Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

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
Non percossa dal sol molti e molt' anni;
E'l suo parlar, e 'l bel viso, e le chiome,
Mi piacquer sì, ch'i' l'ho a gli occhi miei,
Ed avro sempre, ov' io sia in poggio o'n riva."

Part I., Sestina 2.
A youthful lady under a green laurel
I saw, more fair and colder than white snows
Unshone upon for many and many a year ;
And her sweet looks, and hair, and way of speaking,
So pleased mc, that I have her now before me,
And shall have ever, whether on hill or lea.

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

a

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.

a

[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 poet. lover 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.)

A HUMAN ANIMAL, AND THE OTHER

EXTREME.

W

E met the other day with the following description of an

animal of quality, in a Biographical Dictionary that

was published in the year 1767, and which is one of the most amusing and spirited publications of the kind that we remember to have seen. The writer does not give his authority for this particular memoir, so that it was probably furnished from his own knowledge ; but that the account is a true one, is evident. Indeed, with the exception of one or two eccentricities of prudence which rather lean to the side of an excess of instinct, it is but an individual description referring to a numerous class of the same nature that once flourished with horn and hound in this country, and specimens of which are no doubt to be found here and there still, especially towards the north.* The title we have put at the head of it is not quite correct and exclusive enough as a definition ; since, properly speaking, we lords of the creation are all human animals; but the mere animal, or living and breathing, faculty is united in us more or less with intellect and sentiment; and of these refinements of the perception, few bipeds that have arrived at the dignity of a coat and boots have partaken so little as the noble squire before us

* Since writing this, we have found that our zoographical original is in Hutchins's "History of Dorsetshire." See Gilpin's “Forest Scenery,” or Drake's “Shakspeare and his Times."

[ocr errors]

How far some of us, who take ourselves for very

rational

persons, do or do not go beyond him, we shall perhaps see in the course of our remarks.

The Honourable William Hastings, a gentleman of a very singular character,” says our informant, “lived in the year 1638, and by his quality was son, brother, and uncle, to the Earls of Huntingdon. He was peradventure an original in our age, or rather the copy of our ancient nobility, in hunting, not in warlike times.

“ He was very low, very strong, and very active, of a reddish flaxen hair ; his clothes green cloth, and never all worth, when

; new, five pounds.

“His house was perfectly of the old fashion, in the midst of a large park well stocked with deer, and near the house rabbits to serve his kitchen; many fish-ponds; great store of wood and timber ; a bowling-green in it, long, but narrow, and full of high ridges; it being never levelled since it was ploughed : they used round sand bowls; and it had a banqueting-house like a stand, a large one, built in a tree.

“ He kept all manner of sport-hounds, that run buck, fox, hare, otter, and badger ; and hawks, long and short-winged. He had all sorts of nets for fish; he had a walk in the New Forest, and in the manor of Christ Church : this last supplied him with red deer, sea and river-fish. And indeed all his neighbours' grounds and royalties were free to him ; who bestowed all his time on these sports, but what he borrowed, to caress his neighbours' wives and daughters; there being not a woman, in all his walks, of the degree of a yeoman's wife, and under the age of forty, but it was extremely her fault if he was not intimately acquainted with her. This made him very popular ; always speaking kindly to the husband, brother, or father, who was to boot very wel. come to his house whenever he came.

“There he found beef, pudding, and small beer, in great plenty ; a house not so neatly kept as to shame him or his dusty shoes; the great hall strewed with marrow-bones, full of hawks'

« ZurückWeiter »