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in alto intelletto on puro cuore, (a pure heart blended with a high mind)—all convey the image of a woman endowed with fine perception, child-like tenderness, and moral courage—a union of qualities eminently fitted to create not merely love, but a love partaking of reverence, such a love as justifies itself, and cannot but produce, not only mutual delight, but mutual goodness. If Laura had been less of a character, she could not have so long and deeply interested Petrarch; and if he had been equally self-sustained, she would have been more indulgent. The habits of the age, the presence of a licentious court, and the personal fame of her lover, threw more than ordinary impediments in the way of their intimate association, and rendered prudence singularly necessary. These causes sufficiently explain the behavior of Laura, who, as one of her biographers remarks, “always seems to think that modesty and her own esteem are the most beautiful ornaments of a woman.” It is evident that she preserved composure because his temperament was so excitable; and through all the years of their attachment, it was her legitimate part continually to watch over the citadel of love, which his impatience would otherwise have betrayed. She was serene, modest, and self-possessed; he, variable and impassioned. Hence they loved. Each supplied the deficient elements of character to the other; and found a secret and intimate joy, of which the voluptuary or worldly-wise never dream, in thus realizing the purest depths and sweetest capacities of their natures. The ennobling influence of Petrarch's attachment is variously manifested. It raised him above the thraldom of sensuality,+Dalei ti vien l'amoroso pensiero Che, mentre 'l segui al sommo Bent' invia, Poco prezzando quel ch' ogui uom desia. (From thee comes the loving thought, following which, I am led to the supreme ; little prizing that which all men desire.
It confirmed his faith in immortality. After Laua's death, he assures us that he lived only to praise her. To this event he alludes with beautiful pathos:
Quando mostraidi chiuder gliocchi, apersi. (When she seemed to close her eyes, they opened.)
Then the vanity of the world became a thing of solemn conviction, and he
ject of astonishment to those whose vivacity of feeling is infinitely greater than its depth. To such it is not love that the heart requires, so much as excitement. They have only a French perception of sentiment, and affair du coeur is the flippant term that best describes their idea of the part which the affections occupy in the scheme of happiness. A temporary indulgence of amatory feeling resorted to like equestrian exercises, or a cup of coffee, as an agreeable stimulant, an antidote for ennui, an available method of producing a sensation, to stir the vapid atmosphere of routine— such is love to those who marvel at constancy. Let them not take the holy name on their lips, at least, not the honest English word, but make use of the Gallic synonyme—a term equally applicable to the experiences of the libertine and the fop. To a true human heart, there is no sadder necessity in life than that of inconstancy; for to such a one it can be occasioned but by one cause—the discovery of unworthiness. Has life a more bitter cup than this Time may dissipate one illusion after another, but yet the good and brave can look on calmly and hopefully, assured that
“Better than the seen lies hid.”
But let distrust of the truth, the nobleness, the loyalty, the affection, the high and earnest qualities of a beloved being, once enter the soul, and a withering blight falls on its purest energies. Imagination may deceive, circumstances overpower judgment, false blandishments captivate the senses, but the heart of the noble and ardent goes not permanently forth except to qualities kindred to itself. Around these, as embodied in and associated with a fair and attractive being, the sympathies entwine, and only the cankerworm of depravity can sever their tendrils. Repose is the natural state of the affections. Time deepens all true love. Its joys are richer as, day by day, mutual revelations open vistas of character before unknown The very good sought in affection is permanence—the essential idea is to secure one congenial object of enduring delight, to which in despondency the heart can revert for consolation, in pleasure, for sympathy. It is to have the blissful consciousness amid every day scenes of barren toil or heartless mirth, that we are independent of the crowd, and “ have bread to eat which they know not of.” Enforced constancy
is indeed no virtue. When there is not a lasting basis for love, for truth's sake, let it die out. No hot-bed means can nourish the richest flower of earth; better that it should perish than have no original vitality. Yet, the lover is untrue to his vocation, if, when his best feelings are elicited and reciprocated, when his yearning heart has found its twin, his weary head the bosom that is the pillow of its happy repose, his overflowing tenderness the being who drinks in new life and profound content from his nurture—if, when these high and exacting conditions are satisfied, he do not will with all the energy of his moral nature, to avoid every temptation, even to casual infidelity. To the high and warm soul, there is no bond on earth like that of sentiment. And why? It is the free choice, the unshackled desire, the spontaneous self-dedication. The absence of outward chains only makes the inward consecration more absolute, even as the dictate of honor is more imperative with a high-toned man than all the authority of law or custom. Indeed we suggest one undeniable fact to the scoffers at human nature—to those who believe not in its infinite capacities and divine instincts, and account for all its phenomena on material principles—and that is, that sentiment controls passion. When a human being of the strongest animal propensities, loves, (that is, becomes intensely conscious of thorough sympathy with, and peculiar devotion for another,) the body itself acquires a sacredness. It is regarded as the shrine of a hallowing affection, which the touch of an alien would desecrate. It is sentiment only that raises human appetites above those of the brute; and to the unperverted, the only real pleasures of sense are those in which the soul intimately blends. Yet, another rational inducement to constancy obtains. Hemmed in by external oblio: from infancy, with social laws orever checking our personal action, and forcing the stream of natural feeling into . channels, it is a glory and a joy, peculiar and almost supernal, to ave one altar reared by our own hands, one worship sacred to us alone, one secret fountain which our instinct has discovered in the wilderness of life, where we drink those sweet waters that alone can allay the thirst of the heart. Whoever sees any intrinsic difficulty in constant affection, or abandons any true sentiment, except from the unfitness of its object, is not only ignorant of love, but independent of it. The heart that has really felt privation alone will appreciate abundance; and can no more fail to maintain and cherish the greatest blessing of existence, when once it is absolutely realized, than the stars can renounce their orbits. Petrarch was true to Love, and developed its elements more richly through solitude. It is evident that his various journeyings and political embassies, as well as his literary and social activity, were occasioned by a sense of duty, and the healthful claims of his mental powers for scope and enterprise, rather than by ambition or any personal views. The reason devotedness and consistency are so rare in the world, is that people usually choose to dissipate instead of concentrating their feelings. Amusement is the very food of being to the majority of those who are not compelled by necessity to daily toil. To triumph in the circles of fashion, skim good-naturedly along the surface of existence, think as little as possible, and avoid all self-communion and earnestness of aim, is the philosophy of life to the multitude. Some adopt this course because they actually do not feel the need of anything deeper or more sincere; their natures are essentially shallow and capricious, and their joys and sufferings alike superficial. But others, and, alas, how many capable of better things: are, as it were, driven from their true position by circumstances. They feel themselves above the ephemeral pleasures of society, and in point of fact realize no satisfaction in the indulgence of minor tastes and light emotions. They have profound sympathies and magnanimous hearts. Sometimes the poet's word or the orator's appeal, a breeze of spring, an outbreak of genuine sentiment in another —some gleam or echo from a true soul— touches the latent chords in their bosoms. They become, for a moment, conscious of the real ends of their being. Actual life seems mean and shadowy. They have glimpses of reality, and perhaps retire to their chambers to weep and pray. At such times comes the vision of Love.
Then it is seen how blest and happy is the heart that is absorbed in a worthy object, and lives wholly in its affections. It is by communion with itself that love grows strong. The process of adaptation which is so familiar to women, gradually robs feeling of all depth and intensity. If very elevated in tone of mind or very energetic in purpose, their freshness of heart may indeed survive long habits of this kind. We sometimes encounter, even in the circles of gay life, a woman who has been idolized for years as beautiful or accomplished, who has long borne the name both of wife and mother; but in her whole person, in the depths of her eyes, in the more earnest tones of her voice, we recognize a virgin soul. Such beings have been kept from perversion by strength of will, clear perception of right or rare purity of mind; but one good has been denied them, one destiny they have as yet failed to achieve—their hearts are undeveloped. The legitimate object of their affections has not appeared. The richest phase of their existence has not dawned. They have known marriage, admiration, conquest—but not love. Thus we feel it to have been with Laura when she met the poet. But few thus preserve their sympathies. It is characteristic of those who truly love, to seek in meditation nurture for their sentiment. Only by reflection can we realize any great emotion; and it is by thought that feeling shapes itself into permanent and well defined vigor. The devotion of a man of meditative pursuits, other things being equal, is therefore infinitely more real and o than his whose heart is divided y schemes of fame or gain, and rendered frivolous by common-place associations. Accordingly Petrarch nourished his passion by musing. As to all true lovers, other interests were wholly secondary and external to him, compared with the prevailing feeling of his heart. To enjoy, ay, and to suffer this—it was requisite to be alone, and the name of Vancluse is forever associated with vigils of the love, which found such enduring and graceful expression in his poetry.