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He was impatient at the change of his companions, and at the folly and inattention of the rest; but, though his manner became cold, his consistency still remained warm; and this gave right to be as strange as he pleased.
[NOTE.—The second person alluded to above as shaking hands coldly was Hazlitt. I do not know who was the intended victim of the fish-slice practical joke.-E. (.]
ND this piece of laurel is from Vaucluse ! Perhaps
Petrarch, perhaps Laura, sat under it! This is a true
present. What an exquisite dry, old, vital, young. looking, everlasting twig it is! It has been plucked nine months, and looks as hale and as crisp as if it would last ninety years. It shall last at any rate as long as its owner, and longer, if care and love can preserve it. How beautifully it is turned ! It was a happy pull from the tree. Its shape is the very line of beauty; it has berries upon it, as if resolved to show us in what fine condition the trees are ; while the leaves issue from it, and swerve upwards with their elegant points, as though they had come from adorning the poet's head. Be thou among the best of one's keepsakes, thou genile stem,-in deliciis nostris; and may the very maid-servant who wonders to see thy withered beauty in its frame, miss her lover the next five weeks, for not having the instinct to know that thou must have something to do with love!
Perhaps Petrarch has felt the old ancestral boughs of this branch stretching over his head, and whispering to him of the name of Laura, of his love, and of their future glory; for all these ideas used to be entwined in one. (Sestina 2, Canzone 17, Sonetti 162, 163, 164, 207, 224, &c.) Perhaps it is of the very stock of that bough which he describes as supplying his
mistress with a leaning-stock when she sat in her favourite bower,
“ Giovane donna sotto un verde lauro
Vidi più bianca e più fredda che neve
Part I., Sestina 2.
The laurel seems more appropriated to Petrarch than to any other poet. He delighted to sit under its leaves ; he loved it both for itself, and for the resemblance of its name to that of his mistress; he wrote of it continually; and he was called from out of its shade to be crowned with it in the Capitol. It is a remarkable instance of the fondness with which he cherished the united ideas of Laura and the laurel, that he confesses it to have been one of the greatest delights he experienced in receiving the crown upon his head.
It was out of Vaucluse that he was called. Vaucluse, Valchiusa, the Shut Valley (from which the French, in the modern enthusiasm for intellect, gave the name to the department in which it lies), is a remarkable spot in the old poetical region of Provence, consisting of a little deep glen of green meadows surrounded with rocks, and containing the fountain of the river Sorgue. Petrarch, when a boy of eight or nine years of age, had been struck with its beauty, and exclaimed that it was the place of all others he should like to live in, better than the most splendid cities. He resided there afterwards for several years, and composed in it the greater part of his poems. Indeed, he says, in his own account of himself, that he either wrote or conceived in that valley almost every work he produced. He lived in a little cottage with a small homestead, on the banks of
the river. Here he thought to forget his passion for Laura, and here he found it stronger than ever. We do not well see how it could have been otherwise ; for Laura lived no great way off, at Chabrières, and he appears to have seen her often in the very place. He paced along the river ; he sat under the trees; he climbed the mountains : but Love, he says, was ever by his side,
“ Ragionando con meco, ed io con lui.”
He holding talk with me, and I with him. We are supposing that all our readers are acquainted with Petrarch. Many of them, doubtless, know him intimately, Should any of them want an introduction to him, how should we speak of him in the gross? We should say, that he was one of the finest gentlemen and greatest scholars that ever lived; that he was a writer who flourished in Italy in the fourteenth century, at the time when Chaucer was young, during the reigns of our Edwards ; that he was the greatest light of his age ; that, although so fine a writer himself, and the author of a multitude of works,-or rather because he was both,—he took the greatest pains to revive the knowledge of the ancient learning, recommending it everywhere, and copying out large manuscripts with his own hand ; that two great cities, Paris and Rome, contended which should have the honour of crowning him ; that he was crowned publicly, in the Metropolis of the World, with laurel and with myrtle ; that he was the friend of Boccaccio, the Father of Italian Prose ; and lastly, that his greatest renown nevertheless, as well as the predominant feelings of his existence, arose from the long love he bore for a lady of Avignon, the far-famed Laura, whom he fell in love with on the 6th of April, 1327, on a Good Friday; whom he rendered illustrious in a multitude of sonnets, which have left a sweet sound and sentiment in the ear of all after lovers ; and who died, still passionately beloved, in the year 1348, on the same day and hour on which he first beheld her. Who she was, or why their connexion was not closer, remains a mystery. But that she was
a real person, and that in spite of all her modesty she did not show an insensible countenance to his passion, is clear from his long-haunted imagination, from his own repeated accounts, from all that he wrote, uttered, and thought. One love, and one poet, sufficed to give the whole civilised world a sense of delicacy in desire, of the abundant riches to be found in one single idea, and of the going out of a man's self to dwell in the soul and happiness of another, which has served to refine the passion for all modern times, and perhaps will do so as long as love renews the world.
[NOTE.—The reason why the connexion between Petrarch and Laura was not "closer,” is to be found in the circumstance, which Leigh Hunt seems not to have known at the time he wrote this article, that the lady was already married, and that, while encouraging her poetlover up to a certain point (it is to be feared, with some admixture of vanity in the motive), she determined not to compromise herself in any serious degree.-E. O.)