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"On the whole, however, the sounds were hoarse and screaming: they seemed, in the manner of all rude uncivilized 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, shrieking 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 the scene; and amidst all these circumstances it was easy to confess the character of this wonderful harmony.
"It suits perfectly 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 distance over the tranquil mirror, and as all is still around, he is, as it were, in a solitude in the midst of a large and populous town. Here is no rattling of carriages, no noise of foot
passengers; a silent gondola glides now and then by him, of which the splashings of the oars are scarcely to be heard.
"At a distance he hears another, perhaps utterly unknown to him. Melody and verse immediately attach the two strangers; he becomes the responsive echo to the former, and exerts himself to be heard as he had heard the other. By a tacit convention they alternate verse for verse; though the song should last the whole night through, they entertain themselves without fatigue: the hearers, who are passing between the two, take part in the amusement.
"This vocal performance sounds best at a great distance, and is then inexpressibly charming, as it only fulfils its design in the sentiment of remoteness. It is plaintive, but not dismal in it ssound, and at times it is scarcely possible to refrain from tears. My companion, who otherwise was not a very delicately organized person, said quite unexpectedly: e singolare come quel canto intenerisce, e molto più quando lo cantano meglio.
"I was told that the women of Libo, the long row of islands that divides the Adriatic from the Lagouns*, particularly the women of the extreme districts of Malamocco and Palestrina, sing in like manner the works of Tasso to these and similar tunes.
"They have the tom, when their husbands are fishing out at sea, to sit along the shore in the evenings and vociferate these songs, and continue to do so with great violence, till each of them can distinguish the responses of her own husband at a distance f."
The love of music and of poetry distinguishes all classes of Venetians, even amongst the tuneful sons of Italy. The city itself can occasionally furnish respectable audiences for two and even three opera houses at a time; and there are few events in private life that do not call forth a printed and circulated sonnet. Does a physician or a lawyer take his degree, or a clergyman preach his maiden sermon, has a sur
The writer meant Lido, which is not a long row of islands, but a long island: littus, the shore.
+ Curiosities of Literature, vol, ii. p. 156, edit. 1807; and Appendix xxix. to Black's Life of Tasso.
geon performed an operation, would a harlequin announce his departure or his benefit, are you to be congratulated on a marriage, or a birth, or a lawsuit, the Muses are invoked to furnish the same number of syllables, and the individual triumphs blaze abroad in virgin white or party-coloured placards on half the corners of the capital. The last curtsy of a favourite "prima donna" brings down a shower of these poetical tributes from those upper regions, from which, in our theatres, nothing but cupids and snow storms are accustomed to descend. There is a poetry in the very life of a Venetian, which, in its common course, is varied with those surprises and changes so recommendable in fiction, but so different from the sober monotony of northern existence; amusements are raised into duties, duties are softened into amusements, and every object being considered as equally making a part of the business of life, is announced and performed with the same earnest indifference and gay assiduity. The Venetian gazette constantly closes its columns with the following triple advertisement.
Exposition of the most Holy Sacrament in the church of St.
St. Moses, opera.
St. Benedict, a comedy of characters.
When it is recollected what the Catholics believe their consecrated wafer to be, we may perhaps think it worthy of a more respectable niche than between poetry and the playhouse.
Sparta hath many a worthier son than he.
Stanza x. line 5.
The answer of the mother of Brasidas to the strangers who praised the memory of her son.
Stanza xi. line 5.
The lion has lost nothing by his journey to the Invalides but the gospel which supported the paw that is now on a level with the other foot. The horses also are returned to the illchosen spot whence they set out, and are, as before, half hidden under the porch window of St. Mark's church.
Their history, after a desperate struggle, has been satisfactorily explored. The decisions and doubts of Erizzo and Zanetti, and lastly, of the Count Leopold Cicognara, would have given them a Roman extraction, and a pedigree not more ancient than the reign of Nero. But M. de Schlegel stepped in to teach the Venetians the value of their own treasures, and a Greek vindicated, at last and for ever, the pretension of his countrymen to this noble production*. Mr. Mustoxidi has not been left without a reply; but, as yet, he has received no answer. It should seem that the horses are irrevocably Chian, and were transferred to Constantinople by Theodosius. Lapidary writing is a favourite play of the Italians, and has conferred reputation on more than one of their literary characters. One of the best specimens of Bodoni's typography is a respectable volume of inscriptions, all written by his friend Pacciaudi. Several were prepared for the recovered horses. It is to be hoped the best was not selected, when the following words were ranged in gold letters above the cathedral porch.
EQUORUM SIGNA A VENETIS BYZANTIO. CAPTA AD TEMPD MARARS MCCIV POSITA · QUÆ HOSTILIS CUPIDITAS A MDCCIIIC ABSTULERAT. FRANCI IMP PACIS ORBI DATE TROPHÆUM A MDCCCXV VICTOR REDUXIT.
Nothing shall be said of the Latin, but it may be permitted to observe, that the injustice of the Venetians in transporting the horses from Constantinople was at least equal to that of
*Sui quattro cavalli della Basilica di S. Marco in Venezia. Lettera di Andrea Mustoxidi Corcirese. Padua, per Bettoni e compag.... 1816.
the French in carrying them to Paris, and that it would have been more prudent to have avoided all allusions to either robbery. An apostolic prince should, perhaps, have objected to affixing over the principal entrance of a metropolitan church an inscription having a reference to any other triumphs than those of religion. Nothing less than the pacification of the world can excuse such a solecism.
The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns—
After many vain efforts on the part of the Italians entirely to throw off the yoke of Frederic Barbarossa, and as fruitless attempts of the Emperor to make himself absolute master throughout the whole of his Cisalpine dominions, the bloody struggles of four and twenty years were happily brought to a close in the city of Venice. The articles of a treaty had been previously agreed upon between Pope Alexander III. and Barbarossa, and the former having received a safe conduct, had already arrived at Venice from Ferrara, in company with the ambassadors of the king of Sicily and the consuls of the Lombard league. There still remained, however, many points to adjust, and for several days the peace was believed to be impracticable. At this juncture it was suddenly reported that the Emperor had arrived at Chioza, a town fifteen miles from the capital. The Venetians rose tumultuously, and insisted upon immediately conducting him to the city. The Lombards took the alarm, and departed towards Treviso. The Pope himself was apprehensive of some disaster if Frederic should suddenly advance upon him, but was reassured by the prudence and address of Sebastian Ziani, the Doge. Several embassies passed bɛtween Chioza and the capital, until, at last, the Emperor relaxing somewhat of his pretensions, "laid aside his leonine ferocity, and put on the mildness of the lamb*."
"Quibus auditis, imperator, operante eo, qui corda principum sicut vult et quando vult humiliter inclinat, leonina feritate deposita, ovinain mansuetudinem induit." Romualdi Salernitani Chronicon. apud Script. Rer. Ital. Tom. VII. p. 229.