with cakes for us all, finally producing a glass of claret
But I am in for it now,--laissez faire, of a truth, laissez aller. Yes, I am going,--I feel it, I feel and cannot recall it,-- Fusing with this thing and that, entering into all sorts of relations, Tying I know not what ties, which, whatever they are, I know one thing, Will, and must, woe is me, be one day painfully broken,-- Broken with painful remorses, with shrinkings of soul, and relentings, Foolish delays, more foolish evasions, most foolish renewals. But I have made the step, have quitted the ship of Ulysses; Quitted the sea and the shore, passed into the magical island; Yet on my lips is the moly, medicinal, offered of Hermes. I have come into the precinct, the labyrinth closes around me, Path into path rounding slyly; I pace slowly on, and the fancy, Struggling awhile to sustain the long sequences, weary, bewildered, Fain must collapse in despair; I yield, I am lost, and know nothing; Yet in my bosom unbroken remaineth the clue; I shall use it. Lo, with the rope on my loins I descend through the fissure; I sink, yet Inly secure in the strength of invisible arms up above me; Still, wheresoever I swing, wherever to shore, or to shelf, or Floor of cavern untrodden, shell sprinkled, enchanting, I know I Yet shall one time feel the strong cord tighten about me,-- Feel it, relentless, upbear me from spots I would rest in; and though the Rope sway wildly, I faint, crags wound me, from crag unto crag re- Bounding, or, wide in the void, I die ten deaths, ere the end I Yet shall plant firm foot on the broad lofty spaces I quit, shall Feel underneath me again the great massy strengths of abstraction, Look yet abroad from the height o'er the sea whose salt wave I have tasted.
XIII. Georgina Trevellyn to Louisa ----.
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.
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