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clouds than marble and stone. I must, therefore, again commit the delinquency of declaring that I prefer the exterior of Milan Cathedral as decidedly as I do the interior, with its deep, half-revealed Gothic aisles, to the gaudy trappings and glaring light of St. Peter's. But to return.
The great cupola of St. Peter's rises perpendicularly from the roof in a manner so sudden ascent appears impossible; but entering a small door at the base, we addressed ourselves to the labour, proceeding crab-wise up flight after flight of stairs, one-sided and lurching, like a ship in a gale of wind, and making one feel about as giddy. These curiously-shaped ascents run between the exterior coating and the interior vaulting of the cupola, and are bent to accommodate its arching form. Just as I had squeezed myself into a corner for a few moments' rest, down came from above, with a large party, the Marchese making the vaults echo with their
5, laughter. Great were the greetings with my party, which, as I hate uncongenial people in remarkable places distracting one's thoughts by their impertinent babblings, I was glad to escape, being quite overlooked by the triumphantly handsome heir of the Dukes of Vetiniano in my snug corner. At length we gained the gallery of the dome, and looked down from the immense elevation on the church beneath, and the altar and tomb of the apostles. The four figures of the Evangelists—to my
. mind incomparably the finest mosaics in the world—now appeared in their true gigantic proportions; we were the pigmies, and the people below, like dots, darkening the bright marble pavement; while the great letters in the inscription round the entablature grew taller than the tallest man that ever lived. Above was the superb arched roof of burnished gold, covered with mosaics; a glorious firmament, dotted with sparkling stars, and a radiance quite celestial, as the sun poured down his rays through the central aperture, lighting up the angels that hovered above in the upper portion, and the holy religious forms of apostles, saints, and martyrs, who from above keep eternal watch and ward over the sacred tomb below, where burn by night and day the emblematic lamps. The celestial hierarchy around me, prefiguring the elders surrounding the great white throne, seemed planted there in expectation of the last trumpet, at whose solemn sound the breath of divinity shall revivify the spirits of those whose images we gazed on with feelings of wonder and of dread. Their mission shall be then accomplished, when the tomb beneath renders up its dead; while the vast fabric falls asunder, its deep foundations upheaved by the quaking globe, flying like Eve from the awful presence of its Creator into the shades of chaos. Some more steep climbing up eccentric stairs and the great outer balcony was reached, and the noble view stretched around. From this Belvidere of the eternal city it looks beneath like the palm of a man's hand, intersected by a thread of water flowing beside the tombs and ruins and the busy haunts of men, towards the desolate Maremma, where a curse lies heavy on the land—a curse of sterility, and poverty, and sickness, where life becomes but a living death. Řome lies like a corpse at one's feet. The glory of the seven hills is humbled, their undulations scarcely suspectible at the foot of their modern rival, the vast Basilica standing like Calypso among her nymphs, pre-eminent in height and dignity. Twice mistress of the world, Rome can now only be deemed queen of the desert around. The murmurs of the multitude, confounded with the hum of the fountains, were borne aloft in the sighings of the scented breeze, forming the orange-terraced gardens of the Vatican, like a lamentation, a complaint from the Rachel of ages calling for her children, and not to be comforted because they are not ! How can vain words do justice to this noblest panorama of that land, reverenced by all mankind as the centre from whence power, arts, religion, laws, history, beauty, bravery, civilisation have risen—the Cybele of Europe, and this its capital. Where the stones are more eloquent than living men, and in the preservation of whose proudest monument the very existence of the world is involved, as the great spring moving the timepiece of the universe; for, when the Colosseum falls, shall not earth be rent asunder ? Taken en masse, the aspect of the Campagna is barren and stern, without a single tree to shade the stony valleys, or fringe the long hard lines of the square-shaped mountains, looking as though cast in bronze. The weird fantastic pinetrees of the Villa Doria were all that barren nature displayed of inky, sober green around that monumental island; the great city beneath, born as if by enchantment-a marble oasis in a sandy desert. “Alas! the lofty city, and alas! childless and crownless in her voiceless woe,” she stands still to bear the whips and scorns of time as of yore, still to be chronicled as the protomartyr of the earth.
At this altitude the volcanic Alban mountains, veiled in deep forests, and the calcareous summits of the Sabine heights, Mount Soracte and the encircling Apennines looked but low hills, marking the limits of that vast upheaving plain the Campagna, nowhere level yet nowhere precipitate, bounded on one side by the Tyrrhenian Sea, on the other by the mountains, dry, naked, solitary, a lonely pine here and there crowning a rounded hill. I thought on all the theories extant accounting for the strange peculiarities of the Roman Campagna; that it had been once an ocean, those heights its shore ; Mount Soracte a rocky island, against whose sides the roaring billows beat ; that nature had formed it from the beginning for a great battle-field, whereon the destinies of mankind were to be fought out as long as time endured ; that it had once contained countless volcanoes, whose united action formed the unnatural substratum of lava of which it consists. None of these fancies pleased me save the battle of life, that is the impress the heavy lines bear, as though the very hills had hardened after having gazed for untold centuries on the blood and horrors, the death and destruction, piled heap above heap in that vast carnage ; ground where powers, nations, and potentates have fallen, “the Goth, the Christian, time, war, flood, and "fire"—the pale faces of the slain turned upwards, making death hideous. The islands on the sea towards Ostia were visible, like clouds of morning mist obscuring the empyrean blue-all, save heaven, was dead, brown, dried up, a very skeleton of nature-even Hope had fled back to the regions from whence she came, leaving beneath death, the grave, and blank despair.
Some persons are possessed with a foolish ambition of climbing up into the ball, which will hold about five persons, in an atmosphere resembling the black-hole of Calcutta. I have a desire to be rather than to seem, and never go to anything for the sake of saying that I have been, so I gazed at the scene around me, and allowed others to laugh and joke at the mishaps that befel them. After our descent we strolled into the Sistine Chapel, rigidly guarded by a Cerberus looking out for Paul's.
It is by no means so large as I dare say people fancy who have never seen it, yet there is a chastened elegance in its aspect quite peculiar; solemn yet rich, and admirably blending in general effect. I never could endure the “ Last Judgment;" it is to me a scene of unutterable Titanic confusion ; no peace, no joy, no hope, but all terror, horror, dread, and Torsos, Michael Angelo having twisted about the doomed and the blessed in equal degrees of contortion ; indeed, it requires no little study to realise which are the sheep and which the goats, so generally uneasy do the entire mass of saints and sinners appear. A great work of art may be invaluable as a study to cognoscenti, and yet most unpleasing and unpalatable to the multitude. The sombre brown of the figures on the blue background reminded me of the grave-like colouring of all nature in the prospect I had just quitted. The attitude of the Saviour has every attribute of a Jupiter Tonans rejoicing in the chaos he again calls forth for the destruction of the creatures he had formed; and the graceful action of the Madonna, veiling herself at the sight of the sufferings she cannot avert, may sound poetical on paper, but is quite lost in the agonised mass around her. To me, the charm of the Sistine Chapel consists in the beautiful frescoes that adorn its walls, on whose calm outlines the eye rests with complacency after the uneasy action of the “ Last Judgment.” Beautiful is Perugino's delineation of our Lord's temptation; the three movements combined into one picture with the quaint arrangement common to the early schools; beautiful, also, perhaps the finest of all his works, is “ Christ delivering the Keys to Peter,” the general arrangement and grouping of which served as the precise model to Raphael in his lovely picture of the “ Spozalizio,” now in the Brera at Milan. Here, too, Ghirlandaio, Roselli, Botticelli, and Signorelli, the great fathers of the Florentine school, have striven in noble emulation, and all united to produce a result not only artistically of the highest excellence, but pleasing and sympathetic to the admiring crowds who rendezvous here from all quarters of the civilised globe.
The Trovatore has been acting here with great success ; indeed, the Italians care for no other music but Verdi's, and if he always writes such operas as “Ernani” and “Rigoletto," I should be inclined to agree with them. There is a gush—a flow of the sweetest melody, reminding one of Bellini in his happiest inspirations. Somehow or other the German classicalities—Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart-are uncongenial in the sunny south, and never have taken deep root in the soil. Where the gay chirrup of the castanet, or the ringing joyous ritornel of the tamborine, far better suit the jocuod glee of the romances and nottornos they accompany on the vine-terraced hills, or on the blue shores of the myrtle-sbaded lakes, where, under the pillars of some ruined temple, the genuine Italian enjoys his festa, dressed in the gay national costume. The plot of the Trovatore, taken from the Spanish, is very dramatic, though full of mystery and inconsistency. Why such a superb knight, radiant in plumes and silver as if fresh from “ the glimpses of the moon, keeping watch over Diana sleeping with Endymion,” comes to move in general society as the son of a poor gipsy woman, is passing strange ; and why the basso, or the Conte, permits him to be perpetually escalading his castle and singing serenades to his lady-love, without cutting him off like a tall poppy in his rage, is equally astonishing. The serenades are,
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however, most acceptable to the audience, being quite delicious, though Boucardé, by reason of a very unchivalric hoarseness, by no means did justice to them. The Zingara, his mother, has some of the most original and taking melodies allotted to her the fertile fancy of Verdi ever conceived. Her famous song in the minor-her cries for vengeance, « Ah mi vendica,” floating like a death-cry all through the opera-her misery–her description of the burning of her own child on the pile she had raised for the son of the Count, all mark her character as a new and rich dramatic conception, far too good to be wasted in opera, where vraisemblance and nature must give way to trios, duets, and choruses, invariably in the most mal-àpropos situations.
I am not aware if the plot of the Trovatore be known in England, and therefore venture a short sketch of a story interesting enough to madden with delight the largest and most poetical portion of civilised Europe. The opera is divided into four acts, or tableaux. The first, called the Duel, introduces us to the palace of the Conte di Luna in the year grace 1409. In the opening scene his attendants, in some amazingly clever choruses, more nearly approaching the intonations of human voices speaking than any imitative music I ever heard (except, perhaps, John Parry), relate how a child, the heir of the house, was stolen away and burnt to death by some gipsies, and the ineffectual efforts of the Count to discover the particular delinquent, seeing that Spain swarms with gipsies as the desert with sand. Then enters the Lady Leonora and relates to an attendant her concealed love for an unknown knight, the Trovatore, whom she prefers to her affianced husband the Conte di Luna.
In the next scene she is joined by the Count, and soon after, from behind the scenes, is heard the exquisite serenade of the strange knight, accompanied by a harp, in a rhythm full of originality, and most catching to the ear; the burden of the love-lorn ditty being complaints of his solitary fate—unloved and unknown. He follows up the song by his bodily appearance in a superb suit of armour, with the haughty bearing and romantic beauty proper to a mediæval knight-errant, to the delight of the lady and the exasperation of the much-injured Count, who really suffers innumerable insults all through the opera at the hands of this doubtful personage. They exeunt fighting, after harmoniously singing a trio with the lady.
The next act introduces us to the gipsy camp, and Ayucena, picturesquely attired in radiant silks and barbaric gold, with a Moorishlooking handkerchief twisted about her, outlandish enough to recal that one Othello gave to Desdemona, " which had magic in the web of it, and could almost read the thoughts of people.” Maurice, her son, the Trovatore, now sits in repose beside her; after an excellent chorus, in which the effect is heightened by smiths' hammers striking in unison, she sings her famous song, abounding in a strange, mystic, grotesque expression, blended into a savage but striking melody, that, once heard, haunts one like a spell. This song purports to be the description of the burning of her own child instead of the Count's; but when Maurice, recalling her to herself, reminds her that he lives and is her son, Ayucena becomes confused, and still calls wildly for vengeance. This prepares the audience for the dénouement of the sequel. Sybil-like she stands,
uttering her dark sayings and wild forebodings. That weary ery, “Mi vendica," goes to one's heart, and her heavy eyes, now dull with grief, now burning with love or rage, convey forcibly the contending emotions warring in her bosom.
In the next scene the Count, with the assistance of mother Church's authority, forces Leonora, nolens volens, into a cathedral to be married. The Trovatore and his gipsy band break in and carry her off, to the undisguised satisfaction of the lady berself. This abduction leads to act the third, the most uninteresting part of the opera. The gipsy, in endeavouring to penetrate into the camp of her son, is taken prisoner by the followers of the Count, on suspicion of being the person who burnt the lost child. The Trovatore, on the point of marriage with Leonora (a lady whom fate perpetually leads to the steps of the "hymeneal altar” without ever permitting her to reach the summit), on hearing of his mother's imprisonment, rushes forth to rescue her. The last act discovers Maurice a prisoner in the Count's castle of Aliaferia. Leonora, favoured by the night, endeavours to speak with him, and hears again that delicious ritornel of the serenade sung by her lover from the interior of a Moresque tower, to the inexpressible satisfaction of the audience as well as herself. The Count enters, and Leonora, after vainly imploring the liberation of her lover, consents to marry him rather than permit the Trovatore to be sacrificed. The scene then changes to a dungeon, where the Zingara and her son are imprisoned. The poor Zingara is nearly mad; horror at her approaching death—for she is to be burnt alive-has disordered her already unsettled brain, and she raves in the most touching and exquisite music. She fancies herself again in the open sierra, in the wild valleys buried amid the deep mountains, where encamp her gipsy followers, far, far away from the terrible prison. Peace and happiness breathe in her soul; she imagines that the Trovatore is playing on the lute while she sleeps beside him; again she faintly hums the air of her charming melody of the first act, low and faint as in a blissful dream, and at last sinks insensible into the arms of her son. Leonora then enters, urging the Trovatore to fly, having obtained his pardon at the sacrifice of her own happiness. Maurice refuses to accept his liberty on such terms, and curses her for supposed unfaithfulness ; but hears with horror that she has swallowed poison, in order to avoid marrying the Count. She dies, and the Count appearing, orders Maurice to be dragged to the funeral pile. In the mean time the Zingara is restored to consciousness, but too late to declare the truth that it is not her son, but his own brother that the Count has caused to be burnt alive. She flings herself out of a window, and so ends the opera most dolorously.
Getting away from the opera here is an operation of difficulty--a regular exercise of patience--seeing that the French soldiers, who have everything their own way, favour the dukes and princesses, keeping the unfortunate profanum vulgus waiting for unknown periods of time amid a crowd of Italian buckeens, with long moustaches and ample beards, and cloaks draped à l'antique, smelling vilely of garlic and bad tobacco, to say nothing of the fevers one is in danger of catching from the damp exhalations of the neighbouring Tiber. There is a French theatre open four times a week, in which one entire tier is devoted to the modern