« PreviousContinue »
chael Angelo,--angels trembling at the blowing of trumpets, men in vain attempting to carry their friends into heaven; and saints, who have lived ages of temperance, sitting in calm air upon hills far above the triumphant progress of Death, who goes bearing down the great, the luxurious, and the young. The picture by Titian, in which he has represented the three great stages of existence, bubble-blowing childhood, love-making manhood, and death-contemplating
is not better conceived, and hardly better made out, than some of the designs of Orgagna and Giotto. Since I have beheld the Campo Santo, I have enriched my day-dreams and my stock of the admirable, and am thankful that I have names by heart, to which I owe homage and gratitude. Tender and noble Orgagna, be thou blessed beyond the happiness of thine own heaven! Giotto, be thou a name to me hereafter, of a kindred brevity, solidity, and stateliness, with that of thy friend Dante !*
The air of Pisa is soft and balmy to the last degree. Mr. Forsythe thinks it too moist, and countenance is given to his opinion by the lowness and flatness of the place, which lies in a plain full of springs and rivers, beiween the Apennines and the sea. The inhabitants also have a proverb,--Pisa pesa a chi posa,—which may be translated,
Pisa sits ill
To me the air seemed as dry as it is soft; and most people will feel oppressed every where, if they do not take exercise. The lower rooms of the houses are reckoned how
* There is a good description of the pictures in the Campo Santo, written by Professor Rosini, of Pisa, and enriched with some criticisms by his friend the Cavaliere de Rossi.
ever too damp in winter, at least on the Lungarno; though the winter season is counted delicious, and the Grand Duke always comes here to spend two months of it. The noon-day sun in summer-time is formidable, resembling more the intense heat struck from burning metal, than any thing we can conceive of it in England. But a sea-breeze often blows of an evening, when the inhabitants take their exercise. A look out upon the Lungarno at noon-day is curious. A blue sky is overhead-dazzling stone underneath-the yellow Arno gliding along, generally with nothing upon it, sometimes a lazy sail; the houses on the opposite side, sleeping with their green blinds down; and nobody passing but a few labourers, carmen, or countrywomen in their veils and handkerchiefs, hastening with bare feet, but never too fast to forget a certain air of strut and stateliness. Dante, in one of his love poems, praises his mistress for walking like a peacock, nay even like a crane, strait above herself :
Soave a guisa va di un bel pavone,
Sweetly she goes, like the bright peacock; strait
This is the common walk of Italian women, rich and poor. The step of Madame Vestris on the stage resembles it. To an English eye at first it seems wanting in a certain modesty and moral grace; but you see what the grave poet has to say for it, and it is not associated in an Italian mind with any such deficiency: that it has a beauty of its own is certain.
Solitary as Pisa may look at noon-day, it is only by comparison with what you find in very populous cities. Its desolate aspect is much exaggerated. The people, for the most part, sit in shade at their doors in the hottest weather, so that it cannot look so solitary as many parts of London at the same time of the year; and though it is true that grass grows in some of the streets, it is only in the remotest. The streets, for the most part, are kept very neat and clean, not excepting the poorest alleys, a benefit arising not only from the fine pavement which is every where to be found, but from the wise use to which criminals are put. The punishment of death is not kept up in Tuscany. Robbers, and even murderers, are made to atone for the ill they have done by the goods works of sweeping and keeping clean. A great murderer on the English stage used formerly to have a regular suit of brick-dust. In Tuscany, or at least in Pisa, robbers are dressed in a red livery, and murderers in a yellow. A stranger looks with a feeling more grave than curiosity at these saffron-coloured mysteries, quietly doing their duty in the open streets, and not seeming to avoid observation. But they look just like other men. They are either too healthy by temperance and exercise to exhibit a conscience, or think they make up very well by their labour for so trifling an ebullition of animal spirits. And they have a good deal to say for themselves, considering their labour is in chains and for life.
The inhabitants of Pisa in general are not reckoned a favourable specimen of Tuscan looks. You are sure to meet fine faces in any large assembly, but the common run is certainly bad enough. They are hard, prematurely aged, and what' expression there is, is worldly. Some of them have no expression whatever, but are as destitute of speculation and feeling as masks. The bad Italian face and the good Italian face are the extremes of insensibility and the reverse.
But it is rare that the eyes are not fine, and the females have a profusion of good hair. Lady Morgan has justly remarked the promising countenances of Italian
children, compared with what they turn out to be as they grow older; and adds with equal justice, that it is an evig int affair of government and education. You doubly pity the corruptions of a people, who besides their natural genius, preserve in the very midst of their sophistication a frankness distinct from it, and an entire freedom from affectation. Italian annoys you neither with his pride like an Englishman, nor with his vanity like a Frenchman. He is quiet and natural, self-possessed without wrapping himself sulkily in a corner, and ready for cheerfulness withoi. grimace. His frankness sometimes takes the air of a simplicity, at once singularly misplaced and touching. А young man who exhibited a taste for all good and generous sentiments, and who, according to the representation of his friends, was a very worthy as well as ingenious person, did not scruple to tell me one day, as a matter of course, that he made a point of getting acquainted with the rich families, purely to be invited to their houses and partake of their good things. Many an Englishman would undoubtedly do this, but he would hardly be so frank about it to a stranger; nor would an Englishman of the same tastes in other respects be easily found to act so. But it is the old story of " following a multitude to do evil,” and is no doubt accounted a mere matter of necessity and good sense.
The Pisans claim the merit of speaking as pure Italian, if not purer, as any people in Tuscany; and there is a claim among the poorer orders in this part of Italy, which has been too hastily credited by foreigners, of speaking a language quite as pure as the educated classes. It is certainly not true, whatever may be claimed for their Tuscan as ancient or popular Tuscan. The Pisans in general also seem to have corrupted their pronunciation, and the Florentines too, if report is to be believed. They use a soft aspirate
1 insted of the C, as if their language was not genteel and
tender enough already. Casa is hasa, --cuoco (a cook) ity to
hoho, --locando, lohando, --cocomero, hohomero,--and even genio
crazie (a sort of coin) hrazie. But they speak well out, troll
ing the words clearly over the tongue. There seems a good 1.
atal of talent for music among them, which does not know
how to make its way. You never hear the poorest melody, quie
, but somebody strikes in with what he can muster up of a elf
rmony. Boys go about of an evening, and parties sit at thu.
their doors, singing popular airs, and hanging as long as possible on the last chord. It is not an uncommon thing for gentlemen to play their guitars as they go along to a
party. I heard one evening a voice singing past a window, fli
that would not have disgraced an opera; and I once walked E,
behind a common post-boy, who in default of having another to help him to a harmony, contrived to make chords of all his notes, by rapidly sounding the second and treble one after the other. The whole people are bitten with a new song, and hardly sing any thing else till the next: there were two epidemic airs of this kind, when I was there, which had been imported from Florence, and which the inhabitants sung from morning till night, though they were nothing remarkable. And yet Pisa is said to be the least fond of music of any city in Tuscany.
I must not omit a great curiosity which is in the neighbourhood of Pisa, towards the sea ;-namely, the existence of a race of camels, which was brought from the East during the crusades. I have not seen them out of the city, though the novelty of the sight in Europe, the sand of the sea-shore, and the vessels that sometimes combine with the landscape in the distance, are said to give it a look singularly Asiatic. They are used for agricultural purposes, and may be some