But amongst the train of her suitors was one to whom she listened more gently than to the rest; partly because, perhaps, he spoke in her mother’s native tongue; partly because in his diffidence there was little to alarm and displease; partly because his rank, nearer to her own than that of lordlier wooers, prevented his admiration from appearing insult; partly because he himself, eloquent and a dreamer, often uttered thoughts that were kindred to those buried deepest in her mind. She began to like, perhaps to love him, but as a sister loves; a sort of privileged familiarity sprung up between them. If in the Englishman’s breast arose wild and unworthy hopes, he had not yet expressed them. Is there danger to thee here, lone Viola, or is the danger greater in thy unfound ideal?
And now, as the overture to some strange and wizard spectacle, closes this opening prelude. Wilt thou hear more? Come with thy faith prepared. I ask not the blinded eyes, but the awakened sense. As the enchanted Isle, remote from the homes of men,—
“Ove alcun legno Rado, o non mai va dalle nostre sponde,”—“Ger.Lib.,” cant. xiv. 69.
(Where ship seldom or never comes from our coasts.)
is the space in the weary ocean of actual life to which the Muse or Sibyl (ancient in years, but ever young in aspect), offers thee no unhallowed sail,—
“Quinci ella in
cima a una montagna ascende
Disabitata, e d’ ombre oscura e bruna;
E par incanto a lei nevose rende
Le spalle e i fianchi; e sensa neve alcuna
Gli lascia il capo verdeggiante e vago;
E vi fonda un palagio appresso un lago.”
(There, she a mountain’s lofty peak ascends, Unpeopled, shady, shagg’d with forests brown, Whose sides, by power of magic, half-way down She heaps with slippery ice and frost and snow, But sunshiny and verdant leaves the crown With orange-woods and myrtles,—speaks, and lo! Rich from the bordering lake a palace rises slow. Wiffin’s “Translation.”)
BOOK II. — ART, LOVE, AND WONDER.
Diversi aspetti in un
confusi e misti.
“Ger. Lib,” cant. iv. 7.
Different appearances, confused and mixt in one.
Centauri, e Sfingi,
e pallide Gorgoni.
“Ger. Lib.,” c. iv. v.
(Centaurs and Sphinxes and pallid Gorgons.)
One moonlit night, in the Gardens at Naples, some four or five gentleman were seated under a tree, drinking their sherbet, and listening, in the intervals of conversation, to the music which enlivened that gay and favourite resort of an indolent population. One of this little party was a young Englishman, who had been the life of the whole group, but who, for the last few moments, had sunk into a gloomy and abstracted reverie. One of his countrymen observed this sudden gloom, and, tapping him on the back, said, “What ails you, Glyndon? Are you ill? You have grown quite pale,—you tremble. Is it a sudden chill? You had better go home: these Italian nights are often dangerous to our English constitutions.”