Зображення сторінки

The guitar, however, is still heard in Venice, especially of an evening; and the visitor continually hears those delightful dancing airs which have been collected and published in this country. The chief, or rather the only place of assemblage for the inhabitants of Venice out of doors (for they have a fine opera, and multitudes of opera houses within) is a large square, containing the principal church, and the government offices. Here all ranks are accustomed to meet of an evening; and here something of amusement is generally going forward all day, from the guitar-player to the punchinello. There is very little more standing-room throughout the city; and so little vegetation, that they call a court by way of eminence the Court of the Tree, and there is a church entitled our Lady of the Garden. There is a monastery with one of these gardens, such as they are;

the palace Zenobio has another, and a Casino *, called Zanne, another. We suppose they muster up some others in miniature; but there is an island near Venice, where the gentry have country-houses, and contrive to be a little more horticultural.

Next to its watery streets, Venice is remarkable for the number of its bridges and palaces. The latter are truly so called, and comprise many of the master-pieces of Palladio. Every noble family appears to have once occupied a palace, some of them many palaces. They stand upon the principal canals, into which run smaller ones, all of them having their bridges. These bridges, however, are in general very small; nor is the famous one, called the Rialto, so remarkable as its celebrity would imply, though it is built in a striking manner, of one arch. It has houses on it, like old London bridge, though not after the same fashion. They cross it in a covered angle, forming a double arcade. The artist who

mixture of Turkish affairs in the Jerusalem, the Venetians having had a good deal to do with the Turks, both as enemies and friends.

* Baretti defines one of these Casinos exactly. He calls it “ a small house kept for pleasure in a town, besides our own." They are in great request at Venice; more so now, we suppose, than ever, since the nobility have shrunk in their palaces like withered nuts.

built it was called Antonio of the Bridge. In the same spirit of poetical tendency, the bridge leading to the city jail is called the Bridge of Sighs; and one of the principal canals, probably from the residence of some great musician, is entitled the River of Song.

The Venetians have always been famous for their enjoying temper, and what the Italians call Brio-a certain sparkling of the animal spirits. A quintessence of this quality would seem to have been almost the only thing which made a late celebrated dramatist, Goldoni, be taken all over Europe for a great genius. Yet the Venetian character in general is relieved from the frivolous by an evident capacity for the serious. The wine in their blood has a body with it. There is a tone and substance in their

composition as different from the old French levity, as Titian's pictures are from La Guerre. You still meet with Titiar's men and women at Venice, -the same rich dark complexions and fine figures; the same faces, earnest without sharpness, quick without confusion, thoughtful without severity, voluptuous without grossness.

The men are robust as well as agile: the women have that sort of tone in their composition which made the very courtezan of Venice a Calypso to strangers, and enthroned the more sentimental mistress at the top of her sex, at once to fascinate and to rule,

The leading men in the state, the counsellors at law, &c. take advantage of this solid part of the national character to affect a prodigious air of gravity: and it was perhaps from a mixed spirit of republican pride, and a sort of gusto of contrast to the pleasurability of their temperament, that black colours became the national wear.

Not only the divines and lawyers wore black, but the statesmen wore black, the ladies all wore black; and the gondolas, carrying guitars and lovers in their bosoms, were clothed in the same external symbol of solemnity. We believe it is the same to this day, if not so universally. There seems in this a kind of pleasant and avowed hypocrisy, which stands the lively and sincere Venetian instead of the more hypocritical zests of other countries.

Venice originated with fugitives from the Italian peninsula during the fierce time of Attila, and subsisted afterwards as an independent state for many

centuries, unbesieged even but by the waves. Its famous oligarchical form of government, under which it became mistress of the sea, still divides the opinions of politicians. Some think it must have been an intolerable tyranny; while others, among whom is our republican countryman Harrington, have regarded it as the true ·model of a popular state. The truth seems to be, that the good climate and cheerful temperament enjoyed by the Venetians rendered them very easy subjects; and this easiness had its effect in turn upon their leaders, who with all their outward stateliness were in reality like themselves. There was none of the physical suffering, which naturally renders the people so impatient in harder climates; and on the other hand, the rulers were generally wise and kind, and not provoked into tyranny either by conscious injustice, or extra-national ambition. The Venetians were too contented with what was done and allowed to quarrel for the last sad privilege of political talking; and provided a Venetian did not talk politics, he might talk or do any thing he pleased. Thus they were like a happy family living under a father of austere aspect and real good nature. But as their less happy neighbours out-grew them, this happy family was to be disturbed; and it was so. Venice, in common with the other northern states of Italy, became the property of the greatest neighbour for the time being-of The Court of Vienna first, then of France, and now of Vienna again. Its nobles are at length ruined; its palaces almost deserted; and the gay Venetian, now a pensive animal to what he was, meditates on the approaching period when his very city is to be forsaken by the sea; when Venice itself, eyeless, voiceless, and dead, is to stand like a gigantic skeleton on a stagnant and deserted shore, whistling with the screams of seafowl, and the disdainful rushing of the wind.

This apprehension now appears to be a good deal entertained. It was entertained also nearly forty years

back, perhaps long before; and was understood to be disproved at that time. According to the systems, however, and calculations of modern philosophy, the sea-coasts all over the globe are in a constant state either of an accression or diminution of waters; and the imagination, in its gloomier moments, may still contemplate the desolation of Venice, approaching or far off.

Still the Venetians compared with most other people are a happy race. The blood runs quicker in their veins. They have more music, more freshness and easiness of life, more cordiality of intercourse. The good-natured philosopher still finds in Venice the greatest mixture of liveliness and sentiment: the restless man of genius, impatient of the contradiction of his young hopes, still finds there something to admire and to love. If the Venetians have been thought of too amorous a disposition, they are acknowledged to be temperate in every other respect, and to make excellent parents and kinsfolk : and it is to be observed that in many of the cities of Italy, the proneness to love has gradually produced a state of opinion on those matters, less severe than in some other countries; so that they do not violate their consciences so much as might be supposed, and the guilt is of necessity diminished with the sense of it. A late traveller says, that the most striking thing after all in Venice is the extreme kindness and attentiveness of all ranks of people to one another. A young man going by with a burden begs his “ good father" (any given old gentleman) to let him have way; and the good father in as unaffected a tone is happy to make way

for his “ son.” It may be answered, considering the Venetian character, that this is but natural; and that the old gentleman does not know whom he may be talking to.

But these, we conceive, are evidences which the disputatious moralist would do better in letting alone,

THE VAULTS OF ST. MICHAN’S. Ir is not generally known that the metropolis of Ireland contains a very singular subterraneous curiosity-a burial-place, which, from the chemical properties of the soil, acts with a certain embalming influence upon the bodies deposited within it. I speak of the vaults beneath St. Michan's church--a scene, where those who have the firuiness to go down and look death in the face will find an instructive commentary upon the doctrines of moral humiliation that are periodically preached above. You descend by a few steps into a long and nárrow passage that runs across the site of the church; upon each side there are excavated ample recesses, in which the dead are laid. There is nothing offensive in the atmosphere, to deter you from entering. The first thing that strikes you is, to find that decay has been more busy with the tenement than the tenant. In some instances, the coffins have altogether disappeared ; in others, the lids or sides have mouldered away, exposing the remains within, still unsubdued by death from their original form. But the great conqueror of flesh and blood, and of human pride, is not to be bafiled with impunity. Even his mercy is dreadful. It is a poor privilege to be permitted to hold together for a century or so, until your coffin tumbles in about your ears, and then to reappear half skeleton, half mummy, exposed to the gazes of a generation that can know nothing of your name and character, beyond the prosing tradition of some moralizing sexton. Among these remnants of humanity, for instance, there is the body of a pious gentlewoman, who, while she continued above ground, shunned the eyes of men in the recesses of a convent. But the veil of death has not been respected. She stands the

very first on the sexton's list of posthumous rarities, and one of the valuable appendages of his office, she is his buried treasure. Her sapless cheeks yield him a larger rent than some acres of arable land; and what is worse, now that she cannot repel the imputa

« НазадПродовжити »