網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

which were denied any other channel of The secret bridal-chambers of the heart, escape :

Let in the day." “La vive voci m'erano interditti,

The poet needed relief when denied Ond' io vridai con carta e con inchiostro." sympathy, and therefore he apostrophis(The living voice was denied me, hence I

ed Nature, whose silent beauty wins but

never betrays. It is worthy of remark sought utterance in writing.)

that Petrarch was a skeptic in regard to It is evident that he wrote chiefly from love, as an enduring and deep principle retrospection, and failed in the command of the human soul, until his own experiof his mind, when under the immediate ence converted him so effectually to the influence of deep tenderness or baffled de- laith. sire :

“e quel che in me non era,

Mi pareva un miracolo in altrui."
Piu volte incomminciai di scriver versi, 1
Ma la penna e la mano e' l'intelletto

Many live and die knowing nothing of Rimaser vinti nel primier assalto."

love except through their intellect. Their (Often I began to write verses, but the pen,

ideas on the subject are fanciful, because the hand and the mind were overcome at it has never been revealed by consciousthe first attempt.)

ness. Yet it were to question the be

nignity of God, to believe that an element This sufficiently proves the genuine of our being so operative and subtle, and ness of his inspiration. His allusions to one that abounds chiefly in the good and the laurel-iree in reference to the name of the gifted, is of light import or not sushis beloved, to the window at which he

ceptible of being explained by reason, had seen her seated, to the waters beside

de justified by conscience, and hallowed by

justified by which she had reposed, to the places in religion, and thus made to bear a harvest which he encountered her, and to her not only of delight but of virtue. Love. dress and the color of her eyes and hair, Petrarch maintains, is the crowning grace her gait, her salutations, her smile, and of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, her glances, are but the native overflow. the golden link which binds us to duty ings of an ardent mind. It is the effect and truth, the redeeming principle that of ideality not only to exalt the actual

chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is

chiefly reconciles into infinite possibility, but to reveal in

prophetic of eternal good. It is a blessdetail every circumstance and association

ing or a bane, a weakness or a strength, which Love has made sacred. Even a fearful or a glorious experience, accordthose who can scarcely be deemed imagi.

ing to the soul in which it is engendered. native, are sensible of the magic agency Let us endeavor to define its action and of sounds, perfumes and the most ordi- vindicate its worth, as set forth in the nary visible objects connected, in their Sonnets of Petrarch. memories, with persons or localities sin

All noble beings live in their affections. gularly endeared. It is only requisite to While this important fact has been ever extend this familiar principle to under- illustrated by poets, it is seldom fully restand why Petrarch dwells with such

cognized in moral systems or popular fondness on the most trivial associations. theology. Yet, if we would truly dis. They helped him to recal the past, to Tecal the past, to

cerne

cern the free, genuine elements of chabring more distinctly before him the im- racter, the histors of the heart affords the age of Laura, and to realize more com

only authentic ground of judgment. Love pletely the delicious though tyrannical

has been, and is, so mightily abused, that sway of Love. The same explanation in the view of superficial reasoners it bemay be given of his constant appeals to comes identified rather with feebleness Nature. The heart is thrown upon itself than strength. Yet, in point of fact, its in love as in grief. Few, if any, fellow- highest

i highest significance can alone be realized beings, however near and dear, are fitted

by natures of singular depth and exaltato share the confidence of our inmost af- tion. To the unperverted soul, instead fections. They have a sacredness, a deli- of a pastime it is a discipline. Once elecacy, an individuality which makes us vated from a blind instinct to a conscious shrink from exposing them even to friend

principle, it is the mighty tide which ly observation :

sways all that is solemn and eternal in “Not easily forgiven

life. To love, in one sense, is, indeed, Are those, who, setting wide the doors that little more than an animal necessity; but bar

to love nobly, profoundly-tolove, as Madame de Stael expresses it, “ at once with an idea dearer than self. This is doubtthe mind and with the heart,” to dedicate less the only process by which the probto another mature sympathies, is the lem of human life is solved to exalted noblest function of a human being. The natures. It is in vain that you bid them fever of passion, the ignoble motives, the find content, either in the pleasures of casual impulses which belong to our na- sense or the abstractions of wisdom, howture, blend, it is true, with the exercise ever keen their perceptions, or ardent of all affection, but love, in its deepest their passions. They know themselves and genuine import, is the highest and born to find completion through another. most profound interest of existence. This A subtle and pleading expectancy foreis a truth but imperfectly understood; tells the advent of a Messiah. They but there are few spirits so utterly bereft seek not, but wait. It is no romantic of celestial affinities as not to respond vision, no extravagant desire, but a clear more or less cordially, to every sincere and deep conviction that speaks in their appeal to a capacity so divine. All the bosoms. This is the germ of the sweetfolly of vain imaginations, all the coarse. est flower that shall adorn their being; ness of vulgar sensuality, all the scorn this is their innate pledge of immortality, of mental hardihood, while they profane and ceaselessly invokes them to self-rethe name, can never violate the sacred spect and glory. realities of love. There have been, and There is something essentially shalthere ever will be earnest and uncompro- low in the play of character, until deep mising hearts, who bravely vindicate a feeling gives it shape and intensity. faith too native and actuating ever to be The office of love is to induce a strong eradicated. Such natures can only realize and permanent motive, and it is this themselves through love, and in propor- process which concentrates all the facul. tion to their integrity will be their con- ties of the soul. Hence the satisfaction sciousness of the glory of this attribute. which follows ;-a condition wholly They intuitively anticipate its pervading different from what was previously reinfluence upon their character and happi. garded as enjoyment. Through vanity ness. They feel that within it lies the and the senses, partial delight may have vital points of their destiny, and through been obtained; but it was a graft upon, it their access to truth. The world may rather than a product of the heart. The long present but glimpses of what they blessedness of true love springs from the ever wateh to descıy. Life may seem soul itself, and is felt to be its legitimate barren of a good never absent from their and holiest fruit. Thus, and thus alone, inward sense. At times, from very is human nature richly developed, and weariness, they may be half inclined to the best interests of life wisely embraced. believe that the love for which they pray, Shadows give way to substance, rague is but a poetic invention, having no actu- wishes to permanent aims, inditierent al type. Witnessing so much apparent moods to endearing associations, and vain renunciation, they may, at last, regard desire to a “hope full of immortality.” themselves as vaia dreamers, and look Man is for the first time revealed to himback, with bitter regret upon years of self, and absolutely known to another; self-delusion. But the great want, the for entire sympathy, not friendly observa. haunting vision, the prophetic need, assert tion, is the key to our individual natures; themselves still; and when, through self- and when this has fairly opened the sa. denial and fervent trust, the dawn glim. cred portal, we are alone no more forever! mers upon their souls, the lonely vigil Petrarch affords a good illustration of and restless fears of the night are forgot this subject, because he has bequeathed a ten in “a peace which the world can record of his experience, which fame has neither give nor take away.” To some rendered classical. In him, as in every minds it may appear sacrilegious thus one, the influence of the sentiment was to identify love with religion, but the modified by particular traits of character. sentiments rightly understood, are too It is not requisite that we regard him as intimately allied to be easily divided. the most unexceptionable example of a It is through the outward universe that lover, in order to avail ourselves of the natural theology points us to a Su- autobiography of the heart which he left preme Intelligence; and it is through the behind him. It is enough to acknowledge creature that spirits of lofty mould most the fact that his career was mainly sway. nearly approach the Creator. Coleridge ed by a feeling which, in most men, describes love as the absorption of self in exerts but a temporary and casual agency; and that the most genial outpourings of objects, and this is in itself sufficient his soul have exclusive reference to its gloriously to vindicate his life from the phases. It is not pretended that he is charge of inutility. faultless; but the good taste of ages has I n estimating his moral traits, it should hallowed his effusions, and, on this ac- be remembered that the sunshine of fame count, they furnish an authoritative ex- made him conspicuous, and subjected his position. In order to estimate aright behavior to a keener scrutiny than is these revelations, let us glance at their the lot of the obscure. We may safely author as a man.

deem the judgment of cotemporaries criti. He was, then, in relation to society, cal and searching, especially as it is the one of the most important personages of usual fate of superior gifts to attract a his time. With many his name is merely large share of envy as well as admiration. associated with the idle dreams of a min- The biographers of Petrarch have gleaned strel, and his existenceis recalled as that of but two authentic charges, which can, an imaginative devotee, who lived chiefly even in the view of more recent and ento indulge his private tastes. That the lightened moralists, sully the pervading case was far otherwise is indisputable. brightness of his character. He was the Few prominent men of that era so richly father of two illegitimate children for deserve the title of patriot. His love of whose temporal and spiritual welfare he country was fervent and wise, and his amply provided. Such a fact, in those efforts in her behalf unremitted. The times, was not only regarded as venial frequent and momentous political embas- from the license of manners that prevail. sies to which he was appointed, and the ed, but considered especially excusable in cheerful zeal with which they were ful- churchmen, on account of their obligation filled, is proof enough of his political ta- to celibacy. All testimonies concur in lent and noble enterprise. The high con- representing his habitual course as resideration he enjoyed, both with princes markably exemplary, and the disgust and and people, his steady friendship with indignation he evidently feels at the disindividuals of high rank and influence, solute manners of the papal court, as well the interest he manifested in Rienzi's un- as long years of pure and devoted love successful efforts to restore Italy to free- and studious retirement, assure us that dom, his voluminous correspondence on Petrarch's soul was far above the basequestions relating to the public weal, ness of habitual dissipation. He may evince, among other facts, that he enacted have lapsed from strict virtue, but he neno useless or ignoble part on the world's ver lost for her either his allegiance or broad arena. Nor is this all. If Petrarch sympathy. In an age famous for liber. excelled the mass of every age in the re- tinism and courtly adulation, he preserved finement and earnestness of his affections, to an extraordinary degree, his self-respect he was also far beyond his own in know- and purity of heart. His native instincts ledge and liberality. We can trace in his rendered the pursuit of wisdom, commuwritings the slumbering embers of the nion with the great and good of past times, flame afterwards kindled by Luther, and the society of the learned and gifted, and the same devotion to liberty, which in the study of nature infinitely more attracthe progress of time, found scope and tive than any less ennobling pleasures. realization on this continent. The great Compared with those around him, his principles of free governmentand religious example was worthy of all praise, and a inquiry, that in our day have become ac- sincere vein of conscientious sensibility tual experiments, are discoverable in the and repentant musing, mingles with and ardent speculations and elevated desires lends pathos and dignity to his strains of of the bard of Laura. He was the un- love. The other charge which has been compromising advocate of civil and eccle- preferred against him is vanity. This, siastical reform, and threw all the weight however, seems from his own confession of his literary reputation into the scale of and the opinion of others, to have been a progress. This end he promoted more youthful weakness, chiefly manifested by signally by learned researches and the a fondness for dress, which disappeared circulation of ancient manuscripts, so as as soon as his mind and heart became to become identified with the revival of interested. He is described as quite inletters. These objects were methodically different to wealth, and of a singularly pursued throughout his life. They form. reserved and meek demeanor. He was ed no small portion of that external acti- by nature and habit a severe student, and vity, which is so often wasted upon selfish delighted to meditate in the open air,

VOL. 1.--NO. V.

[ocr errors]

and alternately lead the life of a recluse purpose, she may become a domestic and a traveler, filling his mind with slave, the creature, or, at least, the honknowledge and reflection, and his heart ored pet of her liege lord. The mass of with thoughts of love and piety.

women may, and probably do not feel conSuch was the man who on the morning scious that their dearest rights have been of Good Friday, at the church of Santa thus invaded; and men, in general, Clara at Avignon, met Laura; their eyes doubtless think that their disinterestedencountered, and from that moment the ness is sufficiently indicated by provid. destiny of his affections was sealed. The ing all the external sources of comfort very idea suggested by this fact,—that for the objects of their choice. There of love at first sight, doubtless appears to is but a limited degree of conscious the majority of readers, particularly those wrong on either side. When no deep of northern origin, a piece of absurd ro- affections, no intense sympathies crave mance. Yet, let us endeavor to regard gratification, society gains much, and it calmly and thoughtfully, and discover the individual loses nothing by conif there be no actual foundation for such ventional alliances. But in questions of an experience. Truthful human beings, this nature, it must be ever remembered, whom the world has not perverted, ex- that there are here and there, scattered press in their looks and manners, their among the multitude of human beings, genuine souls. Where there is depth of souls that do not slumber, hearts that feeling, and pride of character, this na. have burst the chrysalis of vegetative tural language is still more direct and lite, and feel the tides of individual de. impressive. Such individuals, indeed, sires, hopes, and aspirations fearfully habitually conceal their moods and senti- sway their pulses. Sacred are the pure ments under a veil of passionless reserve, instincts, holy before God, if not before or animal gayety; and when this is man, the spiritual necessities of such as drawn aside, their tones and features these. If self-knowledge has come too only speak with more eloquent signifi- late, if their outward fate is sealed before cance from the previous restraint. No their inward wants have been revealed to medium is more true and earnest in thus their own consciousness, then to religion conveying the heart's language than the and self-control must they look to enable eye. The cold and worldly may have them to fulfil the letter of the bond. Yet, deadened its beams by seltishness and in so doing, if they possess any true cunning, and the sensualist can only depth of character, they will never comsummon thither an earthly and base fire; promise their highest privilege; they but they of child-like frankness and un- will never profane the sentiment of love dimmed enthusiasm, may utter by a by hypocrisy; they will recognize and glance more than words could unfold. rejoice in their ideal when once encounIt is then not a mere vagary of imagin- tered. In the solemn privacy of their ation, buta rational and perfectly credible bosoms, will be cherished the being to thing, that the meeting of the eyes of whom their hearts went instinctively two candid, noble beings should reveal forth. For the sake of this pure and them essentially to each other; and such, deep sentiment, they will be faithful to we doubt not, was the case with Petrarch outward duty, calm and trusting, and and Laura. A very important principle maintain self-respect and hope unstained. is involved in such an incident. It proves Tennyson has drawn a portrait bitterly that Love, in its highest sense, is proper- true to experience, of the influence of ly Recognition. Any man of winning uncongenial bonds upon a large class of address and knowledge of the world, may women, in “ Locksley Hall.” But all of by appeals to the passions, the interests the sex are not the mere passive victims or the unappropriated tenderness of a of habit and circumstance. A few peerguileless, confiding woman, win ber to less exceptions really live,-women, himself. But let him not imagine that who through remarkable spirituality of such an outrage to the majesty of Love, character, or firm will, united to fine will secure to him its richest fruits. moral perceptions, prove superior to outHis pride may be gratified by the depen- ward fate, and never permit the temple dence of a fair and gentle being, and her of their hearts to be crossed, save by the endearments may afford a delightful solace one, who, from affinity of soul, is an in his listless hours. Over her person, authorized and welcome guest. There her time, 1er actions, he may exercise a is a grandeur in such vindication of permanent control. If she be infirm of rights, too holy for human law to protect, but, at the same time, too ennobling was at liberty for the time, to realize in and heavenly for virtue to abandon. her soul, that he was her spirit's mate, “ Patience, quiet, toil, denial,

the chosen, the beloved, the one in whose These though hard, are good for man;

presence she alone found content; whose And the martyred spirit's trial

love was the richest flower in her life's Gains it more than passion can.”

chaplet, and the dearest hope that recon

ciled her to death. In this and a world It is on these principles that we ac- of similar emotions, there was no inficount for the conduct of Laura-a sub- delity. From the hour she knew, by exject of endless discussion among the perience, the meaning of Love, it is imcritics of Petrarch. The idea, that his possible, with a conscience so delicate, love was wholly unreciprocated, is con- she could have ever professed it for her tradicted by the very nature of things. husband. Her obligations to him were The truth is, a degree of mutual senti. those of duty, and, as far as he deserved ment is absolutely necessary to keep it, respect. Perhaps he never made a affection alive for a great length of time. claim upon her sentiment; perhaps he It is true we hear of instances that seem, had not the soul to know its meaning. at a superficial view, to justify a differ. And here let us notice a beautiful trait of ent conclusion; but, generally speaking, what many deem a weak passion, when the martyrs to such vain devotion at last it is awakened in superior natures. The discover that their passion originated in very characteristics which induced Laura the imagination, not the heart. There to preserve her decorum and to fulfil her are evidences enough in the Sonnets of duties and which her lover often deemed Petrarch, that his love was returned ; and cold and unkind—were those that won we can scarcely conceive that a feeling and kept his heart. Such a man would of this kind, toward such a man, if once have wearied of a weak woman, living excited, should be lukewarm or ill-de- only in herself. His nature was too fined. He speaks of Laura's “ amoroso lofty to take advantage of feebleness. sguardo,” (loving glance) and of her The same aspiring spirit that made him turning pale at hearing of his intend. a patriot and a bard, exalted his character ed absence. The very complaints he as a lover. Even in his affections he breathes of her pride, coldness, and re- reverenced the divine principles of truth serve, betray a consciousness, on her and equality. His chosen was a woman part, more gratifying as proofs of inter- who understood herself, who had an inest, from such a woman, than the sweet- telligent, not a slavish need of him; est blandishments of the less sustained who, in the frank nobleness of womanand magnanimous of the sex. It is hood, was his genial friend, whose pure . probable that the conscientious behavior and strong heart spontaneously respondof her husband, gave Laura no just ed unto his. Some of his most common ground for breaking a contract into which allusions to her personal traits, and she had voluntarily, though perhaps points of character, enable us readily to blindly, entered. Her children, too, had infer the nature of the charm that won claims which were paramount and sac- and kept the poet's heart. He says, red. Being, as her lover describes her, " non era l'andar cosa mortale,(her of a high nature, with a clear sense of movements were not mortal.) How right, and a rare degree of self-control, much this expresses to the mind of one she regulated her conduct by the strictest aware of the moral significance of a law of propriety. She was too generous woman's air and gait! L'angelica semto follow out her inclinations, even if she bianza umile e piana ; (her angelic sem. felt them perfectly justifiable, at the ex- blance meek and affable,) combined with pense of others. But while in outward Il lampeggiar dell'angelico riso, (the act she was thus scrupulous, how easy flash of her heavenly smile,) give the it is for us to imagine the inner life of most vivid idea of that union of ardor of her heart! There she was free. The soul with lofty principle, which is the world's cold maxims had no authority perfection of the sex. Such phrases within her innocent bosom. She could as l'umilita superba, (proud humility), brood with the tenderest devotion in her il bel tacere, (beautiful silence), dolci hours of solitude, over the gifts and sdegni (sweet disdain), in aspetto pensoso graces of her lover. She could cherish anima lieta, (a glad soul beneath a every token of his regard. In society, thoughtful aspect,) l'atto che parla con in her walks, wherever they met, she silenzio, (the act which speaks silently,)

« 上一頁繼續 »