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The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 4, No. 24, Oct. 1859 by Various

Part 4 out of 5

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On _festa_-days the way-side _osterias (con cucina)_ are crowded by
parties who come out to sit under the _frascati_ of vines and drink the
wine grown on the very spot, and regale themselves with a _frittata_
of eggs and chopped sausages, or a slice of _agnello_, and enjoy the
delicious air that breathes from the mountains. The old cardinals
descend from their gilded carriages, and, accompanied by one of their
household and followed by their ever-present lackeys in harlequin
liveries, totter along on foot with swollen ankles, lifting their broad
red hats to the passers-by who salute them, and pausing constantly in
their discourse to enforce a phrase or take a pinch of snuff. Files of
scholars from the Propaganda stream along, now and then, two by two,
their leading-strings swinging behind them, and in their ranks all
shades of physiognomy, from African and Egyptian to Irish and American.
Scholars, too, from the English College, and Germans, in red, go by in
companies. All the schools, too, will be out,--little boys, in black
hats, following the lead of their priest-master, (for all masters are
priests,) and orphan girls in white, convoyed by Sisters of Charity, and
the deaf and dumb with their masters. Scores of _ciocciari_, also, may
be seen in faded scarlets, with their wardrobes of wretched clothes, and
sometimes a basket with a baby in it, on their heads. The _contadini_,
who have been to Rome to be hired for the week to labor on the Campagna,
come tramping along too, one of them often mounted on a donkey, and
followed by a group carrying their tools with them; while hundreds of
the middle classes, husbands and wives with their children, and _paini_
and _paine_, with all their jewelry on, are out to take their _festa_
stroll, and to see and be seen.

Once in a while, the sadness of Lent is broken by a Church festival,
when all the fasters eat prodigiously and make up for their usual Lenten
fare. One of the principal days is that of the 19th of March, dedicated
to San Giuseppe, (the most ill-used of all the saints,) when the little
church in Capo le Case, dedicated to him, is hung with brilliant
draperies, and the pious flock thither in crowds to say their prayers.
The great curtain is swaying to and fro constantly as they come and go,
and a file of beggars is on the steps to relieve you of _baiocchi_.
Beside them stands a fellow who sells a print of the Angel appearing to
San Giuseppe in a dream, and warning him against the sin of jealousy.
Four curious lines beneath the print thus explain it:--

"Qual sinistro pensier l'alma ti scuote?
Se il sen fecondo di Maria tu vedi,
Giuseppe, non temer; calmati, e credi
Ch' opra e sol di colui che tutto puote."

Whether Joseph is satisfied or not with this explanation, it would be
difficult to determine from his expression. He looks rather haggard and
bored than persuaded, and certainly has not that cheerful acquiescence
of countenance which one is taught to expect.

During all Lent, a sort of bun, called _maritozze_, which is filled with
the edible kernels of the pine-cone, made light with oil, and thinly
crusted with sugar, is eaten by the faithful,--and a very good Catholic
"institution" it is. But in the festival days of San Giuseppe, gayly
ornamented booths are built at the corner of many of the streets,
especially near the church in Capo le Case, in the Borgo, and at San
Eustachio, which are adorned with great green branches as large as young
trees, and hung with red and gold draperies, where the "_Frittelle di
San Giuseppe_" are fried in huge caldrons of boiling oil and served out
to the common people. These _frittelle_, which are a sort of delicate
doughnut, made of flour mixed sometimes with rice, are eaten by all good
Catholics, though one need not be a Catholic to find them excellent
eating. In front of the principal booths are swung "_Sonetti_" in praise
of the Saint, of the cook, and of the doughnuts,--some of them declaring
that Mercury has already descended from Olympus at the command of the
gods to secure a large supply of the _frittelle_, and praying all
believers to make haste, or there would be no more left. The latter
alternative seems little probable, when one sees the quantity of
provision laid in by the vendors. Their prayer, however, is heeded by
all; and a gay scene enough it is,--especially at night, when the great
cups filled with lard are lighted, and the shadows dance on the crowd,
and the light flashes on the tinsel-covered festoons that sway with the
wind, and illuminates the great booth, while the smoke rises from the
great caldrons which flank it on either side, and the cooks, all in
white, ladle out the dripping _frittelle_ into large polished platters,
and laugh and joke, and laud their work, and shout at the top of their
lungs, "_Ecco le belle, ma belle frittelle_!" For weeks this frying
continues in the streets; but after the day of San Giuseppe, not only
the sacred _frittelle_ are made, but thousands of minute fishes,
fragments of cauliflower, _broccoli_, cabbage, and _carciofi_ go into
the hissing oil, and are heaped all "_dorati_" upon the platters and
vases. For all sorts of fries the Romans are justly celebrated. The
sweet olive-oil, which takes the place of our butter and lard, makes the
fry light, delicate, and of a beautiful golden color; and spread upon
the snowy tables of these booths, their odor is so appetizing and their
look so inviting, that I have often been tempted to join the crowds who
fill their plates and often their pocket-handkerchiefs (_con rispetto_)
with these golden fry, "_fritti dorati_," as they are called, and thus
do honor to the Saint, and comfort their stomachs with holy food, which
quells the devil of hunger within.[A]

[Footnote A: This festival of San Giuseppe, which takes place on the
19th of March, bears a curious resemblance to the _Liberalia_ of the
ancient Romans, a festival in honor of Bacchus, which was celebrated
every year on the 17th of March, when priests and priestesses, adorned
with garlands of ivy, carried through the city wine, honey, cakes, and
sweetmeats, together with a portable altar, in the middle of
which was a small fire-pan, (_foculus_,) in which, from time to time,
sacrifices were burnt. The altar has now become a booth, the _foculus_
a caldron, the sacrifices are of little fishes as well as of cakes,
and San Giuseppe has taken the place of Bacchus, Liber Pater; but the
festivals, despite these differences, have such grotesque points of
resemblance that the latter looks like the former, just as one's face is
still one's face, however distortedly reflected in the bowl of a spoon;
and, perhaps, if one remembers the third day of the Anthesteria, when
cooked vegetables were offered in honor of Bacchus, by putting it
together with the Liberalia, we shall easily get the modern _festa_ of
San Giuseppe.]

But not only at this time and at these booths are good _fritti_ to
be found. It is a favorite mode of cooking in Rome; and a mixed fry
(_fritta mista_) of bits of liver, brains, cauliflower, and _carciofi_
is a staple dish, always ready at every restaurant. At any _osteria con
cucina_ on the Campagna one is also sure of a good omelet and salad;
and, sitting under the vines, after a long walk, I have made as savory
a lunch on these two articles as ever I found in the most glittering
restaurant in the Palais Royal. If one add the background of exquisite
mountains, the middle distance of flowery slopes, where herds of
long-haired goats, sheep, and gray oxen are feeding among the skeletons
of broken aqueducts, ruined tombs, and shattered mediaeval towers, and
the foreground made up of picturesque groups of peasants, who lounge
about the door, and come and go, and men from the Campagna, on
horseback, with their dark, capacious cloak and long ironed staff, who
have come from counting their oxen and superintending the farming, and
_carrettieri_, stopping in their hooded wine-carts or ringing along the
road,--there is, perhaps, as much to charm the artist as is to be seen
while sipping beer or _eau gazeuse_ on the hot Parisian _asphalte_,
where the _grisette_ studiously shows her clean ankles, and the dandy
struts in his patent-leather boots.

One great _festa_ there is during Lent at the little town of
Grotta-Ferrata, about fourteen miles from Rome. It takes place on the
25th of March, and sometimes is very gay and picturesque, and always
charming to one who has eyes to see and has shed some of his national
prejudices. By eight o'clock in the morning open carriages begin to
stream out of the Porta San Giovanni, and in about two hours the old
castellated monastery may be seen at whose feet the little village of
Grotta-Ferrata stands. As we advance through noble elms and planetrees,
crowds of _contadini_ line the way, beggars scream from the banks,
donkeys bray, _carretti_ rattle along, until at last we arrive at a long
meadow which seems alive and crumbling with gayly dressed figures that
are moving to and fro as thick as ants upon an ant-hill. Here are
gathered peasants from all the country-villages within ten miles, all in
their festal costumes; along the lane which skirts the meadow and
leads through the great gate of the old fortress, donkeys are
crowded together, and keeping up a constant and outrageous concert;
_saltimbanci_, in harlequin suits, are making faces or haranguing from
a platform, and inviting everybody into their penny-show. From inside
their booths is heard the sound of the invariable pipes and drum, and
from the lifted curtain now and then peers forth a comic face, and then
disappears with a sudden scream and wild gesticulation. Meantime the
closely packed crowd moves slowly along in both directions, and on we go
through the archway into the great court-yard. Here, under the shadow
of the monastery, booths and benches stand in rows, arrayed with the
produce of the country-villages,--shoes, rude implements of husbandry,
the coarse woven fabrics of the _contadini_, hats with cockades and
rosettes, feather brooms and brushes, and household things, with here
and there the tawdry pinchbeck ware of a peddler of jewelry, and little
_quadretti_ of Madonna and saints. Extricating ourselves from the crowd,
we ascend by a stone stairway to the walk around the parapets of the
walls, and look down upon the scene. How gay it is! Around the fountain,
which is spilling in the centre of the court, a constantly varying group
is gathered, washing, drinking, and filling their flasks and vases.
Near by, a charlatan, mounted on a table, with a huge canvas behind him
painted all over with odd cabalistic figures, is screaming, in loud and
voluble tones, the virtues of his medicines and unguents, and his skill
in extracting teeth. One need never have a pang in tooth, ear, head, or
stomach, if one will but trust his wonderful promises. In one little
bottle he has the famous water which renews youth; in another, the
lotion which awakens love, or cures jealousy, or changes the fright into
the beauty. All the while he plays with his tame serpents, and chatters
as if his tongue went of itself, while the crowd of peasants below gape
at him, laugh with him, and buy from him. Listen to him, all who have

Udite, udite, O rustici!
Attenti, non fiatate!
Io gia suppongo e immagino
Che al par di me sappiate
Che io son quel gran medico
Dottore Enciclopedico
Chiamato Dulcamara,
La cui virtu preclara
E i portenti infiniti
Son noti in tutto il mondo--_e in altri siti_.

Benefattor degli uomini,
Reparator dei mali,
In pochi giorni io sgombrero.
Io spazzo gli spedali
E la salute a vendere
Per tutto il mondo io vo.
Compratela, compratela,--
Per poco io ve la do.

E questo l'odontalgico,
Mirabile liquore,
De' topi e dei cimici
Possente distruttore,
I cui certificati
Autentici, bollati,
Toccar, vedere, e leggere,
A ciaschedun faro.
Per questo mio specifico
Simpatico, prolifico,
Un uom settuagenario
E valetudinario
Nonno di dieci bamboli
Ancora divento.

O voi matrona rigide,
Ringiovanir bramate?
Le vostre rughe incomode
Con esso cancellate.
Volete, voi donzelle,
Ben liscia aver la pelle?
Voi giovani galanti,
Per sempre avere amanti,
Comprate il mio specifico,--
Per poco io ve lo do.

Ei move i paralitici,
Spedisce gli apopletici,
Gli asmatici, gli asfitici,
Gli isterici, e disbetici;
Guarisce timpanitidi
E scrofoli e rachitidi;
E fino il mal di fegato,
Che in moda divento.
Comprate il mio specifico,--
Per poco io ve lo do.

And so on and on and on. There is never an end of that voluble gabble.
Nothing is more amusing than the Italian _ciarlatano_, wherever you meet
him; but, like many other national characters, he is vanishing, and is
seen more and more rarely every year. Perhaps he has been promoted to an
office in the Church or government, and finds more pickings there than
at the fairs; and if not, perhaps he has sold out his profession and
good-will to his confessor, who has mounted, by means of it into a
gilded carriage, and wears silk stockings, whose color, for fear of
mistake, I will not mention.

But to return to the fair and our station on the parapets at
Grotta-Ferrata. Opposite us is a penthouse, (where nobody peaks and
pines,) whose jutting _fraschi_-covered eaves and posts are adorned with
gay draperies; and under the shadow of this is seated a motley set of
peasants at their lunch and dinner. Smoking plates come in and out of
the dark hole of a door that opens into kitchen and cellar, and the
_camerieri_ cry constantly, "_Vengo subito_" "_Eccomi qua_"--whether
they come or not. Big-bellied flasks of rich Grotta-Ferrata wine are
filled and emptied; and bargains are struck for cattle, donkeys, and
clothes; and healths are pledged and _brindisi_ are given. But there is
no riot and no quarrelling. If we lift our eyes from this swarm below,
we see the exquisite Campagna with its silent, purple distances
stretching off to Rome, and hear the rush of a wild torrent scolding in
the gorge below among the stones and olives.

But while we are lingering here, a crowd is pushing through into the
inner court, where mass is going on in the curious old church. One has
now to elbow his way to enter, and all around the door, even out into
the middle court, _contadini_ are kneeling. Besides this, the whole
place reeks intolerably with garlic, which, mixed with whiff of incense
from the church within and other unmentionable smells, makes such a
compound that only a brave nose can stand it. But stand it we must, if
we would see Domenichino's frescoes in the chapel within; and as they
are among the best products of his cold and clever talent, we gasp and
push on,--the most resolute alone getting through. Here in this old
monastery, as the story goes, he sought refuge from the fierce Salvator
Rosa, by whom his life was threatened, and here he painted his best
works, shaking in his shoes with fear. When we have examined these
frescoes, we have done the fair of Grotta-Ferrata; and those of us who
are wise and have brought with us a well-packed hamper stick in our hat
one of the red artificial roses which everybody wears, take a charming
drive to the Villa Conti, Muti, or Falconieri, and there, under the
ilexes, forget the garlic, finish the day with a picnic, and return to
Rome when the western sun is painting the Alban Hill.

And here, in passing, one word on the onions and garlic, whose odor
issues from the mouths of every Italian crowd, like the fumes from
the maw of Fridolin's dragon. Everybody eats them in Italy; the upper
classes show them to their dishes to give them a flavor, and the lower
use them not only as a flavor, but as a food. When only a formal
introduction of them is made to a dish, I confess that the result is
far from disagreeable; but that close, intimate, and absorbing relation
existing between them and the lowest classes is frightful. _Senza
complimenti_, it is "tolerable and not to be endured." When a poor man
can procure a raw onion and a hunch of black bread, he does not want a
dinner; and towards noon many and many a one may be seen sitting like
a king upon a door-step, or making a statuesque finish to a _palazzo
portone_, cheerfully munching this spare meal, and taking his siesta
after it, full-length upon the bare pavement, as calmly as if he were in
the perfumed chambers of the great,

"Under the canopies of costly state,
And lulled with sounds of sweetest melody."

And, indeed, so he is; for the canopy of the soft blue sky is above him,
and the plashing fountains lull him to his dreams. Nor is he without
ancient authority for his devotion to those twin saints, Cipolla and
Aglio. There is an "odor of sanctity" about them, turn up our noses
as we may. The Ancient Egyptians offered them as firstfruits upon the
altars of their gods, and employed them also in the services for the
dead; and such was their attachment to them, that the followers of Moses
hankered after them despite the manna, and longed for "the leeks and the
onions and the garlic which they did eat in Egypt freely." Nay, even the
fastidious Greeks not only used them as a charm against the Evil Eye,
but ate them with delight. And in the "Banquet" of Xenophon, Socrates
specially recommends them. On this occasion, several curious reasons
for their use are adduced, of which we who despise them should not be
ignorant. Niceratus says that they relish well with wine, citing Homer
in confirmation of his opinion; Callias affirms that they inspire
courage in battle; and Charmidas clenches the matter by declaring that
they are most useful in "deceiving a jealous wife, who, finding her
husband return with his breath smelling of onions, would be induced to
believe he had not saluted any one while from home." Despise them not,
therefore, O Saxon! for as "their offence is rank," their pedigree is
long, and they are sacred plants that "smell to heaven." Happily for
you, if these reasons do not persuade you against your will, there is a
certain specific against them,--_Eat them yourself_, and you will smell
them no longer.

The time of the church processions is now coming, and one good specimen
takes place on the 29th of March, from the Santa Maria in Via, which
may stand with little variations for all the others. These processions,
which are given by every church once a year, are in honor of the
Madonna, or some saint specially reverenced in the particular church.
They make the circuit of the parish limits, passing through all its
principal streets, and every window and balcony is decorated with yellow
and crimson hangings, and with crowds of dark eyes. The front of the
church, the steps, and the street leading to it, are spread with yellow
sand, over which are scattered sprigs of box. After the procession
has been organized in the church, they "come unto the yellow sands,"
preceded by a band of music, which plays rather jubilant, and what the
uncopious would call profane music, polkas and marches, and airs
from the operas. Next follow great lanterns of strung glass drops,
accompanied by soldiers; then an immense gonfalon representing the
Virgin at the Cross, which swings backwards and forwards, borne by the
_confraternita_ of the parish, with blue capes over their white dresses,
and all holding torches. Then follows a huge wooden cross, garlanded
with golden ivy-leaves, and also upheld by the _confraternita_, who
stagger under its weight. Next come two crucifixes, covered, as the body
of Christ always is during Lent and until Resurrection-Day, with cloth
of purple, (the color of passion,) and followed by the _frati_ of the
church in black, carrying candles and dolorously chanting a hymn. Then
comes the bishop in his mitre, his yellow stole upheld by two principal
priests, (the curate and subcurate,) and to him his acolytes waft
incense, as well as to the huge figure of the Madonna which follows.
This figure is of life-size, carved in wood, surrounded by gilt angels,
and so heavy that sixteen stout _facchini_, whose shabby trousers show
under their improvised costume, are required to bear it along. With this
the procession comes to its climax. Immediately after follow the guards,
and a great concourse of the populace closes the train.

As Holy Week approaches, pilgrims begin to flock to Rome with their
oil-cloth capes, their scallop-shell, their long staffs, their rosaries,
and their dirty hands held out constantly for "_una santa elemosina pel
povero pellegrino_." Let none of my fair friends imagine that she will
find a Romeo among them, or she will be most grievously disappointed.
There is something to touch your pity in their appearance, though not
the pity akin to love. They are, for the most part, old, shabby, and
soiled, and inveterate mendicants,--and though, some time or other,
some one or other may have known one of them for her true-love, "by his
cockle hat and staff, and his sandal shoon," that time has been long
forbye, unless they are wondrously disguised. Besides these pilgrims,
and often in company with them, bands of peasants, with their long
staffs, may be met on the road, making a pilgrimage to Rome for the Holy
Week, clad in splendid _ciocciari_ dresses, carrying their clothes on
their heads, and chanting a psalm as they go. Among these may be found
many a handsome youth and beautiful maid, whose faces will break into
the most charming of smiles as you salute them and wish them a happy
pilgrimage. And of all smiles, none is so sudden, open, and enchanting
as a Roman girl's; and breaking over their dark, passionate faces, black
eyes, and level brows, it seems like a burst of sunlight from behind a
cloud. There must be noble possibilities in any nation which, through
all its oppression and degradation, has preserved the childlike
frankness of the Italian smile. Still another indication of the approach
of Holy Week is the Easter egg, which now makes its appearance, and
warns us of the solemnities to come. Sometimes it is stained yellow,
purple, red, green, or striped with various colors; sometimes it is
crowned with paste-work, representing, in a most primitive way, a
hen,--her body being the egg, and her pastry-head adorned with a
disproportionately tall feather. These eggs are exposed for sale at
the corners of the streets and bought by everybody, and every sort of
ingenious device is resorted to, to attract customers and render them
attractive. This custom is probably derived from the East, where the egg
is the symbol of the primitive state of the world and of the creation
of things. The new year formerly began at the spring equinox, at about
Easter; and at that period of the renewal of Nature, a festival was
celebrated in the new moon of the month Phamenoth, in honor of Osiris,
when painted and gilded eggs were exchanged as presents, in reference to
the beginning of all things. The transference of the commencement of the
year to January deprived the Paschal egg of its significance. Formerly
in France, and still in Russia as in Italy, it had a religious
significance, and was never distributed until it had received a solemn
benediction. On Good Friday, a priest, with his robes and an attendant,
may be seen going into every door in the street to bless the house, the
inhabitants, and the eggs. The last, colored and arranged according to
the taste of the individual, are spread upon a table, which is decorated
with box, flowers, and whatever ornamental dishes the family possesses.
The priest is received with bows at the door, and when the benediction
is over he is rewarded with the gratuity of a _paul_ or a _scudo_,
according to the piety and purse of the proprietor; while into the
basket of his attendant is always dropped a _pagnotta_, a couple of
eggs, a _baiocco_, or some such trifle. [Footnote: Beside the blessing
of the eggs and house, it is the custom in some parts of Italy, (and I
have particularly observed it in Siena,) for the priest, at Easter, to
affix to the door of the chief _palazzi_ and villas a waxen cross, or
the letter M in wax, so as to guard the house from evil spirits. But
only the houses of the rich are thus protected; for the priests bestow
favors only "for a consideration," which the poor cannot so easily

It is on this day, too, that the customary Jew is converted, recants,
and is baptized; and there are not wanting evil tongues which declare
that there is a wonderful similarity in his physiognomy every year.
However this may be, there is no doubt that some one is annually dug out
of the Ghetto, which is the pit of Judaism here in Rome; and if he fall
back again, after receiving the temporal reward, and without waiting for
the spiritual, he probably finds it worth his while to do so, in view of
the zeal of the Church, and in remembrance of the fifteenth verse of the
twenty-third chapter of Matthew, if he ever reads that portion of the
Bible. It is in the great basaltic vase in the baptistery of St. John
Lateran, the same in which Rienzi bathed in 1347, before receiving the
insignia of knighthood, that the converted Jew, and any other infidel
who can be brought over, receives his baptism when he is taken into the
arms of the Church.

It is at this season, too, that the _pizzicarolo_ shops are gayly
dressed in the manner so graphically described by Hans Andersen in his
"Improvisatore." No wonder, that, to little Antonio, the interior of
one of these shops looked like a realization of Paradise; for they are
really splendid; and when glittering with candles and lamps at night,
the effect is very striking. Great sides of bacon and lard are ranged
endwise in regular bars all around the interior, and adorned with
stripes of various colors, mixed with golden spangles and flashing
tinsel; while over and under them, in reticulated work, are piled scores
upon scores of brown cheeses, in the form of pyramids, columns, towers,
with eggs set into their interstices. From the ceiling, and all around
the doorway, hang wreaths and necklaces of sausages, or groups of the
long gourd-like _cacio di cavallo_, twined about with box, or netted
wire baskets filled with Easter eggs, or great bunches of white candles
gathered together at the wicks. Seen through these, at the bottom of the
shop, is a picture of the Madonna, with scores of candles burning about
it, and gleaming upon the tinsel hangings and spangles with which it
is decorated. Underneath this, there is often represented an elaborate
_presepio_,--or, when this is not the case, the animals may be seen
mounted here and there on the cheeses. Candelabra of eggs, curiously
bound together, so as to resemble bunches of gigantic white grapes,
swung from the centre of the ceiling, and cups of colored glass, with a
taper in them, or red paper lanterns, and _terra-cotta_ lamps, of the
antique form, show here and there their little flames among the flitches
of bacon and cheeses; while, in the midst of all this splendor, the
figure of the _pizzicarolo_ moves to and fro, like a high-priest at a
ceremony. Nor is this illumination exclusive. The doors, often of the
full width of the shop, are thrown wide open, and the glory shines upon
all passers-by. It is the apotheosis of ham and cheese, at which only
the Hebraic nose, doing violence to its natural curve, turns up in
scorn; while true Christians crowd around it to wonder and admire, and
sometimes to venture in upon the almost enchanted ground. May it be long
before this pleasant custom dies out!

At last comes Holy Week, with its pilgrims that flock from every part
of the world. Every hotel and furnished apartment is crowded,--every
carriage is hired at double and treble its ordinary fare,--every door,
where a Papal ceremony is to take place, is besieged by figures in black
with black veils. The streets are filled with Germans, English, French,
Americans, all on the move, coming and going, and anxiously inquiring
about the _funzioni_, and when they are to take place, and where,--for
everything is kept in a charming condition of perfect uncertainty, from
the want of any public newspaper or journal, or other accurate means of
information. So everybody asks everybody, and everybody tells everybody,
until nobody knows anything, and everything is guesswork. But,
nevertheless, despite impatient words, and muttered curses, and all
kinds of awkward mistakes, the battle goes bravely on. There is terrible
fighting at the door of the Sistine Chapel, to hear the _Miserere_,
which is sure to be Baini's when it is said to be Allegri's, as well as
at the railing of the Chapel, where the washing of the feet takes place,
and at the supper-table, where twelve country-boors represent the
Apostolic company, and are waited on by the Pope, in a way that shows
how great a sham the whole thing is. The air is close to suffocation in
this last place. Men and women faint and are carried out. Some fall and
are trodden down. Sometimes, as at the table this year, some unfortunate
pays for her curiosity with her life. It is "Devil take the
hindmost!" and if any one is down, he is leaped over by men and women
indiscriminately, for there is no time to be lost. In the Chapel, when
once they are in, all want to get out. Shrieks are heard as the jammed
mass sways backward and forward,--veils and dresses are torn in the
struggle,--women are praying for help. Meantime the stupid Swiss keep to
their orders with a literalness which knows no parallel; and all this
time, the Pope, who has come in by a private door, is handing round beef
and mustard and bread and potatoes to the gormandizing Apostles, who put
into their pockets what their stomachs cannot hold, and improve their
opportunities in every way. At last, those who have been through the
fight return at nightfall, haggard and ghastly with fear, hunger, and
fatigue; and, after agreeing that they could never counsel any one to
such an attempt, set off the next morning to attack again some shut door
behind which a "function" is to take place.

All this, however, is done by the strangers. The Romans, on these high
festivals, do not go to Saint Peter's, but perform their religious
services at their parish churches, calmly and peacefully; for in Saint
Peter's all is a spectacle. "How shall I, a true son of the Holy
Church," asks Pasquin, "obtain admittance to her services?" And Marforio
answers, "Declare you are an Englishman, and swear you are a heretic."

The Piazza is crowded with carriages during all these days, and a
hackman will look at nothing under a _scudo_ for the smallest distance,
and, to your remonstrances, he shrugs his shoulders and says, "_Eh,
signore, bisogna vivere; adesso e la nostra settimana, e poi niente._
Next week I will take you anywhere for two _pauls_,--now for fifteen."
Meluccio, (the little old apple,) the aged boy in the Piazza San Pietro,
whose sole occupation it has been for years to open and shut the doors
of carriages--and hold out his hand for a _mezzo-baiocco_, is in great
glee. He runs backwards and forwards all day long,--hails carriages like
mad,--identifies to the bewildered coachmen their lost fares, whom he
never fails to remember,--points out to bewildered strangers the coach
they are hopelessly striving to identify, having entirely forgotten
coachman and carriage in the struggle they have gone through. He is
everywhere, screaming, laughing, and helping everybody. It is his high
festival as well as the Pope's, and grateful strangers drop into his
hand the frequent _baiocco_ or half-_paul_, and thank God and Meluccio
as they sink back in their carriages and cry, "_A casa_."

Finally comes Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection; and at twelve
on the Saturday previous all the bells are rung, and the crucifixes
uncovered, and the Pope, cardinals, and priests change their
mourning-vestments for those of rejoicing. Easter has come. You may know
it by the ringing bells, and the sound of trumpets in the street, and
the jar of long trains of cannon going down to the Piazza San Pietro, to
guard the place and join in the dance, in case of a row or rising
among the populace; for the right arm of the Church is the cannon, and
Christ's doctrines are always protected by the bayonet, and Peter's
successor "making broad his phylacteries," and his splendid _cortege_
"enlarging the borders of their garments" and going up to "the chief
seats in the synagogues" "in purple and fine linen" to make their "long
prayers," crave the protection of bristling arms and drawn swords.

By twelve o'clock Mass in Saint Peter's is over, and the Piazza is
crowded with people to see the Benediction,--and a grand and imposing
spectacle it is! Out over the great balcony stretches a huge white
awning, where priests and attendants are collected, and where the Pope
will soon be seen. Below, the Piazza is alive with moving masses. In the
centre are drawn up long lines of soldiery, with yellow and red pompons
and glittering helmets and bayonets. These are surrounded by crowds on
foot, and at the outer rim are packed carriages filled and overrun with
people mounted on the seats and boxes. There is a half-hour's waiting
while we can look about, a steady stream of carriages all the while
pouring in, and, if one could see it, stretching out a mile behind, and
adding thousands of impatient spectators to those already there. What a
sight it is!--above us the great dome of Saint Peter's, and below, the
grand embracing colonnade, and the vast space, in the centre of which
rises the solemn obelisk thronged with masses of living beings. Peasants
from the Campagna and the mountains are moving about everywhere.
Pilgrims in oil-cloth cape and with iron staff demand charity. On the
steps are rows of purple, blue, and brown umbrellas; for there the sun
blazes fiercely. Everywhere cross forth the white hoods of Sisters of
Charity, collected in groups, and showing, among the party-colored
dresses, like beds of chrysanthemums in a garden. One side of the
massive colonnade casts a grateful shadow over the crowd beneath, that
fill up the intervals of its columns; but elsewhere the sun burns down
and flashes everywhere. Mounted on the colonnade are masses of people
leaning over, beside the colossal statues. Through all the heat is heard
the constant plash of the two superb fountains, that wave to and fro
their veils of white spray. At last the clock strikes. In the far
balcony are seen the two great snowy peacock fans, and between them a
figure clad in white, that rises from a golden chair, and spreads his
great sleeves like wings as he raises his arms in benediction. That is
the Pope, Pius the Ninth. All is dead silence, and a musical voice,
sweet and penetrating, is heard chanting from the balcony;--the people
bend and kneel; with a cold, gray flash, all the bayonets gleam as the
soldiers drop to their knees, and rise to salute as the voice dies away,
and the two white wings are again waved;--then thunder the cannon,--the
bells dash and peal,--a few white papers, like huge snowflakes, drop
wavering from the balcony;--these are Indulgences, and there is an eager
struggle for them below;--then the Pope again rises, again gives his
benediction, waving to and fro his right hand, three fingers open, and
making the sign of the cross,--and the peacock fans retire, and he
between them is borne away,--and Lent is over.

As Lent is ushered in by the dancing lights of the _moccoletti_, so it
is ushered out by the splendid illumination of Saint Peter's, which is
one of the grandest spectacles in Rome. The first illumination is by
means of paper lanterns, distributed everywhere along the architectural
lines of the church, and from the steps beneath its portico to the cross
above its dome. These are lighted before sunset, and against the blaze
of the western light are for some time completely invisible; but as
twilight thickens, and the shadows deepen, and a gray pearly veil is
drawn over the sky, the distant basilica begins to glow against it with
a dull furnace-glow, as of a wondrous coal fanned by a constant wind;
looking not so much lighted from without as reddening from an interior
fire. Slowly this splendor grows, until the mighty building at last
stands outlined against the dying twilight as if etched there with
a fiery burin. As the sky darkens into intense blue behind it, the
material part of the basilica seems to vanish, until nothing is left to
the eye but a wondrous, magical, visionary structure of fire. This is
the silver illumination; watch it well, for it does not last long. At
the first hour of night, when the bells sound all over Rome, a sudden
change takes place. From the lofty cross a burst of flame is seen, and
instantly a flash of light whirls over the dome and drum, climbs the
smaller cupolas, descends like a rain of fire down the columns of the
_facade_, and before the great bell of Saint Peter's has ceased to toll
twelve peals, the golden illumination has succeeded to the silver. For
my own part, I prefer the first illumination; it is more delicate, airy,
and refined, though the second is more brilliant and dazzling. One is
like the Bride of the Church, the other like the Empress of the World.
In the second lighting, the Church becomes more material; the flames
are like jewels, and the dome seems a gigantic triple crown of Saint
Peter's. One effect, however, is very striking. The outline of fire,
which before was firm and motionless, now wavers and shakes as if it
would pass away, as the wind blows the flames back and forth from the
great cups by which it is lighted. From near and far the world looks
on,--from the Piazza beneath, where carriages drive to and fro in its
splendor, and the band plays and the bells toll,--from the windows and
_loggias_ of the city, wherever a view can be caught of this superb
spectacle,--and from the Campagna and mountain towns, where, far
away, alone and towering above everything, the dome is seen to blaze.
Everywhere are ejaculations of delight, and thousands of groups are
playing the game of "What is it like?" One says, it is like a hive
covered by a swarm of burning bees; others, that it is the enchanted
palace in the gardens of Gul in the depths of the Arabian nights,--like
a gigantic tiara set with wonderful diamonds, larger than those which
Sinbad found in the roc's valley,--like the palace of the fairies in the
dreams of childhood,--like the stately pleasure-dome of Kubla Khan in
Xanadu, and twenty other whimsical things. At nearly midnight, when
we go to bed, we take a last look at it. It is a ruin, like the
Colosseum,--great gaps of darkness are there, with broken rows of
splendor. The lights are gone on one side the dome,--they straggle
fitfully here and there down the other and over the _facade_, fading
even as we look. It is melancholy enough. It is a bankrupt heiress, an
old and wrinkled beauty, that tells strange tales of its former wealth
and charms, when the world was at its feet. It is the once mighty
Catholic Church, crumbling away with the passage of the night,--and when
morning and light come, it will be no more.

[To be continued.]


One morning in Naples, in the spring of ----, I was practising over
some operas of Rossini with a musical friend. He had known the great
_maestro_ personally, and his intelligence on musical matters, his
numberless anecdotes and reminiscences, made him a charming companion;
he was a living, talking Scudo article, full of artistic _mots_ and
_ana_. We had just finished looking over the "Tancredi," and, as I sat
down to rest in an arm-chair near the window, he leaned back in the deep
window-embrasure, and looked down into the fine old garden below, from
which arose the delicious odor of orange and young grape blossoms.

"I was in Venice," he said, "when this opera was composed, in 1813. _Mon
Dieu_! how time flies! Rossini wrote it for one of the loveliest women
God ever made, Adelaide Montresor. I knew her very well. She was the
wife of a French gentleman, a friend of mine, M. Montresor, at one time
very prosperous in fortune. Adelaide was a Veronese, of good family, and
had studied music only _en amateur_. Her maiden name was Malanotte. Oh,
yes, of course, you have heard of her. She was famous, poor child, in
her day, which was a short one."

The old gentleman sighed, and threw the end of his cigar out of the
window. I handed him another; for his age and charming conversation
entitled him to such indulgences. He remained silent a little
while, puffing away at his cigar until it was well lighted; then he

"I think I'll tell you poor Adelaide's story. She was a delicious young
creature when Montresor married her,--scarcely more than a child. For
some years they lived delightfully; they had plenty of money, and were
very fond of each other. She had two charming little children; one was
my godson and namesake, Ettore. Montresor, her husband, was surely one
of the happiest of men.

"They were both musical. Montresor had a clever barytone voice, and
sang with sufficient grace and memory for an amateur. Adelaide was more
remarkable than her husband; she had genius more than culture, and sang
good old music with an unconscious creative grace. At their house we
used to get up 'Il Matrimonio Segreto,' _scenas_ from 'Don Giovanni,'
and many other passages from favorite operas; and Adelaide was always
our admired _prima donna_; for she, as Fetis says of genius, 'invented
forms, imposed them as types, and obliged us not only to acknowledge,
but to imitate them.'

"I had to go to Russia in 1805, and leave my home and friends for an
indefinite period of time. When I bade the Montresors good-bye,
I wondered what sorrow could touch them, they seemed so shielded by
prosperity from every accident; but some one has said very justly of
prosperity, that it is like glass,--it shines brightest just before
shivering. A year after I left, Montresor, who had foolishly entered
into some speculations, lost all his fortune. In a fortnight after the
event, Veronese society was electrified by the public announcement of
Madame Montresor's first appearance in public as an opera-singer. I
forget what her opening piece was. She wrote to me about it, telling
me that her _debut_ was successful, but that she felt she needed more
preparation, and should devote the following year to studies necessary
to insure success in her profession. Her letters had no murmurs in
them about the lost fortune, no moans over the sacrifice of her social
position. She possessed true genius, and felt most happy in the exercise
of her music, even if it took sorrow, toil, and poverty to develop it.
Her whole thoughts were on the plan of studies laid down for her. Now
she could be an artist conscientiously. She had obtained the
rare advantage of lessons from some famous retired singer at
Milan,--Marchesi, I think,--and her letters were filled with learned
and enthusiastic details of her master's method, her manner of study,
regimen, and exercise,--enough to make ten Catalanis, I saucily wrote
back to her.

"Once in a while she would send me a notice of her success at some
concert or minor theatre. At last, in 1813, seven years after her
girlish _debut_ at Verona, she received an engagement at Venice. At
that time I obtained _conge_ for a few months, and, on my home-journey,
stopped a few weeks at Venice, to see some relatives living there, and
my old friends, the Montresors. The seven-years' hard study and public
life had developed the pretty _petite_ girl-matron into a charming woman
and fine artist. She was as _naive_ and frank as in her girlish days,
though not so playful,--more self-possessed, and completely engrossed
with her art. Her domestic life was gone; she lived and breathed only in
the atmosphere of her profession, and happily her husband sympathized
with her, and generously regarded her triumphs as his own. The first
morning I saw her, I was struck with her excited air; a deep crimson
spot was on each cheek, which made her eyes, formerly so soft in their
expression, painfully sharp in their brilliancy.

"'I sang for Rossini last night,' she said, in a quick tone, after our
first greeting was over; then continued, with her old, frank _naivete_,
'I did not know he was in the theatre. I am so glad! for otherwise I
might not have done myself justice.'

"'He was pleased, of course,' I replied.

"'Yes; he was here this morning. He is a charming person,--so graceful
and complaisant! Montresor and I were delighted with him. He is to
compose an opera for me.'

"Her whole form seemed to dilate with pride. She walked up and down the
_salon_ with unconscious restlessness while she talked, went to a stand
of flowers, and, leaning her burning face over the fragrant blossoms,
drew in sharp, rapid breaths of their odors. She plucked off a white
tea-rose, and pressed its yellow core against her cheeks, as if she
fancied the fresh white color of the flower would cool them. Every look,
every movement, every expression that shot rapidly over her varying
face, as quickly as the ripples on water under the hot noonday sunlight,
spoke more plainly than words her intense longing. As I recall my
beautiful friend, so possessed as I saw her then with this intense
desire for the fame of a great artist, I think of two lines in a little
song I have heard you sing--

"'To let the new life in, we know
Desire must ope the portal.'

"And, surely, her earnest spirit was beating with feverish haste on that
portal of her future for her new life.

"Of course we did not meet so constantly, and therefore not so
familiarly as formerly. When we did meet, she was as frank and friendly
as ever; but she was always preoccupied. She was studying daily with the
great young _maestro_ himself, then just rising to the full zenith of
his fame, and her whole thoughts were filled with the music of the new
opera he was writing, which she called glorious.

"'So grand and heroic,' she said, with enthusiasm, one morning, when
describing it, 'and yet so original and fresh! The melodies are
graceful, and the accompaniments as sparkling as these diamonds in their

"At _caffes_, where silly young men murder reputations, it was said
that Rossini was madly in love with the beautiful _prima donna;_ and of
course he was; for he could not help being in love, in his way, with
every brilliant woman he met. Numberless stories were told of the
bewitching tyranny '_La Malanotte_,' as she was called, loved to
exercise over her distinguished admirer, which were interpreted by the
uncharitable as the caprice of a mistress in the first flush of her
loving power. I had to listen in silence to such stories, and feel
grateful that Montresor did not hear them also.

"'It is one of the penalties one always has to pay for a woman's fame,'
I said to myself, one day, as I sat sipping my chocolate, while I was
forced to overhear from a neighboring alcove an insolent young dandy
tell of various scenes, betraying passionate love on both sides, which
he had probably manufactured to make himself of consequence. One story
he told I felt sure was false, and yet I would rather it had been true
than the others; he declared he had been present at the theatre when it
had taken place, which had been the morning previous,--the morning after
the first representation of this famous opera. La Malanotte, he said,
was dissatisfied with her opening _cavatina_, and at rehearsal had
presented the _maestro_ with the MS. of that passage torn into fifty
atoms, declaring in a haughty tone that she would never sing it again.
This was too unlike Adelaide to be true; but I tried to swallow my
vexation in silence, and with difficulty restrained myself from
insulting the addle-pated young puppy. I had heard her say she did not
like the passage so well as the rest of the opera, and felt sure
that the whole story had been founded on this simple expression of

"I swallowed my chocolate, put on my hat, and sauntered leisurely along
to Montresor's apartments. It was late in the afternoon; the servant
admitted me, saying Madame was alone in the _salon_. The apartments were
several rooms _en suite;_ the music-room was divided from the _salon_ by
curtains. I entered the _salon_ unannounced; for the _valet de chambre_
was an old family-servant, and having known me for so many years
as _garcon de famille_, he let me proceed through the antechamber
unaccompanied. The heavy curtains over the music-room were dropped; but
as I entered, I heard a low murmur of voices coming from it. The thick
Turkey carpet which lay on the inlaid ivory floor of the _salon_ gave
back no sound of my footsteps. I did not think of committing any
indiscretion; I concluded that Adelaide was busy studying; so I took up
a book and seated myself comfortably, feeling as well off there as at

"Presently I heard a brilliant preluding passage on the piano, then
Adelaide's glorious voice pronounced that stirring recitative, _'O
Patria.'_ This was the passage alluded to by the young dandies in
the _caffe_. I laid down my book, and leaned forward to listen. The
recitative over, then followed that delicious 'hymn of youth and love,'
as Scudo calls it, '_Tu che accendi_' followed by the 'Di _tanti
palpiti_.' Can you imagine the sensations produced by hearing for the
first time such a passage? If you can, pray do, for I cannot describe
them;--just fancy that intoxicating '_Ti revedro_' soaring up, followed
by the glittering accompaniment,--and to hear it, as I did, just fresh
from its source, the aroma from this bright-beaded goblet of youth and
love! Heigho! Adelaide repeated it again and again, and the _enivrement_
seemed as great in the music-room as in my brain and heart. Then the low
talking recommenced, and from some words that reached my ears I began
to think I might be committing an indiscretion; so I left the room as I
entered it, unannounced.

"That night I was at the theatre, and witnessed the wild, frantic
reception of this _cavatina_, and also saw the point Scudo alludes to,
which Adelaide made that night for the first time, in the duo between
Tancredi and Argirio, '_Ah, se de' mali miei_,' in the passage at the
close of '_Ecco la tromba_,' at the repeat of '_Al campo_.' She looked
superbly, and, as that part of the duo ended, she advanced a step, drew
up her fine form to its full height, flashed her sword with a gesture of
inspiration, and exclaimed, in clear, musical diction, '_Il vivo lampo
di questa spada_.' The effect was electric. The duet could not proceed
for the cries and shouts of enthusiasm; the whole theatre rose in one
mass, and shouted aloud their ecstasy in one voice, as if they had but
one common ear and heart.

"The instant the cries lessened, Adelaide gave the sign to Argirio,
and they took up the duo, '_Splenda terribile_,' before the orchestra,
equally electrified with the audience, were prepared for it, so that
Adelaide's clear ringing '_Mi_' soared out like a mellow violoncello
note, and she sang the three following measures unaccompanied. The short
symphony which follows this little bit was not heard for the cries of
applause, which were silenced only by the grand finale, '_Se il ciel mi

"_Gran Dio!_ the bare memory of that night is a joy," said my friend,
walking rapidly up and down the room.

"I had to leave for my Russian home a few days after that, and saw
Adelaide only once; it was the morning of my departure. Her _salon_ was
crowded, and she was leaning on her husband's arm, looking very proud
and happy. 'Who could have been in that music-room?' I asked myself,
while I looked at them; then in an instant I felt reproached at my
suspicions, as the thought flashed across my mind, that it might have
been her husband. What more likely? I bade her good-bye, and told her,
laughingly, as she gave me a cordial grasp of her hand, that I hoped to
renew our friendship in St. Petersburg.

"She never wrote to me after that. Marked differences in pursuits and
a continued separation will dissolve the outward bonds of the truest
friendships. Adelaide's time was now completely occupied; it was one
round of brilliant success for the poor woman. 'Such triumphs! such
intoxication!' as Scudo says; but the glory was that of a shooting star.
In eight short years after that brilliant season at Venice, Adelaide
Montresor, better known as 'La Malanotte,' the idol of the European
musical public, the short-lived infatuation and passion of the
celebrated Rossini, was a hopeless invalid, and worse, _presque folle_.

"I received the news, strange to say, one evening at the opera in St.
Petersburg, while I was listening to the music of 'Tancredi.' Two
gentlemen were talking behind me, and one was telling the other his
recollection of that brilliant scene I have just recounted. Then
followed the account of her illness; and I could not restrain myself, as
I had in the _caffe_ at Venice; for I had known Adelaide as a girl, and
loved her as a brother. I presented myself, explaining the cause of my
interest in their conversation, and found the news was only too
true. The gentlemen had just come from Southern Europe, and knew the
Montresors personally. He said that her mind was gone, even more
hopelessly than her health. She lingered eleven years in this sad state,
and then, happily for herself, died."

"And Rossini," I asked,--"how did he take her illness?"

"Oh, three years after his Venetian infatuation, he was off here in
Naples, worshipping the Spanish beauty, a little _passee_ to be sure, of
La Colbrand. She, however, possessed more lasting attractions than mere
physical ones. She had amassed a large fortune in a variety of ways.
Rossini was not over-nice; he wanted money most of all things, and he
carried off La Colbrand from her _cher ami_, the Neapolitan director of
San Carlo, and married her. It was a regular elopement, as if of a young
miss from her papa. Do not look so shocked. Rossini could not help his
changeability. You women always throw away a real gem, and receive, nine
times out of ten, a mock one in return. But the fault lies not with us,
but with you; you almost invariably select the wrong person. Now such
men as Montresor and I knew how to return a real gem for Adelaide's
heart-gift; but such men as Rossini have no real feelings in their

"And you think she loved him?"

"I try to think otherwise, for I cannot bear to remember Adelaide
Montresor as an unworthy woman; and when the unwelcome thought will
thrust itself in, I think of her youth, her beauty, her genius, and
the sudden blinding effect that rapid prosperity and brilliant success
produce on an enthusiastic, warm temperament--Good-morning; to-morrow
let me come again, and we will go over 'Tancredi,' and I will sing with
you the '_Ah, se de' mali miei_.'"

My friend left me alone. I sat by the window, watching the waving of the
tasselled branches of the acacia, and the purple fiery vapor that arose
from the overflowing Vesuvius; and I thought of Adelaide Malanotte,
and wondered at the strange, fatal necessity attendant on genius, its
spiritual labor and pain. Like all things beautiful in Art, made by
human hands, it must proceed from toil of brain or heart. It takes
fierce heat to purify the gold, and welding beats are needed to mould
it into gracious shapes; the sharp chisel must cut into the marble,
to fashion by keen, driving blows the fair statue; the fine, piercing
instrument, "the little diamond-pointed ill," it is that traces the
forms of beauty on the hard onyx. There had been sorrow in the tale of
my friend, temptation at least, if not sinful yielding, labor and pain,
which had broken down the fair mind itself,--but it had all created a
gracious form for the memory to dwell on, an undying association with
the "Tancredi," as beautiful, instructive, and joy-giving as the "Divino
Amore" of Raphael, the exquisite onyx heads in the "Cabinet of Gems," or
that divine prelude the Englishman was at that moment pouring out from
his piano in a neighboring _palazzo_, in a flood of harmony as golden
and rich as the wine of Capri, every note of which, we know, had been a
life-drop wrung from the proud, breaking heart of Chopin, when he sat
alone, that solemn, stormy midnight, in the old convent-chamber at
Majorca. But the toil and suffering are forgotten in the enjoyment of
creation, and genius itself, when going down into the fiery baptism of
sorrow, or walking over the red-hot ploughshares of temptation, would
rather take all its suffering and peril than not be itself;--and well it
may; for it is making, what poor heart-broken Keats sung,

"A thing of beauty--a joy forever."



Iris, her Book.

I pray thee by the soul of her that bore thee,
By thine own sister's spirit I implore thee,
Deal gently with the leaves that lie before thee!

For Iris had no mother to infold her,
Nor ever leaned upon a sister's shoulder,
Telling the twilight thoughts that Nature told her.

She had not learned the mystery of awaking
Those chorded keys that soothe a sorrow's aching,
Giving the dumb heart voice, that else were breaking.

Yet lived, wrought, suffered. Lo, the pictured token!
Why should her fleeting day-dreams fade unspoken,
Like daffodils that die with sheaths unbroken?

She knew not love, yet lived in maiden fancies,--
Walked simply clad, a queen of high romances,
And talked strange tongues with angels in her trances.

Twin-souled she seemed, a twofold nature wearing,--
Sometimes a flashing falcon in her daring,
Then a poor mateless dove that droops despairing.

Questioning all things: Why her Lord had sent her?
What were these torturing gifts, and wherefore lent her?
Scornful as spirit fallen, its own tormentor.

And then all tears and anguish: Queen of Heaven,
Sweet Saints, and Thou by mortal sorrows riven,
Save me! oh, save me! Shall I die forgiven?

And then--Ah, God! But nay, it little matters:
Look at the wasted seeds that autumn scatters
The myriad germs that Nature shapes and shatters!

If she had--Well! She longed, and knew not wherefore.
Had the world nothing she might live to care for?
No second self to say her evening prayer for?

She knew the marble shapes that set men dreaming,
Yet with her shoulders bare and tresses streaming
Showed not unlovely to her simple seeming.

Vain? Let it be so! Nature was her teacher.
What if a lonely and unsistered creature
Loved her own harmless gift of pleasing feature,

Saying, unsaddened,--This shall soon be faded,
And double-hued the shining tresses braided,
And all the sunlight of the morning shaded?

--This her poor book is full of saddest follies
Of tearful smiles and laughing melancholies,
With summer roses twined and wintry hollies.

In the strange crossing of uncertain chances,
Somewhere, beneath some maiden's tear-dimmed glances
May fall her little book of dreams and fancies.

Sweet sister! Iris, who shall never name thee,
Trembling for fear her open heart may shame thee,
Speaks from this vision-haunted page to claim thee.

Spare her, I pray thee! If the maid is sleeping,
Peace with her! she has had her hour of weeping.
No more! She leaves her memory in thy keeping.

These verses were written in the first leaves of the locked volume. As I
turned the pages, I hesitated for a moment. Is it quite fair to take
advantage of a generous, trusting impulse to read the unsunned depths of
a young girl's nature, which I can look through, as the balloon-voyagers
tell us they see from their hanging-baskets through the translucent
waters which the keenest eye of such as sail over them in ships might
strive to pierce in vain? Why has the child trusted _me_ with such
artless confessions,--self-revelations, which might be whispered by
trembling lips, under the veil of twilight, in sacred confessionals, but
which I cannot look at in the light of day without a feeling of wronging
a sacred confidence?

To all this the answer seemed plain enough after a little thought.
She did not know how fearfully she had disclosed herself; she was too
profoundly innocent. Her soul was no more ashamed than the fair shapes
that walked in Eden without a thought of over-liberal loveliness. Having
nobody to tell her story to,--having, as she said in her verses, no
musical instrument to laugh and cry with her,--nothing, in short, but
the language of pen and pencil,--all the veinings of her nature were
impressed on these pages, as those of a fresh leaf are transferred
to the blank sheets which inclose it. It was the same thing which I
remember seeing beautifully shown in a child of some four or five years
we had one day at our boarding-house. This child was a deaf mute. But
its soul had the inner sense that answers to hearing, and the shaping
capacity which through natural organs realizes itself in words. Only
it had to talk with its face alone; and such speaking eyes, such rapid
alternations of feeling and shifting expressions of thought as flitted
over its face, I have never seen in any other human countenance.

I wonder if something of spiritual _transparency_ is not typified in
the golden-_blonde_ organization. There are a great many little
creatures,--many small fishes, for instance,--that are literally
transparent, with the exception of some of the internal organs. The
heart can be seen beating as if in a case of clouded crystal. The
central nervous column with its sheath runs as a dark stripe through
the whole length of the diaphanous muscles of the body. Other little
creatures are so darkened with pigment that we can see only their
surface. Conspirators and poisoners are painted with black, beady eyes
and swarthy hue; Judas, in Leonardo's picture, is the model of them all.

However this may be, I should say there never had been a book like this
of Iris,--so full of the heart's silent language, so transparent that
the heart itself could be seen beating through it. I should say there
never could have been such a book, but for one recollection, which is
not peculiar to myself, but is shared by a certain number of my former
townsmen. If you think I overcolor this matter of the young girl's book,
hear this, which there are others, as I just said, besides myself, will
tell you is strictly true.

_The Book of the Three Maiden Sisters_.

In the town called Cantabridge, now a city, water-veined and
gas-windpiped, in the street running down to the Bridge, beyond which
dwelt Sally, told of in a book of a friend of mine, was of old a house
inhabited by three maidens. They left no near kinsfolk, I believe; if
they did, I have no ill to speak of them; for they lived and died in
all good report and maidenly credit. The house they lived in was of the
small, gambrel-roofed cottage pattern, after the shape of Esquires'
houses, but after the size of the dwellings of handicraftsmen. The lower
story was fitted up as a shop. Specially was it provided with one of
those half-doors now so rarely met with, which are to whole doors as
spencers worn by old folk are to coats. They speak of limited commerce
united with a social or observing disposition on the part of the
shopkeeper,--allowing, as they do, talk with passers-by, yet keeping off
such as have not the excuse of business to cross the threshold. On the
door-posts, at either side, above the half-door, hung certain perennial
articles of merchandise, of which my memory still has hanging among its
faded photographs a kind of netted scarf and some pairs of thick woollen
stockings. More articles, but not very many, were stored inside; and
there was one drawer, containing children's books, out of which I once
was treated to a minute quarto ornamented with handsome cuts. This was
the only purchase I ever _knew_ to be made at the shop kept by the three
maiden ladies, though it is probable there were others. So long as I
remember the shop, the same scarf and, I should say, the same stockings
hung on the door-posts.--[You think I am exaggerating again, and that
shopkeepers would not keep the same article exposed for years. Come to
me, the Professor, and I will take you in five minutes to a shop in this
city where I will show you an article hanging now in the very place
where more than _thirty years ago_ I myself inquired the price of it of
the present head of the establishment.]

The three maidens were of comely presence, and one of them had
had claims to be considered a Beauty. When I saw them in the old
meeting-house on Sundays, as they rustled in through the aisles in silks
and satins, not gay, but more than decent, as I remember them, I thought
of My Lady Bountiful in the history of "Little King Pippin," and of the
Madame Blaize of Goldsmith (who, by the way, may have taken the hint of
it from a pleasant poem, "Monsieur de la Palisse," attributed to De la
Monnoye, in the collection of French songs before me). There was some
story of an old romance in which the Beauty had played her part. Perhaps
they all had had lovers; for, as I said, they were shapely and seemly
personages, as I remember them; but their lives were out of the flower
and in the berry at the time of my first recollections.

One after another they all three dropped away, objects of kindly
attention to the good people round, leaving little or almost nothing,
and nobody to inherit it. Not absolutely nothing, of course. There must
have been a few old dresses,--perhaps some bits of furniture, a Bible,
and the spectacles the good old souls read it through, and little
keepsakes, such as make us cry to look at, when we find them in old
drawers;--such relics there must have been. But there was more. There
was a manuscript of some hundred pages, closely written, in which the
poor things had chronicled for many years the incidents of their daily
life. After their death it was passed round somewhat freely, and fell
into my hands. How I have cried and laughed and colored over it! There
was nothing in it to be ashamed of, perhaps there was nothing in it to
laugh at, but such a picture of the mode of being of poor simple good
old women I do believe was never drawn before. And there were all the
smallest incidents recorded, such as do really make up humble life, but
which die out of all mere literary memoirs, as the houses where the
Egyptians or the Athenians lived crumble and leave only their temples
standing. I know, for instance, that on a given day of a certain year,
a kindly woman, herself a poor widow, now, I trust, not without special
mercies in heaven for her good deeds,--for I read her name on a proper
tablet in the churchyard a week ago,--sent a fractional pudding from her
own table to the Maiden Sisters, who, I fear, from the warmth and detail
of their description, were fasting, or at least on short allowance,
about that time. I know who sent them the segment of melon, which in her
riotous fancy one of them compared to those huge barges to which we give
the ungracious name of mudscows. But why should I illustrate further
what it seems almost a breach of confidence to speak of? Some kind
friend, who could challenge a nearer interest than the curious strangers
into whose hands the book might fall, at last claimed it, and I was glad
that it should be henceforth sealed to common eyes. I learned from it
that every good and, alas! every evil act we do may slumber unforgotten
even in some earthly record. I got a new lesson in that humanity which
our sharp race finds it so hard to learn. The poor widow, fighting
hard to feed and clothe and educate her children, had not forgotten the
poorer ancient maidens. I remembered it the other day, as I stood by her
place of rest, and I felt sure that it was remembered elsewhere. I know
there are prettier words than _pudding_, but I can't help it,--the
pudding went upon the record, I feel sure, with the mite which was cast
into the treasury by that other poor widow whose deed the world shall
remember forever, and with the coats and garments which the good women
cried over, when Tabitha, called by interpretation Dorcas, lay dead in
the upper chamber, with her charitable needlework strewed around her.

* * * * *

----Such was the Book of the Maiden Sisters. You will believe me more
readily now when I tell you that I found the soul of Iris in the one
that lay open before me. Sometimes it was a poem that held it, sometimes
a drawing,--angel, arabesque, caricature, or a mere hieroglyphic
symbol of which I could make nothing. A rag of cloud on one page, as I
remember, with a streak of red zigzagging out of it across the paper as
naturally as a crack runs through a China bowl. On the next page a dead
bird,--some little favorite, I suppose; for it was worked out with a
special love, and I saw on the leaf that sign with which once or twice
in my life I have had a letter sealed,--a round spot where the paper is
slightly corrugated, and, if there is writing there, the letters are
somewhat faint and blurred. Most of the pages were surrounded with
emblematic traceries. It was strange to me at first to see how often she
introduced those homelier wild-flowers which we call _weeds_,--for it
seemed there was none of them too humble for her to love, and none too
little cared for by Nature to be without its beauty for her artist eye
and pencil. By the side of the garden-flowers,--of Spring's curled
darlings, the hyacinths, of rosebuds, dear to sketching maidens, of
flower-de-luces and morning-glories,--nay, oftener than these, and more
tenderly caressed by the colored brush that rendered them,--were those
common growths that fling themselves to be crushed under our feet and
our wheels, making themselves so cheap in this perpetual martyrdom that
we forget each of them is a ray of the Divine beauty.

Yellow japanned buttercups and star-disked dandelions,--just as we see
them lying in the grass, like sparks that have leaped from the kindling
sun of summer; the profuse daisy-like flower which whitens the fields,
to the great disgust of liberal shepherds, yet seems fair to loving
eyes, with its button-like mound of gold set round with milk-white rays;
the tall-stemmed succory, setting its pale blue flowers aflame, one
after another, sparingly, as the lights are kindled in the candelabra of
decaying palaces when the heirs of dethroned monarchs are dying out; the
red and white clovers; the broad, flat leaves of the plantain,--"the
white man's foot," as the Indians called it,--the wiry, jointed stems of
that iron creeping plant which we call "knot-_grass_" and which loves
its life so dearly that it is next to impossible to murder it with a
hoe, as it clings to the cracks of the pavement;--all these plants, and
many more, she wove into her fanciful garlands and borders.--On one of
the pages were some musical notes. I touched them from curiosity on a
piano belonging to one of our boarders. Strange! There are passages that
I have heard before, plaintive, full of some hidden meaning, as if
they were gasping for words to interpret them. She must have heard the
strains that have so excited my curiosity, coming from my neighbor's
chamber. The illuminated border she had traced round the page that held
these notes took the place of the words they seemed to be aching for.
Above, a long, monotonous sweep of waves, leaden-hued, anxious and jaded
and sullen, if you can imagine such an expression in water. On one side
an Alpine _needle_, as it were, of black basalt, girdled with snow. On
the other a threaded waterfall. The red morning-tint that shone in
the drops had something fearful,--one would say the cliff was
bleeding;--perhaps she did not mean it. Below, a stretch of sand, and
a solitary bird of prey, with his wings spread over some unseen
object.--And on the very next page a procession wound along, after the
fashion of that on the title-page of Fuller's "Holy War," in which I
recognized without difficulty every boarder at our table in all the
glory of the most resplendent caricature,--three only excepted,--the
Little Gentleman, myself, and one other.

I confess I did expect to see something that would remind me of the
girl's little deformed neighbor, if not portraits of him.--There is
a left arm again, though;--no,--that is from the "Fighting
Gladiator,"--the "_Jeune Heros combatiant_" of the Louvre;--there is the
broad ring of the shield. From a cast, doubtless. [The separate casts
of the "Gladiator's" arm look immense; but in its place the limb looks
light, almost slender,--such is the perfection of that miraculous
marble. I never felt as if I touched the life of the old Greeks until I
looked on that statue.]--Here is something very odd, to be sure. An Eden
of all the humped and crooked creatures! What could have been in her
head when she worked out such a fantasy? She has contrived to give them
all beauty or dignity or melancholy grace. A Bactrian camel lying under
a palm. A dromedary flashing up the sands,--spray of the dry ocean
sailed by the "ship of the desert." A herd of buffaloes, uncouth,
shaggy-maned, heavy in the forehand, light in the hind-quarter. [The
buffalo is the _lion_ of the ruminants.] And there is a Norman horse,
with his huge, rough collar, echoing, as it were, the natural form of
the other beast. And here are twisted serpents; and stately swans, with
answering curves in their bowed necks, as if they had snake's blood
under their white feathers; and grave, high-shouldered herons, standing
on one foot like cripples, and looking at life round them with the cold
stare of monumental effigies.--A very odd page indeed! Not a creature in
it without a curve or a twist, and not one of them a mean figure to look
at. You can make your own comment; I am fanciful, you know. I believe
she is trying to idealize what we vulgarly call deformity, which she
strives to look at in the light of one of Nature's eccentric curves,
belonging to her system of beauty, as the hyperbola and parabola belong
to the conic sections, though we cannot see them as symmetrical and
entire figures, like the circle and ellipse. At any rate, I cannot help
referring this paradise of twisted spines to some idea floating in
her head connected with her friend whom Nature has warped in the
moulding.--That is nothing to another transcendental fancy of mine. I
believe her soul thinks itself in his little crooked body at times,--if
it does not really get freed or half freed from her own. Did you ever
see a case of catalepsy? You know what I mean,--transient loss of sense,
will, and motion; body and limbs taking any position in which they are
put, as if they belonged to a lay-figure. She had been talking with him
and listening to him one day when the boarders moved from the table
nearly all at once. But she sat as before, her cheek resting on her
hand, her amber eyes wide open and still. I went to her,--she was
breathing as usual, and her heart was beating naturally enough,--but she
did not answer. I bent her arm; it was as plastic as softened wax, and
kept the place I gave it.--This will never do, though,--and I sprinkled
a few drops of water on her forehead. She started and looked round.--I
have been in a dream,--she said;--I feel as if all my strength were in
this arm;--give me your hand!--She took my right hand in her left, which
looked soft and white enough, but--Good Heaven! I believe she will crack
my bones! All the nervous power in her body must have flashed through
those muscles; as when a crazy lady snaps her iron window-bars,--she who
could hardly glove herself when in her common health. Iris turned pale,
and the tears came to her eyes;--she saw she had given pain. Then she
trembled, and might have fallen but for me;--the poor little soul
had been in one of those trances that belong to the spiritual pathology
of higher natures, mostly those of women.

To come back to this wondrous book of Iris. Two pages faced each other
which I took for symbolical expressions of two states of mind. On the
left hand, a bright blue sky washed over the page, specked with a single
bird. No trace of earth, but still the winged creature seemed to be
soaring upward and upward. Facing it, one of those black dungeons such
as Piranesi alone of all men has pictured. I am sure she must have
seen those awful prisons of his, out of which the Opium-Eater got his
nightmare vision, described by another as "cemeteries of departed
greatness, where monstrous and forbidden things are crawling and twining
their slimy convolutions among mouldering bones, broken sculpture, and
mutilated inscriptions." Such a black dungeon faced the page that held
the blue sky and the single bird; at the bottom of it something was
coiled,--what, and whether meant for dead or alive, my eyes could not
make out.

I told you the young girl's soul was in this book. As I turned over the
last leaves I could not help starting. There were all sorts of faces
among the arabesques which laughed and scowled in the borders that ran
round the pages. They had mostly the outline of childish or womanly or
manly beauty, without very distinct individuality. But at last it seemed
to me that some of them were taking on a look not wholly unfamiliar to
me; there were features that did not seem new.--Can it be so? Was there
ever such innocence in a creature so full of life? She tells her heart's
secrets as a three-years-old child betrays itself without need of being
questioned! This was no common miss, such as are turned out in scores
from the young-lady-factories, with parchments warranting them
accomplished and virtuous,--in case anybody should question the fact. I
began to understand her;--and what is so charming as to read the secret
of a real _femme incomprise_?-for such there are, though they are not
the ones who think themselves uncomprehended women.

Poets are never young, in one sense. Their delicate ear hears the
far-off whispers of eternity, which coarser souls must travel towards
for scores of years before their dull sense is touched by them. A
moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience. I have
frequently seen children, long exercised by pain and exhaustion, whose
features had a strange look of advanced age. Too often one meets such in
our charitable institutions. Their faces are saddened and wrinkled, as
if their few summers were three-score years and ten.

And so, many youthful poets have written as if their hearts were old
before their time; their pensive morning twilight has been as cool
and saddening as that of evening in more common lives. The profound
melancholy of those lines of Shelley,

"I could lie down like a tired child
And weep away the life of care
Which I have borne and yet must bear,"

came from a heart, as he says, "too soon grown old,"--at _twenty-six
years_, as dull people count time, even when they talk of poets.

I know enough to be prepared for an exceptional nature, only this gift
of the hand in rendering every thought in form and color, as well as in
words, gives a richness to this young girl's alphabet of feeling and
imagery that takes me by surprise. And then besides, and most of all, I
am puzzled at her sudden and seemingly easy confidence in me. Perhaps I
owe it to my ------ Well, no matter! How one must love the editor who
first calls him the _venerable_ So-and-So!

--I locked the book and sighed as I laid it down. The world is always
ready to receive talent with open arms. Very often it does not know what
to do with genius. Talent is a docile creature. It bows its head meekly
while the world slips the collar over it. It backs into the shafts like
a lamb. It draws its load cheerfully, and is patient of the bit and
of the whip. But genius is always impatient of its harness; its wild
blood makes it hard to train.

Talent seems, at first, in one sense, higher than genius,--namely, that
it is more uniformly and absolutely submitted to the will, and therefore
more distinctly human in its character. Genius, on the other hand, is
much more like those instincts which govern the admirable movements of
the lower creatures, and therefore seems to have something of the
lower or animal character. A goose flies by a chart which the Royal
Geographical Society could not mend. A poet, like the goose, sails
without visible landmarks to unexplored regions of truth, which
philosophy has yet to lay down on its atlas. The philosopher gets his
track by observation; the poet trusts to his inner sense, and makes the
straighter and swifter line.

And yet, to look at it in another light, is not even the lowest instinct
more truly divine than any voluntary human act done by the suggestion
of reason? What is a bee's architecture but an _un_obstructed divine
thought?--what is a builder's approximative rule but an obstructed
thought of the Creator, a mutilated and imperfect copy of some absolute
rule Divine Wisdom has established, transmitted through a human soul as
an image through clouded glass?

Talent is a very common family-trait; genius belongs rather to
individuals;--just as you find one giant or one dwarf in a family, but
rarely a whole brood of either. Talent is often to be envied, and genius
very commonly to be pitied. It stands twice the chance of the other of
dying in a hospital, in jail, in debt, in bad repute. It is a perpetual
insult to mediocrity; its every word is a trespass against somebody's
vested ideas,--blasphemy against somebody's _O'm_, or intangible private

----What is the use of my weighing out antitheses in this way, like a
rhetorical grocer?--You know twenty men of talent, who are making their
way in the world; you may, perhaps, know one man of genius, and very
likely do not want to know any more. For a divine instinct, such as
drives the goose southward and the poet heavenward, is a hard thing to
manage, and proves too strong for many whom it possesses. It must have
been a terrible thing to have a friend like Chatterton or Burns. And
here is a being who certainly has more than talent, at once poet and
artist in tendency, if not yet fairly developed,--a woman, too;--and
genius grafted on womanhood is like to overgrow it and break its stem,
as you may see a grafted fruit-tree spreading over the stock which
cannot keep pace with its evolution.

I think now you know something of this young person. She wants nothing
but an atmosphere to expand in. Now and then one meets with a nature
for which our hard, practical New England life is obviously utterly
incompetent. It comes up, as a Southern seed, dropped by accident in one
of our gardens, finds itself trying to grow and blow into flower among
the homely roots and the hardy shrubs that surround it. There is no
question that certain persons who are born among us find themselves many
degrees too far north. Tropical by organization, they cannot fight for
life with our eastern and northwestern breezes without losing the
color and fragrance into which their lives would have blossomed in
the latitude of myrtles and oranges. Strange effects are produced by
suffering any living thing to be developed under conditions such as
Nature had not intended for it. A French physiologist confined some
tadpoles under water in the dark, removed from the natural stimulus of
light, they did not develop legs and arms at the proper period of their
growth, and so become frogs; they swelled and spread into gigantic
tadpoles. I have seen a hundred colossal _human_ tadpoles,--overgrown
_larvae_ or embryos; nay, I am afraid we Protestants should look on a
considerable proportion of the Holy Father's one hundred and thirty-nine
millions as spiritual _larvae_, sculling about in the dark by the aid
of their caudal extremities, instead of standing on their legs, and
breathing by gills, instead of taking the free air of heaven into the
lungs made to receive it. Of course _we_ never try to keep young souls
in the tadpole state, for fear they should get a pair or two of legs
by-and-by and jump out of the pool where they have been bred and fed!
Never! Never. Never?

Now to go back to our plant. You may know, that, for the earlier stages
of development of almost any vegetable, you only want warmth, air,
light, and water. But by-and-by, if it is to have special complex
principles as a part of its organization, they must be supplied by
the soil;--your pears will crack, if the root of the tree gets no
iron,--your asparagus-bed wants salt as much as you do. Just at the
period of adolescence, the mind often suddenly begins to come into
flower and to set its fruit. Then it is that many young natures, having
exhausted the spiritual soil round them of all it contains of the
elements they demand, wither away, undeveloped and uncolored, unless
they are transplanted.

Pray for these dear young souls! This is the second _natural_
birth;--for I do not speak of those peculiar religious experiences which
form the point of transition in many lives between the consciousness of
a general relation to the Divine nature and a special personal
relation. The litany should count a prayer for them in the list of its
supplications; masses should be said for them as for souls in purgatory;
all good Christians should remember them as they remember those in peril
through travel or sickness or in warfare.

I would transport this child to Rome at once, if I had my will. She
should ripen under an Italian sun. She should walk under the frescoed
vaults of palaces, until her colors deepened to those of Venetian
beauties, and her forms were perfected into rivalry with the Greek
marbles, and the east wind was out of her soul. Has she not exhausted
this lean soil of the elements her growing nature requires?

I do not know. The magnolia grows and comes into full flower on Cape
Ann, many degrees out of its proper region. I was riding once along that
delicious road between the hills and the sea, when we passed a thicket
where there seemed to be a chance for finding it. In five minutes I had
fallen on the trees in full blossom, and filled my arms with the sweet,
resplendent flowers. I could not believe I was in our cold, northern
Essex, which, in the dreary season when I pass its slate-colored,
unpainted farmhouses, and huge, square, windy, 'squire-built "mansions,"
looks as brown and unvegetating as an old rug with its patterns all
trodden out and the colored fringe worn from all its border.

If the magnolia can bloom in northern New England, why should not a poet
or a painter come to his full growth here just as well? Yes, but if
the gorgeous tree-flower is rare, and only as if by a freak of Nature
springs up in a single spot among the beeches and alders, is there not
as much reason to think the perfumed flower of imaginative genius will
find it hard to be born and harder to spread its leaves in the clear,
cold atmosphere of our ultra-temperate zone of humanity?

Take the poet. On the one hand, I believe that a person with the
poetical faculty finds material everywhere. The grandest objects of
sense and thought are common to all climates and civilizations. The
sky, the woods, the waters, the storms, life, death, love, the hope and
vision of eternity,--these are images that write themselves in poetry in
every soul which has anything of the divine gift.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as a lean, impoverished life,
in distinction from a rich and suggestive one. Which our common New
England life might be considered, I will not decide. But there are some
things I think the poet missed in our western Eden. I trust it is not
unpatriotic to mention them in this point of view, as they come before
us in so many other aspects.

There is no sufficient flavor of humanity in the soil out of which we
grow. At Cantabridge, near the sea, I have once or twice picked up an
Indian arrowhead in a fresh furrow. At Canoe Meadow, in the Berkshire
Mountains, I have found Indian arrowheads. So everywhere Indian
arrowheads. Whether a hundred or a thousand years old, who knows?
who cares? There is no history to the red race,--there is hardly
an individual in it;--a few instincts on legs and holding a
tomahawk,--there is the Indian of all time. The story of one red ant is
the story of all red ants. So, the poet, in trying to wing his way
back through the life that has kindled, flitted, and faded along our
watercourses and on our southern hillsides for unknown generations,
finds nothing to breathe; he "meets

A vast vacuity! all unawares,
Fluttering his pennons vain, plumb down he drops
Ten thousand fathom deep."

But think of the Old World,--that part of it which is the seat of
ancient civilization! The stakes of the Britons' stockades are still
standing in the bed of the Thames. The ploughman turns up an old Saxon's
bones, and beneath them is a tessellated pavement of the time of
the Caesars. In Italy, the works of mediaeval Art seem to be of
yesterday,--Rome, under her kings, is but an intruding new-comer, as
we contemplate her in the shadow of the Cyclopean walls of Fiesole or
Volterra. It makes a man human to live on these old humanized soils.
He cannot help marching in step with his kind in the rear of such a
procession. They say a dead man's hand cures swellings, if laid on them.
There is nothing like the dead cold hand of the Past to take down our
tumid egotism and lead us into the solemn flow of the life of our race.
Rousseau came out of one of his sad self-torturing fits, as he cast his
eye on the arches of the old Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.

I am far from denying that there is an attraction in a thriving railroad
village. The new "depot," the smartly-painted pine houses, the spacious
brick hotel, the white meeting-house, and the row of youthful and leggy
trees before it, _are_ exhilarating. They speak of progress, and the
time when there shall be a city, with a His Honor the Mayor, in the
place of their trim but transient architectural growths. Pardon me, if
I prefer the pyramids. They seem to me crystals formed from a stronger
solution of humanity than the steeple of the new meeting-house. I may be
wrong, but the Tiber has a voice for me, as it whispers to the piers of
the Pons Aelius, even more full of meaning than my well-beloved Charles
eddying round the piles of West Boston Bridge.

Then, again, we Yankees are a kind of gypsies,--a mechanical and
migratory race. A poet wants a home. He can dispense with an apple-parer
and a reaping-machine. I feel this more for others than for myself, for
the home of my birth and childhood has been as yet exempted from the
change which has invaded almost everything around it.

----Pardon me a short digression. To what small things our memory and
our affections attach themselves! I remember, when I was a child, that
one of the girls planted some Star-of-Bethlehem bulbs in the southwest
corner of our front-yard. Well, I left the paternal roof and wandered in
other lands, and learned to think in the words of strange people.
But after many years, as I looked on the little front-yard again, it
occurred to me that there used to be some Stars-of-Bethlehem in the
southwest corner. The grass was tall there, and the blade of the plant
is very much like grass, only thicker and glossier. Even as Tully
parted the briers and brambles when he hunted for the sphere-containing
cylinder that marked the grave of Archimedes, so did I comb the grass
with my fingers for my monumental memorial-flower. Nature had stored my
keepsake tenderly in her bosom; the glossy, faintly streaked blades were
there; they are there still, though they never flower, darkened as they
are by the shade of the elms and rooted in the matted turf.

Our hearts are held down to our homes by innumerable fibres, trivial
as that I have just recalled; but Gulliver was fixed to the soil, you
remember, by pinning his head a hair at a time. Even a stone with a
white band crossing it, belonging to the pavement of the back-yard,
insisted on becoming one of the talismans of memory. This
intussusception of the ideas of inanimate objects, and their faithful
storing away among the sentiments, are curiously prefigured in the
material structure of the thinking centre itself. In the very core of
the brain, in the part where Des Cartes placed the soul, is a small
mineral deposit, consisting, as I have seen it in the microscope, of
grape-like masses of crystalline matter.

But the plants that come up every year in the same place, like the
Stars-of-Bethlehem, of all the lesser objects, give me the liveliest
home-feeling. Close to our ancient gambrel-roofed house is the dwelling
of pleasant old Neighbor Walrus. I remember the sweet honeysuckle that I
saw in flower against the wall of his house a few months ago, as long
as I remember the sky and stars. That clump of peonies, butting their
purple heads through the soil every spring in just the same circle, and
by-and-by unpacking their hard balls of buds in flowers big enough
to make a double handful of leaves, has come up in just that place,
Neighbor Walrus tells me, for more years than I have passed on this
planet. It is a rare privilege in our nomadic state to find the home of
one's childhood and its immediate neighborhood thus unchanged. Many born
poets, I am afraid, flower poorly in song, or not at all, because they
have been too often transplanted.

Then a good many of our race are very hard and unimaginative;--their
voices have nothing caressing; their movements are as of machinery,
without elasticity or oil. I wish it were fair to print a letter a young
girl, about the age of our Iris, wrote a short time since. "I am *** ***
***," she says, and tells her whole name outright. Ah!--said I, when I
read that first frank declaration,--you are one of the right sort!--She
was. A winged creature among close-clipped barn-door fowl. How tired the
poor girl was of the dull life about her,--the old woman's "skeleton hand"
at the window opposite, drawing her curtains,--"Ma'am----_shooing_ away
the hens,"--the vacuous country eyes staring at her as only country eyes
can stare,--a routine of mechanical duties,--and the soul's half-
articulated cry for sympathy, without an answer! Yes,--pray for her, and
for all such! Faith often cures their longings; but it is so hard to give
a soul to heaven that has not first been trained in the fullest and
sweetest human affections! Too often they fling their hearts away on
unworthy objects. Too often they pine in a secret discontent, which
spreads its leaden cloud over the morning of their youth. The immeasurable
distance between one of these delicate natures and the average youths
among whom is like to be her only choice makes one's heart ache. How many
women are born too finely organized in sense and soul for the highway they
must walk with feet unshod! Life is adjusted to the wants of the stronger
sex. There are plenty of torrents to be crossed in its journey; but their
stepping-stones are measured by the stride of man, and not of woman.

Women are more subject than men to _atrophy of the heart_. So says the
great medical authority, Laennec. Incurable cases of this kind used
to find their hospitals in convents. We have the disease in New
England,--but not the hospitals. I don't like to think of it. I will not
believe our young Iris is going to die out in this way. Providence will
find her some great happiness, or affliction, or duty,--and which would
be best for her, I cannot tell. One thing is sure: the interest she
takes in her little neighbor is getting to be more engrossing than ever.
Something is the matter with him, and she knows it, and I think worries
herself about it. I wonder sometimes how so fragile and distorted a
frame has kept the fiery spirit that inhabits it so long its tenant. He
accounts for it in his own way.

The air of the Old World is good for nothing,--he said, one day.--Used
up, Sir,--breathed over and over again. You must come to this side, Sir,
for an atmosphere fit to breathe nowadays. Did not old Josselyn say that
a breath of New England's air is better than a sup of Old England's ale?
I ought to have died when I was a boy, Sir; but I couldn't die in this
Boston air,--and I think I shall have to go to New York one of these
days, when it's time for me to drop this bundle,--or to New Orleans,
where they have the yellow fever,--or to Philadelphia, where they have
so many doctors.

This was some time ago; but of late he has seemed, as I have before
said, to be ailing. An experienced eye, such as I think I may call mine,
can tell commonly whether a man is going to die, or not, long before he
or his friends are alarmed about him. I don't like it.

Iris has told me that the Scottish gift of second-sight runs in her
family, and that she is afraid she has it. Those who are so endowed
look upon a well man and see a shroud wrapt about him. According to the
degree to which it covers him, his death will be near or more remote. It
is an awful faculty; but science gives one too much like it. Luckily
for our friends, most of us who have the scientific second-sight school
ourselves not to betray our knowledge by word or look.

Day by day, as the Little Gentleman comes to the table, it seems to me
that the shadow of some approaching change falls darker and darker over
his countenance. Nature is struggling with something, and I am afraid
she is under in the wrestling-match. You do not care much, perhaps, for
my particular conjectures as to the nature of his difficulty. I should
say, however, from the sudden flushes to which he is subject, and
certain other marks which, as an expert, I know how to interpret, that
his heart was in trouble; but then he presses his hand to the _right_
side, as if there were the centre of his uneasiness.

When I say difficulty about the heart, I do not mean any of those
sentimental maladies of that organ which figure more largely in romances
than on the returns which furnish our Bills of Mortality. I mean some
actual change in the organ itself, which may carry him off by slow and
painful degrees, or strike him down with one huge pang and only time
for a single shriek,--as when the shot broke through the brave Captain
Nolan's breast, at the head of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, and with
a loud cry he dropped dead from his saddle.

I thought it only fair to say something of what I apprehended to
some who were entitled to be warned. The landlady's face fell when I
mentioned my fears.

Poor man!--she said.--And will leave the best room empty! Hasn't he got
any sisters or nieces or anybody to see to his things, if he should be
took away? Such a sight of cases, full of everything! Never thought
of his failin' so suddin. A complication of diseases, she expected.
Liver-complaint one of 'em?

After this first involuntary expression of the too natural selfish
feelings, (which we must not judge very harshly, unless we happen to
be poor widows ourselves, with children to keep filled, covered, and
taught,--rents high,--beef eighteen to twenty cents per pound,)--after
this first squeak of selfishness, followed by a brief movement of
curiosity, so invariable in mature females, as to the nature of the
complaint which threatens the life of a friend or any person who may
happen to be mentioned as ill,--the worthy soul's better feelings
struggled up to the surface, and she grieved for the doomed invalid,
until a tear or two came forth and found their way down a channel worn
for them since the early days of her widowhood.

Oh, this dreadful, dreadful business of being the prophet of evil! Of
all the trials which those who take charge of others' health and lives
have to undergo, this is the most painful. It is all so plain to the
practised eye!--and there is the poor wife, the doting mother, who has
never suspected anything, or at least has clung always to the hope which
you are just going to wrench away from her!--I must tell Iris that I
think her poor friend is in a precarious state. She seems nearer to him
than anybody.

I did tell her. Whatever emotion it produced, she kept a still face,
except, perhaps, a little trembling of the lip.--Could I be certain that
there was any mortal complaint?--Why, no, I could not be certain; but it
looked alarming to me.--He shall have some of my life,--she said.

I suppose this to have been a fancy of hers, of a kind of magnetic power
she could give out;--at any rate, I cannot help thinking she _wills_ her
strength away from herself, for she has lost vigor and color from that
day. I have sometimes thought he gained the force she lost; but this may
have been a whim, very probably.

One day she came suddenly to me, looking deadly pale. Her lips moved,
as if she were speaking; but I could not hear a word. Her hair looked
strangely, as if lifting itself, and her eyes were full of wild light.
She sunk upon a chair, and I thought was falling into one of her
trances. Something had frozen her blood with fear; I thought, from
what she said, half audibly, that she believed she had seen a shrouded

That night, at about eleven o'clock, I was sent for to see the Little
Gentleman, who was taken suddenly ill. Bridget, the servant, went before
me with a light. The doors were both unfastened, and I found myself
ushered, without hindrance, into the dim light of the mysterious
apartment I had so longed to enter.

I found these stanzas in the young girl's book, among many others. I
give them as characterizing the tone of her sadder moments.


Her hands are cold; her face is white;
No more her pulses come and go;
Her eyes are shut to life and light;--
Fold the white vesture, snow on snow.
And lay her where the violets blow.

But not beneath a graven stone,
To plead for tears with alien eyes:
A slender cross of wood alone
Shall say, that here a maiden lies
In peace beneath the peaceful skies.

And gray old trees of hugest limb
Shall wheel their circling shadows round
To make the scorching sunlight dim
That drinks the greenness from the ground,
And drop their dead leaves on her mound.

When o'er their boughs the squirrels run,
And through their leaves the robins call,
And, ripening in the autumn sun,
The acorns and the chestnuts fall,
Doubt not that she will heed them all.

For her the morning choir shall sing
Its matins from the branches high,
And every minstrel-voice of spring,
That trills beneath the April sky,
Shall greet her with its earliest cry.

When, turning round their dial-track,
Eastward the lengthening shadows pass,
Her little mourners, clad in black,
The crickets, sliding through the grass,
Shall pipe for her an evening mass.

At last the rootlets of the trees
Shall find the prison where she lies,
And bear the buried dust they seize
In leaves and blossoms to the skies.
So may the soul that warmed it rise!

If any, born of kindlier blood,
Should ask, What maiden lies below?
Say only this: A tender bud,
That tried to blossom in the snow,
Lies withered where the violets blow.


_The Collier-folio Shakespeare._ Is it an imposture?

When the Lady Bab of "High Life below Stairs," having laid the
forgetfulness which causes her tardy appearance at the elegant
entertainment given in Mr. Lovel's servant's hall to the fascination of
her favorite author, "Shikspur," is asked, "Who wrote Shikspur?" she
replies, with that promptness which shows complete mastery of a subject,
"Ben Jonson." In later days, another lady has, with greater prolixity,
it is true, but hardly less confidence, and, it must be confessed, equal
reason, answered to the same query, "Francis Bacon." This question must,
then, be regarded as still open to discussion; but, assuming, for the
nonce, that the Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies in a certain folio
volume published at London in 1623 were written by William Shakespeare,
gentleman, sometime actor at the Black Friars Theatre and a principal
proprietor therein, we apply ourselves to the brief examination of
another, somewhat related to it, and at least as complicated:--the
question as to the authorship of certain marginal manuscript readings in
a copy of a later folio edition of the same works,--that published in
1632,--which readings Mr. Payne Collier discovered and brought before
the world with all the weight of his reputation and influence in favor
of their authority and value. We write for those who are somewhat
interested in this subject, and must assume that our readers are not
entirely without information upon it; but it is desirable, if not
necessary, that in the beginning we should call to mind the following
dates and circumstances.

According to Mr. Collier's account, this folio was bought by him "in the
spring of 1849," of Mr. Thomas Rodd, an antiquarian bookseller, well
known in London. For a year and more he hardly looked at it; but his
attention being directed particularly to it as he was packing it away to
be taken into the country, he found that "there was hardly a page which
did not represent, _in a handwriting of the time_, some emendations in
the pointing or in the text." He then subjected it to "a most careful
scrutiny," and became convinced of the great value of its manuscript
readings. He talked about it to his literary friends, and took it to a
meeting of the Council of the Shakespeare Society, and to two or three
meetings of the Society of Antiquaries, as we know by the reports of
those meetings in the London "Times." He wrote letters in the summer
of 1852 to the London "Athenaeum," setting forth the character of the
volume, and giving some of its most noteworthy changes of Shakespeare's
text. He published, at last, in 1853, his volume of "Notes and
Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare's Plays from _Early Manuscript
Corrections_ in a Copy of the Folio of 1632," etc.; and in 1854,
he published an edition of Shakespeare, in the text of which these
manuscript readings were embodied. In 1856, he added to a Shakespearian
volume a "List of all the Emendations" in his folio, remarking in the
preface to the book, (p. lxxix.,) that he had "_often gone over_ the
thousands of marks of all kinds in its [the folio's] margins," and
that, for the purpose of making the list in question, he had "recently
_reexamined every line and letter_ of the folio." He had previously
printed for private circulation a few fac-simile copies of eighteen
corrected passages in the folio; and with the volume last mentioned, his
publications, and, we believe, all others,--of which more anon,--upon
the subject, ceased. Mr. Collier, it should be borne in mind, has been
for forty years a professed student of Elizabethan literature, and is a
man of hitherto unquestioned honor.

But he is now upon trial. Certain officers of the British Museum, among
them men of high professional reputation and personal standing, men who
occupy, and who confess that they occupy, "a judicial position" on such
questions, charge, after careful investigation, that a great fraud has
been committed in this folio; that its marginal readings, instead of
being as old as they seem, and as Mr. Collier has asserted them to be,
are modern fabrications, and that, consequently, Mr. Collier is either
an impostor or a dupe. The charge is not a new one. The weight that
it carries, and the impression that it has produced, are owing to the
position of the men who make it, and the evidence which they have
published in its support. It was made, however, six years ago,--but
vaguely. For, although there was on every side a disposition to welcome
with all heartiness the manuscript readings, the antiquity and value of
which Mr. Collier had so positively announced, the poetic sense of the
world recoiled from the mass of them when they appeared; and although a
few, a very few, of the readings peculiar to this folio were accepted
by Shakespearian editors and commentators, they were opposed as a whole
with determination, and in one or two instances with unbecoming heat, by
Mr. Collier's fellow-laborers. Prominent among these was Mr. Singer, a
man of moderate capacity and undisciplined powers, but extensive reading
in early English literature,--known, too, for the bitterness with
which he habitually wrote. In opposing Mr. Collier's folio, he did not
hesitate to insinuate broadly that he believed it to be an imposition.
But as he based his suspicion solely upon the very numerous coincidences
between the marginal readings in that volume and the conjectural
readings of the editors and critics of the last century,--coincidences
which, however, affect the character of a very large proportion of
the noticeable changes in the folio,--he failed to accomplish his
conservative purpose at the expense of Mr. Collier's reputation. But
although this insinuation of the spurious character Of the writing in
Mr. Collier's folio fell to the ground, such antiquity as would give
its readings the consequence due to their having been introduced by a
contemporary of Shakespeare was shown not to pertain to them, in the
course of two articles which appeared in "Putnam's Magazine" for October
and November, 1853, and which, it may be as well to say, were from the
same hand that writes this reference to them. They effected this by
exhibiting the corrector's ignorance of the meaning of words in common
use twenty years after Shakespeare's death, and his introduction of
stage directions which could not have been complied with until half a
century after that event, and which were at variance with the very text
itself to which they were applied. That the argument which they embodied
was conclusive has been admitted by all the English editors and
commentators, including even Mr. Collier himself. But this conclusion
only brought down the date of these marginal readings to a period
somewhat later than the Restoration of the British Monarchy, and it
did not put in question the good faith either of their author or their

The attack now made upon them is directed solely against their
genuineness, and is based altogether upon external, or, we may properly
say, physical evidence. The accusers are Mr. N.E.S.A. Hamilton, an
assistant in the Manuscript Department of the British Museum, (whose
chief, Sir Frederick Madden, the Keeper of that Department, is
understood to support him,) and Mr. Nevil Story Maskelyne, Keeper of
the Mineraloglcal Department. Of the alphabetical Mr. Hamilton we know
something. He is one of the ablest palaeographists of his years in
England, and the possessor of a pair of eyes of such microscopic
powers that he can decipher manuscript which to ordinary sight seems
obliterated by time, or even fire: a man of worth, too, as we hear, and
one who has borne himself in this affair with mingled confidence and
modesty. He says, that, of the corrections originally made on the
margins of this folio, the number which have been wholly or partially
"obliterated.....with a penknife or the employment of chymical agency"
"are almost as numerous as those suffered to remain"; that, of the
corrections allowed to stand, many have been "tampered with, touched
up, or painted over, a modern character being dexterously altered, by
touches of the pen, into a more antique form"; and that the margins are
"covered with an infinite number of faint pencil-marks, in obedience to
which the supposed old corrector has made his emendations"; and that
these pencilled memorandums "have not even the pretence of antiquity in
character or spelling, but are written in a bold hand of the present
century"; and with regard to the incongruities of spelling, he
especially mentions the instances, "'body,' 'offals,' in pencil,
'bodie,' 'offals,' in ink."

Mr. Maskelyne, having examined many of the margins of the folio with the
microscope, confirms entirely the evidence of Mr. Hamilton's eyes. He
found the pencilled memorandums "plentifully distributed down the
margins," and "the particles of plumbago in the hollows of the paper" in
every instance that he has examined. He found, also, that what seems
to be ink is not ink, but "a paint, removable, with the exception of a
slight stain, by mere water,"--which "paint, formed perhaps of sepia,"
would enable an impostor, it need hardly be observed, to simulate ink
faded by time; and in several cases in which "the ink word, in a quaint,
antique-looking writing, and the pencil word, in a modern-looking hand,
occupy the same ground, and are one over the other," the pencil-marks
being obscured or obliterated, Mr. Maskelyne found, on washing off the
ink, that at first "the pencil-marks became much plainer than before,
and even when as much of the ink-stain as possible was removed, the
pencil still runs through the ink line in unbroken, even continuity."
These points established, Mr. Maskelyne's conclusion, that in the
examples which he tested "the pencil underlies the ink, that is to say,
was antecedent to it in its date," is unavoidable. But does it follow
upon this conclusion that the manuscript changes in the readings of this
folio are of spurious and modern date,--made, for instance, within the
last fifty years, and with the intention of deceiving the world as to
their age? Perhaps; but, for reasons which we are about to give, we
venture to think, not certainly.

First, however, as to the very delicate and unpleasant position in which
Mr. Collier is placed by these discoveries. For, although the age of the
manuscript readings of his folio must be fixed by that of the pencilled
memorandums over which they are written, the question as to whether he
has not been uncandid or unwise enough to suppress an important part
of the truth in describing that volume is entirely independent of this
problem in paleography. For these numberless partially erased pencilled
memorandums, to which Mr. Collier has made no allusion whatever, must
have been written upon the margins of that folio either before Mr.
Collier bought it, in the spring of 1849, or since. If before, is it
possible that he could have subjected it to "a most careful scrutiny" in
1850, that he could have studied it for three years for the purpose of
preparing his "Notes and Emendations,"--an octavo volume of five hundred
pages,--which appeared in 1853, and that after having, for various
purposes, "often gone over the thousands of marks _of all kinds_" on
its margins, he could again, after the lapse of three years more, have
"reexamined every line and letter" on those margins for the purpose of
making the list of the readings which he published in 1856, without
having discovered, in the course of all this close scrutiny, extending
through so many years, the pencil-marks which at once became visible
when the volume went to the British Museum? And if these pencil-marks,
that underlie the simulated ink corrections, were made after the spring
of 1849----! Here is a dilemma, either horn of which has a very ugly

But out of this trial we hope, nay, we confidently believe, that Mr.
Collier will come unscathed. We hope it for the sake of the profession
of literature,--for the sake of one who has been honorably known among
men of letters for almost half a century, and who has borne into the
vale of years a hitherto untarnished name. We believe it, because a
contrary supposition would be entirely at variance with Mr. Collier's
conduct about this folio ever since his first announcement of its
discovery. It is true, that, in the course of the controversy which the
publication of his "Notes and Emendations" inevitably brought upon him,
Mr. Collier has not always shown that delicacy and consideration for
candid opponents which he could have afforded to show, and which would
have sat so gracefully upon him. It is true, that, in noticing, and,
in his enthusiastic partiality, much exaggerating, the admissions of a
volume in which, as he must have seen, he was first defended against Mr.
Singer's repeated insinuations of forgery, [Footnote: See _Shakespeare's
Scholar_, p. 71.] and in availing himself again and again of those not
always discreet admissions, he was uncourteous enough not to mention the
name even of the work in question, not to say that of its author. It
is true, that, on the appearance of an edition of Shakespeare's Works
edited by the author of that volume, he hastened to accuse him publicly
of misrepresentation, unwarily admitting at the same time that he did so
upon a mere glance at the book, and before he had even "cut it open,"
and, in his haste, causing his accusation to recoil upon his own
head.[1] [Footnote 1: See the London _Athenaeum_, of Nov. 20th, 1858,
and Jan. 8th, 1859.] It is true, that, when, in his recent edition of
Shakespeare's Works,[2] [Footnote 2: London, 1858, Vol. II, p. 181.]
he abandoned one of the readings of his folio, ("she discourses, she
_craves_," Merry Wives, I. 3,) which the same opponent had been the
first to show not only untenable, but fatal to the authority and
antiquity of the readings of that volume, he requited that opponent's
defence of him by attributing his defeat on this point to an English
editor, who only quoted the passage in question from "Shakespeare's
Scholar," and with special mention of its authorship and its
importance,[3] [Footnote 3: Rimbault's Edition of Overbury's Works,
London, 1856, p. 50.]

Under the present circumstances, it may be well to let the reader see
for himself exactly what Mr. Collier's course was in this little affair.
Dr. Rimbault's note, published in 1856, is as follows:--

(-----"_her wrie little finger bewraies carving_, etc.) The passage in
the text sufficiently shows that _carving_ was a sign of intelligence
made with the little finger, as the glass was raised to the mouth. See
the prefatory letter to Mr. R. G. White's _Shakespeare's Scholar_,
8vo., New York, 1854, p. xxxiii. Mr. Hunter (_New Illustrations of
Shakespeare_, i. 215), Mr. Dyce (_A Few Notes on Shakespeare_, 1853, p.
18), and Mr. Mitford (_Cursory Notes on Beaumont and Fletcher_, etc.,
1856, p. 40), were unacquainted with this valuable illustration of a
Shakespearian word given by Overbury."

And yet Mr. Collier, with this note before him, as it will be seen,
could write as follows:--

"The Rev. Mr. Dyce ('Few Notes,' p. 18) and the Rev. Mr. Hunter ('New
Illustrations,' i. p. 215) both adduce quotations [as to 'carves'], but
they have missed the most apposite, _pointed out by Dr. Rimbault_ in his
edition of Sir Thomas Overbury's Works, 8vo., 1856, p. 50."

The reader cannot estimate more lightly than we do the credit which Mr.
Collier thought of consequence enough for him to do an unhandsome, not
to say dishonorable, act to deprive an opponent of it. By referring to
White's edition of Shakespeare, Vol. II. p. lx., another instance may be
found of the same discourtesy on the part of Mr. Collier to Chalmers,

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