Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

tainly, for an Italian is forced into a life of subterfuge. Yet their faces are lighted up by a glad feeling, and, allowing the accusation against them of voluptuousness, I maintain it is of the lively and not the languid cast; at any rate I saw nothing resembling the stamp of sensuality. Their forms are light and graceful, a little approaching to the dapper; and there are very few among them that incline to unwieldiness of person, so common in Florence and Genoa. In the evening we visited the coffee-houses, ate our ices, and wandered about the streets, which were full of well-dressed persons, enjoying the freshness of the air, and listening to the groups of singers and musicians.

Now having brought you into Siena, perhaps I have done enough. You have so many accounts of Italy, in travels, tours, letters, sketches, and guide-books, that you ought to be acquainted with our principal cities, as well as a gentleman of the west end is with London within the walls. I shall therefore not enter into particulars ; you will surely be satisfied with the result of my immediate impressions.

Siena is not a place I would choose for a residence, though there are two essential points in its favour,-it is kept clean, and the people appear civil and good-tempered. As the houses, and most of the palaces, are built of brick, some the worse for plaister, and some of the plaister the worse for age, this city has a shabby appearance; and its style of architecture is antique without being venerable. Several of the palaces are in a sadly dilapidated condition, or turned into public offices. The Piazza del Campo is the grand square ; it contains five or six palaces that once belonged to their proud nobility, and the Palazzo Publico, where they held their republican senate. I cannot settle in my mind whether I was pleased with this square owing to its actual appearance, or to the historical recollections connected with it. The ground of the city being irregular, none of the streets run in a direct line, and all of them are on the ascent or the descent; so much so, that many of the lanes are formed of flights of stairs. We visited the Academy of Fine Arts, where there is not a single picture of excellence to awaken the ambition of the students. There the same remorseless system of teaching is carried on as in every other part of Italy. I hope the professor will pardon me for not admiring his paintings, when I confess myself blind to the merits of Benvenuti of Florence, or Camuccini of Rome. Siena can boast of little else than its cathedral. With the exception of the front, I cannot praise the taste shown on the exterior; the belfry is contemptible, and the squat cupola an offence. The interior, in spite of its chequered work of black and white marble, and its ugly portraits of a line of popes, is, in one sense, a perfect work; insomuch as we see every intention fulfilled. It is of singular richness, crowded with ornaments, from the painted and gilded roof down to the elaborate pavement. The spirit of decoration is carried to so high a pitch, that in the insides of the marble basins for the holy water, there are sundry sorts of carved fishes, with eels wriggling up the sides. One of these basins rests on an antique tripod, with basreliefs of heathen deities,—and those who think it worth while, may take advantage of the allegory. The greater part of the pavement, by Domenico Beccafumi, preserved by a flooring which is raised up piece-meal for a stranger's admiration, surpasses all of priestly gorge

There are designs of the utmost style, spirit, and power of drawing; and the effect is produced by no more than a black outline on inlaid marble, of white and one or two shades of grey. I pass by the marble pulpit of Giovanni di Pisa, with its rich balustrade to the stairs, as their costly work would demand too long a description; and lead you into a large apartment called the library-by courtesy, for it contains no other books than a few illuminated missals. This library has its walls adorned by fresco paintings, representing the life of Æneas Sylvius, afterwards Pope Pius III. It is said Raphael gave designs for all of them, and that he really executed the first, which indeed is worthy of him in his early days; and that the remainder are by the hand of Pintorecchio. For my part, putting controversy at defiance, I believe Raphael did give designs for some of them; and, in this faith, I regarded them with the greatest interest. I was astonished at their freshness of colour, especially in the one ascribed to Raphael ; it looks as if his hand had not quitted it longer ago than yesterday,-it makes him our contemporary.

ousness,

B

STANZAS.

In the woods of Arcady,

Lying on a pleasant green
Shadowed by a beecben tree,

A shepherd boy was seen
Piping, while the river sweet
Ran and gurgled at his feet.
At his side the laurel sprung,

At his head the beechen tree,
And above him, mocking, hung

Thick boughs, a rustling canopy,
Which, when as the oaten spoke,
From their green dreams aye awoke.
“Can the Hamadryad leave,"

Quoth the boy, “her beechen tree,
And come hither, and so grieve

For a thing like me ?”
“ Hark! the sylvan creature sighed,"
Said he,—and the leaves replied.

“Sigh for ever! oh, for ever

Whisper thou melodious tree,
And beside this grassy river

Will I sit and list to thee :
Be it pleasure, be it pain,
None can hear thy voice in vain."

'Tis the privilege of verse

To suggest a deeper tone:
So whate'er thou dost rehearse,

Straight a wider thought is known,
Like a dreamer's secret told
To a poet wise and old.

As a vein of gold discover'd

To a skilful miner's ear,
Are those holy words that hover'd

(Sometimes far and sometimes near)
O’er thy lip, sweet oracle !
--Be it mine to hear and tell !

XXX

IDLENESS. MR. EDITOR,–Every body has his passion; and mine is idleness. Let me, therefore, say a few words of illustration; which you may the safer permit, being assured that I am too indoleot to prose at much leo zih. To begin with the beginning,—the curse which fell upon man, that he should live in the sweat of his brow, was a punishment denounced after a grievous offence ; from which it may logically be concluded, that to do nothing is the summum bonum ; aud idleness the supreme pleasure of paradise. The privileged classes, as they are called, have (it may be observed by the way) pretty well absolved themselves from the consequences of this denunciation; which sufficiently proves them to be the peculiar favourites of heaven; and when even I am inclined to think irreverently of the church, the indolence of the cloth at once recalls me from the error, and bows me in submission before the chosen vessels. All men, it is said, are naturally idle. Horace makes ease the common wish of every class, and declares long-spun and ambitious cares to be the extreme of absurdity. The most active and enterprising of men are represented as toiling and plotting through their youth, merely for the sake of the otium cum dignitate of old age. The 'prentice boy looks at the dusty roadside villa of his master, and buckles-to with renewed vigour in the hopes of a similar retirement. The soldier thinks of the sunny bench at Chelsea, and marches on, though half dead with watching and fatigue. The East Indian casts a prospective eye to Bath and Cheltenham, and a seat in a certain assembly for his evening's nap, and sets bile and dysentery, and the indolence of a hot climate at defiance. The labourer alone has no such cheering vision, but toils on from day to day, to support a bare existence, with no other prospect than that antidote to all ease,-a parish workhouse. General, however, as the love of idleness is, there are few persons who really understand the thing. With most men every employment which makes no return in money is considered as idle. The schoolboy who neglects his task, and is ever to seek for a theme or a copy of verses, is called an idle boy ; though he has passed the whole day as the long stop at cricket, in climbing the highest trees, rowing upon the river, or other violent exercise ; and goes to bed as fatigued as a coal-porter. Nay, though he should bave been engaged in turning, painting, or music, he will not escape the imputation. So also, at college, I have known many persons enjoying the reputation of idle dogs, whose time was occupied in fox-hunting, or who walked most industriously after a dog, with twenty pounds of gun-metal on their shoulder, “from morn till noon, from noon to dewy eve." This is obviously erroneous; but the mistake is more excusable respecting that rather numerous category of persons,

-Predoom'd their fathers' hopes to cross,

Who pen a stanza, when they should engross. The poets in general, it must be confessed, have an exterior of idleness about them that might impose. upon the most keen-sighted. Except Walter Scott, in whom the Scotsman and novelist prevail over the poet, I never knew one of the tribe who had the least touch of plodding industry; and a friend whom I could name, who is “ every inch” a poet, has a relish for what the world calls idleness, that is worth a

a

good ten thousand a-year. “ These indeed seem” idlers ; but they < have that within which passes show ;” theirs“ but the trappings and the weeds” of idleness. For whether they linger by the side of brooks, or “ lose and neglect the creeping hours of time under the shade of melancholy boughs" in solitude and silence ; or whether they pass their time amidst wine-cups and hilarity, their poor unfortunate brains are ever at work, work, work from morning to night; and teem forth harvest of bright thoughts as unceasingly as the twirls of a spinningjenny, or a charity child in a factory. It is by no means the weight or importance of an occupation that entitles it to the appellation of industry. A man's activity may be expended upon a most trivial object, but still it is labour, and the world does but justice to the activeminded citizen, who runs about from house to house spreading scandal, and interfering in all things, when it calls him a busy body, although, to all intents and purposes of utility, he would have been much better occupied in spitting over a bridge into the water. A mistake of an opposite nature is not unfrequent, by which your genuine idler passes for an industrious man. This occurs more especially with respect to collegiates and Templars, who, if they happen to be of a sedentary habit, and do not stir much about the world, are believed to be great saps. I knew a man of this description, who passed his whole life in slippers and dressing-gown; but on whose privacy I never broke in the evening, without finding the snuff's of his candles an ich long, and crowned with a fungus-like protuberance of soot; while a corresponding drowsiness of demeanour in his whole person sufficiently proved that the snuffers had not been overlooked through' too close an application to Euclid or Greek metres.

In like manner ministers of state sometimes acquire great reputation by a regular attendance in Downing Street ; though perhaps they leave all their business to clerks, and spend morning after morning in cutting their pens and spelling the newspapers. Now is it not rather hard, Mr. Editor, that you yourself, for instance, should be railed at as an idler on account of a little procrastination, perhaps, or of lying late in bed, or, like that unhappy youth Mr. Gay, of " writing pastorals in the time of divine service ;" while a great lubberly lord shall pass for a plodder, because he has the cunning to envelope himself in the pomp and circumstance of business?

There is indeed something peculiarly ungrateful in the avaricious undervaluing of idleness which is so prevalent. Like a vast many other pretences put forth in this island of false appearances, the affectation of industry has more of hypocrisy than of true zeal in it. With the great majority of men, ambition, or the love of money, is the real spring of action ; and industry, though tolerated as a means, is detested as an end. There are thousands and tens of thousands, who would willingly take up with the dolcissimo far niente" if they dared ; and Diogenes, with his tub and his cynicism, was less a philosopher than an idler ; while Epicurus, in the opposite extreme, turned his philosophy to pretty nearly the same account. For myself, I beg to be understood as loving idleness, pure and perfect idleness, for itself alone,-just as your true sentimental lovers like to be adored, dear souls : and it always struck me that the setting a schoolboy his holiday-task was little better than proffering the cup of Tantalus to be taken onder the sword of Damocles. No, sir, none of your constructive idleness for me. Sleeping in the sun, watching the progress of a snail, or the transit of a bubble in the stream, are quite sufficient employment for a genuine idler, and angling is the only sport which does not absolutely break in upon his enjoyment. Idle persons are falsely accused of being ever in mischief; and on this account probably the devil is said to fly away with the roof of a house, if you don't give him an attorney or proctor 10 carry, or some other such job of journey-work. This is all very false philosophy. Active dispositions may become mischievous, when not profitably employed, exactly as Napoleon went to Moscow, for want of something better to do ; but your genuine idler is contented with eating, drinking, and sleeping, or, at most, with playing the cicisbeo, perhaps, or watching a game of chess without understanding the mores. Indeed I question whether Neddy Bray had not a spark of industry in him when he left the cat in the coalskuttle, to count the backneycoaches which passed the windows of his lodging. In favour of idleness, it must be observed that the idler has no strong passions. Hence the absurdity of making the idleness of monks and churchmen a matter of reproach. Would to heaven they were all idle, and always idle ! for there is nothing so much to be dreaded as that such folks should take a sudden fit of industry, and recommence their old meddlings with politics and literature. I'll be bound the French, for instance, would be well pleased to find old Fressynous lounging in a lady's boudoir, or to catch the whole corps of Jesuits “ sleeping upon benches in afternoons.” The moment a man has a desire to gratify, he ceases to be an idler ; accordingly, the greatest sluggards are on the alert towards dinner-time ; and a lazy lover is a contradiction in terms. To be a genuine idler, a man must be content with his own sensations as they come to him, and endure ennui without repining. His mind must never go abroad in search of amusement; it must have no world of its own, no castle in the air, the realization of which would cost an effort, and the idea of which would beget discontent. The perfection of idleness is therefore rarely obtained, except through long practice, or under the influence of that morbid state of the biliary system, in which all the finer movements of its vessels are clogged and impeded, and the effort of volition becomes too painful to be attempted. Short of this, indolence is rarely more than occasional; and in youth the merest idler is thrown into activity at the impulse of pleasure. I know a young lady who has very pretty pretensions to idleness, but who has no objection to dancing the livelong night, and who would work at a ball-dress for fifteen hours at a stretch, rather than not go to the assembly. Of this young lady's life, the following specimen, as set down by her mother, may afford some idea, and it proves her to be a real amateur.

Rose at ten. Regretted not being able to lie an hour longer. Lamented the necessity of cleanliness. Dressing a great bore. Dogs in this respect happier than men. Watch-boxes still better.

Breakfasted till eleven. Sauntered for half an hour, and played with the cat. N. B. She scratched both my hands.

Half-past eleven. Sunk in an arm-chair, with a novel, read the same page three times over, and fell asleep. Got up to walk to another chair, and was told I'd a hole in my stocking. I wonder why the maid does not mend them.

« НазадПродовжити »