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Julian is an Englishman of good family; passionately attached to those philosophical notions which assert the power of man over his own mind, and the immense improvements of which, by the extinction of certain moral superstitions, human society may yet be susceptible. Without concealing the evil in the world, he is for ever speculating how good may be made superior. He is a complete infidel, and a scoffer at all things reputed holy; and Maddalo takes a wicked pleasure in drawing out his taunts against religion. What Maddalo thinks on these matters is not exactly known. Julian, in spite of his heterodox opinions, is conjectured by his friends to posses some good qualities. How far this is possible the pious reader will determine. Julian is rather serious.
Of the Maniac I can give no information. He seems, by his own account, to have been disappointed in love. He was evidently a very cultivated and amiable person when in his right senses. His story, told at length, might be like many other stories of the same kind: the unconnected exclamations of his agony will perhaps be found a sufficient comment for the text of every heart.
The meadows with fresh streams, the bees with thyme,
The goats with the green leaves of budding Spring,
Are saturated not—nor Love with tears.—Virgil's Gallus.
I RODE one evening with Count Maddalo
So, as we rode, we talked; and the swift thought,
Winging itself with laughter, lingered not,
Bat flew from brain to brain. Such glee was ours,
Charged with light memories of remembered hours,
None slow enough for sadness; till we came
Homeward, which always makes the spirit tame.
This day had been cheerful but cold; and now
The sun was sinking, and the wind also.
Our talk grew somewhat serious, as may be
Talk interrupted with such raillery
As mocks itself, because it cannot scorn
The thoughts it would extinguish :—'twas forlorn,
Yet pleasing; such as once, so poets tell,
Tlie devils held within the dales of hell,
Concerning God, freewill, and destiny.
Of all that Earth has been, or yet may be;
All that vain men imagine or believe,
Or hope can paint or suffering can achieve,
We descanted; and I (for ever still
Is it not wise to make the best of ill ?)
Argued against despondency; but pride
Made my companion take the darker side.
The sense that he was greater than his kind
Had struck, methinks, his eagle spirit blind
By gazing on its own exceeding light.
Meanwhile the sun paused ere it should alight
Over the horizon of the mountains. Oh I
How beautiful is sunset, when the glow
Of heaven descends upon a land like thee,
Thou paradise of exiles, Italy,
Thy mountains, seas, and vineyards, and the towers
Of cities they encircle !—It was ours
To stand on thee, beholding it: and then,
Just where we had dismounted, the Count's men
Were waiting for us with the gondola.
As those who pause on some delightful way,
Though bent on pleasant pilgrimage, we stood
Looking upon the evening, and the flood
Which lay between the city and the shore,
Paved with the image of the sky. The hoar
And aery Alps, towards the north, appeared
Through mist—an heaven-sustaining bulwark reared
"Ere it fade,"
So, o'er the lagune
"We are even
I looked, and saw between us and the sun
A building on an island, such an one
As age to age might add, for uses vile,—
A windowless, deformed, and dreary pile;
And on the top an open tower, where hung
A bell which in the radiance swayed and swung,—
We could just hear its hoarse and iron tongue:
The broad sun sank behind it, and it tolled
In strong and black relief.—
"What we behold Shall be the madhouse and its belfry tower,"— Said Maddalo; "and ever at this hour Those who may cross the water hear that bell, Which calls the maniaes, each one from his cell, To vespers."
"As much skill as need to pray In thanks or hope for their dark lot have they To their stern maker," I replied.
"Oho! You talk as in years past," said Maddalo. "'Tis strange men change not. You were ever still Among Christ's flock a perilous infidel, A wolf for the meek lambs. If you can't swim, Beware of providence!" I looked on him, But the gay smile had faded from his eye. "And such," he cried, "is our mortality! And this must be the emblem and the sign Of what should be eternal and divine; And, like that black and dreary bell, the soul, Hung in an heaven-illumined tower, must toll Our thoughts and our desires to meet below Round the rent heart, and pray—as madmen do; For what? they know not, till the night of death, As sunset that strange vision, severeth Our memory from itself, and us from all We sought, and yet were baffled."—
I recall The sense of what he said, although I mar The force of his expressions. The broad star Of day meanwhile had sunk behind the hill; And the black bell became invisible; And the red tower looked grey; and, all between, The churches, ships, and palaces, were seen Huddled in gloom; into the purple sea The orange hues of heaven sunk silently. We hardly spoke, and soon the gondola Conveyed me to my lodging by the way.
The following morn was rainy, cold, and dim.
Ere Maddalo arose, I called on him;
And, whilst I waited, with his child I played.
A lovelier toy sweet Nature never made;
A serious, subtle, wild, yet gentle being;
Graceful without design, and unforeseeing;
With eyes—oh speak not of her eyes! which seem
Twin mirrors of Italian heaven, yet gleam
With such deep meaning as we never see
But in the human countenance. With me
She was a special favourite: I had nursed
Her fine and feeble limbs when she came first
To this bleak world; and she yet seemed to know
On second sight her ancient playfellow,
Less changed than she was by six months or so.
For, after her first shyness was worn out,
We sate there, rolling billiard balls about,—
When the Count entered.
We might be otherwise; we might be all *
We dream of, happy, high, majestical.
"Ay, //we were not weak,—and we aspire, How vainly! to be strong," said Maddalo: "You talk Utopia."
"It remains to know," I then rejoined; "and those who try may find Hmt? strong the chains are which our spirit bind: Brittle perchance as straw. We are assured