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the execution. The noble and the rich retired to their country houses, and the poor left their humble roofs and sought shelter beneath the lofty pine trees of the old forest in the neighbourhood, leaving the completion of the tragedy to be witnessed only by the vile actors in it, and the strangers who by chance arrived at the spot on so inauspicious a day.
The blue and cloudless sky, and the genial warmth of as lovely a day as Italy affords, formed a striking contrast to that horrific scene of death from which we turned shocked and disgusted, pondering on the madness that urges men to wage war against their fellow men, as if the afflictions to which flesh is heir are not sufficient, without adding to them.
In the inn where I now write, did Byron sojourn when he left Venice, to follow to her natal town the lady of his love. He had heard she was ill, dangerously ill, and he knew that a passion deep and impetuous as those only of sunny climes experience, was struggling in her young heart against the still, small voice of conscience that opposed, but opposed it in vain. He had vanquished his own ardent desire to behold her; nay, he had determined to seek safety from temptation, by a flight from Venice to England. His preparations for the journey were made, his very gondola was at his door, and himself equipped for departure, when tidings came of her increased illness; and he forgot every thing but her danger, and the dread of adding to it by his leaving Italy. In this very room was it, that, trem
bling with emotion, he ventured to enquire about her health, and was told that the doctors said she could not live; when, in violent perturbation, and regardless that he spoke to strangers that which should not be said, as implicating the fame of her he loved, he vowed that if she died he wished not to live.
Poor Byron! that wildly throbbing heart is now at rest, those impetuous passions are stilled in the grave, yet I cannot gaze on the objects around me, objects which probably occupy precisely the same places, and wear the same aspect, as when you beheld them, without pitying the anxiety you here endured, and the genuine affection that led you exclaim, “ If she dies, I wish not to live.” How well I remember his declaration to me of the fervor and devotion of his attachment, at that period. “I do assure you,” would he say, “ that I thought of
I nothing but her; and had she ceased to exist, I believe that I should not have survived."
We questioned our hosts about Byron, and they spoke of him with affection and veneration. “ He was so charitable,” they said, “ and so full of pity for the unfortunate."
I went over the Palazzo Guiccioli to-day, paused in the apartments in it so long occupied by Byron, and in the one in which he wrote “ Sardanapalus,” the generous
“ Defence of Pope," the fifth canto of “ Don Juan,” which he told me he discontinued at the request of the Countess Guiccioli, and various
other productions. I could not have looked at rooms once occupied by such a brilliant genius, even though I had never seen him, without emotion ; but how is this feeling increased by having been well acquainted with him, and being enabled, by a perfect recollection, to bring back to the mind's eye the exact image of the man, in the local habitation in which he spent many a day. Strange, that in that habitation I could recall his person to memory much more vividly than in places where I know he had never been! When I wish to remember his
appearance most accurately, I think of him riding at Genoa, or seated in the salons, or in the balconies of the Albergo-de-la-Ville ; and not only can I then recollect his person perfectly, but the tones of his voice come back to me as fresh as if heard yesterday.
There is a sort of similarity in the fate of Dante and Byron that must have more than once occurred to the latter while here. Both were unhappy in their domestic lives, however different might have been the causes, and the characters of the ladies whom they wedded. Both exiles from their countries, and writhing under a sense of the injustice with which they had been treated, both sought and found that peace at Ravenna denied them at home.
The Palazzo Guiccioli is a large one, with a fine staircase, and various suites of rooms. Those occupied by Lord Byron were apart from the rest, and one of them was a salon of very large dimensions, the walls of which had been painted in fresco, under his directions, with copies from plates of some of Titian's pictures, and had a good effect. By how many various passions had he been influenced during his sojourn in the rooms, I loitered in to-day! Love, that. guided him to this abode, though potent in his breast, was soon mingled with that passionate devotion to liberty, and sympathy with those who were denied this good, which was so distinguishing a trait in the character of the poet. Hence he entered into the feelings, nay more, was disposed to perform an active part in the resistance to the tyrannical sway of the government, then contemplated in Romagna by the liberals there; and like all undertakings in which he embarked, he was as warmly anxious and interested in this scheme, as if he had been a personal sufferer from the misrule, he wished to subvert.
To those who did not personally know Byron, it will appear extraordinary that he could thus mix himself
up with the politics of a country where his sojourn had been but brief, and its continuance was still uncertain ; but those who were acquainted with the extraordinary mobility of his mind, can easily imagine how quickly he participated in the feelings of those around him, and espoused their cause, though his coalition with them might be attended with no little risk to himself.
But even while thus acting, Byron could laugh at, and ridicule his own quixotism with more wit and humour, than could be called into play against it hy others. With a temperament that peculiarly exposed
him to acts of chivalric rashness, Byron possessed so quick a perception of the ridiculous, that he could not disguise from himself the indiscretion of many of his own proceedings; and while pursuing conduct that his sober judgment disapproved, he would, as if in atonement, indulge in a mockery of it, more sarcastic than that of those who wished to attack him,
The custode who showed us the apartments was loud in his praises of Lord Byron, and recounted various instances of his charity.
“ He could not see a person in distress without succouring him," said he," and the poor of Ravenna and its neighbourhood soon discovered this benevolent disposition, and beset him every day when he went to the Pigneta.* But it was not money alone that he gave them, signora, kind words and a patient hearing of their misfortunes accompanied his gifts; and, paupers as they were, they valued these scarcely less. I remember well his meeting a poor woman of extreme age, and his telling her to come here; when he not only heard her tale of distress, but gave her gold, and a weekly pension beside.”
I questioned the man about the habits of Byron, and he answered that they were molto bizzario, always reading or writing, taking little pleasure except in riding in the Pigneta, or playing with his favorite animals.
* The name by which the Ravennese call the Forest.