Page images

"O, most unhappy Dido !

Unlucky wife, and eke unhappy widow:
Unhappy in thy honest mate,

And in thy love unfortunate.” When Lady Bolingbroke led off the Crim. Çon. Dance, about thirty-five years ago, the town made a famous bustle concerning her ladyship's name, — Diana. She married Topham Beauclerc, and when her first husband died, some wag made these verses: —

" Ah! lovely, luckless Lady Di,

So oddly linked to either spouse,
Who can your Gordian knot untie ?

Or who dissolve your double vows ?

" And where will our amazement lead to,

When we survey your various life?
Whose living lord made you a widow,

Whose dead one leaves you still a wife.”

Can you endure any more nonsense about Dido ? “Make me (says a college tutor) some verses on the gerunds di, do, dum, as a punishment for the strange grammatical fault I found in your last composition.” “ Here they are, Sir” –

When Dido's spouse to Dido would not come,

Then Dido wept in silence, and was Dido dumb. Will it amuse you to read some of the unmerited praises I picked up in this charming society ? When we all stood round the pianoeforte, and I felt encouraged to reply to Bertola's complimentary verses, which were certainly improvised; when he sung :<

“ Esser mi saran fatali

Cento rivali e cento;
Ma più che i miei rivali

La tua virtú pavento.
“ Non in sen d' angliche mura

I tuoi be’ lumi al dì se schiuse ;
Tu nascesti, de un dio me lo giura,

Ove nacquero le Muse."

To which I replied:

Delicati al par che forti

Son li versi di Bertola;
Dolce suon che mi consola

Mentre lui cantando và;

Ma tentando d'imitarli

S'io m'ingegno, – oh, Dio! invano;
Dall' inusitata mano,

Il plettrino cascherà.

We were in a large company last night, where a beautiful woman of quality came in dressed according to the present taste, with a gauze head-dress, adjusted turban-wise, and a heron's feather; the neck wholly bare. Abate Bertola bid me look at her, and, recollecting himself a moment, made this epigram improviso:

Volto e crin hai di Sultana,

Perchè mai mi vien disdetto,
Sodducente Mussulmana

Di gittarti il fazzoletto ?
of which I can give no better imitation than the following: -

While turbaned head and plumage high

A Sultaness proclaims my Cloe;
Thus tempted, though no Turk, I'll try

The handkerchief you scorn — to throw ye.

[ocr errors]

This is however a weak specimen of his powers, whose charming fables have so completely, in my mind, surpassed all that has ever been written in that way since La Fontaine. I am strongly tempted to give one little story, and translate it too :

Una lucertoletta
Diceva al cocodrillo,
Oh quanto mi diletta
Di veder finalmente
Un della mia famiglia
Si grande e si potente !
Ho fatto mille miglia
Per venirvi a vedere,

Mentre tra noi si serba
Di voi memoria viva ;
Benche fuggiam tra l'erba
E il sassoso sentiero :
In sen però non langue
L'onor del prisco sangue.

L'anfibio rè dormiva
A questi complimenti,
Pur sugli ultimi accenti
Dal sonno se riscosse
E dimandò chi fosse ?
La parentela antica,
Il viaggio, la fatica,
Quella torno a dire,
Ed ei torne a dormire.
Lascia i grandi ed i potenti,
A sognar per parenti ;
Puoi cortesi stimarli
Se dormon mentre parli.

Walking full many a weary mile,
The lizard met the crocodile,
And thus began : “How fat, how fair,
How finely guarded, sir, you are!
'Tis really charming thus to see
One's kindred in prosperity;
I've travelled far to find your coast,
But sure the labor was not lost,
For you must think we don't forget
Our loving cousin, now so great,
And though our humble habitations
Are such as suit our slender stations,
The honor of the lizard blood
Was never better understood.”

Th’ amphibious prince, who slept content,
Ne'er listening to her compliment,
At this expression raised his head,
And, “Pray who are you ?” coolly said.
The little creature now renewed
Her history of toils subdued,

[merged small][ocr errors]

Here, then, are Abate Ravasi’s verses, — which he called his

Ah! non resiste il cuore

A vedermi lasciar,

Io sento a palpitar
Ei manca, ei muore.
E in mezzo a tal dolore

Co' tronchi accenti,

Co’ flebili lamenti,
Altro non sa dir l' animo mio,
Ch'addio, gran donna! eccelsa, donna, addio !

[ocr errors]

Ne' viaggi tuoi rammentati

D'un fido servidor;
Nell'Inghilterra ancor,
Non ti scordar di me.
Ch' io, dovunque vado,
Sempre verràmmi in mente,
Che donna si eccellente

Non trovasi di te.
Conservami l'amico

L'amato tuo consorte,
Dilli che anche la morte
Potrà violar mia fè.


WHILE we were daily receiving some tender adieux from our Milanese friends, the famous Buffon died, and changed the conversation. He was blind a few days before his death, and occasioned this epigram:

“Ah! s'il est vrai que Buffon perd les yeux,

Que le jour se refuse au foyer des lumières :
La nature à la fin punit les curieux,

Qui pénétroient tous ses mystères.”

The Abate Bossi translated it thus :

6 Ah! s'è ver che Buffon cieco diventa,

Se alle pupille sue il dì s'asconde;
Natura alla fin gelosa confonde
Chi entro gl' arcani suoi penetrar tenta.”

Buffon's bright eyes at length grow dim,

Dame Nature now no more will yield; .
Or longer lend her light to him

Who all her mysteries revealed.

This last of course was done by your own little friend, who was careful to preserve a power over her own language, although beginning almost to think in Italian, by such constant use.

« PreviousContinue »