his foot the badge: still, Palma said,
A triumph lingering in the wide eyes,
Wider than some spent swimmer’s if he spies
Help from above in his extreme despair,....”
(vol. i. p. 279.)
Sordello is buried at Goito Castle, in an old font-tomb in which his mother lies, and beside whose sculptured female forms the child-poet had dreamed his earliest dreams of life and of love. Salinguerra makes peace with the Guelphs, marries a daughter of Eccelino the monk, and effaces himself once for all in the Romano house, leaving its sons Eccelino and Alberic to plague the world at their pleasure, and meet the fate they have deserved. He himself, after varied fortunes, dwindles into a “showy, turbulent soldier,” less “astute” than people profess to think: whose qualities even foes admire; and whose aggressions they punish, but do not much resent. We see him for the last time at the age of eighty, a nominal prisoner in Venice.
The drama is played out. Its actors have vanished from the stage. One only lives on in Mr. Browning’s fancy, in the pathos of his modest hopes, and acknowledged, yet scarcely comprehended failure—more human, and therefore more undying than Naddo himself: the poet Eglamor. Sordello he recalls only to dismiss him with less sympathy than we should expect: as ending the ambition for what he could not become, by the well-meant renunciation of what he was born to be; made a hero of by legends which credited him with doing what his conscience had forbidden him to do; leaving the world to suffer by his self-sacrifice; a type of failure more rare and more brilliant than that of Eglamor, yet more full of the irony of life.
In one sense, however, he had lived for a better thing, and we are bidden look back, through the feverish years, on a bare-footed rosy child running “higher and higher” up a wintry hillside still crisp with the morning frost,
singing all the while
Some unintelligible words to beat
The lark, God’s poet, swooning at his feet,
So worsted is he....” (vol. i. p. 288-9)
The poet in him had failed with the man, but less completely.
[Footnote 8: The quoted passage is from the works of Cornelius Agrippa, a well-known professor of occult philosophy, and is indeed introductory to a treatise upon it. The writer is quite aware that his work may be scandalizing, hurtful, and even poisonous to narrow minds, but is sure that readers of a superior understanding will get no little good, and plenty of pleasure from it; and he concludes by claiming indulgence on the score of his youth, in case he should have given even the better judges any cause for offence. For those who read this preface with any previous knowledge of Mr. Browning’s life and character,