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Apollo. Turn we now to Prout and his gleanings in the fertile field of his selection, "Hesperiâ in magnâ.”
OLIVER YORKE. March 1st, 1835.
Watergrasshill, Feh. 1830. I RESUME to-night the topic of Italian minstrelsy. In conning over a paper penned by me a few evenings ago, I do not feel satisfied with the
tenour of my musings. The start from the fountain of Vaucluse was fair ; but after gliding along the classic Po and the majestic Tiber, it was an unseemly termination of the essay to engulf itself in the cavity of a bob-wig. An unlucky "cul de sac,” into whicli I must have strolled under sinister guidance. Did Molly put an extra glass into my vesper bowl? When the frost is abroad and the moon is up,
and naught disturbs the serenity of this mountain wilderness, and the bright cheerful burning of the fragrant turf-fire betokens the salubrity of the circumambient atmosphere, I experience a buoyancy of spirit unknown to the grovelling sensualist or the votary of fashion. To them it rarely occurs to know that highest state of enjoyment, expressed with curious felicity in the hemistich of Juvenal, “ Mens sana in corpore sano. Could they relish with blind old Milton the nocturnal visitings of poesy; or feel the deep enthusiasm of those ancient hermits who kept the desert awake with canticles of praise ; or, with the oldest of poets, the Arabian Job, commune with heaven, and raise their thoughts to the Being " who giveth songs in the night” (Job xxxv. 10), they would acknowledge that mental luxuries are cheaply purchased by the relinquishment of grosser delights. A Greek (Eustathius) gives to Night the epithet of supgovn, or “parent of happy thoughts :" and the “Noctes Atticæ” of Aulus Gellius are a noble prototype of numerous lucubrations rejoicing in a similar title,—from the “ Mille et une Nuits” to the “ Notti Romane al Sepolcro degli Scipioni," from Young's plaintive “Night Thoughts” to the " Ambro
sian” pernoctations called ambrosiane—all bearing testimony to the genial influence of the stilly hour. The bird of Minerva symbolized wisdom, from the circumstance of its contempt for the vulgarities of day; and Horace sighs with becoming emotion when he calls to his recollection the glorious banquetings of thought and genius of which the sable goddess was the ministrant- noctes cænæque Deum ! Tertullian tells us, in the second chapter of the immortal “ Apology,” that the early Christians spent the night in pious “ melodies," that morning often dawned upon their
songs”-antelucanis horis canebant. He refers to the testimony of Pliny (the Proconsul's letter to Trajan) for the truth of his statement. Yet, with all these matters staring him in the face, Tom Moore, led away by his usual levity, and addressing some foolish girl, thinks nothing of the proposal" to steal few hours from the night, my dear !"-a sacrilege, which, in his eye, no doubt, amounted only to a sort of petty larceny. But Tom Campbell, with that philosophic turn of mind for which he is so remarkable, connects the idea of inspiration with the period of "sunset:” the evening of life, never failing to bring “ mystical lore." Impressed with these convictions, the father of Italian song, in the romantic dwelling which he had built unto himself on the sloping breast of the Euganeian hills, spent the decline of his days in the contemplation of loftiest theories, varying his nocturnal devotions with the sweet sound of the lute, and rapt in the alternate Elysium of piety and poetry. In these ennobling raptures he exhaled the sweet perfume of his mind's immortal essence, which gradually disengaged itself from its vase of clay. “ Oblivion stole upon his vestal lamp:” and one morning he was found dead in his library, reclining in an arm-chair, his head resting on a book, 20th July, 1374.
Whether the enviable fate of Petrarca will be mine, I know not. But, like him, I find in literature and the congenial admixture of holier meditations a solace and a comfort in old age. In his writings, in his loves, in his sorrows, in the sublime aspirations of his soul, I car freely sympathise. Laura is to me the same being of exalted excellence and cherished purity; and, in echoing from this remote Irish hill the strains of his immortal lyre, I hope to
share the blessing which he has bequeathed to all who should advance and extend the fame of his beloved :
“Benedette sian' le voce tante ch' io
Chiamando il nome di mia donna ho sparte,
My “papers” may promote his wishes in this respect. Disengaged from all the ties that bind others to existence, solitary, childless, what occupation more suitable to my remnant of life could I adopt than the exercise of memory and mind of which they are the fruit? When I shall seek my lonely pillow to-night, after “outwatching the bear," I shall cheerfully consign another document to the chest," and bid it go join, in that miscellaneous aggregate, the mental progeny of my old age. This “ chest”
be the coffin of my thoughts, or the cradle of my renown. In it
meditations may be matured by some kind editor into ultimate manhood, to walk the world and tell of their parentage; or else it may prove a silent sarcophagus, where they may moulder in decay. In either case I am resigned. I envy not the more fortunate candidates for public favour : I hold enmity to none. For my readers, if I have any, all I expect on their part is, that they may exhibit towards a feeble garrulous old man the same disposition he feels for them. Oσην διανοιαν εγω διατελω εχων προς παντες υμας τοσαυτην διατελεσται μοι προς τουτονι τον αγωνα. (Δημοσθ. περι στεφαν.)
This exordium of that grand masterpiece, in which the Athenian vindicates bis title to a crown of gold presented by his fellow-citizens, leads me, by a natural transition, to à memorable event in Petrarca's life, — that ebullition of enthusiasm, when the senators of Rome, at the suggestion of Robert, King of Naples, and with the applause and concurrence of all the free states of Italy, led the poet in triumph to the Capitol, and placed on his venerable head a wreath of laurel. The coronation of the laureate who first bore the title, is too important to be lightly glanced at. The ingenious Mad. de Staël (who has done more by her. “ De l'Allemagne” to give vogue to Germanic literature than the whole schüttery of Dutch authorship and the