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XXIV. And how and why we know not, nor can trace Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind, But feel the shock renew'd, nor can efface The blight and blackening which it leaves behind, Which out of things familiar, undesign'd, When least we deem of such, calls up to view The spectres whom no exorcism can bind, The cold—the changed —perchance the dead— anew, [how few : The mourn'd, the loved, the lost—too many l—yet XXV. But my soul wanders; I demand it back To meditate amongst decay, and stand A ruin amidst ruins; there to track Fall'n states and buried greatness, o'er a land Which was the mightiest in its old command, And is the loveliest, and must ever be The master-mould of Nature's heavenly hand, Wherein were cast the heroic and the free, The beautiful, the brave—the lords of earth and sea. XXVI. The commonwealth of kings, the men of Rome! And even since, and now, fair Italy | Thou art the garden of the world, the home Of all Art yields, and Nature (') can decree; Even in thy desert, what is like to thee? Thy very weeds are beautiful, thy waste | More rich than other climes' fertility; ! Thy wreck a glory, and thy ruin graced With an immaculate charm which cannot be defaced.
(1) [The whole of this canto is rich in description of Nature. The love of Nature now appears as a distinct passion in Byron's mind. It is a love that
XXVII. The moon is up, and yet it is not night— Sunset divides the sky with her—a sea Of glory streams along the Alpine height Of blue Friuli's mountains; Heaven is free From clouds, but of all colours seems to be Melted to one vast Iris of the West, Where the Day joins the past Eternity; While, on the other hand, meek Dian's crest Floats through the azure air — an island of the blest I (") XXVIII. A single star is at her side, and reigns With her o'er half the lovely heaven; but still Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains Roll'd o'er the peak of the far Rhaetian hill, As Day and Night contending were, until Nature reclaim'd her order: —gently flows The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil The odorous purple of a new-born rose, Which streams upon her stream, and glass'd within it glows,
does not rest in beholding, nor is satisfied with describing, what is before him. It has a power and being, blending itself with the poet's very life. Though Byron had, with his real eyes, perhaps, seen more of Nature than ever was before permitted to any great poet, yet he never before seemed to open his whole heart to her genial impulses. But in this he is changed; and in this and the fourth Cantos of Childe Harold, he will stand a comparison with the best descriptive poets, in this age of descriptive poetry.PROFEssoR WILSON.]
(1) The above description may seem fantastical or exaggerated to those who have never seen an Oriental or an Italian sky, yet it is but a literal and hardly sufficient delineation of an August evening (the eighteenth), as contemplated in one of many rides along the banks of the Brenta, near La Mira.
XXIX. Fill'd with the face of heaven, which, from afar, Comes down upon the waters; all its hues, | From the rich sunset to the rising star, Their magical variety diffuse: And now they change; a paler shadow strews | Its mantle o'er the mountains; parting day Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues With a new colour as it gasps away, The last still loveliest, till—'tis gone—and all is gray XXX. There is a tomb in Arqua;—rear'd in air, Pillar'd in their sarcophagus, repose The bones of Laura's lover: here repair Many familiar with his well-sung woes, The pilgrims of his genius. He arose To raise a language, and his land reclaim From the dull yoke of her barbaric foes: Watering the tree which bears his lady's name (') With his melodious tears, he gave himself to fame. XXXI. They keep his dust in Arqua, where he died; (2) The mountain-village where his latter days Went downthevale of years; and 'tis their pride— An honest pride—and let it be their praise, To offer to the passing stranger's gaze His mansion and his sepulchre; both plain And venerably simple, such as raise A feeling more accordant with his strain | Than if a pyramid form'd his monumental fane.
(1,2) See “Historical Notes,” Nos. VIII. and IX.
XXXII. And the soft quiet hamlet where he dwelt () Is one of that complexion which seems made For those who their mortality have felt, And sought a refuge from their hopes decay'd In the deep umbrage of a green hill's shade, Which shows a distant prospect far away Of busy cities, now in vain display'd, For they can lure no further; and the ray Of a bright sun can make sufficient holiday. XXXIII. Developing the mountains, leaves, and flowers, And shining in the brawling brook, where-by, Clear as its current, glide the sauntering hours With a calm languor, which, though to the eye | Idlesse it seem, hath its morality. If from society we learn to live, 'Tis solitude should teach us how to die; It hath no flatterers; vanity can give No hollow aid; alone—man with his God must strive:
(1) [“Halfway up He built his house, whence as by stealth he caught Among the hills, a glimpse of busy life That soothed, not stirr'd.” “I have built, among the Euganean hills, a small house, decent and proper; in which I hope to pass the rest of my days, thinking always of my dead or absent friends.” Among those still living was Boccaccio, who is thus mentioned by him in his will:—“To Don Giovanni of Certaldo, for a winter gown at his evening studies, I leave fifty golden florins; truly, little enough for so great a man.” When the Venetians overran the country, Petrarch prepared for flight. “Write your Name over your door,” said one of his friends, “ and you will be safe.” “I am not sure of that,” replied Petrarch, and fled with his books to Padua. His books he left to the republic of Venice, laying, as it were, a foundation for the library of St. Mark; but they exist no longer. His legacy to Francis Carrara, a Madonna painted by Giotto, is still preserved in the Cathedral of Padua.-Rogers.]
(1) The struggle is to the full as likely to be with demons as with our better thoughts. Satan chose the wilderness for the temptation of our Saviour. And our unsullied John Locke preferred the presence of a child to complete solitude.
(2) [In April, 1817, Lord Byron visited Ferrara, went over the castle, cell, &c., and wrote, a few days after, the Lament of Tasso. —“One of the Ferrarese asked me,” he says, in a letter to a friend, “if I knew * Lord Byron,” an acquaintance of his, now at Naples. I told him “No!" which was true both ways, for I knew not the impostor; and, in the other, no one knows himself. He stared, when told that I was the real Simon Pure! Another asked me, if I had not translated Tasso. You see what Fame is how accurate 1 how boundless! I don't know how others feel, but I am always the lighter and the better looked on when I have got rid of mine. It sits on me like armour on the Lord Mayor's champion; and I got rid of all the husk of literature, and the attendant babble, by answering that I had not translated Tasso, but a namesake had ; and, by the blessing of Heaven, I looked so little like a poet, that every body believed me.” – B. Letters.]