its peculiar charms, which, to the possessor of both, are, from their very diversity, rendered more attractive. This enjoys the lake more closely; that more extensively-this embraces in its prospect one bay only of a soft circling outline; that with its lofty promontory divides two:- from that the extended line of coast, stretching to a great distance, appears like a school of equestrian exercise; from this the gentle curve of the shore forms a spacious and sheltered portico for pedestrian recreation. That feels not the waves; this breaks them:-from that you can look down upon the fishermen; from this you can partake in the sport yourself, and throw the hook from your chamber, nay, almost from your bed, as from a boat. These united attractions have induced me to make to each those additions in which they are separately deficient."--Plin. B. ix. Ep. 7.
Written on viewing the Monument of two Sleeping Children, by Chautrey, in Lichfield Cathedral.
O CHANTREY! thou hast stolen the feeling all
The soul from its repast, pure, sensitive, and light.
Then camest thou, and in thy chisell❜d stone
Thou bad'st their fairy forms entranced lie,
And joy is oft, at best, the holiday of pain.
Sweet forms! sweet memories of what have been!
Fair triumphs of a noble art! ye lie
Mocking at things of flesh, in all your green,
I have known forms like yours, yet they could die!
THE BIRTH DAY.
THE antipathy to serious reflection entertained by the generality of mankind is such, that nothing but the occurrence of calamity, or the anniversary of some period marked by sorrow which we cannot forget, or by joy which we cannot recall, is capable of turning the mind to sober and useful meditation. The giddy round of life goes on: we engage in new projects, indulge in new hopes, undismayed by the failure of old ones, and are incessantly occupied with the effort to banish the retrospection of the past, by indulging in the visions of the future.
As has been observed, however, there are times when these efforts fail; and one of these is the recurrence of a birth-day-that subject of joy in childhood, and of seriousness, if not gloom, in maturer age. In the former it is hurrying us on to the wished-for period, when we expect to act with independence, and to enjoy without restraint: in the latter, it is sweeping us headlong to the close of a life, embittered to many by disappointment, and drawing to an end, for which all feel they are unprepared.
Reader, do not be alarmed; I am not going to write a sermon, nor am I one whose mind is soured by disappointment, or racked by remorse. On the contrary, I have attained the nil admirari sort of tranquillity, inspired by experience, and becoming my age, and have learned to live on the philosophic principle, that "All that is truly delightful in life, is what all, if they please, may enjoy." My present train of reflection was awakened by finding among my papers the other day some verses which I wrote on the twentieth anniversary of my birth-day, twenty years ago, and which I subjoin at the end of this article.
Oh the pleasures of that day in my childhood! I still think with delight on the happiness it brought with it, the festivity it occasioned, and the privileges it conferred. On that day I was always allowed a holiday, and suffered to play with my brothers and sisters, who enjoyed the same exemption. On that evening, instead of being sent early to bed, we were all permitted to join in the family supper; for in those days there were no late dinners to preclude supper. I have still before my eyes the small blue parlour in which my mother used to explain to me, in the morning, the importance of the day, and the added duties which its recurrence entailed on me, while I bore the lecture with patience and complacency, in consideration of the joys by which it was to be succeeded. Many a time in after-life, when I had entered on the bustle, the hopes, and fears of the world, have I retired on that day, to turn my thoughts from the cares of business, or the regrets of disappointment, to these remembrances of infant happiness. The retrospection of our actions and adventures, which Pythagoras recommended nightly, I have always entered on annually, and my birth-day has been the day I have fixed on for it. I am not an unhappy man, but, alas! since the date of the following lines, that retrospection has seldom been such a source of comfort to me, as it might have been perpetually if I had kept with firmness the resolutions they express. —
VOL. IV. NO. XVI.
On my Twentieth Birth-Day, September 17th.
E'en as thy numbers roll along,
Age-thou hast felt and mourn'd his rigour,
When thy wild joys that mock return
For me, who shrink from youthful madness
A heart that seldom grieves for aught?
What sting all former stings above
Time! 'tis thy fleetness stamps my terror,
Reason approaches to decry
Follies that forced her long to fly,
The laughing hours of careless riot,
The dreams of love, the flights of joy,
That future years be snatch'd from waste,
And given to Sense and her.
And I must raise me to her level,
And now four lustres pass'd in revel
Childhood's years in pastimes flew;
Leaving a debt to Science due
Come then, nymph too long neglected,
Thy injunctions all obey'd;
Nor shall gloom the change attend,
And glad Content her charms shall lend
And thus my fruitful toil commend,-
Farewell, ye dreams of wild delusion-
Be banish'd from my thoughtful breast:
Then grateful memory long shall bless
The start of useful fear,
Which cloth'd in Reason's sober dress
My twentieth smiling year.
ITALIAN POETS.-MICHEL ANGELO.
We intend devoting a few pages of our present and future numbers to the less known poets of Italy, for such of our readers (and their number is not small) as are already fully acquainted with Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso. Men of the highest abilities in the other departments of human art and knowledge, have not disdained to profess themselves the followers of one or the other of these four eminent writers. But though some of the disciples of these great names have raised themselves nearly to the level of their masters, still the admiration exacted by the models, has left us little to bestow upon the excellence of their imitators. The most illustrious orators and historians, philosophers and artists, who have cultivated poetry with a success which ought to have obtained for them a fair share of renown, are, nevertheless, scarcely known as poets, except to their biographers and to very diligent inquirers after the rare and curious in literature. Perhaps, also, the splendour of their glory, in those pursuits to which their genius was more peculiarly devoted, has eclipsed the fainter brilliancy of their poetical fame
"Urit enim fulgore suo."
This is, above all, the case with the two contemporaries Machiavelli and Michel Angelo, one of whom was considered as the most profound statesman, the other as the most sublime artist of his time; a decree confirmed by each successive generation in the three centuries which have since elapsed. We would say that Machiavelli was born to penetrate with quickness, perceive with clearness, and describe with useful