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Earthwork Out Of Tuscany by Maurice Hewlett

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Being Impressions and Translations of Maurice Hewlett

"For as it is hurtful to drink wine or water alone; and as wine mingled
with water is pleasant and delighteth the taste: even so speech, finely
framed, delighteth the ears of them that read the story."--3 MACCABEES xv.






I cannot add one tendril to your bays,
Worn quietly where who love you sing your praise;
But I may stand
Among the household throng with lifted hand,
Upholding for sweet honour of the land
Your crown of days.


I cannot be for ever explaining what I intended when I wrote this book.
Upon this, its third appearance, even though it is to rank in that good
company which wears the crimson of Eversley, it must take its chance,
undefended by its conscious parent. He feels, indeed, with all the
anxieties, something of the pride of the hen, who conducts her brood of
ducklings to the water, sees them embark upon the flood, and must leave
them to their buoyant performances, dreadful, but aware also that they are
doing a finer thing than her own merits could have hoped to win them. So
it is here. I did not at the outset expect a third edition in any livery;
I may still fear a wreck for this cockboat of my early invention; but I
hope I am too respectful of myself to try throwing oil upon the waters.

I leave the former prefaces as they stand. I felt them when I made them,
and feel them still; but I shall make no more. If _Earthwork_ has the
confidence, at this time of day, to carry a red coat, it shall carry it

LONDON, 1901.


Mr. Critics--to whom, kind or unkind, I confess obligations--and the
Public between them have produced, it appears, some sort of demand for
this Second Edition. While I do not think it either polite or politic to
enquire too deeply into reasons, I am not the man to disoblige them. It is
sufficient for me that in a world indifferent well peopled five hundred
souls have bought or acquired my book, and that other hundreds have
signified their desire to do likewise. Nevertheless--the vanity of authors
being notoriously hard-rooted--I must own to my mortification in the
discovery that not more than two in every hundred who have read me have
known what I was at. I have been told it is a good average, but, with
deference, I don't think so. No man has any right to take beautiful and
simple things out of their places, wrap them up in a tissue of his own
conceits, and hand them about the universe for gods and men to wonder
upon. If he must convey simple things let him convey them simply. If I,
for instance, must steal a loaf of bread, would it not be better to walk
out of the shop with it under my coat than to call for it in a hansom and
hoodwink the baker with a forged cheque on Coutts's bank? Surely. If,
then, I go to Italy, and convey the hawthor-scent of Della Robbia, the
straining of Botticelli to express the ineffable, the mellow autumn tones
of the life of Florence; if I do this, and make a parade of my magnanimity
in permitting the household to divide the spoil, how on earth should I mar
all my bravery by giving people what they don't want, or turn double knave
by fobbing them off with an empty box?

I had hoped to have done better than this. I tried to express in the title
of my book what I thought I had done; more, I was bold enough to assume
that, having weathered the title, my readers would find a smooth channel
with leading-lights enough to bring them sound to port. _Mea culpa!_
I believe that I was wrong. The book has been read as a collection of
essays and stories and dialogues only pulled together by the binder's
tapes; as otherwise disjointed, fragmentary, _decousue_, a "piebald
monstrous book," a sort of _kous-kous_, made out of the odds and ends
of a scribbler's note-book. Some have liked some morsels, others other
morsels: it has been a matter of the luck of the fork. Very few, one only
to my knowledge, can have seen the thing as it presented itself to my
flattering eye--not as a pudding, not as a case of confectionery even, but
as a little sanctuary of images such as a pious heathen might make of his
earthenware gods. Let us be serious: listen. The thing is Criticism; but
some of it is criticism by trope and figure. I hope that is plain enough.

When the first man heard his first thunderstorm he said (or Human Nature
has bettered itself), "Certainly a God is angry." When after a night of
doubt and heaviness the sun rose out of the sea, the sea kindled, and all
its waves laughed innumerably, again he said, "God is stirring. Joy cometh
in the morning." Even in saying so much he was making images, poor man,
for one's soul is as dumb as a fish and can only talk by signs. But by
degrees, as his hand grew obedient to his heart, he set to work to make
more lasting images of these gods--Thunder Gods, Gods of the Sun and the
Morning. And as these gods were the sum of the best feelings he had, so
the images of them were the best things he made. And that goes on now
whenever a young man sees something new or strange or beautiful. He
wonders, he falls on his face, he would say his prayers; he rises up, he
would sing a paean. But he is dumb, the wretch! He must make images. This
he does because Necessity drives him: this I have done. And part of the
world calls the result Criticism, and another part says, It may be Art.
But I know that it is the struggling of a dumb man to find an outlet, and
I call it Religion.

"God first made man, and straightway man made God;
No wonder if a tang of that same sod,
Whereout we issued at a breath, should cling
To all we fashion. We can only plod
Lit by a starveling candle; and we sing
Of what we can remember of the road."

The vague informed, the lovely indefinite defined: that is Art. As a sort
of _pate sur pate_ comes Criticism, to do for Art what Art does for
life. I have tried in this book to be the artist at second-hand, to make
pictures of pictures, images of images, poems of poems. You may call it
Criticism, you may call it Art: I call it Religion. It is making the best
thing I can out of the best things I feel.

LONDON, 1898.


Polite reader, you who have travelled _Italy_, it will not be unknown
to you that the humbler sort in that country have ever believed certain
spots and recesses of their land--as wells, mountain-paths, farmsteads,
groves of ilex or olive, quiet pine-woods, creeks or bays of the sea, and
such like hidden ways--to be the chosen resort of familiar spirits,
baleful or beneficent, fate-ridden or amenable to prayer, half divine,
wholly out of rule or ordering; which rustic deities and _genii
locorum_, if it was not needful to propitiate, it was fascination to
observe. It is believed of them in the hill-country round about
_Perugia_ and in the quieter parts of _Tuscany_, that they are
still present, tolerated of God by reason of their origin (which is,
indeed, that of the very soil whose effluence they are), chastened,
circumscribed and, as it were, combed or pared of evil desire and import.
To them or their _avatars_ (it matters little which) the rude people
still bow down; they still humour them with gifts of flowers, songs, or
artless customs (as of Mayday, or the _Giorno de' Grilli_); you may
still see wayside shrines, votive tablets, humble offerings, set in a
farm-wall or country hedge, starry and fresh as a patch of yellow flowers
in a rye-field. If you say that they have made gods in their own image,
you do not convince them of Sin, for they do as their betters. If you say
their gods are earthy, they reply by asking, "What then are we?" For they
will admit, and you cannot deny, earthiness to have at least a part in all
of us. And you are forbidden to call this unhappy, since God made all. Out
of the drenched earth whence these worshippers arose, they made their
rough-cast gods; out of the same earth they still mould images to speak
the presentment of them which they have. Out of that earth, I, a northern
image-maker, have set up my conceits of their informing spirits, of the
spirits of themselves, their soil, and the fair works they have
accomplished. So I have called this book _Earthwork out of Tuscany. Qui
habet aures ad audiendum audiat._

LONDON, 1895.












10. CATS







Although you know your Italy well, you ask me, who see her now for the
first time, to tell you how I find her; how she sinks into me; wherein she
fulfils, and wherein fails to fulfil, certain dreams and fancies of mine
(old amusements of yours) about her. Here, truly, you show yourself the
diligent collector of human documents your friends have always believed
you; for I think it can only be appetite for acquisition, to see how a man
recognisant of the claims of modernity in Art bears the first brunt of the
Old Masters' assault, that tempts you to risk a _rechauffee_ of Paul
Bourget and Walter Pater, with _ana_ lightly culled from Symonds,
and, perchance, the questionable support of ponderous references out of
Burckhardt. In spite of my waiver of the title, you relish the notion of a
Modern face to face with Botticelli and Mantegna and Perugino (to say
nothing of that Giotto who had so much to say!), artists in whom, you
think and I agree, certain impressions strangely positive of many vanished
aspects of life remain to be accounted for, and (it may be) reconciled
with modern visions of Art and Beauty. Well! I am flattered and touched by
such confidence in my powers of expression and your own of endurance. I
look upon you as a late-in-time Maecenas, generously resolved to defray
the uttermost charge of weariness that a young writer may be encouraged to
unfold himself and splash in the pellucid Tuscan air. I cannot assert that
you are performing an act of charity to mankind, but I can at least assure
you that you are doing more for me than if you had settled my accounts
with Messr. Cook and Sons, or Signora Vedova Paolini, my esteemed
landlady. A writer who is worth anything accumulates more than he gives
off, and never lives up to his income. His difficulty is the old one of
digestion, Italian Art being as crucial for the modern as Italian cookery.
Crucial indeed! for diverse are the ways of the Hyperboreans cheek by jowl
with _asciutta_ and Tuscan tablewine, as any _osteria_ will
convince you. To one man the oil is a delight: he will soak himself in it
till his thought swims viscid in his pate. To another it is abhorrent:
straightway he calls for his German vinegar and drowns the native flavour
in floods as bitter as polemics. Your wine too! Overweak for water, says
one, who consumes a stout _fiaschone_ and spends a stertorous
afternoon in headache and cursing at the generous home-grown.
_Frizzante!_ cries your next to all his gods; and flushes the poison
with infected water. Crucial enough. So with art. Goethe went to Assisi.
"I left on my left," says he, "the vast mass of churches, piled Babel-wise
one over another, in one of which rest the remains of the Holy Saint
Francis of Assisi--with aversion, for I thought to myself that the people
who assembled in them were mostly of the same stamp with my captain and
travelling companion."

Truly an odd ground of aversion to a painted church that there might be a
confessional-box in the nave! But he had no eyes for Gothic, being set on
the Temple of Minerva. The Right Honourable Joseph Addison's views of
Siena will be familiar to you; but an earlier still was our excellent Mr.
John Evelyn doing the grand tour; going to Pisa, but seeing no frescos in
the Campo Santo; going to Florence, but seeing neither Santa Croce nor
Santa Maria Novella; in his whole journey he would seem to have found no
earlier name than Perugino's affixed to a picture. Goethe was urbane to
Francia, "a very respectable artist"; he was astonished at Mantegna, "one
of the older painters," but accepted him as leading up to Titian: and so--
"thus was art developed after the barbarous period." But Goethe had the
sweeping sublimity of youth with him. "I have now seen but two Italian
cities, and for the first time; and I have spoken with but few persons;
and yet I know my Italians pretty well!" Seriously, where in criticism do
you learn of an earlier painter than Perugino, until you come to our day?
And where now do you get the raptures over the Carracci and Domenichino
and Guercino and the rest of them which the last century expended upon
their unthrifty soil? Ruskin found Botticelli; yes, and Giotto. Roscoe
never so much as mentions either. Why should he, honest man? They couldn't
draw! Cookery is very like Art, as Socrates told Gorgias. Unfortunately,
it is far easier to verify your impressions in the former case than in the
latter. Yet that is the first and obvious duty of the critic--that is, the
writer whomsoever. In my degree it has been mine. Wherefore, if I unfold
anything at all, it shall not be the _Cicerone_ nor the veiled
"Anonymous," nor the _Wiederbelebung_, nor (I hope) the _Mornings
in Florence_, but that thing in which you place such touching reliance
--myself and my poor sensations, _Ecco_! I have nothing else. You take
a boy out of school; you set him to book-reading, give him Shakespere and
a Bible, set him sailing in the air with the poets; drench him with
painter's dreams, _via_, Titian's carmine and orange, Veronese's
rippling brocades, Umbrian morning skies, and Tuscan hues wrought of
moonbeams and flowing water--anon you turn him adrift in Italy, a country
where all poets' souls seem to be caged in crystal and set in the sun, and
say--"Here, dreamer of dreams, what of the day?" _Madonna!_ You ask
and you shall obtain. I proceed to expand under your benevolent eye.

To me, Italy is not so much a place where pictures have been painted (some
of which remain to testify), as a place where pictures have been lived and
built; I fail to see how Perugia is not a picture by, say, Astorre
Baglione. Perhaps I should be nearer the mark if I said it was a frozen
epic. What I mean is, that in Italy it is still impossible to separate the
soul and body of the soil, to say, as you may say in London or Paris,--
here behind this sordid grey mask of warehouses and suburban villas lurks
the soul that once was Shakespere or once was Villon. You will not say
that of Florence; you will hardly say it (though the time is at hand) of
Milan and Rome. Do the gondoliers still sing snatches of Ariosto? I don't
know Venice. M. Bourget assures me his _vetturino_ quoted Dante to
him between Monte Pulciano and Siena; and I believe him. At any rate, in
Italy as I have found it, the inner secret of Italian life can be read,
not in painting alone, nor poem alone, but in the swift sun, in the
streets and shrouded lanes, in the golden pastures, in the plains and blue
mountains; in flowery cloisters and carved church porches--out of doors as
well as in. The story of Troy is immortal--why not because the Trojans
themselves live immortal in their fabled sons? That being so, I by no
means promise you my sensations to be of the ear-measuring, nose-rubbing
sort now so popular. I am bad at dates and soon tire of symbols. My
theology may be to seek; you may catch me as much for the world as for
Athanase. With world and doctor I shall, indeed, have little enough to do,
for wherever I go I shall be only on the look-out for the soul of this
bright-eyed people, whom, being no Goethe, I do not profess to understand
or approve. Must the lover do more than love his mistress, and weave his
sonnets about her white brows? I may see my mistress Italy embowered in a
belfry, a fresco, the scope of a Piazza, the lilt of a _Stornello_,
the fragrance of a legend. If I don't find a legend to hand I may, as lief
as not, invent one. It shall be a legend fitted close to the soul of a
fact, if I succeed: and if I fail, put me behind you and take down your
four volumes of Rio, or your four-and-twenty of Rosini. Go to Crowe and
Cavalcaselle and be wise. Parables!--I like the word--to go round about
the thing, whose heart I cannot hit with my small-arm, marking the goodly
masses and unobtrusive meek beauties of it, and longing for them in vain.
No amount of dissecting shall reveal the core of Sandro's Venus. For after
you have pared off the husk of the restorer, or bled in your alembic the
very juices the craftsman conjured withal, you come down to the seamy
wood, and Art is gone. Nay, but your Morelli, your Crowe, ciphering as
they went for want of thought, what did they do but screw Art into test-
tubes, and serve you up the fruit of their litmus-paper assay with
vivacity, may be,--but with what kinship to the picture? I maintain that
the peeling and gutting of fact must be done in the kitchen: the king's
guests are not to know how many times the cook's finger went from cate to
mouth before the seasoning was proper to the table. The king is the
artist, you are the guest, I am the abstractor of quintessences, the cook.
Remember, the cook had not the ordering of the feast: that was the king's
business--mine is to mingle the flavours to the liking of the guest that
the dish be worthy the conception and the king's honour.

Nor will I promise you that I shall not break into a more tripping stave
than our prose can afford, here and there. The pilgrim, if he is young and
his shoes or his belly pinch him not, sings as he goes, the very stones at
his heels (so music-steeped is this land) setting him the key. Jog the
foot-path way through Tuscany in my company, it's Lombard Street to my hat
I charm you out of your lassitude by my open humour. Things I say will
have been said before, and better; my tunes may be stale and my phrasing
rough: I may be irrelevant, irreverent, what you please. Eh, well! I am in
Italy,--the land of shrugs and laughing. Shrug me (or my book) away; but,
pray Heaven, laugh! And, as the young are always very wise when they find
their voice and have their confidence well put out to usury, laugh (but in
your cloak) when I am sententious or apt to tears. I have found _lacrimae
rerum_ in Italy as elsewhere; and sometimes Life has seemed to me to
sail as near to tragedy as Art can do. I suppose I must be a very bad
Christian, for I remain sturdily an optimist, still convinced that it is
good for us to be here, while the sun is up. Men and pictures, poems,
cities, churches, comely deeds, grow like cabbages: they are of the soil,
spring from it to the sun, glow open-hearted while he is there; and when
he goes, they go. So grew Florence, and Shakespere, and Greek myth--the
three most lovely flowers of Nature's seeding I know of. And with the
flowers grow the weeds. My first weed shall sprout by Arno, in a cranny of
the Ponte Vecchio, or cling like a Dryad of the wood to some gnarly old
olive on the hill-side of Arcetri. If it bear no little gold-seeded
flower, or if its pert leaves don't blush under the sun's caress, it
shan't be my fault or the sun's.

Take, then, my watered wine in the name of the Second Maccabaean, for here,
as he says, "will I make an end. And if I have done well, and as is
fitting the story, it is that which I desired: but if slenderly and
meanly, it is that which I could attain unto."

I have killed you at the first cast. I feel it. Has any city, save,
perhaps, Cairo, been so written out as Florence? I hear you querulous; you
raise your eyebrows; you sigh as you watch the tottering ash of your
second cigar. Mrs. Brown comes to tell you it is late. I agree with you
quickly. Florence has often been sketched before--putting Browning aside
with his astounding fresco-music--by Ruskin and George Eliot and Mr. Henry
James, to name only masters. But that is no reason why I should not try my
prentice hand. Florence alters not at all. Men do. My picture, poor as you
like, shall be my own. It is not their Florence or yours--and, remember, I
would strike at Tuscany through Florence, and throughout Tuscany keep my
eye in her beam,--but my own mellow kingcup of a town, the glowing heart
of the whole Arno basin, whose suave and weather-warmed grace I shall try
to catch and distil. But Mrs. Brown is right; it Is late: the huntsmen are
up in America, as your good kinsman has it, and I would never have you act
your own Antipodes. Addio.



[Footnote: My thanks are due to the Editor of _Black and White_ for
permission to reprint the substance of this essay.]

I have been here a few days only--perhaps a week: if it's impressionism
you're after, the time is now or a year hence. For, in these things of
three stages, two may be tolerable, the first clouding of the water with
the wine's red fire, or the final resolution of the two into one humane
consistence: the intermediate course is, like all times of process,
brumous and hesitant. After a dinner in the white piazza, shrinking slowly
to blue under the keen young moon's eye, watched over jealously by the
frowning bulk of Brunelleschi's globe--after a dinner of _pasta con
brodo_, veal cutlets, olives, and a bottle of right _Barbera_, let
me give you a pastel (this is the medium for such evanescences) of
Florence herself. At present I only feel. No one should think--few people
can--after dinner. Be patient therefore; suffer me thus far.

I would spare you, if I might, the horrors of my night-long journey from
Milan. There is little romance in a railway: the novelists have worked it
dry. That is, however, a part of my sum of perceptions which began, you
may put it, at the dawn which saw Florence and me face to face. So I must
in no wise omit it.

I find, then, that Italian railway-carriages are constructed for the
convenience of luggage, and that passengers are an afterthought, as dogs
or grooms are with us, to be suffered only if there be room and on
condition they look after the luggage. In my case we had our full
complement of the staple; nevertheless every passenger assumed the god,
keeping watch on his traps, and thinking to shake the spheres at every
fresh arrival. Thoughtless behaviour! for there were thus twelve people
packed into a rocky landscape of cardboard portmanteaus and umbrella-
peaks; twenty-four legs, and urgent need of stretching-room as the night
wore on. There was jostling, there was asperity from those who could sleep
and from those who would; there was more when two shock-head drovers--like
First and Second Murderers in a tragedy--insisted on taking off their
boots. It was not that there was little room for boots; indeed I think
they nursed them on their thin knees. It was at any rate too much even for
an Italian passenger; for--well, well! their way had been a hot and a
dusty one, poor fellows. So the guard was summoned, and came with all the
implicit powers of an uniform and, I believe, a sword. The boots were
strained on sufficiently to preserve the amenities of the way: they could
not, of course, be what they had been; the carriage was by this a forcing-
house. And through the long night we ached away an intolerable span of
time with, for under-current, for sinister accompaniment to the pitiful
strain, the muffled interminable plodding of the engine, and the rack of
the wheels pulsing through space to the rhythm of some music-hall jingle
heard in snatches at home. At intervals came shocks of contrast when we
were brought suddenly face to face with a gaunt and bleached world. Then
we stirred from our stupor, and sat looking at each other's stale faces.
We had shrieked and clanked our way into some great naked station,
shivering raw and cold under the electric lights, streaked with black
shadows on its whitewash and patched with coarse advertisements. The
porters' voices echoed in the void, shouting _"Piacensa," "Parma,"
"Reggio," "Modena," "Bologna,"_ with infinite relish for the varied
hues of a final _a_. One or two cowed travellers slippered up
responsive to the call, and we, the veterans who endured, set our teeth,
shuddered, and smoked feverish cigarettes on the platform among the
carriage-wheels and points; or, if we were new hands, watched awfully the
advent of another sleeping train, as dingy as our own--yet a hero of
romance! For it bore the hieratic and tremendous words "_Roma, Firenze,
Milano_" It was privileged then; it ministered in the sanctuary. We
glowed in our sordid skins, and could have kissed the foot-boards that
bore the dust of Rome. I will swear I shall never see those three words
printed on a carriage without a thrill, _Roma, Firenze, Milano_,--
Lord! what a traverse.

Or we held long purposeless rests at small wayside places where no station
could be known, and the shrouded land stretched away on either side, not
to be seen, but rather felt, in the cool airs that blew in, and the
rustling of secret trees near by. No further sound was, save the muttered
talking of the guards without and the simmering of the engine, on
somewhere in front. And then "_Partenza!_" rang out in the night, and
"_Pronti!_" came as a faint echo on before. We laboured on, and the
dreams began where they had broken off. For we dreamed in these times,
fitful and lurid, coloured dreams; flashes of horrible crises in one's
life; Interminable precipices; a river skiff engulfed in a swirl of green
sea-water; agonies of repentance; shameful failure, defeat, memories--and
then the steady pulsing of the engine, and thick, impermeable darkness
choking up the windows again. How I ached for the dawn!

I awoke from what I believe to have been a panic of snoring to hear the
train clattering over the sleepers and points, and to see--oh, human,
brotherly sight!--the broad level light of morning stream out of the east.
We were stealing into a city asleep. Tall flat houses rose in the chill
mist to our left and stared blankly down upon us with close-barred green
eyelids. Gas-lamps in swept streets flickered dirty yellow in the garish
light. A great purple dome lay ahead, flanked by the ruddy roofs and
gables of a long church. My heart leapt for Florence. Pistoja!

And then, at Prato, a nut-brown old woman with a placid face got into our
carriage with a basket of green figs and some bottles of milk for the
Florentine market. So we were nearing. And soon we ran in between lines of
white and pink villas edged with rows of planes drenched still with dews
and the night mists, among bullock-carts and queer shabby little
_vetture_, everything looking light and elfin in the brisk sunshine
and autumn bite--into the barrel-like station, and I into the arms, say
rather the arm-chair, of Signora Vedova Paolini, chattiest and most
motherly of landladies.

Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Florence, form the five elements of our planet
according to the testimony of Boniface VIII. of clamant and not very
Catholic memory. That is true if you take it this way. You cannot resolve
an element; but you cannot resolve Florence; therefore Florence is an
element. _Ecco!_ She is like nothing else In Nature, or (which is
much the same thing) Art. You can have olives elsewhere, and Gothic
elsewhere; you can have both at Aries, for instance. You can have
_Campanili_ printed white (but not rose-and white, not rose-and-gold-
and-white) on blue anywhere along the Mediterranean from Tripoli to
Tangier: you will find Giotto at Padua, and statues growing in the open
air at Naples. But for the silvery magic of olives and blue; for a Gothic
which has the supernatural and always restless eagerness of the North,
held in check, reduced to our level by the blessedly human sanity of
Romanesque; for sculpture which sprouts from the crumbling church-sides
like some frankly happy stone-crop, or wall-flower, just as wholesomely
coloured and tenderly shaped, you must come to Florence. Come for choice
in this golden afternoon of the year. Green figs are twelve-a-penny; you
can get peaches for the asking, and grapes and melons without it; brown
men are treading the wine-fat in every little white hill-town, and in
Florence itself you may stumble upon them, as I once did, plying their
mystery in a battered old church--sight only to be seen in Italy, where
religions have been many, but religionists substantially the same. That is
the Italian way; there was the practical evidence. Imagine the sight. A
gaunt and empty old basilica, the beams of the Rood still left, the dye of
fresco still round the walls and tribune--here the dim figure of Sebastian
roped to his tree, there the cloudy forms of Apostles or the Heavenly Host
shadowed in masses of crimson or green--and, down below, a slippery purple
sea, frothed sanguine at the edges, and wild, half-naked creatures
treading out the juice, dancing in the oozy stuff rhythmically, to the
music of some wailing air of their own. _Saturnia regna_ indeed, and
in the haunt of Sant' Ambrogio, or under the hungry eye of San Bernardino,
or other lean ascetic of the Middle Age. But that, after all, is Italian,
not necessarily Florentine or Tuscan. I must needs abstract the unique
quintessential humours of this my Eye of Italy. Stendhal, do you remember?
didn't like one of these. He said that in Florence people talked about
"huesta hasa" when they would say "questa casa," and thus turned Italian
into a mad Arabic. So they do, especially the women: why not? The poor
Stendhal loved Milan, wrote himself down "Arrigo Milanese"--and what can
you expect from a Milanese?

They tell me, who know Florence well, that she is growing unwieldy. Like a
bulky old _concierge_ they say, she sits in the passage of her Arno,
swollen, fat, and featureless, a kind of Chicago, a city of tame
conveniences ungraced by arts. That means that there are suburbs and
tramways; it means that the gates will not hold her in; it has a furtive
stab at the Railway Station and the omnibus in the Piazza del Duorno: it
is _Mornings in Florence_. The suggestion is that Art is some pale
remote virgin who must needs shiver and withdraw at the touch of actual
life: the art-lover must maunder over his mistress's wrongs instead of
manfully insisting upon her rights, her everlasting triumphant
justifications. Why this watery talk of an Art that was and may not be
again, because we go to bed by electricity and have our hair brushed by
machinery? Pray, has Nature ceased? or Life? Art will endure with these
fine things, which in Florence, let me say, are very fine indeed. But
there's a practical answer to the indictment. As a city she is a mere
cupful. You can walk from Cantagalli's, at the Roman Gate, to the Porta
San Gallo, at the end of the Via Cavour, in half the time it would take
you to go from Newgate to Kensington Gardens. Yet whereas in London such a
walk would lead you through a slice of a section, in Florence you would
cut through the whole city from hill to hill. You are never away from the
velvet flanks of the Tuscan hills. Every street-end smiles an enchanting
vista upon you. Houses frowning, machicolated and sombre, or gay and
golden-white with cool green jalousies and spreading eaves, stretch before
you through mellow air to a distance where they melt into hills, and hills
into sky; into sky so clear and rarely blue, so virgin pale at the
horizon, that the hills sleep brown upon it under the sun, and the
cypresses, nodding a-row, seem funeral weeds beside that radiant purity.
Some such adorable stretch of tilth and pasture, sky and cloud, hangs like
a god's crown beyond the city and her towers. In the long autumn twilight
Fiesole and the hills lie soft and purple below a pale green sky. There is
a pause at this time when the air seems washed for sleep-every shrub,
every feature of the landscape is cut clean as with a blade. The light
dies, the air deepens to wet violet, and the glimpses of the hill-town
gleam like snow. At such times Samminiato looms ghostly upon you and fades
slowly out. The flush in the East faints and fails and the evening star
shines like a gem. It is hot and still in the broad Piazza Santa Maria;
they are lighting the lamps; the swarm grows of the eager, shabby,
spendthrift crowd of young Italians, so light-hearted and fluent, and so
prodigal of this old Italy of theirs--and ours. All this I have been
watching as I might. Nature clings to the city, playing her rhythmic dance
at the end of every street.

Nature clings. Yes; but she is within as well as without. What is that
sentimental platitude of somebody's (the worst kind of platitude, is it
not?) about the sun being to flowers what Art is to Life? It has the
further distinction of being untrue. In Florence you learn that what he is
to flowers, that he is to Art. For I soberly believe that under his rays
Florence has grown open like some rare white water-lily; that sun and sky
have set the conditions, struck, as it were, the chord. I have wandered
through and through her recessed ways the length of this bright and breezy
October week; and have marked where I walked the sun's great hand laid
upon palace and cloister and bell-tower. _He_ has summoned up these
flat-topped houses, these precipitous walls beneath which winds the
darkened causeway. One seems to be travelling in a mountain gorge with,
above, a thin ribbon of sky, fluid blue, flawless of cloud, like the sea.
_He_, that so masterful sun, has given Florence the apathetic, beaten
aspect of a southern town; he and the temperate sky have fixed the tone
for ever; and the nimble air--"nimbly and sweetly" recommending itself--
has given the quaintness and the freaksomeness of the North. This bursts
out, young and irresponsible, in pinnacle, crocket, and gable, in towers
like spears, and in the eager lancet windows which peer upwards out of
Orsammichele and the Dominican Church. This mixture is Florence and has
made her art. The blue of the sky gives the key to her palette, the breath
of the west wind, the salt wind from our own Atlantic, tingles in her
_campanili_; and the Italian sun washes over all with his lazy gold.
Habit and inclination both speak. She rejects no wise thing and accepts
every lovely thing. Nature and Art have worked hand in hand, as they will
when, we let them. For what is an art so inimitable, so innocent, so
intimate as this of Tuscany, after all, but a high effort of creative
Nature--_Natura naturans_, as Spinosa calls her? Here, on the
weather-fretted walls, a Delia Robbia blossoms out in natural colours--
blue and white and green. They are Spring's colours. You need not go into
the Bargello to understand Luca and Andrea at their happy task; as well go
to a botanical museum to read the secret of April. See them on the dusty
wall of Orsammichele. They have wrought the blossom of the stone--clusters
of bright-eyed flowers with the throats and eyes of angels, singing, you
might say, a children's hymn to Our Lady, throned and pure in the midst of
the bevy. See the Spedale degli Innocenti, where a score of little flowery
white children grow, open-armed, out of their sky-blue medallions. Really,
are they lilies, or children, or the embodied strophes of a psalter? you
ask. I mix my metaphors like an Irishman, but you will see my meaning. All
the arts blend in art: "rien ne fait mieux entendre combien un faux sonnet
est ridicule que de s'imaginer une femme ou une maison faite sur ce
modele-la." Pascal knew; and so did Philip Sidney, "Nature never set forth
the earth in so rich tapestry as divers poets have done"; and the nearer
truth seems to be that Art is Nature made articulate, Nature's soul
inflamed with love and voicing her secrets through one man to many. So
there may be no difference between me and a cabbage-rose but this, that I
can consider my own flower, how it grows, or rather, when it is grown.

It is very pleasant sometimes to think that wistful guess of Plato's true
in spite of everything--that the state is the man grown great, as the
universe is the state grown Infinite. It explains that Florence has a
soul, the broader image of her sons', and that this soul speaks in Art,
utters itself in flower of stone and starry stretches of fresco (like that
serene blue and grey band in the Sistine chapel which redeems so many of
Rome's waste places), sings colour-songs (there are such affairs) on
church and cloister walls. Seeing these good things, we should rather hear
the town's voice crying out her fancy to friendly hearts. Thus--let me run
the figure to death--if Luca's blue-eyed medallions are the crop of the
wall, they are also the soul of Florence, singing a blithe secular song
about gods whose abiding charm is the art that made them live. And if the
towers and domes are the statelier flowers of the garden, lily, hollyhock,
tulip of the red globe, so they are Florence again as she strains forward
and up, sternly defiant in the Palazzo Vecchio, bright and curious at
Santa Croce, pure, chaste as a seraph, when, thrilling with the touch of
Giotto, she gazes in the clarity of her golden and rosy marbles, tinted
like a pearl and shaped like an archangel, towards the blue vault whose
eye she is.

Wandering, therefore, through this high city; loitering on the bridge
whereunder turbid Arno glitters like brass; standing by the yellow
Baptistery; or seeing in Santa Croce cloister--where I write these lines--
seven centuries of enthusiasm mellowed down by sun and wind into a comely
dotage of grey and green, one is disposed to wonder whether we are only
just beginning to understand Art, or to misunderstand it? Has the world
slept for two thousand years? Is Degas the first artist? Was Aristotle the
first critic, and is Mr. George Moore the second? As a white pigeon cuts
the blue, and every opinion of him shines as burnished agate in the live
air, things shape themselves somewhat. I begin to see that Art _is_,
and that men have been, and shall be, but never _are_. Facts are an
integral part of life, but they are not life. I heard a metaphysician say
once that matter was the adjective of life, and thought it a mighty pretty
saying. In a true sense, it would seem, Art is that adjective. For so
surely as there are honest men to insist how true things are or how proper
to moralising, there will be Art to sing how lovely they are, and what
amiable dwellings for us. Thus fortified, I think I can understand
Magister Joctus Florentiae. He lies behind these crumbling walls. Traces of
his crimson and blue still stain the cloister-walk. What was he telling us
in crimson and blue? How dumb Zacharias spelt out the name of his son John
in the roll of a book? Hardly that, I think.



The Via del Monte alle Croce is a leafy way cut between hedgerows, in the
morning time heavy with dew and the smell of wet flowers. Where it strays
out of the Giro al Monte there is a crumbly brick wall, a well, and a
little earthen shrine to Madonna--a daub, it is true, of glaring chromes
and blues, thick in glaze and tawdry devices of stout cupids and roses,
but somehow, on this suggestive Autumn morning, innocent and blue of eye
as the carolling throngs of Luca which it travesties. And a pious
inscription cut below testifieth how Saint Francis, "in friendly talk with
the Blessed Mariano di Lugo," paused here before it, and then vanished. It
is not necessary to believe in ghosts; but I'll go bail that story is
true. We are but two stones' throw from the gaunt hulk of a Franciscan
Church; a file of dusty cypresses marks the ruins of a painful Calvary cut
in the waste and shale of the hill-side. Below, as in a green pasture,
Florence shines like a dove's egg in her nest of hills; I can pick out
among the sheaf of spears which hedge her about the daintiest of them all,
the crocketed pinnacle of Santa Croce, grey on blue; and then the lean
ridge of a shrine the barest, simplest and most honest in all Tuscany.
Certainly Saint Francis, "familiarmente discorrendo," appeared in this
place. I need no reference to the Annals of the Seraphic Order--part, book
and page--to convince me. My stone gives them. "Ann. Ord. Min. Tom. cclii.
fasc. 3.," and so on. That is but a sorry concession to our short-
sightedness. For if we believe not the shrine which we have seen, how
shall we believe Giotto? What of Giotto? That is my point.

Something too much, it may be, of modern art-criticism, which is ashamed
of thinking, snuffeth at pictures which tell you things, at literature in
books or music or church ornament. Is literature not good anywhere? Have
we exhausted the _Arabian Nights_ or the _Acta Sanctorum_? At
any rate, if we must choose between Giotto and the prophet of the
_Yellow Book_, my heart is fixed. I am for the teller of tales.
Story-telling it is, glorification of one whom Mr. George Moore would call
(has, indeed, called) a "squint-eyed Italian Saint"--and whether he
objected to malformity, nationality or calling, I never could learn--this
too it may be; it may tend to edification and I know not what beside. I
will grant all that. And though it is hard to prophesy what might have
happened five hundred years ago; though there might have been a Giotto
without a Francis of whom to speak; yet I never knew a case where a
painter (call him poet if you will; he will be none the worse for that)
fell so directly into the gap awaiting him. The Gospel living and tangible
again! Spirits, apparitions, as of three mysterious sisters, met you in
the open country, and crying "Hail! Lady Poverty," straightly vanished. A
legend was a-making round about the strange life not fifty years closed, a
life which seems, extravagance apart, to have been a lyrical outburst, a
strophe in the hymn of praise which certain happy people were singing just
then. It was a _Gloria in Excelsis_ for a second time in Christian
Annals which did not end in a wail of "Agnus Dei qui tollis peccata,
miserere." Why should it? Should the children of the bride-chamber fast
when the bridegroom was with them? And of all the "wreath'd singers at the
marriage-door," blithest and sanest was Master Joctus of Florence. This
being so, I hope I shall not be accused of any mischief if I say that in
Giotto I see one of the select company of immortals whose work can never
be surpassed because it is entirely adequate to the facts and atmosphere
he selected. The standard of a work of art must always be--Is it well
done? rather than--Is it well intentioned? Wherefore, if Giotto or anybody
else choose to spend himself upon a sermon or an essay or an article of
the Creed, and do well thereby, I may not blame him, nor call him back to
study the play of light across a marsh or the flight of pigeons in the
westering sun. Ma, basta, basta cosi, you may say with the Cavaliere of

Santa Croce church is of the barrack-room stamp, dim and enormous, grey
with years and seamed with work. Its impressiveness (for with Orvieto and
a fleet of churches at Ravenna it stands above all Italy in that) consists
mainly, I believe, in its being built of exactly the moral bones of the
religion it was intended to embody. An Italian religion, namely; perfectly
sane, at bottom practical, with a base of plain, everyday, ten-commandment
morality. That was the base of Saint Francis' good brown life: therefore
Santa Croce is admirably built, squared, mortised and compacted by skilled
workmen to whom brick-laying was a fine art. But, withal, this religion
had its lyric raptures, its "In fuoco Amor mi mise," or its sobbing at the
feet of the Crucified, its _Corotto_ and Seven Sorrowful Mysteries:
accordingly Santa Croce, like a pollarded lime, reserves its buds,
harbours and garners them, throws out no suckers or lateral adornments the
length of its trunk, but bursts into a flowery crown of them at the top--a
whole row of chapels along the cross-beam of the _tau_; and in the
place of honour a shallow apse pierced with red lancets and aglow like an
opal. Never a chapel of them but is worth study and a stiff neck. After
the Rule came the _Fioretti_; after Francis and Bonaventure came
Celano and Jacopone da Todi; after Arnolfo del Lapo and his attention to
business came the hours of ease when he planned the airy plume on which
the Church leaps skyward; and came also Giotto to weave the crown of Santa

I take the Tuscan nature to be so constituted that it will play with any
given subject of speculation in much the same way. With one or two mighty
exceptions to be sure--Dante, of course, Buonarroti, of course, and, for
all his secularities. Boccace--it is not imagination you find in Tuscany.
Rather, it is a sweet and delicate, a wholesome, home-grown fancy,
wantoning with thought which may be unpleasant, unhealthy, grave,
frivolous--what you will; yet playing in such a way, and with such
intuitive taste and breeding that no harm ensues nor any nausea. They
realise for me a fairy country; I can think no evil of a Tuscan. So I can
read Boccace the infidel, Poggio the gross, where Voltaire makes me a
bigot and Catulle Mendes ashamed. The fresh breeze blowing through the
_Decameron_ keeps the air sweet. Even Lorenzo is a child for me, and
Macchiavel, "the man without a soul," I decline to take seriously.
Consider, then, all Tuscan art from this point of view, the weaving of
innocent fancies round some chance-caught theme, Christianity may have
been the _point d'appui_. No doubt it generally was. What then? Have
you never heard two children dreaming aloud of the ways of God, or the
troubles of Christ? How they humanise, how they realise the Mystery! Just
such a pretty babble I find in the Spanish Chapel, which to take in any
other spirit would work a madness in the brain. You remember the North
wall, apotheosis of Saint Thomas and what-not, for all the world like a
paradigm of the irregular verb "Aquinizo." What are we to suppose Lippo
Memmi (or whoever else it was) to have been about when he hung in mid-air
on his swinging bridge and stained the wet square red and green? To read
Ruskin you would think he was fulminating _urbi et orbi_ with the
_Summa_ or _Cur Deus homo_ at his fingers' ends. Depend upon it
he was doing quite other, or the artistic temper (phrase rendered
loathsome by the halfpenny newspapers) suffered a relapse between the days
of King David and the days of his brother Lippo Lippi. Are we to suppose
that a man who could live in intimate commerce with fourteen such gracious
ladies as he has set there, ranged on their carved sedilia--his Britomart
trim and debonnair; his willowy Carita; his wimpled matron in clean white
who masquerades as I know not what branch of theology; his pretty girlish
Geometry of coiled and braided hair and the yet unloosed girdle of demure
virginity; his maid Musica crowned with roses, and Logica, the bold-eyed
and open-throated wench, hand to hip--is this the man for sententiousness?
Out, out! Could any one save a humourist of high order have given Moses
such a pair of horns, or set, under Music, such a shagged Tubal to
belabour an anvil? The wall sings like an anthology,--a Gothic anthology
where "Bele Aliz matin leva" is versicle, and "In un boschetto trovai
pastorella" antiphon. You might as well talk of Christian Mathematics as
of Christian Art, or bind the sweet influences of Pleiades as the volant
sallies of a poet's wit.

Once we get it into our heads that the Tuscans were fanciful children,
always, and the discrepancy of critics, of Ruskin and Mr. George Moore, of
Rio and Mr. Addington Symonds, may vanish. For another thing, we shall
understand and allow for the standard of Santa Croce and the
_Fioretti_. From the latter nosegay! take this:

"It happened one day as Brother Peter was standing to his prayer, thinking
earnestly about the Passion of Christ, how the blessed Mother of him, and
John Evangelist his best-beloved, and Saint Francis too, were painted at
the foot of the Cross, crucified indeed with him through anguish of the
mind, that there came upon him the longing to know which of these three
had endured the bitterest pains of that anguish, the Mother who bore our
Lord, or the Disciple familiar to his bosom, or Saint Francis crucified
also even as he was. And as he stood thinking on these things, lo! there
appeared before him the Virgin Mary with Saint John Evangelist and Saint
Francis, robed in splendid apparel and of glory wonderful; but Saint
Francis' robe was more cunningly wrought than Saint John's. Now Peter
stood quite scared at the sight; but Saint John bade him take comfort,
saying, 'Be not afraid, dearest brother, for we are come hither to dispel
thy doubt. You are to knows then, that above all creatures the Mother of
Christ and I grieved over the Passion of our Lord. But since that day
Saint Francis has felt more anguish than any other. Therefore, as you see,
he is in glory now.' Then Brother Peter asked him, and said, 'Most holy
Apostle of Christ, wherefore cometh it that the vesture of Saint Francis
is more glorious than thine?' Answered him Saint John, 'The reason is
this, for that when he was in the world he wore a viler than ever I did.'
So then Saint John gave him a vestment which he carried on his arm, and
the holy company vanished."

This, be sure, is true; and I have its English parallel ready to hand. For
I once heard a father and his child talking of the goodness of God. "God,"
says the father, "gives thee the milk to thy porridge"; and the child
thought it a good saying, yet puzzled over it, doubting, as it afterwards
appeared, the part to be assigned to a friend of his, the daily milkman.
And so he solved it. "God makes the milk and the milkman brings it," he
said. The _Fioretti_, if you must needs break a butterfly on your
dissecting-board, was written, as I judge, by a bare-foot Minorite of
forty; compiled, that is, from the wonderings, the pretty adjustments and
naive disquisitions of any such weatherworn brown men as you may see to-
day toiling up the Calvary to their Convent. And in this same story-
telling Giotto is an adept. He loves to gather his fellows round him and
speak of Saints and Archangels, where our youngsters talk of fairy
godmothers and white rabbits. To say this is not Art, as the critics
profanely teach, is monstrous. Is not the _Fioretti_ literature, or
the Gospel according to Saint Luke literature? And is not Religion the
highest art of all, the large elementary poetry in the core of the heart
of man? Just so was the craft which disposed the rings of that wonderful
ornament round about the Bardi chapel, rings of clean arabesque wrought in
line upon pale blue and pink and brown, and which in so doing fitted the
Franciscan thaumaturgy with an exact garment tenderly adjusted to every
wave of its abandonment--even so was this a great art indeed. For you ask
of an art no more than this, that it shall be adequately representative:
there are no comparative degrees.

So when I learn from the works of Ruskin that he can "read a picture to
you as, if Mr. Spurgeon knew anything about art, Mr. Spurgeon would read
it,--that is to say, from the plain, common-sense Protestant side"; or
when I learn from the works of Mr. George Moore that Sir Frederick Burton
made of the National Gallery a Museum; or when one complains of a picture
that it is not didactic, and another that it holds a thought, I make haste
to laugh lest I should do wrong to Tuscany, that looked upon the world to
love it: for she saw that it was very good.



_(An Old-fashioned Narrative)_

[Footnote: Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that this article was
written from the standpoint of a cultivated Pagan of the Empire, who
should have journeyed in Time as well as Space.]

The rim of the sun was burning the hill tops, and already the vanguard of
his strength stemming the morning mists, when I and my companion first
trod the dust of a small town which stood in our path. It still lay very
hard and white, however, and sharply edged to its girdle of olives and
mulberry trees drenched in dews, a compactly folded town, well fortified
by strong walls and many towers, with the mist upon it and softly over it
like a veil. For it lay well under the shade of the hills awaiting the
sun's coming. In the streets, though they were by no means asleep, but,
contrariwise, busy with the traffic of men and pack-mules, there was a
shrewd bite as of night air; looking up we could perceive how faint the
blue of the sky was, and the cloud-flaw how rosy yet with the flush of
Aurora's beauty-sleep. Therefore we were glad to get into the market-
place, filled with people and set round with goodly brick buildings, and
to feel the light and warmth steal about our limbs.

"It would seem fitting," said I, "seeing that day is at hand and already
we enjoy the first-fruits of his largess, that we should seek some
neighbouring shrine where we might praise the gods. For never yet was land
that had not, as its fairest work, gods: and in a land so fair as this
there must needs be gods yet fairer, and shrines to case them in." This I
said, having observed pious offerings laid upon the shrines of divers gods
by the road. At the which, looking curiously, it seemed to me that the
inhabitants of this country were favoured above the common with devout
thoughts and the objects of them--gods and goddesses. You might not pass a
farm without its tutelary altar to the genius of the place, some holy
shade, or--as she was figured as a matron--some great land-goddess,
perhaps Cybele, or the Bona Dea; and pleasant it was to me to see that the
tufts of common flowers set before her were for the most part smiling and
fresh with the dew that assured an early gathering. In the streets of the
city, moreover, I had seen many more such, slight affairs (it is true) of
painted earthenware, some gaudily adorned with green and yellow colour and
of workmanship as raw, some painted flat on the wall of a recess (in which
was more skill, though the device was often gross enough--to dwell upon
death and despair), and some again of choice beauty, both of form and
colour, and a most rare blitheness, as it might be the spirit of the
contrivers breaking through the hard stone. And all of these I knew to be
gods, but the devices upon them were hard to be read, or approved. There
was a naked youth pierced with arrows, wherein the texture of smooth flesh
accorded not well with the bitterness of his hurt; a young man also,
bearded, of spare and mournful habit and girt with a rope round his
middle; in his hands were wounds, as again of arrows, and there was a rent
in his garment where a javelin had torn a way into his side. Such
suffering of wounds and broken flesh stared sharply up against the young
flowers and grasses which spoke of healthy wind and rain and a sun-kissed
earth. Goddesses also I saw--a virgin of comely red and white visage;
yellow-haired she was, crowned like a king's daughter; at her side a
wheel, cruelly spiked on the outer edge and not easily to be related to so
heart-some a maid. But before them all (with one grim exception, to be
sure) I saw the Earth-Mother who had been upon the farm and homestead-
walls, of the same high perfection of form, and in raiment stately and
adorned, yet (it would seem) something sorrowful as she might mourn the
loss of lover or young child. Now the darkest sight I saw was that
exception before rehearsed; and it was this. A black cross stood In the
most joyful places of the city, and one suffered upon it to very death.
Whereat I marvelled greatly, saying, "Who Is the man thus tormented whom
the people worship as a god?" And my companion answered,

"A great god he is, if the country report lie not, and has many names,
which amount to this, that he has freed this nation from bondage and died
that he may live again, and they too. And of the truth of what they say I
cannot speak; but I think he is Bacchus the Redeemer, who, as you, Balbus,
know, was no wanton reveller in lasciviousness, but a very god of great
benevolence and of wisdom truly dark and awful. Who also took our mortal
nature upon him and suffered in the shades: rising whence (for he was god
and man) like the dawn from the night's bosom, or the flooding of spring
weather from the iron gates of winter, he sped over land and sea, touching
earth and the dwellers upon it. And to those he touched tongues were given
and soothsaying, and to many the transports of inspiration and divine
madness, as of poets and rhapsodists. And tragedy and choral odes are his,
and the furious splendour of dances. But of the worship of Dionysus you
know something, having been at Eleusis and beheld the holy mysteries.

"Now the god of this people has the same gift of tongues and madness of
possession. To him are also sacred priests of the oracle, and high
tragedies, and the wailing of music, and streaming processions of virgins
and young boys. He too agonised and arose stronger and more shining than
before, dying, indeed, and rising at the very vernal equinox we have
mentioned. He too is worshipped in certain Mysteries whereat the
confession of iniquity and the cleansing of hearts come first: and the
sacrifice is just that wheaten cake and fruit of the vine whereof, at
Eleusis, you have praised to me the simplicity and ethic beauty. And he
can inspire his devotees with frenzy. For I have heard that certain men of
the country, on a day, and urged by his daemon, run naked from place to
place in honour of him, lashing their bare backs with ox-goads; and will
fast by the week together, they and the women alike; and that pious
virgins, under stress of these things, swoon and are floated betwixt earth
and heaven, and afterwards relate their blissful encounters and prophesy
strange matters; receiving also dolorous wounds (which nevertheless are
very sweet to them) like to the wounds which he himself received unto
death; and all these things they endure because they are mystically
fraught with the wisdom and efficacy of the god. Nay, I have been told
that in the parts over sea, towards the North and West, he is worshipped,
just as at Eleusis, with pipes and timbrels and brazen cymbals and all
excess of music; and there they dance in his service and suffer the
ecstasies of the Maenads and Corybants in the Dionysiac revel. But this I
find quaint to be believed."

Now when I had heard so much, I was the more desirous to find some temple
where I could observe the cult of this wounded gods and so sought counsel
of my friend versed in the people's learning. To my questioning he replied
that it would be easy. We were (said he) in the market-place among the
buyers and chafferers of fruit, vegetables, earthenware, milk, eggs, and
such country produce; which honest folk, it being the hour of the morning
sacrifice and the temple facing us, would soon abandon their brisk toil
for religion's sake; whereupon we too would go. So I looked across the
square and saw a very fair building, lofty and many windowed, all of clean
white marble, banded over with bars of a smooth black stone, curiously
carved, moreover, in sculptured work of gods and men and of flowers and
fruits--all cut in the pure marble. At one side was a noble rostrum, of
the like fine stone, whereon young boys and girls, as it were fauns and
dryads and other woodland creatures, capered as they list: and above the
midmost door a semicircle of pale blue enamel, whereon was the image of
the Great Goddess in gleaming white. She was of smiling debonnair
countenance and in the full pride of her blossom-time--being as a young
woman whose girdle is new loosed to the will of her lord--and in her arms
was a naked child, finely wrought to the size of life. On either side of
her a beautiful youth (in whom I must needs admire the smoothness of their
chins and the bravery of their vesture shining in the clear light) did
reverence to the Goddess and the child: and there were beings, winged like
birds, with the faces of strong boys, but no bodies at all that I could
see, who flew above them all. This was brave work, very wonderful to me in
a people who, thus excellently inspired and having such comely smiling
divinities and so clear a vision of them before their eyes, could yet be
curious after suffering heroes and stabbed virgins and gods with mangled
limbs. But we went into the temple with the good people of the country-
side to the sound of bells from a high tower hard by. And I was something
surprised that they brought no beasts with them for the sacrifice, nor any
of the fruits which were so abundant in the land; but my companion
reminded me again that the sacrifice was ready prepared within, and was,
as it were, emblematical of all fruits and every sort of meat, being that
wine and bread into which you may comprehend all bodily and (by a figure)
ghostly sustenance. By this we were within the temple, which I now
perceived was a pantheon, having altars to all the gods, some only of
whose shrines I had remarked on the way thither. Dark and lofty it was,
with piered arches that soared into the mist, and jewelled windows
painfully worked in histories and fables of old time:--all as far apart as
conceivably might be from the holy places of my own country; for whereas,
with us, the level gaze of the sun is never absent, and through the
colonnades you would see stretches of the far blue country, or, perchance,
the shimmer of the restless sea, here no light of day could penetrate, and
all the senses might apprehend must be of solemn darkness, longing
thoughts to cleave it, and, afar off and dim, some flutter of even light
as of blest abodes. A strange people! to despise the sure and fair, for
the taunting shadows of desire. But, growing more familiar in the middle
of newness and the awe that comes of it, I was again amazed at the number
of the gods, their nature and sort. I saw again the arrow-stricken youth,
whom we call Asclepius (but never knew thus tormented--as with his
father's arrows!) and again the Maid of the Wheel, Fortune as I suppose:
but with us the wheel is not so manifestly bitter. Then also the wounded
hero, cowled and corded, ragged exceedingly, the like of whom we have not,
unless it be some stripling loved by an immortal and wounded to death by
grudging Fate, as Atys or Adonis. And if, indeed, this were one of them,
the image-maker did surely err in making him of so vile a presence--a
thing against all likelihood that the gods, being themselves of super-
excellent shapeliness, should stoop to anything of less favour. Yet he was
of singular sweetness in his pains, and high fortitude: and he was much
loved of the people, as I afterwards learned. And one was a young knight,
winged and with a sword in his hand; at his feet a grievous worm of many
folds. This I must take for Perseus but that his radiancy did rather point
him for Phoebus, the lord of days and the red sun. But in the centre of
the whole temple was an altar, high and broad, fenced about with steps and
a rail, which I took to be made unto the god of gods or perhaps the king
of that country, until I saw the black cross and the Agonist hanging from
it as one dead. Then I knew that the chief god of this people was Dionysus
the Redeemer, if it were really he. But I had reason to alter my opinion
on that matter as you shall hear.

By this the temple was filled with the country folk who flocked In with
the very reek of their toil upon them and hardly so much as their
implements and marketable wares left behind. They were of all ages and
conditions, both youths and maids, arrowy, tall and open-eyed; and aged
ones there were, bowed by labour and seamed with the stress of weather or
the assaults of unstaying Fate: whereof, for the most part, the women sat
down against the wall and plied dextrously their fans; but the men stood
leaning against the pillars which held the timbers of the roof. And they
conversed easily together, and some were merry, and others, as I could
perceive, beset with affairs of government or business--for they talked
more vehemently of these matters than of others, as men will, even beneath
the very eyelids of the god. And so I could understand that this sacrifice
was not the yearly celebrating of high mysteries, but the common piety of
every day with which it is rather seemly than essential we should begin
our labouring. There were, indeed, signs in the apparelling of the temple
that more solemn festivals were sometimes held, as the delivery of
oracles, the calculation of auspices and such like: that, at least, I took
to be the intention of small recesses along the walls, that, through a
grating of fine brass, a priest of the sanctuary uttered the wisdom of the
god in sentences which the meaner sort should fit with what ease they
might to their circumstances. For, I suppose, it is still found good that
the dark saying of the Oracle shall be illumined by the subtlety of the
initiate and not by the necessities of the simple. And while I was thus
musing I found the ministrants in shining white about the great altar,
busied with the preparation for the rite, lighting the torches (very
inconsiderable for so large a building, but, mayhap, proportionate to the
condition of the people): and they placed a great book upon the altar, and
bowed themselves ere they left. And soon afterwards, to the ringing of a
bell, came the priest's boy carrying the offering of the altar, and the
priest himself in stiff garments of white and yellow.

Now, for the sacrifice, I could not well understand it, save that it was
very shortly done and with a light heart accepted by the people, who (I
thought) held it as of the number of those services whose bare performance
is efficacious and wholesome--on account, partly of reverent antiquity and
long usage, and partly as having some hidden virtue best known to the god
in whose honour it is done. For in my own country, I know well there were
many such rites, whose commission edified the people more than their
omission would have dishonoured the god: wise men, therefore (as priests
and philosophers), who would live in peace, bow their bodies by rule,
knowing surely that their souls may be bolt upright notwithstanding. So
here were many solemn acts which, doubtless, once had some now
unfathomable design and purport, diligently rehearsed, while the
worshippers gazed about with dull unconcern, or being young, cast eyes of
longing upon the country wenches set laughing and rosy by the wall, or,
old, nursed their infirmities. And, on a sudden, a bell rang; and again
rang; and the packed body of men and women fell upon their faces, and so
remained in a horrific silence for a space where a man might count a
score. Thereafter another bell, as of release. So the assembly rose to
their feet and, as I saw, swept from their foreheads and breasts the dust
of the temple floor. But as soon as it was over, a very old priest came
through the press and offered the same sacrifice in a little guarded
shrine at the lower end, amid many lamps and wax torches and glittering
ornaments. Here was more devotion among the people, indeed a great
struggling and elbowing just so as to touch the altar, or the steps of it,
or the priest's hem, or even the rails which fenced the shrine. And with
some show of good reason was this hubbub, as I learned. For here was
indeed treasured the Girdle of Venus (this being her very sanctuary) and
as much desired as ever it was by women great with child or wanting to
conceive. And I looked very curiously upon it, but the Girdle I could
never see; only there was a painted image over the altar of the great
queen-mother, Venus Genetrix herself, depicted as a broad-browed, placid
matron giving of the fruits of her bounteous breasts to a male child. Then
I knew that this was that same Goddess who stood over the outer door of
the place, and was well pleased to find that the people, howsoever
ignorantly, adored the power that enwombs the world--Venus, the life-
bringer and quickener of things that breathe,--and could, in this matter,
touch hearts with the wise. So with this thought, that truly God was one
and men divers, I came out of the temple well pleased, into the level
light of the day's beam.

In the tavern doorway, under a bush of green ilex, we sat down in company
to eat bread and peaches sopped in the wine of the country, and talked
very briskly of all the things we had seen and heard. And soon into the
current of our discourse was drawn a dark-faced youth, who had been
observing us earnestly for some time from under his hanging brows, and
who, growing mighty curious (as I find the way of them is), must know who
and whence we were and of what belief and condition in the world. So when
I had satisfied him, "Turn for turn," said I, "my honest friend: being
strangers, as you have learned, we have seen many things which touch us
nearly, and some which are hard of reading. But this very reading is to us
of high concernment, for these matters relate to religion, and religion,
of what sort soever it may be, no man can venture to despise. For certain
I am, that, as a man hath never seen the gods, so he may never be sure
that he hath ever conceived them, even darkly, as in a mirror. For we are
dwellers in a cave, my friend, with our backs to the light, and may not
tell of a truth whether the shadows that flit and fade be indeed gods or
no. Tell me, therefore (for I am puzzled by it), is the goddess whose
presentment I yet see over your temple-porch, that Mother of gods and men,
yea, even Mother of life itself, to whom we also bend the knee?"

"She is, sir, as we believe, Mother of God; and therefore, God being
author of life. Mother of life and all things living."

"It is as I had believed," said I, "and you, young sir, and I, may bow
together in that temple of hers without offence. For the temple is to her
honour as I conceive?"

"Why, yes," he answered, "it is raised to her most holy name and to that
of our Lord."

"And your Lord, who is this? and which altar is his? For there were many."

"The great altar is His, and indeed He is to be worshipped in all," said
the young man.

"He is then the tortured god, whose semblance hangs upon the black cross?"

"He is."

Then I begged him to tell me why these mournful images were scattered over
his goodly earth, these maimed gods, this blood and weeping; but I may not
set down all that he told me, seeing that much of it was dark, and much,
as I thought, not pertinent to the issue. Much again was said with his
hands, which I cannot interpret here. Suffice it that I learned this
concerning the Agonist, that he was the son of the goddess and greater
than she, though in a sense less. Mortal he was, and immortal, abject to
look upon, being indeed accounted a malefactor and crucified like a thief;
and yet a king of men, speaking wisdom whereof the like hath hardly been
heard. For of two things he taught there would seem to be no bottom to
them, so profound and unsearchable they are. And one of them was this,--
"The kingdom is within you" (or some such words); and the other was, "Who
will lose his life shall save it." Whereof, methinks, the first
comprehends all the teaching of the Academy and the second that of the
Porch. So this man must needs have been a god, and whether the son or no
of the Soul of the World, greater than she. For what she did, as it were
by necessity and her blind inhering power, he knew. Therefore he must have
been Wisdom itself. And thus I knew that he could not be Dionysus the
Saviour, though he might have many of his attributes; nor simply that son
of Venus whom Ausonius alone of our poets saw fastened to a cross. So at
last, "I will tell you," said I, "who this god really is, as it seems to
me. Being of vile estate and yet greatest of all; being mortal and yet
immortal, god and man; being at once most wise and most simple, and (as
such his condition imports) intermediate between Earth and Heaven, he must
needs be the Divine Eros, concerning whom Plato's words are yet with us.
So I can understand why he is so wise, why he suffers always, and yet
cannot be driven by torment nor persuaded by sophisms to cease loving. For
the necessity of love is to crave ever; and he is Love himself. Wherefore
I am very sure he can lead men, if they will, from the fair things of the
world to those infinitely fairer things in themselves whereby what we now
have are so very fair to see. And he may well be son of this goddess and
nourished by her milk; for it behoves us that a god should stand between
Earth and Heaven and be compact of the elements of either, so that he
should condescend the wisdom of his head to instruct the clemency of his
heart. And we know, you and I, that the gods are but attributes of God,
whose intellect (as I say) may well be in Heaven, but His heart is in the
Earth, and is the core of it. For so we say of the poet that his heart is
ever in his fair work."

Thus we took our wine and were well content to sit in the sunshine.



The man of our time to class poetry as a thing very pleasant and useful
shall hardly be found. At most the saying will suffer reprint as a
quaintness, a freak, or a paradox; and so it has proved. From Prato, dusty
little city of mid-Tuscany, and with the impress of its Reale Orfanotrofio
(nourisher, it would thus appear, of more Humanities than one) comes an
_"Opera Nova, nella quale si contengono bellissime historie, contrasti,
lamenti et frottole, con alcune canzoni a ballo, strambotti, geloghe,
farse, capitoli e bazellette di piu eccellenti autori. Aggiuntevi assai
tramutationi, villanelle alla napolitana, sonetti alla bergamasca et
mariazi alla povana, indovinelli, ritoboli e passerotti"_; _cosa_,
this legend goes on to say, _molto piacevole et utile_. This is, no
doubt, rococo, and at best a pitiful, catchfarthing bit of ancientry: yet
it looks back to a time when it was indeed the fact that no choice work
could be but useful, and when eyes and ears, as conduits to the soul, had
that full of consideration we reserve for mouth and nose, purveyors to the

Vasari, Giorgio, he too, _bourgeois_ though he were, and in so far
the best of testimony, knew it when he found Luca's blue and white to be
"molto utile per la state." We should say that of a white umbrella or suit
of flannels; why of earthenware or an adroit _strambotto_? That marks
the cleft, the incurable gulf of difference between a people like the
Tuscans with art in their marrow, and our present selves with our touching
reliance upon a most unseemly hunger after facts. I suppose I should be
stretching a point if I said that _Samson Agonistes_ was _cosa
molto piacevole ed utile_. And yet I name there a great poem and a
weighty, whence the general public suck, or claim to suck, no small
advantage. Is it more useful to them than Bradshaw? I doubt. But here, in
this Opera Nova so furthered, are sixty-three little snatches of Luigi
Pulci's, eight lines to the stave, about the idlest of make-believe love
affairs, full of such Petrarchisms as "Gl' occhi tuoi belli son li crudel
dardi," or

"Tu m' ai trafitto il cor! donde io moro,
Se tu, iddea, non mi dai aiutoro."--

the merest commonplaces of gallantry: called on what account by their
contrivers _molto utile_?

I have urged in my Second Essay that the Tuscans were inveterate weavers
of fancy, choosing what came easiest to hand to weave withal. I dared to
see such airy spinning in that Spanish Chapel from which Mr. Ruskin has
nearly frightened the lovers of Art; I said that the _Summa_ was to
the painters there as good vantage ground as any novel of Sacchetti's. I
now say that Luigi Pulci and his kindred so treated the love-lore which
was solemn mystery to Guinicelli and Lapo and Fazio, or the young Dante
shuddering before his lord of terrible aspect. I would add Petrarch's name
to this honourable roll if I believed it fitting such a niche; but I find
him the greatest equivocator of them all, and owe him a grudge for making
a fifteenth-century Dante impossible. It is true, had there been such a
poet we should never have had our Milton; but that may not serve the Swan
of Vaucluse as justification for being miserable before a looking-glass,
that he starved his grandsons to serve ours. Take him then as a poser:
give him, for the argument's sake, Boccace to his company, Cino; give him
our Pulci, give him Ariosto, give him Lorenzo, Politian; give him Tasso
for aught I care; you have no one left but the sugar-cured Guarino. Dante
stands alone upon the skyey peaks of his great argument, steadied there
and holding his breath, as for the hush that precedes weighty endeavour;
and Bojardo (no Tuscan by birth) stands squarely to the plains, holding
out one hand to Rabelais over-Alps and another to Boccace grinning in his
grave. The fellow is such a sturdy pagan we must e'en forgive him some of
his quirks. Italian poesy, poor lady, stript to the smock, can still look
honestly out if she have but two such vestments whole and unclouted as the
_Commedia_ and the _Orlando_. Let us look at some of her spoiled
bravery. Take up my Opera Nova and pick over Pulci in his lightest mood. I
am minded to try my hand for your amusement.

"Let him rejoice who can; for me, I'd grieve.
Peace be with all; for me yet shall be war.
Let him that hugs delight, hug on, and leave
To me sweet pain, lest day my night shall mar.
I am struck hard; the world, you may believe,
Laughs out;--rejoice, my world! I'll pet my scar.
Rogue love, that puttest me to such a pass,
They cry thee, 'It is well!' I sing, 'Alas!'"

_Vers de societe_? No; too rhetorical: your antithesis gives
headaches to fine ladies. Euphuist? Not in the applied sense: read
Shakespere's sonnets in that manner; or, if you object that Shakespere is
too high for such comparisons, read Drummond of Hawthornden. Poetry, which
has a soul, we cannot call it. Verse it assuredly is, and of the most
excellent. Just receive a quatrain of the pure spring, and judge for

"Chi gode goda, che pur io stento;
Chi e in pace si sia, ch' io son in guerra;
Chi ha diletto l' habbi, ch' io ho tormento;
Chi vive lieto, in me dolor afferra."

Balance is there. Vocalisation, adjustment of sound, discriminate use of
long syllables and short, of subjunctive and indicative moods.[1]
Unpremeditated art it is not: indeed it is craft rather than art; for Art
demands a larger share of soul-expenditure than Pulci could afford. And of
such is the delicate ware which Tuscany, nothing doubting, took for
_lavoro molto utile_. For, believe it or not, of that kind were Delia
Robbia's enrichments, Ghirlandajo's frescos, Raphael's Madonnas, and
Alberti's broad marble churches: of that kind and of no other; on a level
with the painted lady smiling out of a painted window at Airolo, whose
frozen lips assure the traverser of the Saint Gothard that he has passed
the ridge and may soon smell the olives.

[Footnote 1: More than that: the piece is an excellent example of the
skilful use of redundant syllables. It is certain that a study of Italian
poetry would help our, too often, tame blank verse to be (however bad
otherwise) at least not dull. It might bring it nearer to Milton, as Dante
brought Keats. Witness his revision of _Hyperion_. If the Tuscans
overrated the craft in Poetry, we assuredly underrate it.]

Wherein, then, is the use? Why, it is in the art of it. I will convict you
out of Alberti's own mouth, or his biographer's, for he spake it truly.
"For he was wont to say," thus runs the passage, "that whatever might be
accomplished by the wit of man with a certain choiceness, that indeed was
next to the divine." To image the divine, you see, you must accomplish
somewhat, scrupulously weigh, select and refuse; in short adapt
exquisitely your means until they are adequate to your ends. And, keeping
the eye steadily on that, you might grow to discard solemn ends, or
momentous, altogether, until poetry and painting ceased to be arts at all,
and must be classed, at best, with needlework. So indeed it proved in the
case of poetry. After Politian (who really did catch some echo of other
times, and of manners more primal than his own, and did instil something
of it in his _Orfeo_) no poet of Italy had anything serious to say. I
doubt it even of Tasso, though Tasso, I know, has a vogue. I except, of
course, Michael Angelo, as I have already said; and I except Boccace and
Bojardo. Painting was drawn out of the pit laid privily for her by the
sheer necessity of an outlet; and painting, having much to say, became the
representative Italian art. Poetry, the most ancient of them all, as she
is the most majestic; the art which refuses to be taught, and alone of her
sisters must be acquired by self-spenditure (so that before you can learn
to string your words in music you must be shaken with a thought which, to
your torturing, you must spoil); poetry, at once music and soothsay,
knitted to us as touching her common speech, and to the spheres as
touching on the same immortal harmonies; poetry such as Dante's was, was
gone from Tuscany, and painting, to her own ruining, reigned instead,
drawing in sculpture and architecture to share her kingdom and attributes.
Which indeed they did, to their equal detriment and our discouragement
that read.

When I want to see Death in small-clothes bowing in the drawing-room I
turn to my Petrarch and open at Sonnet cclxxxii., where it is written

_"It lies with Death to take the beauty of Laura but not the gracious
memory of her";_

As thus:

"Now hast them touch'd thy stretch of power, O Death;
Thy brigandage hath beggar'd Love's demesne
And quench'd the lamp that lit it, and the queen
Of all the flowers snapped with thy ragged teeth.
Hollow and meagre stares our life beneath
The querulous moon, robb'd of its sovereign:
Yet the report of her, her deathless mien--
Not thine, O churl! Not thine, thou greedy Death!
They are with her in Heaven, the which her grace,
Like some brave light, gladdens exceedingly
And shoots chance beams to this our dwelling-place;
So art thou swallowed in her victory.
Yet on me, beauty-whelmed in very sooth,
On me that last-born angel shall have ruth."

Look in vain for the deep heart-cry that voiced Dante's passion in the
tremendous statements of this:--

"Beatrice is gone up into high Heaven,
The kingdom where the angels are at peace;
And lives with them: and to her friends is dead.
Not by the frost of winter was she driven
Away, like others; nor by summer heats;
But through a perfect gentleness instead.
For from the lamp of her meek lowlihead
Such an exceeding glory went up hence
That it woke wonder in the Eternal Sire,
Until a sweet desire
Entered Him for that lovely excellence,
So that He bade her to Himself aspire;
Counting this weary and most evil place
Unworthy of a thing so full of grace."

[Footnote: This translation is Rossetti's.]

Now and again it may happen that a poet, ridden by the images of his
thought, can "state the facts" and leave the rhyme to chance. The Greeks,
to whom facts were rarer and of more significance, one supposes, than they
are to us, did it habitually. That is what gives such irresistible import
to Homer and to Sophocles. They knew that the adjective is the natural
enemy of the verb. The naked act, the bare thought, a sequence of stately-
balanced rhythm and that ensuing harmony of sentences, gave their poetry
its distinction. They did not wilfully colour their verse, if they did, as
I suppose we must admit, their statues. "Now," says Sir Thomas, "there is
a musick wherever there is a harmony, order or proportion; and thus far we
may maintain the musick of the spheres; for those well-ordered motions,
and regular paces, though they give no sound unto the ear, yet to the
understanding they strike a note most full of harmony." After the Greeks,
Dante, who may have drawn _lo bello stile_ from Virgil, but hardly
his great notes, as of a bell, carried on the tradition of directness and
naked strength. But Petrarch, and after him all Tuscany, dallied with
light thinking, and beat all the images of Love's treasury into thin

_Pero_, what gentlemen they were, these "ingegni fiorentini," these
Tuscan wits! What innate breeding and reticence! What punctilious loyalty
to the little observances of literature, of wall-decoration, call it, in
the most licentiously minded of them! Lorenzo Magnifico was a rake and
could write lewdly enough, as we all know. Yet, when he chose, that is
when Art bade him, how unerringly he chose the right momentum. His too was
"la mente che non erra." I found this of his the other day, and must needs
close up my notes with it. The very notion of it was, in his time, a
convention; a series of sonnets bound together by an argument; a _Vita
nova_ without its overmastering occasion. Simonetta was dead; whereupon
"tutti i fiorentini ingegni, come si conviene in si pubblica jattura,
diversamente ed avversamente si dolsono, chi in versi, chi in prosa." The
poor dead lady was, in fact, a butt for these sharpshooters. Yet hear

"Died, as we have declared, in our city a certain lady, whereby all people
alike in Florence were moved to compassion. And this is no marvel, seeing
that with all earthly beauty and courtesy she was adorned as, before her
day, no other under heaven could have been. Among her other excellent
parts, she had a carriage so sweet and winsome that whosoever should have
any commerce or friendly dealing with her, straightway fell to believe
himself enamoured of her. Ladies also, and all youth of her degree, not
only suffered no harbourage to unkindly thought upon this her eminence
over all the rest, nor grudged it her at all, but stoutly upheld and took
pleasure in her loveliness and gracious bearing; and this so honestly that
you would have found it hard to be believed so many men without jealousy
could have loved her, or so many ladies without envy give her place. So,
the more her life by its comely ordering had endeared her to mankind, pity
also for her death, for the flower of her youth, and for a beauteousness
which in death, it may be, showed the more resplendently than in life, did
breed in the heart the smarting of great desire. Therefore she was carried
uncovered on the bier from her dwelling to the place of burial, and moved
all men, thronging there to see her, to abundant shedding of tears. And in
some, who before had not been aware of her, after pity grew great marvel
for that she, in death, had overcome that loveliness which had seemed
insuperable while she yet lived. Among which people, who before had not
known her, there grew a bitterness and, as it were, ground of reproach,
that they had not been acquainted with so fair a thing before that hour
when they must be shut off from it for ever; to know her thus and have
perpetual grief of her. But truly in her was made manifest that which our
Petrarch had spoken when he said,

'Death showed him lovely in her lovely face.'"

This is to write like a gentleman and an artist, with ear attuned to the
subtlest fall and cadence, with scrupulous weighing of words that their
true outline shall hold clear and sharp. It is _intarsiatura_,
skilful and clean at the edges. He goes on to play with his hammered
thought, always as delicately and precisely as before.

"Falling, therefore, such an one to death, all the wits of Florence, as is
seemly in so public a calamity, lamented severally and mutually, some in
rhyme, some in prose, the ruefulness of it; and bound themselves to exalt
her excellence each after the contriving of his mind: in which company I,
too, must needs be; I, too, mingle rhymes with tears. So I did in the
sonnets below rehearsed; whereof the first began thus:

'O limpid shining star that to thy beam.'

"Night had fallen: together we walked, a dear friend and I, together
talking of our common sorrow: and so speaking, the night being wondrous
clear, I lifted my eyes to a star of exceeding brilliancy, which appeared
in the West, of such assured splendour as not alone to excel other stars,
but so eagerly to shine that it threw in shadow all the lights of heaven
about it. Whereof having great marvel, I turned to my friend, saying--'We
ought not to wonder at this sight, seeing that the soul of that most
gentle lady is of a truth either re-informed in this, a new star, or
conjoined to shine with it. Wherefore there is no marvel in such exceeding
brightness; and we who took comfort in her living delights, may even now
be appeased by her appearance in a limpid star. And if our vision for such
a light is tender and fragile, we should beseech her shade, that is the
god in her, to make us bolder by withholding some part of her beam that we
may sometimes look upon her, nor sear our eyes. But, to say sooth, this is
no over-boldness in her, endowed as she was with all the power of her
beauty, that she should strive to shine more excellently than all the
other stars, or even yet more proudly with Phoebus himself, asking of him
his very chariot, that she, rather, may rule our day. Which thing, if you
allow it without presumption in our star, how vilely shows the
impertinence of Death to have laid hands upon such loveliness and
authority as hers.' And since these my reasonings seemed of the stuff
proper for a sonnet, I took leave of my friend and composed that one which
follows; speaking in it of the above-mentioned star."

The sonnet is in the right Petrarchian vein, adroit and shallow as you
please. With such a preface it could hardly be otherwise--the invocation
of the lady's shade, the twitting of Death (making his Mastership jig to
suit their occasions who had of late been in his presence) and the naive
acceptance of all gifts as "buona materia a an sonetto," In the end he
spins four to her memory; then finds another lady and doubles all his
superlatives for her. For the star, he remembers, may have been Lucifer;
and Lucifer is but herald of the day. To it then! with all the _buona
materia a un sonetto_ the dawn can give you. Thus flourished poetry in
the Tuscan _quattrocento_; for Politian was but little more poet than
Lorenzo, while he was no less dextrous as a rhymer and fashioner of
conceits. Not serious, but _piacevole_, with an _elegantia quaedam
prope divinum_; therefore _molto utile_. Pen-work in fact, and kin
to needlework. Because Tuscany saw choicely-wrought things pleasing, and
pleasant things useful, we of to-day can see Florence as an open-air
Museum. But we wrap our own Poets in heavy bindings and let them lie on
drawing-room tables in company of Whitaker's Almanack and an album of
photographs. Well, well! We must teach them to say, _Philistia, be thou
glad of me_, I suppose.



[Footnote: This appeared in the _New Review_ for December 1896, and
is reproduced by leave of the Publisher.]

_(A Colloquy with Perugino)_

"There," said my Roman escort, as we forded the Tiber near Torglano, "the
haze is lifting: behold august Perugia," I looked out over the misty
plain, and saw the spiked ridge of a hill, serried with towers and
belfries as a port with ships' masts; then the grey stone walls and
escarpments warm in the sun; finally a mouth to the city, which seemed to
engulph both the white road and the citizens walking to and fro upon it
like flies. But it was some time yet before I could decipher the image on
the gonfalon streaming in the breeze above the Signiory. It was actually,
on a field vert, a griffin rampant sable, langued gules. "So ho!" said the
guide when! had described it, "So ho! the Mountain Cat is at home
again.... And here comes scouring one of the whelps," he added in alarm. A
young man, black-avised, bare-headed, pressing a lathered horse, bore down
upon us. He seemed to gain exultation with every new pulse of his
strength: the Genius of Brute Force, handsome as he was evil. And yet not
evil, unless a wild beast is evil; which it probably is not. He soon
reached us, pulled up short with a clatter of hoofs, and hailed me in a
raw dialect, asking what I did, whence and who I was, whither I went, what
I would? As he spake--looking at me with fierce eyes in which pride,
suspicion, and the shyness of youth struggled and rent each other--he
fooled with a straight sword, and seemed to put his demands rather to
provoke a quarrel than to get an answer. I wished no quarrel with a boy,
so, as my custom is, I answered deliberately that I travelled, and from
Rome; that my name was Hewlett, at his service; that I was going to
Perugia; that I would be rid of him. I saw him grow loutish before my
adroit impassivity; his fencing was not with such tools. He sulked, and
must know next what I wanted at Perugia. I told him I had business with
Pietro Vannucci, called Il Perugino by those who admired him from a
distance; and he seemed relieved, withal a something of contempt for my
person fluttered on his pretty lip. At any rate, he left fingering his
steel toy. "Peter the Pious!" he scoffed, "Are you of his litter? Pots and
Pans? Off with you; you'll find him hoarding his money or his wife. To the
wife you may send these from Semonetto." Whereat my young gentleman fell
to kissing his hand in the air. I rose in my stirrups and bowed
elaborately, and, taking off my hat in the act, put him to some shame, for
he was without that equipment. He pulled a wry face at me, like any
schoolboy, and cantered off on his spent horse, arms akimbo, and his irons
rattling about him. My guide marked a furtive cross on his breast and
vowed, I am pretty sure, a score candles to Santa Maria in Cosmedin if
ever he reached home. "God is good," he said, "God is very good. That was
Simon Baglione."

"He seemed a very unlicked cub," was all my reply. So we climbed the dusty
steep, winding twice or thrice round about the hill in a brown plain set
with stubbed trees, and entered the armed city by the Porta Eburnea.
Inside the walls, threading our way up a spiral lane among bullock-carts,
cloaked cavaliers, monks, fair-haired girls carrying pitchers and baskets,
bullies, bravoes, and well-to-do burgesses, we passed from one ambush to
another, by dark gullies, stinking traps, and twisted stairways, to the
Via Deliziosa, without ever a hint of the broad sunshine or whiff of the
balmy air which we had left outside on the plain. In a little mildewed
court, where one patch of light did indeed slope upon a lemon-tree loaded
with fruit and flowers, I found my man in a droll pass with his young
wife. He was, in fact, tiring her hair in the open: nothing more;
nevertheless there was that air of mystery in the performance which made
me at once squeamish of going further, and afraid to withdraw. I stood,
therefore, in confusion while the sport went on. It was of his seeking I
could see, for the poor girl looked shamefaced and weary enough. She was a
winsome child (no more), broad in the brows, full in the eye, yellow-
haired, like most of the women in this place, with a fine-shaped mouth,
rather voluptuously underlipped, and, as I then saw her, sitting in a
carven chair with her hands at a listless droop over the arms of it. Her
hair, which was loose about her and of great length and softness, lay at
the mercy of her master. He, a short, pursy man, well over middle age--
"past the Grand Climacteric," as Bulwer Lytton used to say--red and
anxiously lined, stood behind her, barber fashion, and ran her hair
through his fingers, all the while talking to himself very fast. His eyes
were half-shut: he seemed ravished by the sight of so much gold (if common
reports belie him not) or the feel of so much silk (the likelier opinion),
I know not which. Assuredly so odd a beginning to my adventure, a hardier
man would have stumbled!

The sport went on. The girl, as I considered her, was of slight, almost
mean figure; her good looks, which as yet lay rather in promise, resolved
themselves into a small compass, for they ended at her shoulders. Below
them she was slender to stooping, and with no shape to speak of. Allow her
a fine little head, the timid freshness natural to her age, a blush-rose
skin, slim neck, and that glorious weight of hair: there is Perugino's
wife! Add that she was vested in a milky green robe which was cut square
and low at the neck and fitted her close, and I have no more to say on her
score than she had on any. As for the Maestro himself, I got to know him
better. On mere sight I could guess something of him. A master evidently,
unhappy when not ordering something; fidgety by the same token; yet a
fellow of humours, and fertile of inventions whereon to feed them. The
more I considered him the more subtle ministry to his pleasures did I find
this morning's work to be. A man, finally, happiest in dreams. I looked at
him now in that vein. In and out, elbow-deep sometimes, went his hands and
arms, plunging, swimming in that luxurious mesh of hair. He sprayed it out
in a shower for Danae; he clutched it hard and drew it into thick
burnished ropes of fine gold. Anon, as the whim caught him, he would pile
it up and hedge it with great silver pins, fan-shape, such as country
girls use, till it took the semblance, now of a tower, now of a wheel, now
of some winged beast--sphinx or basilisk--couching on the girl's head.
Then, stepping back a little, he would clasp his hands over his eyes, and
with head in air sing some snatch of triumph, or laugh aloud for the very
wildness of his power; and so the game went on, that seemed a feast of
delight to the man--a feast? an orgy of sense. But the woman might have
been cut in stone. Had she not breathed, or had not her fingers faintly
stirred now and again, you would have sworn her a wax doll.

I know not how long the two might have stayed at their affairs, for here I
grew wearied and, coughing discreetly, slid my foot on the flags. The man
looked up, stopped his play at once; the spell was broken. The girl, I
noticed, stirred not at all, but sat on as she was with her hair about her
clasping her shoulders and flooding her with gold. But Master Peter was a
little disconcerted, I am pretty sure; certainly he was redder than usual
about the gills and gullet. He cleared his throat once or twice with an
attempt at pomposity which he vainly tried to sustain as he came out to
meet me. When I handed him the Prothonotary's letter, and he saw the broad
seal, he bowed quite low; the letter read, he took me by the hand and led
me to the loggia of his house. We had to pass Madam on the way thither;
but by this Master Peter carried off the affair as coolly as you choose.
"Imola, child," he said as we passed, "I have company. Put up thy hair and
fetch me out a fiaschone of Orvieto--that of the year before last. Be sure
thou makest no mistake; and break no bottles, girl, for the wine is good.
And hard enough to come by," he added with a sigh. The girl obeyed.
Without raising her eyes she rose; without raising them she put her hands
to her head and deftly braided and coiled her hair into a single twist;
still looking down to earth she passed into the house.

Pietro began to talk briskly enough so soon as we were set. The air was
mild for mid-March; between the ridged tiles of the cortile, which ran up
to a great height, I could see a square of pale blue sky; gnats were busy
in the beam of dusty light which slanted across the shade; I heard the
bees about the lemon-bush droning of a quiet and opulent summer hovering
near-by. It was a very peaceful and well-disposed world just then. Pietro,
much at his ease, was apt to take life as he found it--nor do I wonder.
"Yes," he said, "the work goes; the work goes. I have much to do; you may
call me just now quite a man of affairs. This very morning, now, I
received a little deputation from Citta di Castello--quite a company! The
Prior, the Sub-Prior, two Vicars-Choral, two Wardens of Guilds, and other
gentlemen, craving a piece by my own hand for the altar of Saint Roch. I
thank our Lord I can pick and choose in these days. I told them I would
think of it, whereat they seemed to know relief, but I added, How did they
wish the boil treated, on the Saint's left thigh? For I told them, and I
was very firm, that though Holy Church might aver the boil to have been a
grievous boil, a boil indeed, yet my art could have little to say to
boils, as boils. The boil must be a great boil, and a red, said they; for
the populace love best what they know best, and cannot worship, as you
might say, with maimed rites. Moreover, Poggibonsi had a Saint Roch done
by that luxurious Sienese Bazzi (a man of scandalous living, as I daresay
you know), where the boil was fiery to behold and as big as a man's ankle-
bone. This was a cause of new great devotion among the impious by reason
of its plain relationship to our frail flesh. Citta was a poor city; in
fine, there must be a handsome boil, I said. Let me refine upon the boil,
and Saint Roch is yours, with Madonna, in addition, caught up in clouds of
pure light, and two fiddling angels, one at either hand. Finally, with the
petition that Madonna should be rarely adorned with pearls Flemish-
fashion, they let me have my way upon the boil. So the work goes on!"

"But, good Master Peter," I exclaimed here, "I could find some discrepancy
in this. On the one hand you boggle at boils, on the other you suffer
pearls to be thrust upon you. Why, if you cleave to the one, should you
despise the other? For, for aught I see, your thesis should exclude

"And so it does," he said, smiling, "But for one man in Citta that knows a
pearl there will be a hundred who can judge of a boil. My Madonna will be
a pearl-faced Umbrian maid, and her other pearls just as Flemish as I
choose. But I hear our glasses clinking."

I, too, heard Imola's footfall on the flags, and ventured to say, "And I
know where your Madonna is, Master Peter," But he affected not to hear.

She served us our amber cup with the same persistent, almost sullen, self-
continence. But, I thought, I must see your eyes, Mistress, for once; so
called to mind my encounter with the wild young Baglione of the morning.
Smiling as easily as I could, I accosted her with "Madonna, I am the
bearer of compliments to you, if you choose to hear them." Then she looked
me full for a second of time. I saw by her dilating eyes, wide as a hare's
(though of a sea-grey colour), that she was not always queen of herself,
and pitied her. For it is ill to think of broken-in hearts, or souls set
in bars, and I could fancy Master Peter's hand not so light upon her as
upon church-walls. But I went on, "Yes, Madonna, even as I rode up hither,
I met a young knight-at-arms who wished you as well as you were fair, and
kissed your hands as best he might, considering the distance, before he
rode off." Imola blushed, but said nothing.

"Who was this youth, sir?" asked Master Peter, in a hurry.

"It was plainly some young noble of your State," said I, "but for his name
I know nothing, for he told me nothing." I added this quickly, because I
could see our friend was keen enough for all his coat of unconcern, and I
feared the whip by-and-bye for Imola's thin shoulders. But I knew quite
well who the boy was. Imola went lightly away without any sign of twitter.
I turned to Master Peter again.

"In this matter of boils and pearls," I began, "I would not deny but you
are in the right, and yet there is this to be said. The Greeks of whose
painting, truly, we have next to nothing. In all the work of theirs known
to us did what lay before them as well as ever they could. They stayed not
to theorise over this axiom and that, that formula and this. They said
rather, 'You wish for the presentment of a man with a boil on his leg?
Well.' And they produced both man and boil."

"Why yes, yes," broke in my friend, "that is plain enough. But apart from
this, that you are talking of sculpture to me who do but paint, you should
know very well that your Greek copied no single boil, no, nor no probable
boil, but, as it were, the summary and perfect conclusion of ail possible

"_To Pithanon?_ Yes; I admit it. For Aristotle says as much."

"Right so do I, in my degree and by my art," said Perugino; "and without
knowing anything of Aristotle save that he was wise."

"Your pardon, my brave Vannucci," I said, "but you have admitted the
opposite of this. Did you not hint to the deputation that you would give
Saint Roch no boils? And have you ever let creep into your pieces the
semblance of so much as a pimple? Remember, I know your _Sebastian_;
and know also Il Sodoma's, which he made as a banner for the Confraternity
of that famous Saint In Camollia."

"I seek the essence of fact," he replied; "which, believe me, never lay in
the displacement of an arrow-point; no, nor in the head of a boil. Bazzi
is a sensualist: as his palate grows stale he whets it by stronger meat;
thinks to provoke appetite by disgust; would draw you on by a nasty
inference, as a dog by his hankering after faecal odours. What nearness to
Art in his plumpy boy stuck with arrows like a skewered capon? Causes nuns
to weep, hey? and to dream dreams, hey? Nature would do that cleanlier;
and waxwork more powerfully! Form, my good sir, Form is your safeguard.
Lay hold on Form; you are as near to Essence as may be here below. Art
works for the rational enlargement of the fancy, not the titillation of
sense. And Invention is the more sacred the closer it apes the scope of
the divine plan. And this much, at least, of the Grecian work I have
learned, that it will never lick vulgar shoes, nor fawn to beastly eyes.
It is a stately order, a high pageant, a solemn gradual, wherein the
beholder will behold just so much as he is prepared, by litany and fasting
and long vigil, to receive. No more and no less."

"Aristotle again," said I, "with his 'continual slight novelty.' No fits
and starts."

"I have told you before I know nothing of the man," said Perugino, vexed,
it appeared, at such wounding of his vanity to be new; "let me tell you
this. There are fellows abroad who dub me dunce and dull-head. The young
Buonarroti, forsooth, who mistakes the large for the great, quantity for
quality; who in the indetermined pretends to see the mysterious. Mystery,
quotha! Mystery may be in an astrologer's horoscope, in a diagram. Mystery
needs no puckered virago, nor bully in the sulks. There is mystery in the
morning calms, mystery in a girl's melting mood, mystery in the
irresolution of a growing boy full of dreams. But behold! it is there, not
here. If you see it not, the fault is your own. It may be broad as day,
cut clean as with a knife, displayed at large before a brawling world too
busy lapping or grudging to heed it. The many shall pass it by as they run
huddling to the dark. Yet the few shall adore therein the excellency of
the mystery, even as the few (the very few) may discern in the flake of
wafer-bread the shining wholeness of the Divine Nature----"

"'The few remain, the many change and pass,'" I interpolated in a murmur.
But Perugino never heeded me. He went on.

"The Greek, young sir, took the fact and let it alone to breed. His act
lay in the taking and setting. Just so much import as it had borne it bore
still; just so much weight as separation from its fellows lent it was to
his credit who first cut it free. But nowadays glamour suits only with
serried muscles, frowns, and writhen lips; where darkness is we shudder,
saying, Behold a great mystery! Let a painter declare his incompetence to
utter, it shall be enough to assure you he has walked with God; for if he
stammers, look you, that testifies he is overwhelmed. Amen, I would
answer. Let his head swim and be welcome; but let him not set to painting
till he can stand straight again. For in one thing I am no Greek, in that
I cannot hold drunkenness divine." Here the good man stopped for want of
breath and I whipped in.

"Your great _Crucifixion_ in Santa Maria Maddalena," I began.

"Look you, sir," he took me up, "I know what you would be at. Take that
piece (which is of my very best) or another equally good, I mean the
_Charge to Peter_ in Pope Sixtus his new Chapel, and listen to me.
The first thing your painter must seek to do is to fill his wall. Let
there be no mistake about this. He is at first no prophet or man of God;
he is no juggler nor mountebank who shall be rewarded according to the
enormity of his grins; his calling, maybe, is humbler, for all he stands
for is to wash a wall so that no eye be set smarting because of it. Now
that seems a very simple matter; it is just as simple as the eye itself--
so you may judge the validity of the arguments against me, that a
wholesome green or goodly red wash would suffice. It would suffice
indifferent well for a kennel of dogs. But mark this. Although your
painter may drop hints for the soul, let him not strain above his pitch
lest he crack his larynx. To his colour he may add form in the flat; but
he cannot escape the flat, however he may wriggle, any more than the
sculptor can escape the round, scrape he never so wisely. Buonarroti will
scrape and shift; the Fleming has scraped and shifted all his days to as
little purpose. His seed-pearls invite your touch. Touch them, my friend,
you will smear your fingers. _Ne sutor ultra crepidam._ Leave
miracles, O painter, to the Saint, and stick to your brush-work. Colour
and form in the flat; there is his armour to win the citadel of a man's

"They call you mawkish," I dared to say.

"I am in good company," said the little man with much pomposity.

"You say boldly, then, if I catch the chain of your argument"--thus I
pursued him--"that you present (as by some formula which you have
elaborated) the facts of religion in colour and design? For I suppose you
will allow that your Art is concerned at least as much with religion as
with the washing of walls?"

"Religion! Religion!" cried he. "What are you at? Concerned with religion!
Man alive, it is concerned with itself; it _is_ religion. I see you
are very far indeed from the truth, and as you have spoken of my
_Crucifixion_ in Florence, now you shall suffer me to speak of it. I
testify what I know, not that which I have not seen. And as mine eyes have
never filled with blood from Golgotha, so I do not conjure with tools I
have not learned to handle. But I will tell you what I have seen. The
Mass: whereof my piece is, as it were, the transfiguration or a parable.
For it grew out of a Mass I once heard, stately-ordered, solemnly and
punctiliously served in a great church. Mayhap, I dreamed of it; we shall
not quarrel over terms. It was a strange Mass, shorn of much ornament and
circumstance; I thought, as I knelt and wondered: Here are no
lamentations, no bruised breasts, no outpoured hearts, nor souls on
flames. The day for tears is past, the fires are red, not flaming; this is
a day for steadfast regard, for service, patience, and good hope; this is
a day for Art to chant what the soul hath endured. For Art is a fruit sown
in action and watered to utterance by tears. Two priests only, clothed in
fine linen, served the Mass: ornaments of candles, incense, prostration,
genuflection, there were none. Yet, step by step, and with every step
pondered reverently ere another was laid to Its fellow's foundation; with
full knowledge of the end ere yet was the beginning accomplished; In every
gesture, every pause, intonation, invocation, stave of song, phrase of
prayer; by painful degrees wrought in the soul's sweat and tears,
unadorned, cold as fine stone, yet glittering none the less like fair
marble set in the sun--was that solemn Mass sung through in the bare
Church to the glory of God and His angels, who must ever rejoice in a work
done so that the master-mind is straining and on watch over heart and
voice. And I said, Calvary is done and the woe of it turned to triumph.
Love is the fulfilling of the Law. Henceforth, for me Law shall be the
fulfilment of my Love.

"Therefore I paint no terrors of death, no flesh torn by iron, no passion
of an anguish greater than we can ever conceive, no bittersweet ecstasy of
Self abandoned or Love inflaming; but instead, serenity, a morning sky, a
meek victim, Love fulfilling Law. Shorn of accidents, for the essence is
enough; not passionate, for that were as gross an affront in face of such
awful death as to be trivial. Nothing too much; Law fulfilling Love;
reasonable service.

"And because we are of the earth earthy, and because what I work you must
behold with bodily eyes, I limn you angels and gods in your own image; not
of greater stature nor of more excellent beauty than many among you; not
of finer essence, maybe, than yourselves. But as the priests about that
naked altar, so stand they, that the love which transfigures them be
absorbed in the fulfilling of law; and the law they exquisitely follow be
at once the pattern and glass of their love."

Master Peter drained a beaker of his Orvieto. I admired; for indeed the
little man spoke well.

"Now the Lord be good to you, Master Peter," I said; "men do you a great
wrong. For there are some who aver that you doubt."

"Who does not doubt?" replied my host. "We doubt whenever we cannot see."

"I believe you are right," said I. "Your great Saint is, after all, your
great Seer. For you, then, to question the soul's immortality is but to
admit that you do not yet see your own life to come."

"Leave it so," said Perugino. "Let us talk reasonably."

"Did all men love the law as you do," I resumed after a painful pause--for
I felt the force of the Master's rebuke to my impertinence (and could hope
others will feel it also)--"did all love the law as you do, the world
would be a cooler place and passion at a discount. But I cannot conceive
Art without passion."

"Nor I," said the painter, "and for the excellent reason that there is no
such thing. But remember this: passion is like the Alpheus. Hedge it about
with dams, you drive it deeper. Out of sight is not out of being. And the
issue must needs be the fairer."

"Happy the passion," I said, "which hath an issue. There is passion of the
vexed sort, where the tears are frozen to ice as they start. Of the
tortured thus, remember--

"Lo pianto stesso li planger non lascia,
E il duol, che trova in su gli occhi rintoppo,
Si volve in entro a far crescer l' ambascia."

"You know our Dante?" said Master Peter blandly (though I swear he knew
what I was at). "There may be such people; doubtless there are such
people. For me, I find a perpetual outlet in my art." I could not

"Master Peter, Master Peter," I cried out, "how can I believe you when I
know that your Madonna's eyes are brimming; when I know why she turns them
to a misty heaven or an earth seen blotted by reason of tears? Do these
tears ever fall, Master Peter? or who freezes them as they start?"

For I wondered where his patient Imola found her outlet, and whether young
Simone has shown her a way. Master Peter drummed on the table and nursed
one fat leg.

Before I took leave of the urbane little painter, in fact while I stood in
the act of handshaking, I saw her white face at an upper window, looming
behind rigid bars. On a sudden impulse I concluded my farewells rapidly
and made to go. Vannucci turned back into the house and closed the door;
but I stayed in the cortile pretending a trouble with my spurs. Sure
enough, in a short time I heard a light footfall. Imola stood beside me.

"Wish me a safe journey," I said smiling, "and no more bare-headed
cavaliers on the road." Her lips hardly moved, so still her voice was.
"Was he bare-headed?" she asked, as if in awe.

"Love-locks floating free," I answered her gaily enough. "Shall I thank
him for his courtesies to you, Madonna, if we meet?"

"You will not meet: he is gone to Spello," she began, and then stopped,
blushing painfully.

"But I may stay in Spello this night and could seek him out."

She was mistress of her lips, and could now look steadily at me. "I wish
him very well," said Imola.



In the days when it was verging on a question whether a man could be at
the same time a good Christian and an artist, the chosen subjects of
painting were significant of the approaching crisis--those glaring moral
contrasts in history which, for want of a happier term, we call dramatic.
Why this was so, whether Art took a hint from Politics, or had withdrawn
her more intimate manifestations to await likelier times, is a question it
were long to answer. The subjects, at any rate, were such as the Greeks,
with their surer instincts and saving grace of sanity in matters of this
kind, either forbore to meddle with or treated as decoratively as they
treated acanthus-wreaths. Today we call them "effective" subjects; we find
they produce shocks and tremors; we think it braces us to shudder, and we
think that Art is a kind of emotional pill; we measure it quantitatively,
and say that we "know what we like." And doubtless there is something
piquant in the quivering produced, for example, by the sight of white
innocence fluttering helpless in a grey shadow of lust. So long as the
Bible remained a god that piquancy was found in a _Massacre of the
Innocents_; in our own time we find it in a _Faust and Gretchen_,
in the Dore Gallery, or in the Royal Academy. It was a like appreciation
of the certain effect of vivid contrasts as powerful didactic agents
(coupled with, or drowning, a something purer and more devout) which had
inspired those most beautiful and distinctive of all the symbols of
Catholicism, the _Adoration of the Kings_, the Christ-child cycle,
and which raised the Holy Child and Maid-Mother to their place above the
mystic tapers and the Cross. Naturally the Old Testament, that garner of
grim tales, proved a rich mine: _David and Golias, Susanna and the
Elders_, the _Sacrifice of Isaac, Jethro's daughter_. But the
story of Judith did not come to be painted in Tuscan sanctuaries until
Donatello of Florence had first cast her in bronze at the prayer of Cosimo
_pater patria_. Her entry was dramatic enough at least: Dame Fortune
may well have sniggered as she spun round the city on her ball. Cosimo the
patriot and his splendid grandson were no sooner dead and their brood sent
flying, than Donatello's _Judith_ was set up in the Piazza as a fit
emblem of rescue from tyranny, with the vigorous motto, to make assurance
double, "EXEMPLVM SALVTIS PVBLICAE CIVES POSVERE." Savonarola, who knew his
Bible, saw here a keener application of Judith's pious sin. A few years
later that same _Judith_ saw him burn. Thus, as an incarnate
cynicism, she will pass; as a work of art she is admittedly one of her
great creator's failures. Her neighbour _Perseus_ of the Loggia makes
this only too plain! For Cellini has seized the right moment in a deed of
horror, and Donatello, with all his downrightness and grip of the fact,
has hit upon the wrong. It is fatal to freeze a moment of time into an
eternity of waiting. His _Judith_ will never strike: her arm is
palsied where it swings. The Damoclean sword is a fine incident for
poetry; but Holofernes was no Damocles, and, if he had been, it were
intolerable to cast his experience in bronze. Donatello has essayed that
thing impossible for sculpture, to arrest a moment instead of denote a
permanent attribute. Art is adjectival, is it not, O Donatello? Her
business is to qualify facts, to say what things are, not to state them,
to affirm that they are. A sculptured _Judith_ was done not long
afterwards, carved, as we shall see, with a burin on a plate; and the man
who so carved her was a painter.

Meantime, _pari passu_, almost, a painter who was a poet was trying
his hand; a man who knew his Bible and his mythology and was equally at
home with either. Perhaps it is not extravagant to say that you cannot be
an artist unless you are at home with mythology, unless mythology is the
swiftest and most direct expression of your being, so that you can be
measured by it as a man is known by his books, or a woman by her clothes,
her way of bowing, her amusements, or her charities. For mythopoeia is
just this, the incarnating the spirit of natural fact; and the generic
name of that power is Art. A kind of creation, a clothing of essence in
matter, an hypostatising (if you will have it) of an object of intuition
within the folds of an object of sense. Lessing did not dig so deep as his

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