Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription

Document Title: The Crayon, Volume 5
Author: Stillman and Durand (publisher)
Date of publication: 1858
Publisher: Stillman & Durand
Printer: W. H. Tinson
Volume: 5

The full Rossetti Archive record for this transcribed document is available.

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To the Editor of the Crayon:
The following three poems appeared some months ago in an

English Magazine, which was published for a year, never

reaching a large circulation, and which is now extinct. It con-

tained the writings of some of those younger men who will win

fame for themselves, if they live, and who, if they die before fame

comes to them, will have had what is better than fame. These

poems show such power of expression, such depth of sentiment,

such force of imagination, as are rarely found in modern verse.

They were written by one of the leaders of the Pre-Raphaelite

school in painting, and they are an interesting illustration of the

imaginative tendencies, and of the tone, the thought and feeling

which pervade that school.
[ The Burden of Nineveh, herewith printed, is the first of the

series. The remaining poems referred to by our correspondent

are entitled The Blessed Damozel, and The Staff and Scrip.

The length of these poems compels separate publication; the

former, therefore, will appear in the next issue of our magazine,

and the latter in the number for June.]

Burden. Heavy calamity; the chorus of a song.”— Dictionary.

  • I HAVE no taste for polyglot:
  • At the Museum 'twas my lot,
  • Just once, to jot and blot and rot
  • In Babel for I know not what.
  • I went at two, I left at three.
  • Round those still floors I tramped, to win
  • By the great porch the dirt and din;
  • And as I made the last door spin
  • And issued, they were hoisting in
  • 10 A wingéd beast from Nineveh.
  • A human face the creature wore,
  • And hoofs behind and hoofs before,
  • And flanks with dark runes fretted o'er.
  • 'Twas bull, 'twas mitred minotaur;
  • A dead disbowell'd mystery;
  • The mummy of a buried faith,
  • Stark from the charnel without scathe,
  • Its wings stood for the light to bathe,—
  • Such fossil cerements as might swathe
  • 20 The very corpse of Nineveh.
  • The print of its first rush-matting
  • (Wound ere it dried) still ribbed the thing.
  • What song did the brown maidens sing,
  • From purple mouths alternating,
  • When that was woven languidly?
  • What vows, what rites, what prayers preferr'd,
  • What songs has the strange image heard?
  • In what blind vigil stood interr'd
  • For ages till an English word
  • 30 Broke silence first at Nineveh?
  • On London stones our sun anew
  • The beast's recover'd shadow threw.
  • (No shade that plague of darkness knew,
  • No light, no shade, while older grew
  • By ages the old earth and sea.)

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  • Oh! seem'd it not—that spell once broke,
  • As though the sculptured warriors woke,
  • As though the shaft the string forsook,
  • The cymbals clash'd, the chariots shook,
  • 40And there was life in Nineveh?
  • On London stones its shape lay scored.
  • That day when, nigh the gates, the Lord
  • Shelter'd His Jonah with a gourd,
  • This sun (I said) here present, pour'd
  • Even thus this shadow that I see.
  • This shadow has been shed the same
  • From sun and moon,—from lamps which came
  • For prayer—from fifteen days of flame,
  • The last, while smoulder'd to a name
  • 50Sardanapalus' Nineveh.
  • Within thy shadow, haply, once
  • Sennacherib has knelt, whose sons
  • Smote him between the altar-stones:
  • Or pale Semiramis her zones
  • Of gold, her incense brought to thee,
  • In love for grace, in war for aid; . . . .
  • Ay, and who else? . . . . till 'neath thy shade
  • Within his trenches newly made
  • Last year the Christian knelt and pray'd—
  • 60Not to thy strength—in Nineveh.
  • Now, thou poor god, within this hall
  • Where the blank windows blind the wall
  • From pedestal to pedestal,
  • The kind of light shall on thee fall
  • Which London takes the day to be.
  • Here cold-pinch'd clerks on yellow days
  • Shall stop and peer; and in sun-haze
  • Small clergy crimp their eyes to gaze;
  • And misses titter in their stays,
  • 70 Just fresh from “Layard's Nineveh.”
  • Here, while the Antique-students lunch,
  • Shall Art be slang'd o'er cheese and hunch,
  • Whether the great R.A.'s a bunch
  • Of gods or dogs, and whether Punch
  • Is right about the P. R. B.
  • Here school-foundations in the act
  • Of holiday, three files compact,
  • Shall learn to view thee as a fact
  • Connected with that zealous tract,
  • 80“Rome: Babylon and Nineveh.”
  • Deem'd they of this, those worshippers,
  • When, in some mythic chain of verse,
  • Which man shall not again rehearse,
  • The faces of thy ministers
  • Yearn'd pale with bitter ecstasy?
  • Greece, Egypt, Rome,—did any god
  • Before whose feet men knelt unshod,
  • Deem that in this unblest abode
  • An elder, scarce more unknown god
  • 90Should house with him from Nineveh?
  • Ah! in what quarries lay the stone
  • From which this pigmy pile has grown,
  • Unto man's need how long unknown,
  • Since thy vast temple, court and cone,
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  • Rose far in desert history?
  • Ah! what is here that does not lie
  • All strange to thine awaken'd eye?
  • Ah! what is here can testify,
  • (Save that dumb presence of the sky)
  • 100 Unto thy day and Nineveh?
  • Why, of those mummies in the room
  • Above, there might indeed have come
  • One out of Egypt to thy home,
  • A pilgrim. Nay, but even to some
  • Of these thou wert antiquity!
  • And now, they and their gods and thou,
  • All relics here together,—now
  • Whose profit? Whether bull or cow,
  • Isis or Ibis, who or how,
  • 110 Whether of Thebes or Nineveh?
  • The consecrated metals found,
  • And ivory tablets, underground,—
  • Wing'd teraphim and creatures crown'd,—
  • When air and daylight fill'd the mound,
  • Fell into dust immediately.
  • And even as these, the images
  • Of awe and worship,—even as these,—
  • So, smitten with the sun's increase,
  • Her glory moulder'd and did cease
  • 120 From immemorial Nineveh.
  • The day her builders made their halt,
  • Those cities of the lake of salt
  • Stood firmly stablish'd without fault,
  • Made proud with pillars of basalt,
  • With sardonyx and porphyry.
  • The day that Jonah bore abroad
  • To Nineveh the voice of God,
  • Beside a brackish lake he trod
  • Where erst Pride fix'd her sure abode,
  • 130 As then in royal Nineveh.
  • The day when he, Pride's lord and Man's,
  • Show'd all earth's kingdoms at a glance
  • To Him before whose countenance
  • The years recede, the years advance,
  • And said, Fall down and worship me;
  • 'Mid all the pomp beneath that look,
  • Then stirr'd there, haply, some rebuke,
  • Where to the wind the salt pools shook,
  • And in those tracts, of life forsook,
  • 140 That knew thee not, O Nineveh!
  • Delicate harlot,—eldest grown
  • Of earthly queens! thou on thy throne
  • In state for ages sat'st alone;
  • And need were years and lustres flown
  • Ere strength of man could vanquish thee:
  • Whom even thy victor foes must bring
  • Still royal, among maids that sing
  • As with doves' voices, taboring
  • Upon their breasts, unto the King,—
  • 150 A kingly conquest, Nineveh!

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  • . . . . Here woke my thought. The wind's slow sway
  • Had waxed; and like the human play
  • Of scorn that smiling spreads away,
  • The sunshine shiver'd off the day:
  • The callous wind, it seem'd to me,
  • Swept up the shadow from the ground:
  • And pale, as whom the Fates astound,
  • The god forlorn stood wing'd and crown'd;
  • Within I knew the cry lay bound
  • 160 Of the dumb soul of Nineveh.
  • Then waking up, I turn'd, because
  • That day my spirits might not pause
  • O'er any dead thing's doleful laws;
  • That day all hope with glad applause
  • Through miles of London beckon'd me:
  • And all the wealth of life's free choice,
  • Love's ardor, friendship's equipoise,
  • And Ellen's gaze and Philip's voice,
  • And all that evening's certain joys,
  • 170Struck pale my dream of Nineveh.
  • Yet while I walk'd, my sense half shut
  • Still saw the crowds of kerb and rut
  • Go past as marshall'd to the strut
  • Of ranks in gypsum quaintly cut:
  • It seem'd in one same pageantry
  • They follow'd forms which had been erst;
  • To pass, till on my sight should burst
  • That future of the best or worst
  • When some may question which was first,
  • 180 Of London or of Nineveh.
  • For as that Bull-god once did stand,
  • And watch'd the burial-clouds of sand,
  • Till these at last without a hand
  • Rose o'er his eyes, another land,
  • And blinded him with destiny:
  • So may he stand again; till now,
  • In ships of unknown sail and prow,
  • Some tribe of the Australian plough
  • Bear him afar, a relic now
  • 190Of London, not of Niveveh.
  • Or it may chance indeed that then
  • Man's age is hoary among men,
  • His centuries threescore and ten,—
  • His furthest childhood shall seem then
  • More clear than later times may be:
  • Who, finding in this desert place
  • This form, shall hold us for some race
  • That walk'd not in Christ's lowly ways,
  • But bow'd its pride and vow'd its praise
  • 200Unto the god of Nineveh.
  • The smile rose first,—anon drew nigh
  • The thought:. . . . Those heavy wings spread high
  • So sure of flight, which do not fly;
  • That set gaze never on the sky;
  • Those scriptured flanks it cannot see;
  • Its crown, a brow-contracting load;
  • Its planted feet which trust the sod: . . . .
  • (So grew the image as I trod)
  • O, Nineveh, was this thy God,
  • 210 Thine also, mighty Nineveh?
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  • The blessed Damozel lean'd out
  • From the gold bar of Heaven;
  • Her eyes knew more of rest and shade
  • Than waters still'd at even;
  • She had three lilies in her hand,
  • And the stars in her hair were seven.
  • Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,
  • No wrought flowers did adorn,
  • But a white rose of Mary's gift,
  • 10 For service meetly worn;
  • And her hair lying down her back
  • Was yellow like ripe corn.
  • Her seem'd she scarce had been a day
  • One of God's choristers;
  • The wonder was not yet quite gone
  • From that still look of hers;
  • Albeit, to them she left, the day
  • Had counted as ten years.
  • (To one, it is ten years of years.
  • 20 . . . . . . . Yet now, and in this place,
  • Surely she lean'd o'er me—her hair
  • Fell all about my face . . . . . . . .
  • Nothing: the autumn fall of leaves.
  • The whole year sets apace.)
  • It was the rampart of God's house
  • That she was standing on;
  • By God built over the sheer depth
  • The which is Space begun;
  • So high, that looking downward thence
  • 30 She scarce could see the sun.
  • It lies in Heaven, across the flood
  • Of ether, as a bridge.
  • Beneath the tides of day and night
  • With flame and blackness ridge
  • The void, as low as where this earth
  • Spins like a fretful midge.
  • She scarcely heard her sweet new friends:
  • Playing at holy games,
  • Softly they spake among themselves
  • 40 Their virginal chaste names;
  • And the souls, mounting up to God,
  • Went by her like thin flames.
  • And still she bow'd above the vast
  • Waste sea of worlds that swarm;
  • Until her bosom must have made
  • The bar she lean'd on warm,
  • And the lilies lay as if asleep
  • Along her bended arm.
  • From the fix'd place of Heaven, she saw
  • 50 Time like a pulse shake fierce
  • Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove
  • Within the gulf to pierce
  • Its path: and now she spoke, as when
  • The stars sang in their spheres.
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  • The sun was gone now. The curl'd moon
  • Was like a little feather
  • Fluttering far down the gulf. And now
  • She spoke through the still weather.
  • Her voice was like the voice the stars
  • 60 Had when they sang together.
  • “I wish that he were come to me,
  • For he will come,” she said.
  • “Have I not pray'd in Heaven?—on earth,
  • Lord, Lord, has he not prayed?
  • Are not two prayers a perfect strength?
  • And shall I feel afraid?
  • “When round his head the aureole clings,
  • And he is clothed in white,
  • I'll take his hand and go with him
  • 70 To the deep wells of light,
  • And we will step down as to a stream,
  • And bathe there in God's sight.
  • “We two will stand beside that shrine,
  • Occult, withheld, untrod,
  • Whose lamps are stirr'd continually
  • With prayers sent up to God;
  • And see our old prayers, granted, melt
  • Each like a little cloud.
  • “We two will lie i' the shadow of
  • 80 That living mystic tree,
  • Within whose secret growth the Dove
  • Is sometimes felt to be,
  • While every leaf that His plumes touch
  • Saith His Name audibly.
  • “And I myself will teach to him,
  • I myself, lying so,
  • The songs I sing here; which his voice
  • Shall pause in, hush'd and slow,
  • And find some knowledge at each pause,
  • 90 Or some new thing to know.”
  • (Ah sweet! Just now, in that bird's song,
  • Strove not her accents there
  • Fain to be hearken'd? When those bells
  • Possess'd the midday air,
  • Was she not stepping to my side
  • Down all the trembling stair?)
  • “We two,” she said, “will seek the groves
  • Where the Lady Mary is,
  • With her five handmaidens, whose names
  • 100 Are five sweet symphonies,
  • Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,
  • Margaret, and Rosalys.
  • “Circlewise sit they, with bound locks
  • And foreheads garlanded;
  • Into the fine cloth white like flame
  • Weaving the golden thread,
  • To fashion the birth-robes for them
  • Who are just born, being dead.

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  • “He shall fear, haply, and be dumb;
  • 110 Then I will lay my cheek
  • To his, and tell about our love,
  • Not once abash'd or weak:
  • And the dear Mother will approve
  • My pride, and let me speak.
  • “Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,
  • To Him round whom all souls
  • Kneel, the unnumbered ransom'd heads
  • Bow'd with their aureoles:
  • And angels meeting us shall sing
  • 120 To their citherns and citoles.
  • “There will I ask of Christ the Lord
  • Thus much for him and me:—
  • Only to live as once on earth
  • At peace—only to be
  • As then awhile, for ever now
  • Together, I and he.”
  • She gazed, and listen'd, and then said,
  • Less sad of speech than mild,
  • “All this is when he comes.” She ceased.
  • 130 The light thrill'd past her, filled
  • With angels in strong level lapse.
  • Her eyes pray'd, and she smil'd.
  • (I saw her smile.) But soon their flight
  • Was vague in distant spheres;
  • And then she laid her arms along
  • The golden barriers,
  • And laid her face between her hands,
  • And wept. (I heard her tears.)

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“How should I your true love know

From another one?

By his cockle-hat and staff

And his sandal-shoon.”

  • “WHO owns these lands?” the Pilgrim said.
  • “Stranger, Queen Blanchelys.”
  • “And who has thus harried them?” he said.
  • “It was Duke Luke did this:
  • God's ban be his!”
  • The Pilgrim said: “Where is your house?
  • I'll rest there, with your will.”
  • “Ye've but to climb these blacken'd boughs,
  • And ye'll see it over the hill,
  • 10 For it burns still.”
  • “Which road, to seek your Queen?” said he.
  • “Nay, nay, but with some wound
  • Thou'lt fly back hither, it may be,
  • And by thy blood i' the ground
  • My place be found.”
  • “Friend, stay in peace. God keep thy head,
  • And mine, where I will go;
  • For He is here and there;” he said.
  • He pass'd the hillside slow,
  • 20 And stood below.
  • The Queen sat idle by her loom.
  • She heard the arras stir,
  • And look'd up sadly. Through the room
  • The sweetness sicken'd her
  • Of musk and myrrh.
  • Her women, standing two and two,
  • In silence comb'd the fleece.
  • The Pilgrim said, “Peace be with you,
  • Lady;” and bent his knees.
  • 30 She answered, “Peace.”
  • Her eyes were like the wave within;
  • Like water-reeds the poise
  • Of her soft body, dainty thin;
  • And like the water's noise
  • Her plaintive voice.
  • For him, the stream had never well'd
  • In desert tracts malign
  • So sweet; nor had he ever felt
  • So faint in the sunshine
  • 40 Of Palestine.
  • Right so, he knew that he saw weep,
  • Each night throughout some dream,
  • The Queen's own face, confused in sleep
  • With visages supreme
  • Not known to him.
  • “Lady,” he said, “your lands lie burnt
  • And waste. To meet your foe
  • All fear. This I have seen and learnt.
  • Say that it shall be so,
  • 50 And I will go.”

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  • She gazed at him. “Your cause is just,
  • For I have heard the same:”
  • He said: “God's strength shall be my trust.
  • Fall it to good or grame,
  • 'Tis in His Name.”
  • “Sir, you are thank'd. My cause is dead.
  • Why should you toil to break
  • A grave, and fall therein?” she said.
  • He did not pause but spake:
  • 60 “For my vow's sake.”
  • “Can such vows be, Sir—to God's ear,
  • Not to God's will?” “My vow
  • Remains. God heard me there as here,”
  • He said with reverent bow,
  • “Both then and now.”
  • They gazed together, he and she,
  • The minute while they spoke;
  • And when he ceased, she suddenly
  • Look'd round upon her folk
  • 70 As though she woke.
  • “Fight, Sir,” she said, “my prayers in pain
  • Shall be your fellowship.”
  • He whisper'd one among her train,
  • “To-night Thou'lt bid her keep
  • This staff and scrip.”
  • She sent him a sharp sword, whose belt
  • About his body there
  • As sweet as her own arms he felt.
  • He kiss'd its blade, all bare,
  • 80 Instead of her.
  • She sent him a green banner wrought
  • With one white lily stem,
  • To bind his lance with when he fought.
  • He writ beneath the same
  • And kiss'd her name.
  • She sent him a white shield, whereon
  • She bade that he should trace
  • His will. He blent fair hues that shone,
  • And in a golden space
  • 90 He kissed her face.
  • So, arming, through his soul there pass'd
  • Thoughts of all depth and height:
  • But more than other things at last
  • Seem'd to the armed knight
  • The joy to fight.
  • The skies, by sunset all unseal'd,
  • Long lands he never knew,
  • Beyond to-morrow's battle-field
  • Lay open out of view
  • 100To ride into.
  • Next day till dark the women pray'd:
  • Nor any might know there
  • How the fight went. The Queen has bade
  • That there do come to her
  • No messenger.
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  • Weak now to them the voice o' the priest
  • As any trance affords;
  • And when each anthem fail'd and ceased,
  • It seem'd that the last chords
  • 110 Still sang the words.
  • “Oh, what is the light that shines so red?
  • 'Tis long since the sun set:”
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid:
  • “'Twas dim but now, and yet
  • The light is great.”
  • Quoth the other: “'Tis our sight is dazed
  • That we see flame i' the air.”
  • But the Queen held her eyes and gazed,
  • And said, “It is the glare
  • 120 Of torches there.”
  • “Oh what are the sounds that rise and spread?
  • All day it was so still;”
  • Quoth the youngest to the eldest maid;
  • “Unto the furthest hill
  • The air they fill.”
  • Quoth the other: “'Tis our sense is blurr'd
  • With all the chaunts gone by.”
  • But the Queen held her brows and heard,
  • And said, “It is the cry
  • 130 Of Victory.”
  • The first of all the rout was sound,
  • The next were dust and flame,
  • And then the horses shook the ground:
  • And in the thick of them
  • A still band came.
  • “Oh, what do ye bring out of the fight,
  • Thus hid beneath these boughs?”
  • “One that shall be thy guest to-night,
  • And yet shall not carouse,
  • 140 Queen, in thy house.”
  • “Uncover ye his face,” she said.
  • “Oh, changed in little space!”
  • She cried, “Oh, pale that was so red!
  • O God, O God of grace!
  • Cover his face.”
  • His sword was broken in his hand
  • Where he had kiss'd the blade.
  • “Oh, soft steel that could not withstand!
  • Oh, harder heart unstay'd,
  • 150 That pray'd and pray'd!”
  • His bloodied banner cross'd his mouth
  • Where he had kissed her name.
  • “O East, and West, and North, and South.
  • Fair flew these folds, for shame,
  • To guide Death's aim!”
  • The tints were shredded from his shield
  • Where he had kiss'd her face.
  • “Oh, of all gifts that I could yield,
  • Death only keeps its place,
  • 160 My gift and grace!”

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  • Then stepp'd a damsel to her side,
  • And spake, and needs must weep;
  • “For his sake, Lady, if he died
  • He pray'd of thee to keep
  • This staff and scrip.”
  • That night they hung above her bed
  • Till morning, wet with tears.
  • Year after year above her head
  • Her bed his token wears,
  • 170 Five years, ten years.
  • That night the passion of her grief
  • Shook them as there they hung.
  • Each year the wind that shed the leaf
  • Shook them, and in its tongue
  • A message flung.
  • And she would wake with a clear mind
  • That letters writ to calm
  • Her soul lay in the scrip; and find
  • Pink shells, a torpid balm,
  • 180 And dust of palm.
  • They shook far off with palace sport
  • When joust and dance were rife;
  • And the hunt shook them from the court;
  • For hers, in peace or strife,
  • Was a Queen's life.
  • A Queen's death now: as now they shake
  • To chaunts in chapel dim;
  • Hung where she sleeps, not seen to wake,
  • (Carved lovely white and slim),
  • 190 With them, by him.
  • Stand up to-day, still arm'd, with her,
  • Good knight, before His brow
  • Who then as now was here and there.
  • Who had in mind thy vow
  • Then even as now.
  • The lists are set in Heaven to-day,
  • The bright pavilions shine;
  • Fair hangs thy shield, and none gainsay;
  • The trumpets sound in sign
  • 200 That she is thine.
  • Not tithed with days' and years' decease
  • He pays thy wage He owed,
  • But in light stalls of golden peace,
  • Here in his own abode,
  • Thy jealous God.

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  • “Rivolsimi in quel lato
  • Là 'nde venia la voce,
  • E parvemi una luce
  • Che lucea quanto stella:
  • La mia mente ere quella.”
Bonaggiunta Urbiciani (1250.)
Before any knowledge of painting was brought to

Florence, there were already painters in Lucca, and Pisa,

and Arezzo, who feared God and loved the art. The keen,

grave workmen from Greece, whose trade it was to sell

their own works in Italy and teach Italians to imitate

them, had already found in rivals of the soil a skill that

could forestall their lessons and cheapen their crucifixes

and addolorate, more years than is supposed before the art

came at all into Florence. The preëminence to which

Cimabue was raised at once by his contemporaries, and

which he still retains to a wide extent even in the modern

mind, is to be accounted for, partly by the circumstances

under which he arose, and partly by that extraordinary

purpose of fortune born with the lives of some few, and

through which it is not a little thing for any who went before,

if they are even remembered as the shadows of the coming of

such an one, and the voices which prepared his way in the wil-

derness. It is thus, almost exclusively, that the painters

of whom I speak are now known. They have left little,

and but little heed is taken of that which men hold to

have been surpassed; it is gone like time gone—a track

of dust and dead leaves that merely led to the fountain.
Nevertheless, of very late years, and in very rare in-

stances, some signs of a better understanding have become

manifest. A case in point is that of the tryptic and two

cruciform pictures at Dresden, by Chiaro di Messer Bello

dell' Erma, to which the eloquent pamphlet of Dr. Aemms-

ter has at length succeeded in attracting the students.

There is another still more solemn and beautiful work now

proved to be by the same hand, in the gallery at Florence.

It is the one to which my narrative will relate.

This Chiaro dell' Erma was a young man of very honor-

able family in Arezzo; where, conceiving art almost, as it

were, for himself, and loving it deeply, he endeavored from

early boyhood towards the imitation of any objects offered

in nature. The extreme longing after a visible embodiment

of his thoughts strengthened as his years increased, more

even than his sinews or the blood of his life; until he

would feel faint in sunsets and at the sight of stately per-

sons. When he had lived nineteen years, he heard of the

famous Giunta Pisano; and, feeling much of admiration,

with, perhaps, a little of that envy which youth always

feels until it has learned to measure success by time and

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opportunity, he determined that he would seek out Giunta,

and, if possible, become his pupil.
Having arrived in Pisa, he clothed himself in humble

apparel, being unwilling that any other thing than the de-

sire he had for knowledge should be his plea with the great

painter; and then, leaving his baggage at a house of enter-

tainment, he took his way along the street, asking whom

he met for the lodgings of Giunta. It soon chanced that

one of that city, conceiving him to be a stranger and poor,

took him into his house, and refreshed him; afterwards

directing him on his way.
When he was brought to speech of Giunta, he said

merely that he was a student, and that nothing in the

world was so much at his heart as to become that which he

had heard told of him with whom he was speaking. He

was received with courtesy and consideration, and shown

into the study of the famous artist. But the forms he saw

there were lifeless and incomplete; and a sudden exultation

possessed him, as he said within himself, “I am the master

of this man.” The blood came at first into his face, but the

next moment he was quite pale and fell to trembling. He was

able, however, to conceal his emotion; speaking very little

to Giunta, but when he took his leave, thanking him

After this, Chiaro's first resolve was, that he would work

out thoroughly some one of his thoughts, and let the world

know him. But the lesson which he had now learned, of

how small a greatness might win fame, and how little there

was to strive against, served to make him torpid, and ren-

dered his exertions less continual. Also Pisa was a larger

and more luxurious city than Arezzo; and, when in his

walks he saw the great gardens laid out for pleasure, and

the beautiful women who passed to and fro, and heard the

music that was in the groves of the city at evening, he was

taken with wonder that he had never claimed his share of

the inheritance of those years in which his youth was cast.

And women loved Chiaro; for, in despite of the burden of

study, he was well-favored and very manly in his walking;

and, seeing his face in front, there was a glory upon it, as

upon the face of one who feels a light round his hair.
So he put thought from him, and partook of his life.

But one night, being in a certain company of ladies, a gentle-

man that was there with him began to speak of the paintings

of a certain youth named Bonaventura, which he had seen

in Lucca; adding that Giunta Pisano might now look for

a rival. When Chiaro heard this, the lamps shook before

him, and the music beat in his ears and made him giddy.

He rose up, alleging a sudden sickness, and went out of

that house with his teeth set. And the same night he

wrote up inside his door the name of Bonaventura, that it

might stop him when he would go out.
He now took to work diligently; not returning to Arezzo,
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but remaining in Pisa, that no day more might be lost;

only living entirely to himself. Sometimes, after nightfall,

he would walk abroad in the most solitary places he could

find; hardly feeling the ground under him, because of the

thoughts of the day which held him in fever.
The lodging he had chosen was in a house that looked

upon gardens fast by the Church of San Rocco. During

the offices, as he sat at work, he could hear the music of the

organ and the long murmur that the chanting left; and if

his window were open, sometimes, at those parts of the

mass where there is a silence throughout the church, his ear

caught faintly the single voice of the priest. Beside the

matters of his art and a very few books, almost the only ob-

ject to be noticed in Chiaro's room was a small consecrated

image of St. Mary Virgin, wrought out of silver, before

which stood always, in summer-time, a glass containing a

lily and a rose.
It was here, and at this time, that Chiaro painted the

Dresden pictures; as also, in all likelihood, the one—infe-

rior in merit, but certainly his—which is now at Munich.

For the most part, he was calm and regular in his manner

of study; though often he would remain at work through

the whole of a day, not resting once so long as the light

lasted; flushed, and with the hair from his face. Or, at

times, when he could not paint, he would sit for hours in

thought of all the greatness the world had known from of

old; until he was weak with yearning, like one who gazes

upon a path of stars.
He continued in this patient endeavor for about three

years, at the end of which his name was spoken throughout

all Tuscany. As his fame waxed, he began to be employed,

besides easel-pictures, upon paintings in fresco: but I be-

lieve that no traces remain to us of any of these latter.

He is said to have painted in the Duomo: and D'Agin-

court mentions having seen some portions of a fresco by

him which originally had its place above the high altar in

the Church of the Certosa; but which, at the time he saw it,

being very dilapidated, had been hewn out of the wall, and

was preserved in the stores of the convent. Before the

period of Dr. Aemmster's researches, however, it had been

entirely destroyed.
Chiaro was now famous. It was for the race of fame

that he had girded up his loins: and he had not paused

until fame was reached: yet now, in taking breath, he

found that the weight was still at his heart. The years

of his labor had fallen from him, and his life was still in its

first painful desire.
With all that Chiaro had done during these three years,

and even before, with the studies of his early youth, there

had always been a feeling of worship and service. It was

the peace-offering that he made to God and to his own soul

for the eager selfishness of his aim. There was earth, in-

deed, upon the hem of his raiment: but this was of the

heaven, heavenly. He had seasons when he could endure to

think of no other feature of his hope than this: and some-

times, in the ecstasy of prayer, it had even seemed to him to

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behold that day when his mistress—his mystical lady (now

hardly in her ninth year, but whose solemn smile at meet-

ing had already lighted on his soul like the dove of the

Trinity)—even she, his own gracious and holy Italian art—

with her virginal bosom, and her unfathomable eyes, and

the thread of sunlight round her brows— should pass,

through the sun that never sets, into the circle of the

shadow of the tree of life, and be seen of God, and found

good: and then it had seemed to him, that he, with many

who, since his coming, had joined the band of whom

he was one (for, in his dream, the body he had worn on

earth had been dead a hundred years), were permitted to

gather round the blessed maiden, and worship with her

through all ages and ages of ages, saying, Holy, holy, holy.

This thing he had seen with the eyes of his spirit; and in

this thing had trusted, believing that it would surely come

to pass.
But now (being at length led to inquire closely into

himself), even as, in pursuit of fame, the unrest abiding

after attainment had proved to him that he had misinterpreted

the craving of his own spirit—so also, now that he would

willingly have fallen back on devotion, he became aware

that much of that reverence which he had mistaken for

faith had been no more than the worship of beauty. There-

fore, after certain days passed in perplexity, Chiaro said

within himself, “My life and my will are yet before me: I

will take another aim to my life.”
From that moment Chiaro set a watch on his soul, and

put his hand to no other works but only to such as had for

their end the presentment of some moral greatness that

should impress the beholder: and, in doing this, he did not

choose for his medium the action and passion of human life,

but cold symbolism and abstract impersonation. So the

people ceased to throng about his pictures as heretofore;

and, when they were carried through town and town to their

destination, they were no longer delayed by the crowds

eager to gaze and admire: and no prayers or offerings were

brought to them on their path, as to his Madonnas and his

Saints, and his Holy Children. Only the critical audience

remained to him; and these, in default of more worthy

matter, would have turned their scrutiny on a puppet or a

mantle. Meanwhile, he had no more of fever upon him;

but was calm and pale each day in all that he did and in

his goings in and out. The works he produced at this time

have perished—in all likelihood, not unjustly. It is said

(and we may easily believe it), that, though more labored

than his former pictures, they were cold and unemphatic;

bearing marked out upon them, as they must certainly have

done, the measure of that boundary to which they were

made to conform.
And the weight was still close to Chiaro's heart: but he

held in his breath, never resting (for he was afraid), and

would not know it.
Now it happened, within these days, that there fell a

great feast in Pisa, for holy matters: and each man left his

occupation; and all theguilds and companies of the city were
Image of page 275 page: 275
got together for games and rejoicings. And there were

scarcely any that stayed in the houses, except ladies who

lay or sat along their balconies between open windows

which let the breeze beat through the rooms and over the

spread tables from end to end. And the golden cloths that

their arms lay upon drew all eyes upward to see their

beauty; and the day was long; and every hour of the day

was bright with the sun.
So Chiaro's model, when he awoke that morning on the

hot pavement of the Piazza Nunziata, and saw the hurry

of people that passed him, got up and went along with

them; and Chiaro waited for him in vain.
For the whole of that morning, the music was in Chiaro's

room from the church close at hand: and he could hear

the sounds that the crowd made in the streets; hushed only

at long intervals while the processions for the feast-day

chanted in going under his windows. Also, more than

once, there was a high clamor from the meeting of factious

persons: for the ladies of both leagues were looking down;

and he who encountered his enemy could not choose but

draw upon him. Chiaro waited a long time idle; and then

knew that his model was gone elsewhere. When at his

work, he was blind and deaf to all else; but he feared

sloth; for then his stealthy thoughts would begin, as it

were, to beat round and round him, seeking a point for

attack. He now rose, therefore, and went to the window.

It was within a short space of noon; and underneath him

a throng of people was coming out through the porch of

San Rocco.
The two greatest houses of the feud in Pisa had filled the

church for that mass. The first to leave had been the

Gherghiotti; who, stopping on the threshold, had fallen

back in ranks along each side of the archway: so that now,

in passing outward, the Marotoli had to walk between two

files of men whom they hated, and whose fathers had hated

theirs. All the chiefs were there and their whole ad-

herence; and each knew the name of each. Every

man of the Marotoli, as he came forth and saw his foes,

laid back his hood and gazed about him, to show the

badge upon the close cap that held his hair. And of the

Gherghiotti there were some who tightened their girdles;

and some shrilled and threw up their wrists scornfully,

as who flies a falcon; for that was the crest of their house.
On the walls within the entry, were a number of tall,

narrow frescoes, presenting a moral allegory of Peace,

which Chiaro had painted that year for the church. The

Gherghiotti stood with their backs to these frescoes: and

among them Golzo Ninuccio, the youngest noble of the

faction called by the people Golaghiotta, for his debased

life. This youth had remained for some while talking list-

lessly to his fellows, though with his sleepy sunken eyes

fixed on them who passed: but now, seeing that no man

jostled another, he drew the long silver shoe off his foot,

and struck the dust out of it on the cloak of him who was

going by, asking him how far the tides rose at Viderza.

And he said so because it was three months since, at that

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place, the Gherghiotti had beaten the Marotoli to the

sands, and held them there while the sea came in; whereby

many had been drowned. And, when he had spoken, at

once the whole archway was dazzling with the light of con-

fused swords; and they who had left turned back; and

they who were still behind made haste to come forth: and

there was so much blood cast up the walls on a sudden,

that it ran in long streams down Chiaro's paintings.
Chiaro turned himself from the window; for the light

felt dry between his lids, and he could not look. He sat

down and heard the noise of contention driven out of the

church-porch and a great way through the streets; and

soon there was a deep murmur that heaved and waxed

from the other side of the city, where those of both parties

were gathering to join in the tumult.
Chiaro sat with his face in his open hands. Once again

he had wished to set his foot on a place that looked green

and fertile; and once again it seemed to him that the thin

rank mask was about to spread away, and that this time

the chill of the water must leave leprosy in his flesh. The

light still swam in his head, and bewildered him at first;

but when he knew his thoughts they were these:
“Fame failed me: faith failed me: and now this also,—

the hope that I nourished in this my generation of men,—

shall pass from me, and leave my feet and my hands gro-

ping. Yet, because of this, are my feet become slow and

my hands thin. I am as one who, through the whole

night, holding his way diligently, hath smitten the steel

unto the flint, to lead some whom he knew darkling; who

hath kept his eyes always on the sparks that himself made,

lest they should fail; and who, towards dawn, turning to

bid them that he had guided God speed, sees the wet grass

untrodden except of his own feet. I am as the last hour

of the day, whose chimes are a perfect number;whom the

next followeth not, nor light ensueth from him; but in the

same darkness is the old order begun afresh. Men say,

‘This is not God nor man; he is not as we are, neither

above us; let him sit beneath us, for we are many.’ Where

I write Peace, in that spot is the drawing of swords, and

there men's footprints are red. When I would sow, an-

other harvest is ripe. Nay, it is much worse with me than

thus much. Am I not as a cloth drawn before the light,

that the looker may not be blinded; but which sheweth

thereby the grain of its own coarseness; so that the light

seems defiled, and men say, ‘We will not walk by it.’

Wherefore through me they shall be doubly accursed, see-

ing that through me they reject the light. May one be a

devil, and not know it?”
As Chiaro was in these thoughts, the fever encroached

slowly on his veins, till he could sit no longer, and would

have risen; but suddenly he found awe within him, and

held his head bowed, without stirring. The warmth of the

air was not shaken; but there seemed a pulse in the light,

and a living freshness like rain. The silence was a painful

music, that made the blood ache in his temples; and he

lifted his face and his deep eyes.
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A woman was present in his room, clad to the hands and

feet with a green and grey raiment, fashioned to that time.

It seemed that the first thoughts he had ever known were

given him as at first from her eyes, and he knew her hair

to be the golden veil through which he beheld his dreams.

Though her hands were joined, her face was not lifted, but

set forward; and though the gaze was austere, yet her

mouth was supreme in gentleness. And as he looked,

Chiaro's spirit appeared abashed of its own intimate pre-

sence, and his lips shook with the thrill of tears; it

seemed such a bitter while till the spirit might be indeed

She did not move closer towards him, but he felt her to

be as much with him as his breath. He was like one who,

scaling a great steepness, hears his own voice echoed in

some place much higher than he can see, and the name of

which is not known to him. As the woman stood, her

speech was with Chiaro: not, as it were, from her mouth

or in his ears; but distinctly between them.
“I am an image, Chiaro, of thine own soul within thee.

See me, and know me as I am. Thou sayest that fame has

failed thee, and faith failed thee; but because at least thou

hast not laid thy life unto riches, therefore, though thus

late, I am suffered to come into thy knowledge. Fame

sufficed not, for that thou didst seek fame: seek thine own

conscience (not thy mind's conscience, but thine heart's),

and all shall approve and suffice. For Fame, in noble soils,

is a fruit of the Spring: but not therefore should it be

said: ‘Lo! my garden that I planted is barren; the

crocus is here, but the lily is dead in the dry ground, and

shall not lift the earth that covers it: therefore I will fling

my garden together, and give it unto the builders.’ Take

heed rather that thou trouble not the wise secret earth;

for in the mould that thou throwest up shall the first ten-

der growth lie to waste, which else had been made strong

in its season. Yea, and even if the year fall past in all its

months, and the soil be indeed to thee peevish and incapa-

ble, and though thou indeed gather all thy harvest, and it

suffice for others, and thou remain vext with emptiness;

and others drink of thy streams, and the drouth rasp thy

throat;—let it be enough that these have found the feast

good, and thanked the giver; remembering that, when the

winter is striven through, there is another year, whose wind

is meek, and whose sun fulfilleth all.”
While he heard, Chiaro went slowly on his knees. It

was not to her that spoke, for the speech seemed within

him and his own. The air brooded in sunshine, and though

the turmoil was great outside, the air within was at peace.

But when he looked in her eyes, he wept. And she came

to him, and cast her hair over him, and took her hands

about his forehead, and spoke again:
“Thou hast said,” she continued, gently, “that faith

failed thee. This cannot be so. Either thou hadst it

not, or thou hast it. But who bade thee strike the point

betwixt love and faith? Wouldst thou sift the warm

breeze from the sun that quickens it? Who bade thee

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turn upon God, and say: ‘Behold, my offering is of earth,

and not worthy: thy fire comes not upon it; therefore,

though I slay not my brother, whom thou acceptest, I will

depart before thou smite me.’ Why shouldst thou rise up

and tell God He is not content? Had He, of his warrant,

certified so to thee? Be not nice to seek out division;

but possess thy love in sufficiency: assuredly this is faith,

for the heart must believe first. What He hath set in

thine heart to do, that do thou; and even though thou do

it without thought of Him, it shall be well done; it is this

sacrifice that He asketh of thee, and His flame is upon it

for a sign. Think not of Him, but of His love and thy

love. For God is no morbid exactor; He hath no hand

to bow beneath, nor a foot, that thou shouldst kiss it.”
And Chiaro held silence, and wept into her hair which

covered his face; and the salt tears that he shed ran

through her hair upon his lips; and he tasted the bitter-

ness of shame.
Then the fair woman, that was his soul, spoke again to

him, saying:
“And for this thy last purpose, and for those unprofit-

able truths of thy teaching,—thine heart hath already put

them away, and it needs not that I lay my bidding upon

thee. How is it that thou, a man, wouldst say coldly to

the mind what God hath said to the heart warmly? Thy

will was honest and wholesome; but look well lest this

also be folly—to say, ‘I, in doing this, do strengthen God

among men.’ When, at any time, hath he cried unto thee,

saying, ‘My son, lend me thy shoulder, for I fall?’ Deemest

thou that the men who enter God's temple in malice, to the

provoking of blood, and neither for his love nor for his

wrath will abate their purpose,—shall afterwards stand with

thee in the porch, midway between Him and themselves, to

give ear unto thy thin voice, which merely the fall of their

visors can drown, and to see thy hands, stretched feebly,

tremble among their swords? Give thou to God no more

than he asketh of thee; but to man also that which is

man's. In all that thou doest, work from thine own heart,

simply; for his heart is as thine, when thine is wise and

humble; and he shall have understanding of thee. One

drop of rain is as another, and the sun's prism in all: and

shalt not thou be as he, whose lives are the breath of One?

Only by making thyself his equal can he learn to hold com-

munion with thee, and at last own thee above him. Not

till thou lean over the water shalt thou see thine image

therein: stand erect, and it shall slope from thy feet and

be lost. Know that there is but this means whereby thou

mayest serve God with man:—set thine hand and thy soul

to serve man with God.”
And when she that spoke had said these words within

Chiaro's spirit,she left his side quietly, and stood up as he

had first seen her, with her fingers laid together, and her

eyes stedfast, and with the breadth of her long dress cover-

ing her feet on the floor. And, speaking again, she said:
“Chiaro, servant of God, take now thine art unto thee,

and paint me thus, as I am, to know me: weak, as I am,
Image of page 277 page: 277
and in the weeds of this time; only with eyes which seek

out labor, and with a faith, not learned, yet jealous of

prayer. Do this; so shall thy soul stand before thee

always, and perplex thee no more.”
And Chiaro did as she bade him. While he worked, his

face grew solemn with knowledge; and before the shadows

had turned, his work was done. Having finished, he lay

back where he sat, and was asleep immediately; for the

growth of that strong sunset was heavy about him, and he

felt weak and haggard; like one just come out of a dusk,

hollow country, bewildered with echoes, where he had lost

himself, and who has not slept for many days and nights.

And when she saw him lie back, the beautiful woman came

to him, and sat at his head, gazing, and quieted his sleep

with her voice.
The tumult of the factions had endured all that day

through all Pisa, though Chiaro had not heard it; and the

last service of that feast was a mass sung at midnight from

the windows of all the churches for the many dead who lay

about the city, and who had to be buried before morning,

because of the extreme heats.

In the spring of 1847 I was at Florence. Such as were

there at the same time with myself—those, at least, to

whom Art is something— will certainly recollect how many

rooms of the Gallery were closed through that season, in

order that some of the pictures they contained might be

examined and repaired without the necessity of removal.

The hall, the staircases, and the vast central suite of apart-

ments, were the only accessible portions; and in these such

paintings as they could admit from the sealed penetralia

were profanely huddled together, without respect of dates,

schools, or persons.
I fear that, through this interdict, I may have missed

seeing many of the best pictures. I do not mean only the

most talked of, for these, as they were restored, generally

found their way somehow into the open rooms, owing to

the clamors raised by the students; and I remember how

old Ercoli's, the curator's, spectacles used to be mirrored in

the reclaimed surface, as he leaned mysteriously over these

works with some of the visitors, to scrutinize and eluci-

One picture that I saw that spring I shall not easily for-

get. It was among those, I believe, brought from the

other rooms, and had been hung, obviously out of all chro-

nology, immediately beneath that head by Raphael so long

known as the “Berrettino,” and now said to be the por-

trait of Cecco Ciulli.
The picture I speak of is a small one, and represents

merely the figure of a woman, clad to the hands and feet

with a green and grey raiment, chaste and early in its

fashion, but exceedingly simple. She is standing: her

hands are held together lightly, and her eyes set earnestly

The face and hands in this picture, though wrought with

great delicacy, have the appearance of being painted at

Column Break

once, in a single sitting; the drapery is unfinished. As

soon as I saw the figure, it drew an awe upon me like

water in shadow. I shall not attempt to describe it more

than I have already done: for the most absorbing wonder

of it was its literality. You knew that figure, when

painted, had been seen; yet it was not a thing to be seen

of men. This language will appear ridiculous to such as

have never looked on the work, and it may be even to some

among those who have. On examining it closely, I per-

ceived in one corner of the canvas the words Manus Ani-

mam pinxit,*
and the date 1239.
I turned to my catalogue, but that was useless, for the

pictures were all displaced. I then stepped up to the

Cavaliere Ercoli, who was in the room at the moment, and

asked him regarding the subject and authorship of the

painting. He treated the matter, I thought, somewhat

slightingly, and said that he could show me the reference

in the catalogue, which he had compiled. This, when

found, was not of much value, as it merely said, “Schizzo

d'autore incerto,”† adding the inscription.‡ I could willingly

have prolonged my inquiry, in the hope that it might some-

how lead to some result; but I had disturbed the curator

from certain yards of Guido, and he was not communica-

tive. I went back therefore, and stood before the picture

till it grew dusk.
The next day I was there again, but this time a circle of

students was round the spot, all copying the “Berrettino.”

I contrived, however, to find a place whence I could see my

picture, and where I seemed to be in nobody's way. For

some minutes I remained undisturbed; and then I heard,

in an English voice: “Might I beg of you, sir, to stand a

little more to this side, as you interrupt my view.”
I felt vext, for, standing where he asked me, a glare

struck on the picture from the windows, and I could

not see it. However, the request was reasonably made, and

from a countryman, so I complied, and turning away, stood

by his easel. I knew it was not worth while, yet I referred

in some way to the work underneath the one he was copy-

ing. He did not laugh, but he smiled as we do in Eng-

land: “ Veryodd, is it not?” said he.
The other students near us were all continental; and

seeing an Englishman select an Englishman to speak with,

conceived, I suppose, that he could understand no language

but his own. They had evidently been noticing the inte-

rest which the little picture appeared to excite in me.
One of them, an Italian, said something to another who

stood next to him. He spoke with a Genoese accent, and
Transcribed Footnote (page 277):

* The Hand painted the Soul.

Transcribed Footnote (page 277):

† Sketch by an unknown artist.

Transcribed Footnote (page 277):

‡ I should here say, that in the catalogue for the year just over,

(owing, as in cases before mentioned, to the zeal and enthusiasm of

Dr. Aemmster), this, and several other pictures, have been more com-

petently entered. The work in question is now placed in the Sala

—a room I did not see—under the number 161. It is

described as “Figura mistica di Chiaro dell' Erma,rdquo; [a mystical figure

by Chiaro dell' Erma] and there is a brief notice of the author ap-


Image of page 278 page: 278
Note: Typo: in the second footnote on page 278, "esembles" is printed rather than "resembles."
Note: Quotation is in slightly smaller font than body text
I lost the sense in the villainous dialect. “Che so?”* re-

plied the other, lifting his eyebrows towards the figure;

“roba mistica; 'st' Inglesi son matti sul misticismo: somi-

glia alle nebbie di lá. Li fa pensare alla patria,†
  • “‘E intenerisce il core
  • Lo dì ch' han detto ai dolci amici addio.’”‡
“La notte, vuoi dire,” § said a third.
There was a general laugh. My compatriot was evi-

dently a novice in the language, and did not take in what

was said. I remained silent, being amused.
“Et toi donc?” said he who had quoted Dante, turning

to a student, whose birthplace was unmistakable, even had

he been addressed in any other language: “que dis-tu de

ce genre-là?” ||
“Moi? ” returned the Frenchman, standing back from

his easel, and looking at me and at the figure, quite po-

litely, though with an evident reservation: “Je dis, mon

cher, que c'est une spécialité dont je me fiche pas mal. Je

tiens que quand on ne comprend pas une chose, c'est qu'

elle ne signifie rien.Ӧ
My reader thinks possibly that the French student was right.

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Transcribed Footnote (page 278):

* What do I know?

Transcribed Footnote (page 278):

† A mystical affair; these English are fools about mysticism: it

esembles the fogs over there. It makes them think of their country.

Transcribed Footnote (page 278):

‡ And touches their heart [with remembrance of] the day when

they said to their sweet friends farewell.

Transcribed Footnote (page 278):

§ Of the night, you mean.

Transcribed Footnote (page 278):

|| And you, now; what do you say of this sort of thing?

Transcribed Footnote (page 278):

¶ I say that it is a speciality which I cannot well get into my head. I hold

that when one does not understand a thing, it is because there

is no meaning in it.

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Electronic Archive Edition: 1
Source File: n1.c9.5.rad.xml