then and there. Her enthusiastic loyalty made her enjoy
Dearest Louisa,--Inquire, if you please, about Mr. Claude ----. He has been once at R., and remembers meeting the H.'s. Harriet L., perhaps, may be able to tell you about him. It is an awkward youth, but still with very good manners; Not without prospects, we hear; and, George says, highly connected. Georgy declares it absurd, but Mamma is alarmed, and insists he has Taken up strange opinions, and may be turning a Papist. Certainly once he spoke of a daily service he went to. 'Where?' we asked, and he laughed and answered, 'At the Pantheon.' This was a temple, you know, and now is a Catholic church; and Though it is said that Mazzini has sold it for Protestant service, Yet I suppose this change can hardly as yet be effected. Adieu again,--evermore, my dearest, your loving Georgina.
I am to tell you, you say, what I think of our last new acquaintance. Well, then, I think that George has a very fair right to be jealous. I do not like him much, though I do not dislike being with him. He is what people call, I suppose, a superior man, and Certainly seems so to me; but I think he is terribly selfish.
Alba, thou findest me still, and, Alba, thou findest me ever, Now from the Capitol steps, now over Titus's Arch, Here from the large grassy spaces that spread from the Lateran portal, Towering o'er aqueduct lines lost in perspective between, Or from a Vatican window, or bridge, or the high Coliseum, Clear by the garlanded line cut of the Flavian ring. Beautiful can I not call thee, and yet thou hast power to o'ermaster, Power of mere beauty; in dreams, Alba, thou hauntest me still. Is it religion? I ask me; or is it a vain superstition? Slavery abject and gross? service, too feeble, of truth? Is it an idol I bow to, or is it a god that I worship? Do I sink back on the old, or do I soar from the mean? So through the city I wander and question, unsatisfied ever, Reverent so I accept, doubtful because I revere.
Is it illusion? or does there a spirit from perfecter ages, Here, even yet, amid loss, change, and corruption abide? Does there a spirit we know not, though seek, though we find, comprehend not, Here to entice and confuse, tempt and evade us, abide? Lives in the exquisite grace of the column disjointed and single, Haunts the rude masses of brick garlanded gaily with vine, E'en in the turret fantastic surviving that springs from the ruin, E'en in the people itself? is it illusion or not? Is it illusion or not that attracteth the pilgrim transalpine, Brings him a dullard and dunce hither to pry and to stare? Is it illusion or not that allures the barbarian stranger, Brings him with gold to the shrine, brings him in arms to the gate?
What do the people say, and what does the government do?--you Ask, and I know not at all. Yet fortune will favour your hopes; and I, who avoided it all, am fated, it seems, to describe it. I, who nor meddle nor make in politics,--I who sincerely Put not my trust in leagues nor any suffrage by ballot, Never predicted Parisian millenniums, never beheld a New Jerusalem coming down dressed like a bride out of heaven Right on the Place de la Concorde,--I, nevertheless, let me say it, Could in my soul of souls, this day, with the Gaul at the gates shed One true tear for thee, thou poor little Roman Republic; What, with the German restored, with Sicily safe to the Bourbon, Not leave one poor corner for native Italian exertion? France, it is foully done! and you, poor foolish England,-- You, who a twelvemonth ago said nations must choose for themselves, you Could not, of course, interfere,--you, now, when a nation has chosen---- Pardon this folly! The Times will, of course, have announced the occasion, Told you the news of to-day; and although it was slightly in error When it proclaimed as a fact the Apollo was sold to a Yankee, You may believe when it tells you the French are at Civita Vecchia.
Dulce it is, and decorum, no doubt, for the country to fall,--to Offer one's blood an oblation to Freedom, and die for the Cause; yet Still, individual culture is also something, and no man Finds quite distinct the assurance that he of all others is called on, Or would be justified even, in taking away from the world that Precious creature, himself. Nature sent him here to abide here; Else why send him at all? Nature wants him still, it is likely; On the whole, we are meant to look after ourselves; it is certain Each has to eat for himself, digest for himself, and in general Care for his own dear life, and see to his own preservation; Nature's intentions, in most things uncertain, in this are decisive; Which, on the whole, I conjecture the Romans will follow, and I shall. So we cling to our rocks like limpets; Ocean may bluster, Over and under and round us; we open our shells to imbibe our Nourishment, close them again, and are safe, fulfilling the purpose Nature intended,--a wise one, of course, and a noble, we doubt not. Sweet it may be and decorous, perhaps, for the country to die; but, On the whole, we conclude the Romans won't do it, and I sha'n't.
Will they fight? They say so. And will the French? I can hardly, Hardly think so; and yet----He is come, they say, to Palo, He is passed from Monterone, at Santa Severa He hath laid up his guns. But the Virgin, the Daughter of Roma, She hath despised thee and laughed thee to scorn,--The Daughter of Tiber, She hath shaken her head and built barricades against thee! Will they fight? I believe it. Alas! 'tis ephemeral folly, Vain and ephemeral folly, of course, compared with pictures, Statues, and antique gems!--Indeed: and yet indeed too, Yet, methought, in broad day did I dream,--tell it not in St. James's, Whisper it not in thy courts, O Christ Church!--yet did I, waking, Dream of a cadence that sings, Si tombent nos jeunes heros, la Terre en produit de nouveaux contre vous tous prets a se battre; Dreamt of great indignations and angers transcendental, Dreamt of a sword at my side and a battle-horse underneath me.
Now supposing the French or the Neapolitan soldier Should by some evil chance come exploring the Maison Serny (Where the family English are all to assemble for safety), Am I prepared to lay down my life for the British female? Really, who knows? One has bowed and talked, till, little by little, All the natural heat has escaped of the chivalrous spirit. Oh, one conformed, of course; but one doesn't die for good manners, Stab or shoot, or be shot, by way of graceful attention. No, if it should be at all, it should be on the barricades there; Should I incarnadine ever this inky pacifical finger, Sooner far should it be for this vapour of Italy's freedom, Sooner far by the side of the d----d and dirty plebeians. Ah, for a child in the street I could strike; for the full-blown lady---- Somehow, Eustace, alas! I have not felt the vocation. Yet these people of course will expect, as of course, my protection, Vernon in radiant arms stand forth for the lovely Georgina, And to appear, I suppose, were but common civility. Yes, and Truly I do not desire they should either be killed or offended. Oh, and of course, you will say, 'When the time comes, you will be ready.' Ah, but before it comes, am I to presume it will be so? What I cannot feel now, am I to suppose that I shall feel? Am I not free to attend for the ripe and indubious instinct? Am I forbidden to wait for the clear and lawful perception? Is it the calling of man to surrender his knowledge and insight, For the mere venture of what may, perhaps, be the virtuous action? Must we, walking our earth, discerning a little, and hoping Some plain visible task shall yet for our hands be assigned us,-- Must we abandon the future for fear of omitting the present, Quit our own fireside hopes at the alien call of a neighbour, To the mere possible shadow of Deity offer the victim? And is all this, my friend, but a weak and ignoble refining, Wholly unworthy the head or the heart of Your Own Correspondent?
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