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IIISTORICAL NOTES

TO

CANTO THE FOURTH,

HISTORICAL NOTES

TO

CANTO THE FOURTH.

1.
STATE DUNGEONS OF VENICE.
I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs ;
A palace and a prison on each hand."

Slanza i. lines 1 and 2. TAE communication between the ducal palaco and the prisons of Venico is by a gloomy bridge, or covered gallery, high above the water, and divided by a stono wall into a passago and a coll

. The slato dungeons, callod“ pozzi," or wells, woro sunk in tho thick walls of the palaco; and the prisoner when taken out to dio was conducted across tho gallery to iho othor siilo, and being then Ind back into the other compartment, or cell, upon iho bridgo, was thoro stranglod. The low portal through which tho criinina! was taken into this cell is now walled up; but ono passago is still open, and is still known by the name of the Bridge of Sighs. The pozzi are under tho flooring of the chamber at the foot of the bridge. They were formerly twelve; but on the first arrival of the French, the Veno:ians hastily blockcd or broko up tho deeper of these dungeons. You may still, however, descend by a trap-door, and crawl down through holes, half-choked by rubbish, to the depihi of two stories below the first range. If you are in want of consolation for the extinction of patrician power, perhaps you may find it there ; scarcely a ray of light gilr mers into the narrow gallery which leads to the cells, and tho places of confinement themselves are totally dark. A small hole in the wall admitted the damp air of the passages, anil served for the introduction of the prisoner's food. A wooden pallet, raised a fool from the ground, was the only furniture. The conductors tell you that a light was not allowed. The cells are about five paces in length, two and a half in width, and seven feet in height. They are directly beneath one another, and respiration is gumewhat difficult in the lower holes. Only one prisoner was found when the republic cans descended into these hideous recesses, and he is said to have been confined sixteen years. But the inmates of the dungeons beneath had left tiảces of their repeni. ance, or of their despair, which are still visible, and may, perhaps, owe something to recent ingenuity. Some of the detained appear to have offended against, and others to have belonged to, the sacred body, not only from their signatures, but from the churches and belfries which they have scratched upon the walls. The reader may not object to see a specimen of the records prompted by so terrific a solitude. As nearly as they could be copied by more than one pencil, three of them are as follows :

1. NON TI FIDAR AD ALCUNO PENSA E TACI

SE FUGIR VUOI DE SPIONI INSIDIE O LACCI
IL PEN TIRTI PENTIRTI NULLA GIOVA
MA BEN DI VALOR TUO LA VERA PROVA

1607. ADI 2. GENARO. TUI RPTENTO P'LA BESTIEMMA P' AVER DATO

DA MANZAR A UN MORTO

IACOMO GRITTI. SCRISSE

2. UN PARLAR POCHO et

NEGARE PRONTO et
UN PENSAR AL FINE PUO DÁRE LA VITA
A NOI ALTRI MESCHINI

1605.
EGO IOUN BAPTISTA AD

ECCLESIAM CORTELLARIUS.
3. DE CIII MI TIDO GUARDAMI DIO
DE CHI NON MI FIDO MI GUARDARO 10

TA HA NA
V. LA 8'ic, K

. R The copyist has followed, not corrected, the solocisms ; some of which are, nowever, not quite so decided, since the letters wore ovidently scratched in the dark. It only need bo observed, that bestemmia and mangiar muy bo read in tho first in scription, which was probably written by a prisonor confined for some act of impioty committed at a funeral; thai Corlellarius is the name of a parish on terra firma, near the sea ; and that the last initials evidently are put for Viva la santa Chiesa Katolica Romana.

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" In Venice Tasso's echoes are no more.'

Stanza iii, line 1. The well-known song of tho gondoliers, of alternate stanzas from Tasso's Jerusalem, has died with the independence of Venice. Editions of the poem, with the original in one column, and the Venetian variations on the other, as sung by the boatmen, were once common, and are still to be found. The following extract will servo to show the difference between the Tuscan opic and the • Canta alla Barcariola."

ORIGINAL
Canto l' arme pietoso, o 'l capitano

Clao gran Sepolcro liberd di Cristo,
Molto egli oprd col senno, e con la mano

Molto soffrl nel glorioso acquisto;
F in van l'Inferno a lui s' oppose, o in vano

S'armo d' Asia, e di Libia il popol inisto,
Che il Ciel gli diè favore, e sotto a i Santi
Segni ridusse i suoi compagni erranti

VENETIAN

L'armo pietose de cantar gho vogla,

E de Goffredo la immortal braura
Che al fin l'ha libera co strassia, e dogia

Del nostro buon Gesú la Sepoltura
De mezo mondo unito, e de quel Bogia

Missier Pluton non l'ha bu mai paura :
Dio l'ha agiutá, e i compagni sparpagnai

Tutti 'l gh' i ha messi insieme i'di del Dai, Some of the elder gondoliers will, however, take up and continuo a stanza of the: once farniliar bard.

On the 7th of last January, the author of Childe Harold, and another Englishman, the writer of this notice, rowed to the Lido with two singers, one of whom was a carpenter, and the other a gondolier. The former placed himsolf at the prow, the lattor at the stern of the boat. A little after leaving the quay of the Piazzetta, they began to sing, and continued their exercise until we arrived at the island. They gave us, amongst other essays, the death of Clorinda, and the palace of Armida ; and did not :: sing the Venetian, but the Tuscan verses. The carpenter, however, who was the cleverer of the two, and was frequently obliged to prompt his companion, told us that ho could translate the original. He added, that he could sing almost three hundred stanzae but had not spirits (morbin was the word he used) to learn any more, ar to sing what he alroady knew: a man must have idle time on his hands to acquire or to re

peat, and, said the poor fellow," look at my clothes and at me; I am starving." This speech was more affecting than his performance, which habit alone can inako attractivo. The recitative was shrill, screaming, and monotonous ; and the gondolior behind assisted his voice by holding his hand to one side of his mouth. The carpen. ter used a quiet action, which he evidently endeavoured to restrain ; but was too much interested in his subject altogether to repress. From these men we learnt that sing. ing is not confined to the gondoliers, and that, although the chant is seldom, if ever, voluntary, there are still several amongst the lowor classes who are acquainted with a few stanzas.

It does not appear that it is usual for the performers to row and sing at the same time. Although the verses of the Jerusalem are no longer casually heard, there is yet much music upon the Venetian canals; and upon holydays, those strangers who are not near or informed enough to distinguish the

words, may fancy that many of the gondolas still resound with the strains

of l'asso. The writer of some remarks which appeared in the " Curiosities of Literature" must excuse his being twice quoted; for, with the exception of some phrases a little too ambitious and extravagant, he has furnished a very exact, as well as agreeable, description.

“ In Venice tho gondoliers know by heart long passages from Ariosto and Tasso, and often chant them with a peculiar melody. But this talent seems at present on the decline :--at least, after taking some pains, I could find no more than two persons who delivered to mo in this way a passago from Tasso. I must add, that tho lato Mr. Berry once chanted to mo'a passage in Tasso in the manner, as he assured me, of the gondoliers.

“ There are always two concerned, who alternately sing the strophes. We know tho melody eventually by Rousseau, to whose songs it is printed; it has properly no melodious movement, and is a sort of medium between tho canto sermo and the canto figurato ; it approaches to the former by recitativical declamation, and to the latter by passages and course, by which one syllable is detained and embellished.

“I entered a gondola by moonlight; ono singer placed himself forwards and the other aft, and thus proceeded to si. Georgio. One began the song: when he had ended his strophe, the other took up the lay, and so continued the song alternately. Throughout the whole of it, the same notes invariably returned, but, according to tho subject matter of the stropho, they laid a greater or a smaller stress, sometimes on one, and sometimes on another note, and indeed changed the enunciation of the whole stropho as the object of the poem altered.

“On the whole, however, the sounds were hoarse and screaming: they seemed, in the manner of all rude uncivilised men, to make the excellency of their singing in the force of their voice : one seemed desirous of conquering the other by the strength of his lungs; and so far from receiving delight from this scene (shut up as I was in the box of the gondola,) I found myself in a very unpleasant situation.

“My companion, to whom I communicated this circumstance, being very desirous to keep up the credit of his countrymen, assured me that this singing was very delightful when heard at a distance. Accordingly we got out upon the shore, leaving one of the singers in the gondola, while the other went to the distance of some hundred paces.

They now began to sing against one another, and I kept walking up and down between them both, so as always to leave him who was to begin his part. I frequently stood still and hearkened to the one and to the other.

“ Here the scene was properly introduced. The strong declamatory, and, as it were, shricking sound, met the ear from far, and called forth the attention; the quickly succeeding transitions, which necessarily required to be sung in a lower tone, seemed like plaintive strains succeeding the vociferations of emotion or of pain. The other, who listened attentively, immediately began where the former left off, answering him in milder or more vehement notes, according as the purport of the strophe required. The sleepy canals, the lofty buildings, the splendour of the moon, the deep shadows of the few gondolas that moved like spirits hither and thither, increased the striking peculiarity of thck: scene; and, amidst all these circumstances, it was easy to confess the character of this wonderful harmony.

" It suits persectly well with an idle, solitary mariner, lying at length in his vessel at rest on one of these canals, waiting for his company, or for a fare, the tiresomeness of which situation is somewhat alleviated by the songs and poetical stories he has in memory. He often raises his voice as loud as he can, which extends itself to a vast dis'anco over the tranquil mirror, and as all is still around, he is, as it wers, in a solitude in the milst of a largo and populous town. Hore is no rattling of carriages, no noiso of foot passengers; a silent gondola glidus now and then by him, of which tho splashings of tho oars are scarcely to be hcard.

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