Zanoni eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 579 pages of information about Zanoni.
All was reconciled and settled; Viola had her way, and selected her own opera.  O ye dull nations of the North, with your broils and debates,—­your bustling lives of the Pnyx and the Agora!—­you cannot guess what a stir throughout musical Naples was occasioned by the rumour of a new opera and a new singer.  But whose the opera?  No cabinet intrigue ever was so secret.  Pisani came back one night from the theatre, evidently disturbed and irate.  Woe to thine ears hadst thou heard the barbiton that night!  They had suspended him from his office,—­they feared that the new opera, and the first debut of his daughter as prima donna, would be too much for his nerves.  And his variations, his diablerie of sirens and harpies, on such a night, made a hazard not to be contemplated without awe.  To be set aside, and on the very night that his child, whose melody was but an emanation of his own, was to perform,—­set aside for some new rival:  it was too much for a musician’s flesh and blood.  For the first time he spoke in words upon the subject, and gravely asked—­for that question the barbiton, eloquent as it was, could not express distinctly—­what was to be the opera, and what the part?  And Viola as gravely answered that she was pledged to the Cardinal not to reveal.  Pisani said nothing, but disappeared with the violin; and presently they heard the Familiar from the house-top (whither, when thoroughly out of humour, the musician sometimes fled), whining and sighing as if its heart were broken.

The affections of Pisani were little visible on the surface.  He was not one of those fond, caressing fathers whose children are ever playing round their knees; his mind and soul were so thoroughly in his art that domestic life glided by him, seemingly as if that were a dream, and the heart the substantial form and body of existence.  Persons much cultivating an abstract study are often thus; mathematicians proverbially so.  When his servant ran to the celebrated French philosopher, shrieking, “The house is on fire, sir!” “Go and tell my wife then, fool!” said the wise man, settling back to his problems; “do I ever meddle with domestic affairs?” But what are mathematics to music—­music, that not only composes operas, but plays on the barbiton?  Do you know what the illustrious Giardini said when the tyro asked how long it would take to learn to play on the violin?  Hear, and despair, ye who would bend the bow to which that of Ulysses was a plaything, “Twelve hours a day for twenty years together!” Can a man, then, who plays the barbiton be always playing also with his little ones?  No, Pisani; often, with the keen susceptibility of childhood, poor Viola had stolen from the room to weep at the thought that thou didst not love her.  And yet, underneath this outward abstraction of the artist, the natural fondness flowed all the same; and as she grew up, the dreamer had understood the dreamer.  And now, shut out from all fame himself; to be forbidden to hail even his daughter’s fame!—­and that daughter herself to be in the conspiracy against him!  Sharper than the serpent’s tooth was the ingratitude, and sharper than the serpent’s tooth was the wail of the pitying barbiton!

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Zanoni from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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