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THE MAREMMA.

Mais elle etait du monde, ou les plus belles choses,
    Ont le pire destin;
Et Rose elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses,
    L'espace d'un Matin.

Malherbe.

There are bright scenes beneath Italian skies,
Where glowing suns their purest light diffuse,
Uncultured flowers in wild profusion rise,
And nature lavishes her warmest hues;
But trust thou not her smile, her balmy breath,
Away! her charms are but the pomp of Death!

He in the vine-clad bowers, unseen is dwelling.
Where the cool shade its freshness round thee throws,
His voice, in every perfumed zephyr swelling,
With gentlest whisper lures thee to repose,
And the soft sounds that thro' the foliage sigh,
But woo thee still to slumber and to die.

Mysterious danger lurks, a Syren, there,
Not robed in terrors, or announced in gloom,
But stealing o'er thee in the scented air,
And veiled in flowers, that smile to deck thy tomb:
How may we deem, amidst their bright array,
That heaven and earth but flatter to betray?

Sunshine, and bloom, and verdure! can it be,
That these but charm us with destructive wiles?
Where shall we turn, O Nature! if in thee
Danger is masked in beauty—death in smiles?
Oh! still the Circe of that fatal shore,
Where she, the sun's bright daughter, dwelt of yore!

There, year by year, that secret peril spreads,
Disguised in loveliness, its baleful reign,
And viewless blights o'er many a landscape sheds,
Gay with the riches of the south, in vain,
O'er fairy bowers, and palaces of state,
Passing unseen, to leave them desolate.


And pillared halls, whose airy colonades,
Were formed to echo music's choral tone,
Are silent now, amidst deserted shades,*[1]
Peopled by sculpture's graceful forms alone;
And fountains dash, unheard by lone alcoves,
Neglected temples, and forsaken groves.

And there, where marble nymphs, in beauty gleaming,
Midst the deep shades of plane and cypress rise,
By wave or grot might Fancy linger, dreaming
Of old Arcadia's woodland deities.—
Wild visions!—there no sylvan powers convene,—
Death reigns the genius of the Elysian scene.

Ye, too, illustrious hills of Rome! that bear
Traces of mightier beings on your brow,
O'er you that subtle spirit of the air
Extends the desert of his empire now;—
Broods o'er the wrecks of altar, fane, and dome,
And makes the Cæsars' ruined halls his home.

Youth, valour, beauty, oft have felt his power,
His crowned and chosen victims—o'er their lot
Hath fond affection wept—each blighted flower
In turn was loved and mourned, and is forgot.
But one who perished, left a tale of woe,
Meet for as deep a sigh as pity can bestow.

A voice of music, from Sienna's walls,
Is floating joyous on the summer air,
And there are banquets in her stately halls,
And graceful revels of the gay and fair,
And brilliant wreaths the altar have arrayed,
Where meet her noblest youth, and loveliest maid.

To that young bride each grace hath Nature given,
Which glows on Art's divinest dream—her eye
Hath a pure sunbeam of her native heaven—
Her cheek a tinge of morning's richest dye;
Fair as that daughter of the south, whose form
Still breathes and charms, in Vinci's colours warm.†[2]


But is she blest?—for sometimes o'er her smile
A soft sweet shade of pensiveness is cast,
And in her liquid glance there seems awhile,
To dwell some thought whose soul is with the past.
Yet soon it flies—a cloud that leaves no trace
On the sky's azure of its dwelling-place.

Perchance, at times, within her heart may rise
Remembrance of some early love or woe,
Faded, yet scarce forgotten—in her eyes,
Wakening the half-formed tear that may not flow.
Yet radiant seems her lot as aught on earth,
Where still some pining thought comes darkly o'er our mirth.

The world before her smiles—its changeful gaze
She hath not proved as yet—her path seems gay
With nowers and sunshine—and the voice of praise
Is still the joyous herald of her way;
And beauty's light around her dwells, to throw,
O'er every scene, its own resplendent glow.

Such is the young Bianca—graced with all
That nature, fortune, youth, at once can give;
Pure in their loveliness—her looks recall
Such dreams, as ne'er life's early bloom survive;
And when she speaks, each thrilling tone is fraught
With sweetness, born of high and heavenly thought.

And he, to whom are breath'd her vows of faith
Is brave, and noble—Child of high descent,
He hath stood fearless in the ranks of death,
'Mid slaughtered heaps, the warrior's monument:
And proudly marshalled his Carroccio's*[3] way,
Amidst the wildest wreck of war's array.

And his the chivalrous, commanding mien,
Where high-born grandeur blends with courtly grace;

Yet may a lightning glance at times be seen,
Of fiery passions, darting o'er his face,
And fierce the spirit kindling in his eye,—
But e'en while yet we gaze, its quick, wild flashes die.

And calmly can Pietra smile, concealing
As if forgotten, vengeance, hate, remorse;
And veil the workings of each darker feeling,
Deep in his soul concentrating its force:
But yet, he loves—Oh! who hath loved, nor known
Affection's power exalt the bosom all its own?

The days roll on—and still Bianca's lot
Seems as a path of Eden—Thou mightst deem
That grief, the mighty chastener, had forgot
To wake her soul from life's enchanted dream;
And, if her brow a moment's sadness wear,
It sheds but grace more intellectual there.

A few short years, and all is changed—her fate
Seems with some deep mysterious cloud o'ercast.
—Have jealous doubts transformed to wrath and hate,
The love whose glow Expression's power surpassed?
Lo! on Pietra's brow a sullen gloom
Is gathering day by day, prophetic of her doom.

Oh! can he meet that eye, of light serene,
Whence the pure spirit looks in radiance forth,
And view that bright intelligence of mien,
Formed to express but thoughts of loftiest worth,
Yet deem that vice within that heart can reign?
—How shall' he e'er confide in aught on earth again?

In silence oft, with strange, vindictive gaze,
Transient, yet filled with meaning stern and wild
Her features, calm in beauty, he surveys,
Then turns away, and fixes on her child
So dark a glance, as thrills a mother's mind
With some vague fear, scarce owned, and undefined.

There stands a lonely dwelling, by the wave
Of the blue deep which bathes Italia's shore,
Far from all sounds, but rippling seas, that lave
Grey rocks, with foliage richly shadowed o’er;

And sighing winds, that murmur thro' the wood,
Fringing the beach of that Hesperian flood.

Fair is that house of solitude—and fair
The green Maremma, far around it spread,
A sun-bright waste of beauty—yet an air
Of brooding sadness o'er the scene is shed,
No human footstep tracks the lone domain,
The desert of luxuriance glows in vain.

And silent are the marble halls that rise
‘Mid founts and cypress-walks, and olive-groves;
All sleeps in sunshine, 'neath Cerulean skies,
And still around the sea-breeze lightly roves;
Yet eyery trace of man reveals alone,
That there life once hath flourished—and is gone.

There, till around them slowly, softly stealing
The summer air, deceit in every sigh,
Came fraught with death, its power no sign revealing,
Thy sires, Pietra, dwelt, in days gone by;
And strains of mirth and melody have flowed,
Where stands, all voiceless now, the still abode.

And thither doth her Lord, remorseless, bear
Bianca with her child—his altered eye
And brow a stern and fearful caimness wear,
While his dark spirit seals their doom—to die;
And the deep bodings of his victim’s heart,
Tell her, from fruitless hope at once to part.

It is the summer's glorious prime—and blending
Its blue transparence with the skies, the deep,
Each tint of Heaven upon its breast descending,
Scarce murmurs as it heaves, in glassy sleep,
And on its wave reflects, more softly bright,
That lovely shore of solitude and light.

Fragrance in each warm southern gale is breathing,
Decked with young flowers the rich Maremma glows,
Neglected vines the trees are wildly wreathing
And the fresh myrtle in exuberance blows,
And far around, a deep and sunny bloom
Mantles the scene, as garlands robe the tomb.


Yes! 'tis thy tomb, Bianca! fairest flower!
The voice that calls thee speaks in every gale
Which, o'er thee breathing with insidious power,
Bids the young roses of thy cheek turn pale,
And, fatal in its softness, day by day,
Steals from that eye some trembling spark away.

But sink not yet—for there are darker woes,
Daughter of Beauty! in thy spring-morn fading,
Sufferings more keen for thee reserved than those
Of lingering Death, which thus thine eye are shading!
Nerve then thy heart to meet that bitter lot,
’Tis Agony—but soon to be forgot!

What deeper pangs maternal hearts can wring,
Than hourly to behold the spoiler's breath
Shedding, as mildews on the bloom of spring,
O'er Infancy's fair cheek the blight of Death?
To gaze and shrink, as gathering shades o'ercast
The pale smooth brow, yet watch it, to the last!

Such Pangs were thine, young mother!—Thou didst bend
O'er thy fair boy, and raise his drooping head,
And faint and hopeless, far from every friend
Keep thy sad midnight-vigils near his bed,
And watch his patient, supplicating eye,
Fixed upon thee—on thee!—who couldst no aid supply!

There was no voice to cheer thy lonely woe
Through those dark hour—to thee the wind's low sigh,
And the faint murmur of the ocean's flow,
Came like some spirit whispering—"He must die!"
And thou didst vainly clasp him to the breast
His young and sunny smile so oft with Hope had blest.

'Tis past—that fearful trial—he is gone—
But thou, sad mourner! hast not long to weep,
The hour of Nature's chartered peace comes on,
And thou shalt share thine infant's holy sleep.
A few short sufferings yet—and Death shall be
As a bright messenger from Heaven to thee.


But ask not—hope not—one relenting thought
From him wno doomed thee thus to waste away,
Whose heart, with sullen, speechless vengeance fraught,
Broods in dark triumph o'er thy slow decay,
And coldly, sternly, silently can trace
The gradual withering of each youthful grace.

And yet the day of vain remorse shall come,
When thou, bright victim! on his dreams shalt rise
As an accusing angel—and thy tomb,
A martyr's shrine, be hallowed in his eyes!
Then shall thine innocence his bosom wring,
More than thy fancied guilt with jealous pangs could sting.

Lift thy meek eyes to Heaven—for all on earth,
Young sufferer! fades before thee—Thou art lone—
Hope, Fortune, Love, smiled brightly on thy birth,
Thine hour of death is all Affliction's own!
It is our task to suffer—and our fate
To learn that mighty lesson, soon or late.

The season’s glory fades—the vintage-lay
Through joyous Italy resounds no more;
But mortal loveliness hath passed away,
Fairer that ought in summer's glowing store.
Beauty and youth are gone—behold them such
As Death hath made them with his blighting touch!

The summer's breath came o'er them—and they died!
Softly it came, to give luxuriance birth,
Called forth young Nature in her festal pride,
But bore to them their summons from the earth!
Agaln shall blow that mild, delicious breeze,
And wake to life and light all flowers—but these.

No sculptured urn, nor verse thy virtues telling,
O lost and loveliest one! adorns thy grave,
But o'er that humble cypress-shaded dwelling
The dew-drops glisten, and the wild-flowers wave—
Emblems more meet, in transient light and bloom,
For thee, who thus didst pass in brightness to the tomb!

  1. * See Madame de Stael's fine description, in her Corinne, of the Villa Borghese, deserted on account of the Mal'aria.
  2. † An allusion to Leonardo da Vinci's picture of his wife Mona Lisa, supposed to the most perfect imitation of Nature ever exhibited in painting. See Vasari in his Lives of the Painters.
  3. * See the description of this sort of consecrated war-chariot in Sismondi's Histoire des Republiques Italiennes, &c. Vol I. p.394.