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To which I replied :
Delicati al par di 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 turbanwise, and a heron's feather; the neck wholly bare. Abate Bertola bade 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 ? ” of which I can give no better imitation than the following:
While turban'd head and plumage high
A Sultaness proclaims my Cloe;
The handkerchief you scorn — to throw ye.
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 : 66 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 :
“Ah ! s'è ver che Buffon cieco diventa,
Se alle pupille sue il di s'asconde ;
Natura alla fin gelosa confonde
Dame Nature now no more will yield;
Who all her mysteries reveal'd.
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.
Dedication (writer not specified). What a whimsical task, my dear friends, you impose To contribute a fine Dedication in prose! Our Piozzi, methinks, is much fitter for this, For she writes the Preface, and can't write amiss. But my thoughts neither beautiful are nor sublime, So I wrap them in metre, and tag them with rhime, Like theatrical dresses, if tinseld enough, The tinsel one stares at, nor thinks of the stuff. We mean not our book for the public inspection, Then why should we court e'en a Monarch's protection? For too oft the good Prince such a critic of lays is, He scarcely knows how to peruse his own praises. Ourselves and our friends we for Patrons will chuse, No others will read us, and these will excuse.
Preface, by Mrs. Piozzi.* PREFACES to Books, like Prologues to Plays, will seldom be found to invite Readers, and still less often to convey importance. Excuses for mean Performances add only the baseness of submission to poverty of sentiment, and take from insipidity the praise of being inoffensive. We do not however by this little address mean to deprecate
* The Preface praised by Walpole. See Vol. I. p. 271.
public Criticism, or solicit Regard; why we wrote the verses may be easily explain'd, we wrote them to divert ourselves, and to say kind things of each other; we collected them that our reciprocal expressions of kindness might not be lost, and we printed them because we had no reason to be ashamed of our mutual partiality.
Portrait Painting, though unadorn'd by allegorical allusions and unsupported by recollection of events or places, will be esteem'd for ever as one of the most durable methods to keep Tenderness alive and preserve Friendship from decay: nor do I observe that the room here where Artists of many Ages have contributed their own likenesses to the Royal Gallery is less frequented than that which contains the statue of a slave and the picture of a Sibyl. Our little Book can scarcely be less important to Readers of a distant Age or Nation than we ourselves are ready to acknowledge it: the waters of a mineral spring which sparkle in the glass, and exhilarate the spirits of those who drink them on the spot, grow vapid and tasteless by carriage and keeping; and though we have perhaps transgress'd the Persian Rule of sitting silent till we could find something important or instructive to say, we shall at least be allow'd to have glisten'd innocently in Italian Sunshine, and to have imbibed from it's rays the warmth of mutual Benevolence, though we may have miss'd the hardness and polish that some coarser Metal might have obtain'd by heat of equal force. I will not however lengthen out
I my Preface; if the Book is but a feather, tying a stone to it can be no good policy, though it were a precious
one; the lighter body would not make the heavy one swim, but the heavy body would inevitably make the light one sink.
During her stay in Italy (writes Sir J. Fellowes) in this delightful society, upon the banks of the Arno, which was duly enlivened by brilliant wit and classic taste, the conversation often turned upon more serious subjects, and one day it was proposed to write an impromptu upon the fatal monosyllable now, the present moment passing away even before the word is written that explains it. This pretty quatrain was produced by Della Crusca Merry, who had been asserting that all past actions are nihilitic, and that the immediate moment was the whole of human existence : 66 One endless Now stands o'er th' eventful stream Of all that may be with colossal stride; And sees beneath life's proudest pageants gleam, And sees beneath the wrecks of empire glide.”
To this H. L. P. replied:'Tis yours the present moment to redeem, And powerful snatch from Time's too rapid stream; While self-impell’d, the rest redundant roll, Slumb'ring to stagnate in oblivion's pool.
ON A WEEPING WILLOW PLACED AGAINST THE SUNDIAL
AT BRYNBELLA, NOV. 28TH, 1802.
Near the recording stone;
And mourn the moments flown.