Page images
PDF
EPUB

Did thy capacious wisdom ne'er explore

An unseen world, where fame should be no more?
Wast thou content mind's purest joys to know,
And in the silent grave those joys forego?
The towering heights of Reason's lore to try,
To plume thine eagle fancy and to die?
Did no still voice e'er whisper in thy breast,
That those fond aspirations to be blest,
That feverish restlessness, that mortal strife,
Were the sure earnests of immortal life,
Seeds of that flower that was again to bloom
More bright, more fair, and live beyond the tomb?
Unhappy! from these truths thou turn'dst away,
Nor hail'dst the morn that brought our glorious day.

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.

The

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.

H.

STANZAS

Written on viewing the Monument of two Sleeping Children, by Chautrey, in Lichfield Cathedral.

O CHANTREY! thou hast stolen the feeling all
Of Nature's young and innocent worshipers,
Of those whose hearts keep holy festival
Through the fair seasons of their beauteous years;
Whose feet go printless over woe; whose tears
But gem the looks of gladness where they light;
Whose lips are wet with honey; while the fears,
Waylaying mortal joys, may never fright

The soul from its repast, pure, sensitive, and light.
For when the blight of ugly Death had thrown
Its lustre from that seat of love, the eye,

Then camest thou, and in thy chisell❜d stone
Hewedst out these an immortality.
While their free spirits sought to glorify
The holiness of innocence with wings,

Thou bad'st their fairy forms entranced lie,
As if they dreamt of Heaven, and lovely things
That Future still to Youth in radiant beauty brings.
O artist! pity thou couldst not bestow
The breath into those lips that gently part;
And give the warm blood in those veins to flow,
That seem to converse with the throbbing heart;
And bid that perfect foot with ardent start,
Climb the bright Helicon of Life's domain ;-
Pity! yet hardly so ;-man has no art
To wake the youthful melody again;

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,
And everlasting freshness. Oh! gone by

I have known forms like yours, yet they could die!
But your sweet sympathies shall perish not;
And ye, like rainbows promise-bent on high,
Shall point the mourner from his earthly spot,
To where immortal youth is joy's peculiar lot.

J.

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.
Why sitt'st thou, Muse, in silence sighing,
Unpaid thy verse, thy plaint unheard,
While Nature's verdure round thee dying
To time resigns what storms have spared:
Come! let thy gravest chord be strung,
Be that dread Power in sadness sung
That sweeps the old and fells the young,
And all our care defies;

E'en as thy numbers roll along,
He triumphs while he flies.

Age-thou hast felt and mourn'd his rigour,
By slow degrees removed from life;
And vain is manhood's boasted vigour
Sunk in disease or crush'd in strife;
Youth-for the future thou may'st mourn,
Thou through the past few ills hast borne,
Yet may thy soul with grief be torn
To think upon the day,

When thy wild joys that mock return
Shall all have pass'd away.

For me, who shrink from youthful madness
To pause awhile in serious thought,
What sudden cause has turn'd to sadness

A heart that seldom grieves for aught?
Too young Ambition's blight to prove,
In Learning's maze too light to rove,
Too gay to feel the pangs of Love,
Nor reckless of its joys,

What sting all former stings above
Transforms my smiles to sighs?

Time! 'tis thy fleetness stamps my terror,
And fixes thought on Passion's throne:
Thou shew'st how much the past was error,
How much the future has t'atone;

Reason approaches to decry

Follies that forced her long to fly,
Wrings from my soul the secret sigh
That tells how dear they cost,
And flashes on my sorrowing eye
The treasures I have lost.

The laughing hours of careless riot,

The dreams of love, the flights of joy,
The bliss that dreamt not of disquiet,
The gold of life without th' alloy,-
These these are past-or should be past,
For now the die of life is cast,
And outraged Wisdom comes at last
Her summons to prefer,

That future years be snatch'd from waste,

And given to Sense and her.

And I must raise me to her level,
For Justice sanctifies her claim,

And now four lustres pass'd in revel
O'erwhelm my serious soul with shame

Childhood's years in pastimes flew;
And youth, which should her toils pursue,
Far more of sport than learning knew,
In follies pass'd away,

Leaving a debt to Science due
Which manhood must repay.

Come then, nymph too long neglected,
Forgive thy wrongs and stretch thine aid;
All thy rights shall be respected,

Thy injunctions all obey'd;

Nor shall gloom the change attend,
Cheerfulness is Wisdom's friend,

And glad Content her charms shall lend
Thy triumphs to display,

And thus my fruitful toil commend,-
"Thou hast not lost a day."

Farewell, ye dreams of wild delusion-
Farewell, ye sweets of sluggard rest—
For ever must your bright confusion

Be banish'd from my thoughtful breast:
Oh! may my efforts meet success
To banish or to fly excess;

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

« PreviousContinue »