Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

April sun. In front, at the distance of half a mile, that sun fell unreflected on the lofty and slender, though irregularly formed, tower of the beautiful Gothic cathedral; which, built of black stone extracted from the quarries of lava with which that once volcanic country abounds, frowned darkly from the summit of the towncovered hill on which it rests. A clear and unclouded sky extended widely behind its gloomy pile, and was here and there discovered, flickering and starlight, as it was broken up and intercepted by the slender trellice-work that runs along its pointed roof. Near me, on the left, I heard the shrill bleatings of a few young lambs, which, though scarcely strong enough to stand erect on their slender, weak, and ill-proportioned" legs, were already nibbling the grass beside their apparently heedless mothers; while the only sounds that proceeded from the other parts of the field were the gruff words of comą mand, the spirited military music, and the hollow tramp of the soldiery, now retiring from their Champ de Mars, where, for the last two hours, they had been occupied in drilling and manoeuvring, and, perhaps, in thinking on my countrymen, against whom they would certainly have

[ocr errors]

no objection to make trial of the science in which they were initiated.

The attention with which I observed the beautiful scene I have here attempted to describe, will not be wondered at, when the cautions of Madame la Baronne, and the responsibility under which I conceived myself to lie, shall be recollected, and maturely weighed, by the courteous reader.

At length, satisfied that I was not liable to be overlooked, I drew forth the book. It was a small volume, about five inches long, three inches broad, and one and a half thick-according to the method now adopted in giving correct accounts of speeches made by the Members of Parliament and other public meetings; its cover was of the meanest sort, consisting of a kind of pink paper, very much resembling that which now lies beside me on my desk, and which I always make use of when, particularly anxious to note down my flitting thoughts, I am unwilling to wait till the air shall, in the regular order of nature, have dried up the ink in which they are expressed. The corners and sides of each leaf were turned down and worn, as if that day was not the first on which they had been committed

work;

to the secret keeping of a coat-pocket. The contents I, at first, greedily ran over: they are by no means devoid of poetical merit, though none can agree to the anti-christian doctrines which, together with the anti-monarchical principles they contain, caused the author to be prosecuted, and the work to be forbidden by the French government.

Yet this prosecution is the chief cause of its being read: but for the civil anathema launched against it, I should certainly not have been so curious to obtain the

and should, very possibly, have never heard of the little book of songs, to read which I now fled to solitary fields and retired spots. Had the “ CHANSONS DE BERANGER,” (for such is, as I ought long ago to have informed the the reader, the title of the book,) had they been left unmolested, and their sale been quietly permitted, they would have had their day-noticed by those only who profess the same principles ; and even to those few they would now offer no interest beyond that inherent to any volume of witty and often elegantly-written songs.

But, without arguing any further on the folly of such anathemas, civil or ecclesiastical, I must now explain why I have thus brought forward these Chansons de Beranger, than which nothing can appear less called for. The fact, then, is this. When they first came into my hands I had just concluded writing the Letters here offered to the public; and wishing that they should appear in due form, I had, during the last two days, been considering with what sort of a preface I should introduce them. I had made several attempts, but none were to my satisfaction. In the one, I repeated thoughts which I had already introduced into the body of the work; in another, I affected humility, at the same time clearly shewing that I thought my production a chef d'auvre ; but in each and every one, I managed to bring before the reader every circumstance that might appear to qualify me for writing on the subject I had chosen. Thus, in one unfortunate attempt, which I now look at with a disconsolate air as it lies rejected on my desk, I observe the following passages, which I transcribe to shew how convincing must have been the whole tirade. I think myself justi“ fied in choosing the motto which I have placed “at the head of the work. That Italy is a “curious sight cannot be denied, though the

expression may be found too light for the

6

[ocr errors]

country to which it is applied; that it is very “ little known, I am fully persuaded. When I, “ who inhabited it for so long a time, am but

imperfectly acquainted with it, what must “ those be, who, making but a short stay in each “ of its principal towns, traverse, in one winter, " the whole country, survey in haste its monu6 ments and curiosities, and are unable to speak “ at all, or, at best, speak with difficulty, its

language! And yet such travellers, on re

turning home, throw into a new form the ob“servations of guide-books, preceding tourists, “ and common prejudices, and announce to the “ world—a new journey to Italy. And from “ their usual way of travelling, and from their “ usual behaviour to foreigners, it is impossible “ that all their accounts should not greatly resem" ble those of other tourists who have preceded 6 them in the same track. What they say may “ be well said; but has been said often enough..

“ Let it not, however, be supposed that I fancy my letters to be free from faults; on the “ contrary; if, when speaking of the curiosities of the country, I have endeavoured to avoid

repeating what might be found in the works of “ other tourists, I have nevertheless confessed

« ForrigeFortsett »