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Tas. I stand upon the threshold of Sorrento.
A youth I left it-how do I return?
A beggar, sick-scarce master of my mind;
Rejected by the master I had served
And glorified; for with that strain of mine
His fame arose, and with that strain it dies !
By envy stung-disparaged by the Crusca-
My work by plunderers mutilated. So
Returns Torquato Tasso to his home.
Ang. There you will see again your faithful sister ;
She loved you ever- she will love you still.
Tas. My heart indeed longs for her; 'tis a comfort-
'Tis a refreshment to my weary soul,
That, when my sun of life shall set at last,
And my day's work is done, one kindred being
Survives, that will consign me to my rest;
Else were it not unlikely that my country-
Which to the living could afford no room-
Might grudge an unpaid grave unto the dead.
Ang. O Tasso--you are bitter!
Bitter! True :
You were companion of my course ; you saw
'Twas like to Bacchus's triumphant march:
As he in triumph moved through India,
So I through Italy. The difference
Was only this--that me no panthers drew, .
No gay attendants danced before my car.
Ang. If on your way you felt distress-what then? Was not the fault your own ? Have you not still Disdain'd to ask assistance from another?
Tas. That have I done ; and, by my father's bead,
I die the happier that it has been so-
That I have pined in want, and all but perish'd,
Ere I would claim their pity or their gold.
They have no feeling for the pride that dwells
Within a noble breast; and think that all
For gold and glitter may be sold and barter'd.
What prince's court, from Ætna to the Po,
Where I was not of yore an honour'd guest-
Where I was not invited and caress'd
In days gone by! And who now cares for me?
Who asks for Tasso ? Yet they knew full well,
What time I trode the threshold of their states.
The Poet of Jerusalem no more-
For them I was the madman of St Anne's.
Even as men shun the contact of the infected,
So did they shrink from mine, and all because
I was no more the favourite of Ferrara.
Ang. If not the great, at least the people loves you ;
Have you not found your strains on every lip
Far as Italia's speech extends ? Did not
The boatman chant them to the labouring oar ?
Through rock and woodland did they not resound,
Beguiling on his path the muleteer,
As through the mountain clefts he wound his way?
And, would the man that thus their hearts enchanted
Have fail'd to meet a hospitable roof
In every cottage when he knock'd for shelter ?
Who bade you knock alone at princes' doors ?
The poet's art seeks hearts that feel its power;
And hearts, O Tasso ! you have found already,
In princely halls, as in the lowly hut.
Where hearts did beat-by Heaven! they beat for you ;
Where hearts beat not-'tis vain to seek for feeling.
Tos. Yes! Angioletta!-- Yes! I found a heart
Found it in prison, where I sought it not
Found it in madness, when my senses wander'de
I found it on the brink of th' opening grave! In this part of the play Zedlitz has, even into the fastnesses of the Abruzzi, dexterously enough, introduced an in- and found an echo in the rude hearts cident which is said to have actually of banditti. The robbers retire on occurred to Ariosto, while acting as the seeing a group of peasants approachDuke of Ferrara's commissary in clear. ing: they, too, have heard from his ing the territory of Garfagnana of ban- servant that the poet of the Jerusalem ditti. Tasso is attacked by robbers : is approaching, and they come with he draws his sword, and, weak as he simple kindness and reverential bumi. is, defends himself with his usual cou. lity to greet his return to his home. rage. But, at the mention of the name Angioletta asks whether he does not of Tasso, which Angioletta utters in now feel that he is revered by Italy, despair, the sword of the captain drops; and that his name is not to pass away he asks the forgiveness of Tasso, for into forgetfulness, as he had despond. having raised his sword against sucha ingly anticipated. Tasso replies, – man, whose strains had penetrated
Tas. I own my error. Man is good and noble
When with himself conversing, and with nature;
As pure as when from her pure hand he came,
His essence unconstrain'd and unperverted,
Untouch'd by the corroding rust of life.
Yes, I will hie me where the heart is fresh,
As in its first young moment of creation ;
There where the blood, a pure and living spring,
In joyous free pulsation beats and circles !
Far will I dwell from all the pomp of courts-
Far from the busy nothingness of fools
Far from the influence of low desires-
From envy, hatred-even from love afar!
There, in the midst of Nature's mighty garden,
Vesuvius with its smoking peak before me,
The sea's broad mirror glittering at my feet,
Where far-off isles like sparkling jewels gleam,
Heaven's azure canopy above me spread-
There from the stream of poesy I'll drink
Once more, ere from my lips the cup be dash'd
For ever-there, once more, I'll conjure up
The spirits with the wizard's wand, and try
If they obey me, as they once obey'd.
There, like a prince within my realms, which all
The might of all the mighty takes not from me,
l'll be the being God and nature meant:
My heritage-my crown-shall be my song!” The Third Act terminates with a touching scene between Tasso and his sister Cornelia, in which he compares the relief from his sufferings, which he experiences in her society, to the respite which Orestes obtains from the attacks of the Furies, when encircled by the arms of Electra.
In the Fourth Act his situation, after a residence of some time at Sorrento, is thus described in a conversation between Cornelia and Angioletta. Cor.
He is gentle now,
And calm. All his complaints are hush'd : his breast
Seems by a gentler glow at last inspired,
And, from a stormy sea, he has taken refuge
Within a safer haven,
As the pilgrim,
Returning from his weary travel, shakes
The journey': dust off at his house's door,
So he, on this long-looked-for threshold casts
The dust of earth away ; and, half transfigured,
Seems but a passing stranger in this world.
Cor. He moves with strange composure tow'rds the grave,
And like a man who sets his house in order,
Before he sails upon a distant voyage,
With care and zeal incessant, he essays
To leave unto the world, in worthiest shape,
His work-his lasting legacy of fame.
Ang. The sun's last rays, that soon will set for him,
Already gild the evening of his life.
His fame is heard, far as our tongue extends,
Wide o'er Italia's borders, far and near.
The cloud which envy, malice, calumny,
And party spirit cast around his fame
Is dissipated ; and his shining form
Stands wrapt in glory for eternity. A parting gleam, however, is destined to be shed upon the close of his troubled life. The arrival of Cardinal Aldobrandini at Sorrento is announced. He comes to communicate to Tasso the invitation of Clement the VIII., that the poet would repair to Rome, and receive the laurel crown in the Capitol, in token of the respect and gratitude of his country. His persecutions from Alfonso and from the Della Crusca are at an end; and all unite in proffering to the poet their tardy reparation for the sufferings he had undergone.
Tas. Am I awake? or does the ancient night,
That once enveloped me, return again ?
The sacred laurel shall surround my head-
" The laurel, meed of mighty conquerors,
And kings and heroes ? How can I believe it?
Shall that which floated in bright dreams before me
Unfold itself in fair reality ?
That the world deems me worthy of such honour,
And that the after-world should recognise
Their sentence—this, I own, appears an object
Worthy a man's whole life, a cast whereon
To stake the whole revenues of the soul.
And I-where thousands fail'd-I have attain'd it
My solitary head stands out in light!
Call me not vain, if images like these
Float by, like light and many-coloured clouds
Before the glowing spirit's inner eye!
Ald. Fear it not, friend! How should I not conceive
That you are conscious of your own deserving?
That is not vanity, and pride becomes you.
Tas. He is no poet whom reward inspires;
But he, who casts not looks of eager longing
Towards the star of fame that shines above him,
He, too, my honour'd lord-he, too, is none.
Ald. Alas! it shines not always on the worthy.
Oft merit meets not fortune fortune inerit:
But here, at least, the fitting man is found.
Tas. I've been so long estranged from princely favour,
So long unused to aught of outward honour,
Its beams fall on me, as upon the blind
Falls the unwonted light-it dazzles me.
Ald. A prince-I speak of one, my worthy Tasso,
In disposition princely-one who wears
His crown within his heart- he knows full well
That all the pomp that may surround his name
Dies with his dust. The fairest of renown,
Perhaps the only one that can survive,
Is when he spreads the light of mind throughout
His kingdoms; for where light is there is right.
So thinks the sovereign head, whose messenger
Am I. Prepare to-moriow to depart,
So please you-I myself will be your guide,
With this array of worthy noblemen:
The festival is order'd and arranged,
And truly guests will not be wanting there-
No narrower circle, Tasso, than the world.
We shall give the Fifth Act, which to be present at the coronation of her takes place in Rome, almost entire. The former lover. It is comparatively unfirst scene is a conversation between important to the progress of the play. Lucretia, the Duchess of Mantua, and The scene then changes to the Conher sister Leonora, who, by the per- vent of St Onofrio, where Tasso had mission of Alfonso, had been allowed taken up his residence.
St Onofrio in Rome. A Balcony, from which a Colonnade leads,
Tas. (at the window.) How rich the scene before the eye.
The silent convent garden at my feet,
With all its rosy-blooming oleanders,
And walks of dusky-shaded cypresses
There stands the oak where I have often rested,
And close beside the noiseless churchyard spreads,
Sown thick with crosses and with monuments;
Beyond the walls the distant city rises
With thousand towers, and domes, and palaces,
With all its fountains, all its obelisks,
With all the monuments of pomp and glory,
That centuries upon centuries have collected.
And through it rolls and flows in restless current,
The people, shouting forth the name of Tasso ;
Head pressing head to catch a glance. The while
So worn, so weary unto death am I,
That for the churchyard's peace I rather long
Than for the garland on the Capitol.
Tasso. ANGIOLETTA (richly dressed.)
Tas. My Angioletta, in this rich attire!
Ang. "Tis for your day of honour that I wear it.
Tas. Thou fond and faithful heart!
Princes, and lords, and dames in garbs of splendour,
Are in the hall assembled, to conduct you
Unto the Capitol. This is the day
That wakes my Tasso to a second life.
Tus. It is, indeed: Not for this outward glitter-
Not for the laurel wreath that binds my brow-
Not that the people shout, or that in triumph
I enter to the lofty Capitol :
It is not these--with these I could dispense;
'Tis that I stand here as a worthy man!
That this acclaim bears witness that my labour
Has not been vain ; that God who gave the pleasure
In poetry's creations, gave the power ;
That for the pain one being laid upon me-
Prince as he was-THE WORLD atonement makes
That I shall not descend to after times
As a chained maniac; that posterity
Shall see the poet's picture undistorted;-
Such is the comfort that this day conveys.
And let me own my weakness which for one
So near the grave perchance sits ill upon me.
Like rain that falls upon a thirsty land,
Long look'd for, does my soul drink in this day,
Grows green, and blooms again. All I have suffer'd
This hour wipes out; but oh! no second day
Would I survive, after a day like this !
Yes, Angioletta, yes! I will to rest;
As on the nurse's arm a child that sees
The meadows green, the many-tinted flowers,
With restless longing eyes their colours fair,
And through the lattice shoots his little hands,
So stretch I forth my arms towards the grave.
Ah me! what treasure has the world to give,
Which she hath not vouchsafed me-and denied ?
Ang. Yes, Tasso ! yes—I feel as much as you,
That you have closed your reckoning with the world :
But when you go_0, hear me! take me with you ;
What were my life then :-what were I myself?
For I was Tasso's shadow, nothing more :
Where should the shadow be when he is gone?
For me as well as you, to-day I feel
Life's goal is gain'd, and come what may hereafter,
'Tis but a faint reflection of this day-
The distant echo of its choral song.
Life I might miss, had I belong'd to life.
Tas. It is no fond conceit that poets fable,
Through nature's web a magic tissue runs-
A charm, a spell that to congenial spirits,
Congenial spirits binds. It is not choice
That heart to heart attracts, 'tis Destiny :
Not now I feel it first-I oft have felt it
You are no being foreign to myself,
You are a portion of my own existence.
Ang. O speak those words again : it is too sweet
That you should feel what I have felt so long.
Tas. Now listen, girl, for something I could say,
I know that you can hear it without fear;
Poets and dying men, you know, are prophets,
And I, my faithful maid, am both in one:
Your pilgrimage without me will be short-
Earth will not hold you long. When once my spirit
Shall call to yours from out another star,
You will not make me linger long for you :
These roses that are blushing on your cheeks
Are of a darker crimson than the hues
That youth diffuses on thy face of spring :
Theirs is a deeper glow-the glow of death!
Ang. My Tasso ! you have said I follow soon.
Tas. And now enough. No pining, no impatience
-Let me go first. When once the fruit is ripe,
In God's good time, by its own weight, it falls.
The Same.- LUCRETIA. LEONORA.
Luc. Tasso, some friends of old are come to greet you.
Tas. Ha! what? You, princess and your highness tooYou here in Rome ! How shall I thank you for it ? Too much of happiness for one short day.
Leon. We stood so near, and saw your merit's growth ; Could we be absent when such worth was crown'd ?
Luc. In Italy you have but wellwishers And friends your enemies have disappear’d. That even Alfonso now repents his rigour, The presence of my sister may convince you.
Leon. What joy, beloved friend, it brings to me,