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"O, most unhappy Dido !
Unlucky wife, and eke unhappy widow:
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,
Or who dissolve your double vows ?
" And where will our amazement lead to,
When we survey your various life?
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;
La tua virtú pavento.
I tuoi be’ lumi al dì se schiuse ;
Ove nacquero le Muse."
To which I replied:
Delicati al par che forti
Son li versi di Bertola;
Mentre lui cantando và;
Ma tentando d'imitarli
S'io m'ingegno, – oh, Dio! invano;
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,
Di gittarti il fazzoletto ?
While turbaned head and plumage high
A Sultaness proclaims my Cloe;
The handkerchief you scorn — to throw ye.
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 :
Mentre tra noi si serba
L'anfibio rè dormiva
Walking full many a weary mile,
Th’ amphibious prince, who slept content,
Here, then, are Abate Ravasi’s verses, — which he called his
A vedermi lasciar,
Io sento a palpitar
Co' tronchi accenti,
Co’ flebili lamenti,
D'un fido servidor;
Non trovasi di te.
L'amato tuo consorte,
VERSES ON BUFFON.
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 :
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;
Buffon's bright eyes at length grow dim,
Dame Nature now no more will yield; .
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.