Saunterings eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 306 pages of information about Saunterings.
called Byron’s Path, where he was wont to ride.  Everybody here, indeed, knows of Byron; and I think his memory is more secure than any saint of them all in their stone boxes, partly because his poetry has celebrated the region, perhaps rather from the perpetuated tradition of his generosity.  No foreigner was ever so popular as he while he lived at Ravenna.  At least, the people say so now, since they find it so profitable to keep his memory alive and to point out his haunts.  The Italians, to be sure, know how to make capital out of poets and heroes, and are quick to learn the curiosity of foreigners, and to gratify it for a compensation.  But the evident esteem in which Byron’s memory is held in the Armenian monastery of St. Lazzaro, at Venice, must be otherwise accounted for.  The monks keep his library-room and table as they were when he wrote there, and like to show his portrait, and tell of his quick mastery of the difficult Armenian tongue.  We have a notable example of a Person who became a monk when he was sick; but Byron accomplished too much work during the few months he was on the Island of St. Lazzaro, both in original composition and in translating English into Armenian, for one physically ruined and broken.


The pilgrim to Ravenna, who has any idea of what is due to the genius of Dante, will be disappointed when he approaches his tomb.  Its situation is in a not very conspicuous corner, at the foot of a narrow street, bearing the poet’s name, and beside the Church of San Francisco, which is interesting as containing the tombs of the Polenta family, whose hospitality to the wandering exile has rescued their names from oblivion.  Opposite the tomb is the shabby old brick house of the Polentas, where Dante passed many years of his life.  It is tenanted now by all sorts of people, and a dirty carriage-shop in the courtyard kills the poetry of it.  Dante died in 1321, and was at first buried in the neighboring church; but this tomb, since twice renewed, was erected, and his body removed here, in 1482.  It is a square stuccoed structure, stained light green, and covered by a dome,—­a tasteless monument, embellished with stucco medallions, inside, of the poet, of Virgil, of Brunetto Latini, the poet’s master, and of his patron, Guido da Polenta.  On the sarcophagus is the epitaph, composed in Latin by Dante himself, who seems to have thought, with Shakespeare, that for a poet to make his own epitaph was the safest thing to do.  Notwithstanding the mean appearance of this sepulcher, there is none in all the soil of Italy that the traveler from America will visit with deeper interest.  Near by is the house where Byron first resided in Ravenna, as a tablet records.

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Saunterings from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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