« PreviousContinue »
pressing sorrows. This fatal step would less deserve our criminating rebuke, could they, in that fall, ` leap the life to come;' but they only pass to the fearful realities of that existence, from which, even in the last extremities of wo, there is no escape. Yet I never paused at the grave of a suicide, without a feeling more inclined to tears than maledictions. The bitterness of disappointment, the night of anguish, that can in themselves reconcile a man to death, and make him consent to become his own executioner, must have an energy which none but those who have some time or other partially harbored the frightful purpose, can fully comprehend. What man of intellect and sensibility could rail at the grave of the author of · Lacon?' Even merited reproach falters at a recollection of his transcendent powers, and erring charity veils the terrors of his suicidal guilt.
Near this bridge of death, as if to lure the despairing to the light and promises of a better hope, stands the beautiful church of Carignano. A dome of graceful spring lets in the soft light upon the worshipper, as he kneels in the low nave, amid the breathing statues of those who, like himself, have meekly wrestled with their lot. He feels here not utterly forsaken in his sorrows; around him are those who once wept, trusted, and triumphed; here is the sweet face of Her whose all-pitying eye sheds encouragement over the broken heart of the penitent; and here too is the boundless compassion of Him whose merits and mercy are the refuge of a ruined world. To this altar let me come: but alas ! I have no offerings to bring, except the blighted remains of betrayed purposes and violated vows; these, bathed in tears, I lay down, with a blush of contrition and shame. May the strength of higher and holier resolves brace me to the responsibilities which gather wide and deep over this deathless soul! I have slumbered too long; the fresh hours of the morning have passed from the dial of my life; the meridian have come, and nothing yet has been attempted worthy of myself, or the duty I owe to my God and my fellow-men. Awake, my heart ! though pulseless, prostrate, and cold, awake!
The bent reeds, where the tempest hath been, have risen ; the fettered earth, on which the winter had cast its icy chain, has opened into blossom and song; but thou, like one on whom the grave hath closed, stirrest not. In rallied life and strength, awake! though it be but to struggle, bleed, and die!
Though these confessions and self-reproaches flow unbidden from my inmost heart, yet I must turn to objects in which the reader can find a more immediate interest. Leaving the statues which adorn the nave of Carignano, and which are, the work of Puget, the Michael Angelo of France, we went to the cathedral which derives its interest less from its architectural pretensions, than its venerable age. The exterior is cased with alternate layers of white and black marble, distinctly and strongly marked. When these lines shall rush together, and blend into one color, the amalgamating schemes of abolition phrenzy may perhaps triumph. The shores of my native land will then be shaded with that material twilight, which even the freshly risen stars cannot change! In one of the chapels of the cathedral, de. dicated to John the Baptist, we were shown the iron urn supposed to contain the ashes of that saint. As this righteous man was sacrificed
to the frivolous whim of a wanton female, none of her frail sex are allowed to approach his shrine. We found here also the celebrated emerald vase, reputed to have been presented to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba, and which was taken from the infidels at Cesarea, by the battling hosts that went out for the rescue of the Holy Land. I cannot but regret that the recent tests of sceptical science have decided this splendid trophy to be only a composition of polished glass ! Life itself is only an illusion, and why break the bubbles that float on its breath?
A monumental group in this church struck me as one of the most delicate and pleasing efforts of Canova's genius. Grief, in the likeness of a weeping angel, is looking down with tender resignation on the tomb; while Hope, in seraphic beauty, with the earnestness of an unfaltering faith, is looking up to that anchor which piety hath cast within the veil. Never before has death appeared to me so disarmed of its terrors. Say what we will against the visible representation of spiritual existences, they certainly affect us the most deeply in this tangible shape. In the one case, we have form, substance, sympathy; in the other, only a vague ideal conception, that addresses itself to no outward sense. Think
the multitude would linger so around that statue which enchants the heart,' if there were nothing there but the invisible creation of some poetic dream? I think not; hence the advantage which the Catholic faith derives from its striking palpable symbols, and which it must ever possess, so long as men are influenced more by their outward senses, than their mental abstractions.
The church of St. Stephen derives its leading interest from a representation of that first martyr, by Raphael, as he bows himself, in the forgiving spirit of his Master, to the violence of his murderers. His very
look of innocence and meekness were enough, one would suppose, to disarm the most savage breast of its malice. But man, when he persecutes in the name of religion, seems only the more steeled against the kindlier impulses of his nature. He lights his profane brand at the altar of heaven, and then kindles up a conflagration at which hell might shudder.
The church of the Annunziata is splendid in its marbles, but frightful in the malefactor of Carloni, broken on the wheel; while the Ambrozia, of less ambition in design, and richness in ornament, has the milder and deeper attractions derived from the life-imparting pencil of Rubens and Guido. But of all the sanctuaries here, none charmed me more than the chapel of the Carmelite nuns. This is small, simple, chaste, and in harmony with the noiseless habits of those who here enshrine their timid hopes of immortality. Would that she were here, who weeps within the walls of Santa Clara, here to kneel, to hymn her vesper prayer, and then with the wings of a dove to flee away and be at rest! But into whatever quarter of the heavens she might pass, I should watch her flight as one that would pursue. But, Maria, that the wing of the turtle were lent thee, and a pinion granted me of equal fleetness, yet whither could we fly? Where escape from the all-shadowing upas that blights this earth 1 There is no isle in the most sunny clime, that sorrow hath not touched, no shore in the remotest sea, where death hath not his empire. The pall, the
plume, and the sable hearse, move from every point of this globe to that shadowy realm, where the mourner soon becomes the mourned. We will then, sweet one! build our altar to hope, and earnestly look for that promised land where tears and farewells are unknown; where the countenance of the dweller is ever filled with perfect light; where the unwithered and uncrushed flowers still breathe their fragrant homage ; and where the rich harp-string mingles its music with the voice of the streams, as they flow
'Fast by the oracle of God.' Could any thing, reader, tempt our thoughts back to this earth, and the brilliant vanity of its cities, it might perhaps be the splendors of a saloon in the Serra palace of Genoa. Here walls and columns, covered with mirrors and gold, a floor of tesselated marble, and tables of richest Mosaic, fascinate the eye; and you at first half conceive yourself realizing the gorgeous fictions of some oriental dream ; and you begin to forget the poverty, strife, and wretchedness, which disfigure the condition of man. But there is one painting among the many which adorn the costly galleries of this mansion, that brings you back to the painful reality; it is from the vivid pencil of Carlo Dolci, and represents that scene in the garden of Gethsemane, in which innocence, amid the sorrows and dismay of our shrinking natures, resigned itself to the agonies and ignominy of the cross !
He that can gaze on this scene, and feel no emotions of grief and reverence, must have a heart that pity cannot touch, or heaven forgive!
I could take the reader to other princely edifices, to the unrivalled paintings which adorn them, the statues and marbles which heighten their claims to admiration for no city in the world is so rich in palaces as Genoa — but I have not room to record my impressions, nor he time to peruse them. But there is one feature of this city which must not be passed unnoticed; it is the provision which has been made, by individual wealth, for the relief of the unfortunate and poor. Here the deaf and dumb are taught to communicate their feelings, and catch the meaning of others, without the aid of an articulate language; here the aged, whom the turning tide of fortune has left wrecked on the shore, find a simple but generous asylum ; here the orphan boy is furnished the means of procuring a present subsistence, and of acquiring a knowledge that may subserve his after years; and here the little girl, who has no mother and no home, may find a cheerful refuge, where she may braid her flowers, receive the avails of her work, and at a becoming age, perhaps make another happy with her beauty and timid worth. These are the benefactions of the more wealthy citizens of Genoa, and bespeak virtues that will be revered when the usual forms in which wealth expresses itself shall be remembered only to be pitied and despised.
We were cautioned in coming here not to go in our purchases beyond the assurances of our own knowledge; and we at first hesitated distrustingly over the genuineness of a string of coral beads, those little gifts which one gets abroad for an infant sister, a lisping niece, or one deeper in the bond of years, but capable of receiving them without a surrender of the heart. But in all the purchases we made, and they were many, and some of no inconsiderable value, I heard
no complaints of the Ligurian fraud.' The jewelled watch, that exhausted my little purse, has proved as true to the promise of its vender, as a steed to the word of a Turk. I wish I were as regular, and as true to my real interest, as this is to the sun.
But I am not; neither, dear reader, can you be; but were it as easy for us to correct our faults as it is to detect them, virtue would lose the merit she now derives from the conflict : the hardest substances polish the steel the brightest.
The Genoese, especially the young females, are remarkably neat in their persons. Even those in the humblest condition seldom offend you in a negligence of dress. The kerchief that protects the bosom, may have been rent, but it has been repaired ; its snowy whiteness blushes back the living carnation of her cheek; the stocking may betray the frequent efforts of the needle, but it sets snugly to the round instep, and then there is nothing else there to make you wish the gentle wearer had forded one of her mountain streams. The daughter of the simple gardener, as she sits at market, by the side of her little vegetable store, seems to have caught her conceptions of propriety from the violets of her parterre; and the blooming girl of Recco understands how to give an additional attraction to a smooth orange, or a cluster of grapes; she comes in her blue silk boddice, her rosecolored petticoat, her Maltese cross of gold, with her hair fancifully braided and interlaced with flowers; and the tuberose, the blossom of the pomegranate, and the sprig of rich jasmine, in their mingled fragrance and beauty, are not more captivating, than the bright smile which plays over her sweet face. Who would not purchase of such an one? I could not have passed her by, though her basket had contained only the blighted fruit of some vainly cherished tree. I have ever observed, that he who solicits charity for another, or pressed by need, essays to sell what is his own, is most successful when he rather stirs our admiration than pity. Emotions awakened by objects in themselves agreeable, are ever more welcome guests at the heart, than those which come merely to claim our compassion. Hence it is, that rich men dying heirless, oftener bequeath their estates to the rich than
What a miserable thing, after all, is human nature ! But I am moralizing again : this habit will be the ruin of me,
and my narrative in the bargain. But can a stream leave the spring and not carry with it the properties of its fountain ? There is egotism in that remark: but let it pass.
We could not leave Genoa without a farewell visit to the Mary Magdalen of Paul Veronese, in the royal palace. This meek being is represented in the house of the pharisee, at the feet of our Saviour; and so full of life and tender force is each limb and feature, that your feelings, unperceived by yourself, begin to flood your eyes. Her attitude, so meek and devoted; her long and flowing locks of gold, concealing more of her face than her emotions; the timid hand, half failing in its office ; the look of grief and love; the tears, as they swim and fall, make you feel that there is a sweetness and loveliness in piety, which nothing can surpass or supply, in the female heart.
We have been to the palace of the doges, but there is only enough there to make you grieve for what is gone. The great council chamber, with its lofty ceiling of vivid frescoes, and stately columns of beau
tiful brocatello, remains ; but the marble statues which once adorned it, have departed, and their niches have been supplied with such representations as plaster and stiff drapery can produce. These men of clay and buckram, standing so astutely in this hall of legislative wisdom, remind me of those members of our congress unconditionally instructed by their eonstituents. But there are memorials here, to which an American beart can never be wholly dead; a marble bust of Columbus, and two letters in his own hand, addressed to the citizens of Genoa. These remains reconciled us to the desolate sensations of the spot; they brought back with vivifying power the virtues and trials, the triumphs and sufferings, of one to whom the world owes its greatest debt of gratitude, and who sunk to his last rest in distrust, desertion, and chains ! But it is not for me to dress his bier; nor will I presumptively cast a flower into that fragrant, imperishable garland, which Irving has woven on his grave. Virtue may be misrepresented, persecuted, and hurried to the tomb; but the righteous wake not more assuredly to the reality of their hopes, than this to an immortal remembrance.
The reader must not suppose that every thing in Genoa wore to my eyes so much of the couleur de rose, as this description may at first seem to intimate. I might have darkly shaded some features in this picture, without being unjust to the original; but my first glance of the city, from the sea, disarmed me. I was like a painter sketching the face of the one he loves. I might with truth have brought into mournful prominency the ignorance of the great masses; their delusive confidence in the pageantries of their religion; their easily disruptured connection with a virtuous life; the jealousies and guilt which trouble their social relations; the absence of incentives to enterprise and industry, in their civil condition; the spirit of discontent which breaks and embitters their seeming repose ; and above all, the massive despotism which grinds them to the earth. The lingering forms of freedom have at length departed from Genoa; her doges are in the grave, and her commerce bas fled the ocean. Egypt and Palestine, Asia Minor and Thrace, the Mediterranean and Levant, with the thousand bright isles which gemmed these waters, and where she was once respected and obeyed, now know her no more. Even Venice, her ancient rival, has ceased to dream of her power; to all the East she is only what are now the hosts that went from her bosom to battle in the Holy Land; a phantom of perished greatness.
But a better day may yet perhaps dawn on Genoa. She is not yet the ruined votary of vice, nor the crouching slave of tyranny. ADother Doria, like her first, may yet arise to rally her scattered strength; to break the iron that eats into her soul; to send the malignant despot who rivets her chain, back to his petty isle; and, sustained by the shouting vigor of fraternal cities, to grapple with the force of Austrian interference, and with indignant energy hurl back the broken links of her fetters into the very teeth of that Moloch of despotism. May this day come; may these eyes see it; and Genoa, were not the proffer beneath thy pride, here are hearts and hands for thee! Strike for freedom and for self-respect; for the greatness lost, and the gifts that remain! Thousands mourn thy slumber, and the spirits of thy fathers speak to thee from the grave!