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globes on the low commercial crowd. Where that bacchanal of flowers and moonlight and muthe two bronze giants keep watch above the sic and love-words that is the Venetian summer mighty clock of St. Mark's and tell the hour night. Watch them as they rise to stroll awhile with the stroke of their hammers on the great on the arms of their cavalieri serventi. Their bell, we entered the piazza.
slender, undulating shapes are draped in white, The band was playing in the heart of the with the moon-gleam of pearls in the folds of the great square. Before the caffè, rows of chairs gossamer veils that cover their heads and shouland tables extended into the space left free for ders. Their motions form continuous curves. the passage of saunterers. The strolling people Their features are statuesque in form and repose wore that listless look in their eyes, that expres- —the eyes such as rarely look you straight in the sion of unconscious but hopeless monotony, face-dark and passionate like fixed stars-or which haunts the Venetian faces in repose.
hard and clear and subtile like strange gems—set We passed on through the crowd to Florian's, in square, white, sculptured lids. When they turn the largest and most famous of the Venetian their stately heads to listen to the homage of caffè. At the tables sat ladies in light dresses their cavalieri you would think them serpents with black or white veils on their heads, and men slowly lifting their crests to strike. Their bodies with that nameless distinction of carriage that sway with their speech. Every gesture is delibmarks the Venetian patrician.
erate and significant. It is not coquetry that is A silence lay on all the brilliant groups. The in these women of Venice, but fascination, subwomen leaned back dreamily in their chairs. tile and inexplicable. They are Circes who would The fluttering fans were at rest. The men change their lovers into swine and look upon hummed to themselves, in an undertone, the mel- them with neither a laugh nor a sneer, but only ody that issued from the band, for that ready a passive indifference in their great, mysterious sympathy and intuitive harmony of the Italian eyes. They have an Eastern look with their nature renders it impossible for these impassioned pearls and their white veils and their rhythmic organizations to listen in phlegmatic unrespon- gait. They have the charm of a waterfall that siveness to the music upon which their youth has glances on for ever, white, mysterious, inscrutable, fed.
wreathing itself in shapes perpetually new and It was the pathos of “La Traviata” that was never approaching finality. It is the spell of holding these women spellbound with old mem- curved lines, of gleams and suggestions, of flowories. The soft night-wind — the moonlighting form of falsehood so consummate as to be streaming upon the colorful front of the cathe- called truth. dral, crystallizing the flowering spires, glittering The men on whose arms they lean, despite on the golden horses—the play of light and the haughty carriage which has come down to shadow—the perfume of jasmine and heliotrope, them from the ancestry that ruled the seas, have of rose and magnolia—the sensuous sadness of an air of languor and indifference, of strength the love-music stealing through the hearts of the wasted upon pleasure. The populace that toils listeners—what wonder that the dark eyes under for its bread and knows no leisure but that of the white cloud-veils grew large and full of mys- Sundays and holidays, distinguishes them by the teries that none could interpret but those who title of “Florianista”. -a bit of plebeian sarcasm. loved them?
For the Caffè Florian is their day-long haunt. How it wailed along the arches and hovered They slumber away their mornings, lounge at about the lovely heads of the women and made noon into the caffè, glance idly at the papers, and the mouths of the poor working-girls tremble— discuss the latest scandal or invent a fresh one. the unutterable sad sweetness of the love-prom- Late in the afternoon they repair to the Giardiise ! The place was quiet, as though all the gay netto to meet the ladies, who by this time have crowd mourned in sympathy. Just as the wild completed their morning toilet, and have come in death-cry wailed from the heart of the piazza, their gondole to take the air on the quay. There the bell struck the hour-tolling in measure with they walk until dinner-time—a pleasant, lightthe passionate dying song, like a peal for the hearted, courteous company, full of charming passing of a soul. The bell and the melody died graces and dainty touches of concealed gallantry. away together in a long, reluctant echo. The In the evening they meet again at theatre, opera, women shook the dreams from their hearts with or salon, and on summer nights they throng to a sigh. It is not strange that they should cast the piazza. themselves headlong into the emotion of the mu- The Venetians of the last century perceived sic. The whole passionate Italian nature is in- the inconvenience of exercising hospitality in carnate in Verdi's creations.
their homes. They formed themselves into asThere were women seated at those tables sociations called casini which met in the apartwho might have served as personifications of ments now used as caffè, under the arches of the piazza. Here they danced, and conversed, and next table are ballerine from the theatre; and gambled, and held accademie. There was no those two tall black-eyed women, with the little such thing as domesticity in that latter Venice. man for protection, are Russian countesses, and The populace lived by preference in the streets, some say socialists." the theatres, the caffè.
The old-time hospitality of the city is reproA singularly republican feeling shines through duced in the asylum it offers to all who suffer this vast assembly of the piazza. At the table with broken hearts, broken fortunes, broken repnext you may be seated your shoemaker, with utations. Old Venice was the refuge of all rehis hard-working wife and three children devour- ligious and political non-conformists, of all bold ing pink ices. A beggar touches the elbow of experimenters in science, of all misunderstood some languid Florianista and craves his cigar-end. poets and philosophers. It was then and is now A hungry-faced woman passes by, with her the receptacle for the odds and ends of humanchild in her arms, devouring with her eyes the ity, stranded on the seashore of the world, waitcoffee that lingers in the cups. Behind you may ing for the next tide to wash them off into the be seated some hideous old patrician, whose dia- ocean, or drag them up beyond the water-mark. monds are the richest in Venice—some beautiful Suddenly a strain burst from the band that high-born woman renowned for her coquetry, wailed and shrieked along the arches like the some gray-haired old soldier who is pointed out cries of tortured souls. Through it broke loud by the young men for his share in the establish- tones of command, clear, joyous sounds of praise, ment of Venetian freedom.
soft, tender notes like the voices of young cherA young Florianista who has sought your ubim, with two powerful conflicting elements acquaintance, through a desire to improve him- struggling for the mastery—a noble harmony self in foreign tongues, will perhaps join you. full of deep and wonderful thoughts that led the He will talk to you of the last opera, the coming souls of the listeners off into the infinite, with its regatta, and then he will open for you his vast powerful groundwork, and brought them back stores of personal information. In Venice every to their beautiful mortality with the earthly sweetone who sets foot on the piazza must needs ex- ness of its melody. Strange feelings crept over pect to have his family history, embellished and them. The color, and the pleasure, and the muadorned, passed from mouth to mouth, from sic of their Venetian life came up in strange congondolier to Florianista.
trast with the infinite and eternal that gazed at As the people pass in review before you, your them from the deep philosophy of the music. Florianista will check them off like portraits in a When the notes ceased, loud applause broke gallery. The Venetians have two epithets, "an- from the gathered crowd. Cries echoed under tipatico” and “simpatico,” to express like or dis- the old portico of “Boito! Viva il Maestro Boilike in its collective sense. These adjectives your to!” young student of manners distributes freely Sheets of red and green flame broke forth at throughout his characterizations.
the side of the piazza. The frightened pigeons “ That handsome giovanotto with his mus- futtered from the lintels. At a window above taches turned up-lei veda l-he is the cavaliere the arches appeared a man's figure. The peoof that large woman in blue-she is old enough ple recognized it as that of the composer of “Meto be his mother, and has five children at home. fistofele.” They burst into loud cries of admiraThat tall, sinister-looking man all in black, evention and boisterous hand-beating, and many of to his gloves—you see him ? antipatico quanto them removed their hats. Brave maestro, think mai-well, they say he has the gift of the evil- no more of the long waiting and watching, the eye. He is the lover of that ugly old countess heart-sickness and despair, the mighty vision and with red roses in her hair, and since she has the feeble execution ! In the hearts of the peoknown him she has lost half her fortune. ple, in the depths of their music-filled eyes,
“Ah! there comes a poet, or at least he sparkle the jewels that form thy royal crown of would be one. He writes tragedies and pays to genius. have them played. And there is another, that The moonlight streamed over the Piazzetta handsome old man with gray beard and scholar- and the white, marvelous wall of the cathedral. ly bearing. He is a real one-among our best. It glittered on the great arched window of the
a And do you see that round-headed man with palace, brought the white pillars into relief, lay staring eyes ? well, he is the last of the line of heavy and tangible on the floor of the arched Alighieri. It is Dante's blood that is in him. portico, broken by the shadows of the short colHe has the nose of the poet, but not much else. umns. Against the background of moonlit waThat handsome, fair-haired young fellow ? He is ter rose the two dark columns, with the saint our new tenor-a glorious voice-I served my and the lion standing sharply defined against the volunteer year with him. Those girls at the luminous sky. The great black shaft of San Giorgio loomed beyond the rippling moon-track. song, the laughter of young throatssuch were Gondole darted against the bright, liquid dis- the echoes of the summer night. tance. Dark human shapes broke the molten Our gondoliers broke into a melody full of whiteness of the open space. There were noise longing and despair. When the strains died away of soft voices and merry laughter, flashing of on the lips of one, the other caught it up and white veils and dark eyes.
sent it echoing far along the moon-track. In it Music floats up from the garden where the were all the passion and pleading of a Venetian lights burn among the trees, deadening the moon- night, so that to hear it was to be steeped in a glow. Along the curve of the riva gleams a delicious melancholy, formless, colorless, from chain of golden lights, Beyond the white un- which not the gleam of white arches, nor the dulations of the water burns a lamp on some scent of flowers, nor the glow of moonlight, could dark island or distant fishing-boat.
arouse you. When it died away, it would seem The bridges are white to intensity. Shadows that all earthly sensation had left you, and only a never gather thickly in this summer moonlight. divine apathy held you in its embrace. It lurks not under arches; it brings them out It is Clorinda's song, signori, from the into the open and catches them unto its bosom. 'Gerusalemme,'” said the gondoliers, “and we There is a rich penetration in its touch, a warm, can sing many another verse from the great mellow tenderness in its radiation. It dazzles Tasso." the eyes and the senses; it is like some large- A gay chorus echoed far down the canal. A limbed marble Diana, white and warm in irra- boat-load of men and boys, seated, with colored diating womanhood. I can understand here in lanterns swinging above their heads, were driftVenice the moon-worship of the ancients. I ing under the windows of the palaces, singing know why the people are warmed into life by her old ballads. It was a company of workmen who caress, and why she draws their souls to their sing about the streets after their day's toil is lips in wild choruses. What are their love-songs over. The people call them the “Pittori,” perand ballads but hymns in honor of the great haps because the tradition lingers in their minds moon-goddess ?
that, in the golden art-time, the painter-lads were The noisy youths who saunter along the riva, wont to roam the streets in companies, with their with cracked accordions or worn guitars in their guitars in their hands and songs on their lips. hands, are her votaries. You might take them “Signori, look! There is the house of Desfor young Greeks on their way to wreathe her demona, who married the Moor," said the gonshrine with flowers, so heroic are their shapes, so dolier—a palazzino, narrow and tall, with high full of grace and harmony their songs, so rhyth- arched windows, sculptured like wrought lacemic their pace. The morrow will find them work; a great escutcheon high up on the roof; a working for bread in dark shops or on the heated balcony on the piano nobile, with fine wheellagoon.
carving, white and dazzling with gray half-tones. We went down to where the moored gondole Against the long arches were dark masses of were dancing to the rhythmical ripple of the water. leafage, oleanders with rosy blossoms warming We floated along the lagoon to where the great the gray circles of stone, and suggesting the water-way opened, with a mighty dome guarding great round windows of cathedrals. Behind the it, touched with silver, against the translucent heavy foliage Auttered a white dress. It might sky. The wide space was as a street of molten have been that of Desdemona, as she waited for silver-one row of palaces dark in shadow, the the coming of the Moor, with the moon shining other full in light, with every arch and molding on her fair white face. Down in the calle by the distinct in relief. Shadows wavered in the water side, where the street-lamp breaks the shadow from the gondole. The boat-stakes stood, like and the lights of the traghetto shrine under the hooded watchers, in gray half-relief against the trellis reveal the black shapes of the gondole, arches of the water-gates. A golden light hung stands lago, wrapped in his cloak, and calls to here and there from a balcony or a gondola-prow. old Brabantio to guard his daughter well. White arms hung idly over the balconies among To-night, when the moon shall have set bethe flowers. Dark heads, like those of old war- hind the red roofs of the palaces, the girl will riors, were bent low over jeweled hands. From steal across the courtyard, and the Moor will among the Aowers came the tinkling of gui- meet her on the Campo, and they will hurry into tars.
the little sacristy of some neighboring church, From the gardens behind the white balus- perhaps San Maurizio or San Fantin, and there, trades, where the cypresses were dark against among the musty vestments and the guttering the sky, came scents of jasmine and oleander. candles, the priest will bless their union. Then The plashing of oars, the mellow voice of an Othello will lead his bride to his home down idle gondolier breaking into snatches of love- there on the side-canal, past the white arches
and the great jousting-yard of the Foscari Palace. ramidal shape of the Rialto, making of it a preIt is a square palazzo, with arched windows cious jewel set in the moon-gold of the water. that frown down upon us as the gondola picks From under the dark arch ring the oar-strokes its way among the heavy black barges. An air and the boat-songs of the Pittori. Above all, of silence and mystery lies upon it. In a niche floating along the luminous track, caught up by of the wall stands an old figure of a warrior, in the girl-voices on the balconies and the gondoshield and armor, gazing with wide, vacant eyes liers lying in their boats, echoes the sweet manstraight before him. He knows that he has seen dolin refrain in praise of moonlight wanderings : the lovers float at midnight to the water-gate of
“Andiam la notte è bella, the dismal house, and has been sworn to secrecy
La luna va spuntar for all time. We leave the dark palace behind, and return
Di qua đi là
Per la città to the wide water-street. In the distance a sheet
Andiamci a trastullar." of red-and-green flame envelops the pale, py
HOW TO POPULARIZE WORDSWORTH.
humorous critical essay on Wordsworth even by the extinction of the grand Puritan classic which appears in the new number of “Macmil- himself. No doubt the volume of Wordsworth’s lan's Magazine," * asserts that ever since Words- voice is not so mighty as that of Milton's, nor worth's death, in 1852, the influence of his poetry the music of his verse so rich and various. But has waned. To tenth-rate critics,” he says, the intellectual world in which Wordsworth lived “and compilers for whom any violent shock to is infinitely more unique and wholesome, more the public taste would be a temerity not to be abounding in the healing waters which human risked, it is still quite permissible to speak of nature needs for its rest and refreshment, more Wordsworth's poetry not only with ignorance, thoughtful, and more lucid, than the intellectual but with impertinence. On the Continent he is world of Milton—and these qualities far more almost unknown.” And yet-counting only those than make up for the matchless volume of Milwho are no longer living—Mr. Arnold himself ton's force and the richer music of his speech. places Wordsworth next to Shakespeare and Still, we confess to a doubt whether the most Milcon among our modern poets—i. e., excluding perfect test of poetry, as poetry, be the test which Chaucer, as belonging to a different world— would assign to Wordsworth so supreme a place places him above Spenser, Dryden, Pope, Gray, in our literature. And if you judge chiefly by Goldsmith, Cowper, Burns, Coleridge, Campbell, any other test—say, by the degree in which poeMoore, Byron, Shelley, Keats. "Wordsworth,” try is capable of exciting the imagination of the says Mr. Arnold,“ taking the performance of majority of cultivated men and women-doubteach as a whole, seems to me to have left a body less not only Milton, but Byron and Shelley, perof poetical work superior in power, in interest, in haps even Burns and Keats and Coleridge, would the qualities which give enduring freshness, to take rank above him. For it must be admitted, that which any one of the others has left.” This we think, that after allowing all we may for the is a bold judgment, with which only the few injudiciousness of Wordsworth's admirers and among the lovers of English poetry would agree; interpreters, Wordsworth is not, and probably and yet if the value of poetry is to be estimated never will be, a popular poet. And here we use by the degree in which it stimulates with a the word “popular" not in the sense of appealhealthy stimulus, freshens and elevates the hearts ing to the homeliest hearts, as Burns appeals, of those who know and love it, the present writer but in the sense of having the power to haunt at least would be disposed to assign him even a the cultivated fancy, as Byron's “ Isles of Greece,” place higher in the roll of English poets, and and Shelley's “Ode to a Skylark" haunt the fancy affirm that, to him at least, a more serious and of the literary multitude. To some extent, we sensible blank would be left in English literature imagine that the power of a poet must be mea
sured by the extent of the dominion over which * Reprinted in “ Appletons' Journal" for August. he rules; and, so measured, we imagine that
neither our own nor Mr. Arnold's estimate of siderable admixture of genuine prose which, as Wordsworth's place is likely to be accepted by Mr. Arnold very justly says, repels many who the majority of good literary judges, English or are quite capable of appreciating his highest Continental. We doubt, for instance, whether work, from ever grappling truly with a poet Goethe could ever have been made to enter into capable of such miserable humdrum. Wordsworth's transcendent greatness, or whether If we were to attempt to make Wordsworth there was any element in Goethe to which that as popular as, in the nature of the case, he is greatness could have been made clear. Could ever likely to be, we should begin by reiterating Heine have been made to understand it? Could Mr. Arnold's warning against “ The White Doe even Sir Walter Scott? Mr. Arnold justly enough of Rylstone," “ The Excursion,” and in a less desays that Scott was “too genuine himself not to gree against even The Prelude," and “ Peter feel the profound genuineness of Wordsworth, Bell”- "-as the poems by which to test Wordsand with an instinctive recognition of his firm worth; and by confessing at once that in many hold on nature, and of his local truth, always of these poems passages may be found-like that admired him sincerely and praised him genu- so humorously referred to by Mr. Arnold in the inely"; but there is not a trace of Scott's assign- following criticism—which not only do not prove ing to Wordsworth anything approaching to the the poet, but taken by themselves might fairly, high place which Mr. Arnold assigns, and indeed though erroneously, be supposed to prove absowe think it clear that what Sir Walter most ap- lute incapacity for poetry: preciated in Wordsworth's poetry was not by any means its highest level. Take his praise of
“ Finally, the scientific system of thought' in the poem called “The Fountain "-and subtile Wordsworth,” says Mr. Arnold, “gives us at last and discriminating praise it was—but it was all such poetry as this, which the devout Wordsworthian praise for the dramatic touch in Wordsworth's accepts: description of the old man who passes so easily O for the coming of that glorious time from the mood of melancholy to the mood of al- When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth most harebrained mirth, not praise for the strain And best protection, this imperial realm, of noble and passionate melancholy which is the While she exacts allegiance, shall admit real burden of that beautiful poem. We suspect An obligation, on her part, to teach Scott, though far too fresh and great to miss al
Them who are born to serve her and obey; together the freshness and greatness of Words- Binding herself by statute to secure worth, would not have placed him very high on
For all the children whom her soil maintains the roll of English poets.
The rudiments of letters, and inform And though, undoubtedly, wise exposition
The mind with moral and religious truth!' might make Wordsworth a far more popular Wordsworth calls Voltaire dull, and surely the propoet than he now is, we are strongly disposed to duction of these un-Voltairean lines must have been think that the qualities in which he is greatest imposed on him as a judgment! One can hear them will never be those for which the greater number being quoted at a Social Science Congress; one can of his readers will admire him. The truth is, call up the whole scene.
A great room in one of that most lovers of poetry look to poetry for im- our dismal provincial towns; dusty air and jaded mediate imaginative stimulus, just as they look afternoon daylight; benches full of men with bald to champagne for immediate nervous stimulus. heads, and women in spectacles; an orator lifting up And the first effect of Wordsworth is not immedi- his face from a manuscript written within and withate imaginative stimulus, but rather to breathe out, to declaim these lines of Wordsworth ; and in on us a strangely lucid and bracing atmosphere the soul of any poor child of nature who may have of solitary power. The highest influence of
wandered in thither, an unutterable sense of lamenWordsworth is, no doubt, a stimulating influence tation, and mourning, and woe! But turn we,' as in that sense in which the solitude of the Alps is haunters of Social Science Congresses. And let us
Wordsworth says, “from these bold, bad men,' the stimulating, but not in the sense in which the be on our guard, too, against the exhibitors and ex. parade of a great army, or the murmur of an tollers of a scientific system of thought' in Wordsagitated multitude, is stimulating. And to get worth's poetry. The poetry will never be seen aright such stimulus as Wordsworth's, you must first while they thus exhibit it." pass into a solitude so profound that the chill of it strikes, and perhaps numbs you, so that you No; Wordsworth's poetry will never be seen become insensible to the mental thrill which aright while it is thus exhibited. But neither, would otherwise follow. And here we are speak- we suspect, will it ever become even as popular ing of his really highest work, of such poems as as it may yet become, if those who fail to admire the lines written near Tintern Abbey, or the Wordsworth are simply told of “the power with “Ode to Duty”—and not, of course, of that con- which Wordsworth feels the joy offered to us in