Twilight Of The Gods
( Originally Published 1906 )
I strove with none, for none was worth my strife ;
WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR
"" Mr. Landor, do you remember the young artist who called on you one day ? '
" i Yes, and a nice fellow he seemed to be.' "' He was greatly taken with your head.'
" (Humorously.) ' You are quite sure he was not smitten with my face ? '
"' No, I am not sure, for he expressed himself enthusiastically about your beard. He says you are a fine subject for a study.'
" No answer.
" ` Would you allow him to make a sketch of you, Mr. Landor ? He is exceedingly anxious to do so.'
"' No ; I do not wish my face to be public property. I detest this publicity that men nowadays seem to be so fond of. There is a painting of me in England. D'Orsay, too, made a drawing of me' (I think he said drawing) once when I was visiting Gore House, a very good thing it was, too, and there is a bust executed by Gibson when I was in Rome. These are quite sufficient. I have often been urged to al-low my portrait to be inserted in my books, but never would I give my consent.' (Notwithstanding this assertion, it may be found in the Last Fruit.') ' It is a custom that I detest.'
" ` But, Mr. Landor, you had your photograph taken lately.'
"' That was to oblige my good friend Browning, who has been so exceedingly kind and attentive to me. I could not refuse him.'
" ` But, Mr. Landor, this is entirely between ourselves. It does not concern the public in the least. My friend wants to make a study of your head, and I want the study.'
" Oh, the painting is for you, is it ? '
" Yes. I want to have something of you in oil colors.'
" ' Ah, to be sure ! the old creature's complex-ion is so fresh and fair. Well, I'll tell you what I will do. Your friend may come, provided you come with him, and act as chaperon ! ' This was said laughingly.
" ' That I will do with pleasure.'
" " But stop ! ' added Landor after a pause. ` I must be taken without my beard ! '
"' Oh, no ! Mr. Landor, that cannot be. Why, you will spoil the picture. You won't look like a patriarch without a beard.'
"' I ordered my barber to come and shear me tomorrow. The weather is getting to be very warm, and a heavy beard is exceedingly uncomfortable. I must be shaved tomorrow.'
"' Pray countermand the order, dear Mr. Landor. Do retain your beard until the picture is completed. You will not be obliged to wait long. We shall all be so disappointed if you don't.'
"' Well, well, I suppose I must submit.'
" And thus the matter was amicably arranged, to our infinite satisfaction.
" Those sittings were very pleasant to the artist and his chaperon, and were not disagreeable, I think, to the model. Seated in his arm-chair, with his back to the window that the light might fall on the top of his head and form a sort of glory, Landor looked every inch a seer, and would entertain us with interesting though unseerlike recollections, while the artist was busy with his brush."
Landor frequently passed an evening at Casa Guidi with his devoted friends, and of one of these occasions Miss Field relates the following story :
" Apropos of old songs, Landor has laid his offering upon their neglected altar. I shall not forget that evening at Casa Guidi, I can forget no evening passed there, when, just as the tea was being placed upon the table, Robert Browning turned to Landor, who was that night's honored guest, gracefully thanked him for his defence of old songs, and, opening the ' Last Fruit,' read in his clear, manly voice the following passages from the Idyls of Theocritus : ' We often hear that such or such a thing is not worth an old song. Alas ! how very few things are ! What precious recollections do some of them awaken ! what pleasurable tears do they excite ! They purify the stream of life ; they can delay it on its shelves and rapids ; they can turn it back again to the soft moss amidst which its sources issue.'
" Ah, you are kind,' replied the gratified author.
You always find out the best bits in my books.'
"I have never seen anything of its kind so chivalric as the deference paid by Robert Browning to Walter Savage Landor. It was loyal homage rendered by a poet, in all the glow of power and impulsive magnetism, to ' an old master."
Out of her memories of these social evenings with the Brownings and Landor, Miss Field also writes :
"Landor entertained a genuine affection for the memory of Lady Blessington. 'Ah, there was a woman ! ' he exclaimed one day with a sigh. ' I never knew so brilliant and witty a person in conversation. She was most generous too, and kind-hearted. I never heard her make an ill-natured remark. It was my custom to visit her whenever the laurel was in bloom ; and as the season approached, she would write me a note, saying, " Gore House expects you, for the laurel has begun to blossom." I never see laurel now, that it does not make me sad, for it recalls her to me so vividly. During these visits I never saw Lady Blessington until dinner-time. She always breakfasted in her own room, and wrote during the morning. She wrote very well, too ; her style was pure. In the evening her drawing-room was thrown open to her friends, except when she attended the opera. Her opera-box faced the Queen's and a formidable rival she was to her Majesty.'
" D'Orsay was an Apollo in beauty, very amiable, and had considerable talent for modelling. Taking me into his little back sitting-room, Landor brought out a small album, and, passing over the likenesses of several old friends, among whom were Southey, Porson, Napier, and other celebrities, he held up an engraving of .Lady Blessington. Upon my remarking its beauty, Landor replied : ' That was taken at the age of fifty, so you can imagine how beautiful she must have been in her youth. Her voice and laugh were very musical.' Then, turning to a young lady present, Landor made her an exceedingly neat compliment, by saying, ' Your voice reminds me very vividly of Lady Blessington's. Perhaps,' he continued with a smile, 'this is the reason why my old, deaf ears never lose a word when you are speaking.' Driving along the north side of the Arno one summer's day, Landor gazed sadly at a terrace overlooking the water, and said :
Many a delightful evening have I spent on that terrace with Lord and Lady Blessington. There we used to take our tea. They once visited Florence for no other purpose than to see me. Was not that friendly ? They are both dead now, and I am doomed to live on. When Lady Blessington died, I was asked to write a Latin epitaph for her tomb, which I did ; but some officious person thought to improve the Latin before it was engraved, and ruined it.'
"This friendship was fully reciprocated by Lady Blessington, who, in her letters to Landor, refers no less than three times to those ' calm nights on the terrace of the Casa Pelosi. I send you,' she writes, the ' engraving, and have only to wish that it may sometimes remind you of the original.
Five fleeting years have gone by since our delicious evenings on the lovely Arno, evenings never to be forgotten, and the recollections of which ought to cement the friendships then formed.' Again, in her books of travel, the ' Idler in France' and ' Idler in Italy,' Lady Blessington pays the very highest tribute to Landor's heart, as well as intellect, and declares his real conversations to be quite as delightful as his imaginary ones. She who will live long in history as the friend of great men now lies beneath the chestnut shade of Saint Germain ; and Landor, with the indignation of one who loved her, has turned to D'Orsay, asking
"'Who was it squandered all her wealth,
One day," continues Miss Field, in her reminiscences of the Landor days, " the conversation turned to Aubrey De Vere, the beautiful Catholic poet of Ireland, whose name is scarcely known on this side of the Atlantic. This is our loss, though De Vere can never be a popular poet for his muse lives in the past and breathes ether rather than air. ` De Vere i's charming, both as man and as poet,' said Landor enthusiastically, rising as he spoke and leaving the room, to return immediately with a small volume of De Vere's poems published at Oxford in 1843.
Here are his poems, given to me by himself. Such a modest, unassuming man as he is ! Now listen to this from the " Ode on the Ascent of the Alps." Is it not magnificent ?
" I spake Behold her o'er the broad lake flying :
" " This sonnet on Sunrise,' continued Landor, is the noblest that ever was written :
" I saw the Master of the Sun. He stood
" Is not this line grand ? "
" Peals the strong, voluminous thunder ! "
And how incomparable is the termination of this song ! --
" Bright was her soul as Dian's crest
Here are two beautiful lines from the Grecian Ode : --
"Those sinuous streams that blushing wander
This is like Shakespeare : --
"Yea, and the Queen of Love, as fame reports,
And an admirable passage is this, too, from the same poem, " The Search after Proserpine":
"Yea and the motions of her trees and harvests
" ' There ! ' exclaimed Landor, closing the book, I want you to have this. It will be none the less valuable because I have scribbled in it,' he added with a smile.
" ' But, Mr. Landor '
"' Now don't say a word. I am an old man, and if both my legs are not in the grave, they ought to be. I cannot lay up such treasures in heaven, you know, saving of course in my memory, -- and De Vere had rather you should have it than the rats. There 's a compliment for you ! so put the book in your pocket.'
This little volume is marked throughout by Landor with notes of admiration, and if I here .transcribe a few of his favorite poems, it will be with the hope of benefiting many readers to whom De Vere is a sealed book.
"' Greece never produced anything so exquisite,' wrote Landor beneath the following song :
" Give me back my heart, fair child ;
" Hid it ! dropt it on the moors !
" And for this Landor claimed that it was finer than the best in Horace ':
" Slanting both hands against her forehead,
" And then she sang a loud, sweet music;
" But hark ! she sings " she does not love me " :
" Below the following exquisite bit of melody is written, ' Never was any sonnet so beautiful.'
" She whom this heart must ever hold most dear
O ! from their ambush sweet, how rich and clear
" " What sonnet of Petrarca equals this ? ' he says of the following :
" Happy are they who kiss thee, morn and even,
" ' Like Shakespeare's, but better,' is this allegory:
" You say that you have given your love to me.
Worthy of Raleigh and like him,' is Landor's preface to the following sonnet :
" Flowers I would bring, if flowers could make thee fairer,
" Occasionally Landor indulges in a little humorous indignation, particularly in his remarks on the poem of which Coleridge is the hero. De Vere's lines end thus :
" Soft be the sound ordained thy sleep to break !
" ` And let me nap on,' wrote the august critic, who had no desire to meet Coleridge, even as a celestial. being.
" Now and then there is a dash of the pencil across some final verse, with the remark, ' Better without these.' Twice or thrice Landor finds fault with a word.
" The following note," continues Miss Field, " is worthy to be transcribed, showing as it does the generosity of his nature at a time when he had nothing to give away but ideas. Landor wrote :
"MY DEAR FRIEND, Will you think it
worth your while to transcribe the enclosed ? These pages I have corrected and enlarged. Some of them you have never seen. They have occupied more of my time and trouble, and are now more complete, than anything you have favored me by reading. I hope you will be pleased. I care less about others. . . . I hope you will get something for these articles, and keep it. I am richer by several crowns than you suspect, and I must scramble to the kingdom of Heaven, to which a full pocket, we learn, is an impediment.
Ever truly yours, W.S.L
" The manuscripts contained the two conversations between Homer and Laertes which two years ago were published in the ' Heroic Idyls.' I did not put them to the use desired by their author. Though my copies differ somewhat from the printed ones, it is natural to conclude that Landor most approved of what was last submitted to his inspection, and would not de-sire to be seen in any other guise. The publicity of a note prefixed to one of these conversations, however is warranted.
" It will be thought audacious, and most so by those who know the least of Homer, to represent him as talking so familiarly. He must often have done it, as Milton and Shakespeare did. There is homely talk in the ' Odyssey.'
" Fashion turns round like Fortune. Twenty years hence, perhaps, this conversation of Homer and Laertes, in which for the first time Greek domestic manners have been represented by any modern poet, may be recognized and approved."
Miss Field again writes :
"Popular as is the belief that Landor's gifts were the offspring of profound study, he himself says : ' Only four years of my life were given up much to study ; and I regret that I spent so many so ill. Even these debarred me from no pleasure ; for I seldom read or wrote within doors, excepting a few hours at night. The learning of those who are called the learned is learning at second hand ; the primary and most important must be acquired by reading in our own bosoms ; the rest by a deep insight into other men's. What is written is mostly an imperfect and unfaithful copy.' This confession emanates from one who is claimed as a university rather than a universal man. Landor remained but two years at Oxford, and, though deeply interested in the classics, never contended for a Latin prize. Speaking of this one day, he said :
I once wrote some Latin verses for a fellow of my college who, being in great trouble, came to me for aid. What was hard work to him was pastime to me, and it ended in my composing the entire poem. At the time the fellow was very grateful, but it happened that these verses excited attention and were much eulogized. The supposed author accepted the praise as due to himself. This of course I expected, as he knew full well I would never betray him ; but the amusing part of the matter was that the fellow never afterwards spoke to me, never came near me, - in fact, treated me as though I had done him a grievous wrong. It was of no consequence to me that he strutted about in my feathers. If they became him, he was welcome to them, --but of such is the kingdom of cowards."
" Poetry," writes Landor, " was always my amusement, prose my study and business." In his twentieth year he lived in the woods, " did not exchange twelve sentences with men," and wrote " Gebir," his most elaborate and ambitious poem, which Southey took as a model in blank verse.
Among Landor's correspondence in these closing years the following letters that passed between Kossuth and himself tell their own story of Landor's sympathy with the cause of liberty.
The letter from Kossuth to Landor is as follows : ---
8, South Bank Regents Park, London, March 24, 1856.
MY VENERABLE FRIEND, Though I very gratefully appreciate the generosity of your in-tentions, still I must confess, that few things have ever affected me more painfully than to see from the Times of to-day, my private circumstances, the sacred domain of my life thrust as an object of commiseration upon public discussion, a miserable subject of public sneers.
My head turns giddy at the very thought, and my resignation is scarcely able to overcome the shame, I don't know how I shall muster sufficient resolution to appear in public ever hereafter ; and I fear with all your good intentions, you shall have become the involuntary instrument for driving me out of England, before my time. I really scarcely can imagine what else I have to do, unless you devise some means for healing the wound.
I am poor, very poor ; but there was, I dare say, something honorable in that poverty, something sacred I would say. But seeing it made the object of a public appeal for commiseration, I feel as if everything that was sacred to my position had undergone a profanation.
I repeat that I respect and appreciate the nobility of your impulses, but I regret that such a step should have been taken without my having an idea of its possibility.
I will say no more, but leave it with your prudence and discretion to mitigate the blow your kindness has inflicted on me. And remain with wonted esteem, only mingled with grief,
Yours very truly,
To WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
To which Landor replied : --
" It is impossible for me to rest until 1 have attempted to remove the vexation I have caused to the man I most venerate of any upon earth.
" My noble Kossuth ! ' The sacred domain of your life' is far more extensive than your measurement. Neither your house nor your banker's are its confines. Do not imagine that the World is ignorant of your circumstances : it would be a crime to be indifferent to them. The Editor of the ' Atlas' in announcing that he had ' secured ' your co-operation, published a manifesto. I know nothing f this editor ; but, so long as you contributed to the paper, I was your humble subsidiary.
" Consider how many men, wealthier than you and me, have accepted the offers of those who came forward to indemnify the persecuted for the demolition of their property. Ask yourself if Demosthenes or Milton, the two most illustrious defenders of liberty, by speech and pen, would have thrust aside the tribute which is due to such men alone. Would you dash out the signature of one who declares you his trustee for a legacy to your children ? No, you would not. Neither will you reject the proofs of high esteem, however manifested, which England, however debased, is anxious to give.
" Believe me ever sincerely
and affectionately yours,
" W. S. LANDOR."
The originals of these two letters (which Miss Kate Field had preserved among her MSS.) were given by her biographer 1 to the Boston Public Library, together with many autograph letters written to Miss Field herself by many of the famous people of the nineteenth century. Her own reminiscences of Landor, from which the foregoing transcripts have been freely drawn, were placed by her publishers at the disposal of the. writer of this volume.
It was in the summer of 1859 that, owing to domestic difficulties, Mr. Landor left his beautiful villa on the hillside near Fiesole and came under the immediate care of Mr. Browning, who arranged for the aged poet to go for a time to a little apartment in Siena ; but the Storys, who were then in villeggiatura in the quaint old mediaeval city, invited him to their villa. " He made us a long visit," wrote Mrs. Story, " and was an honored and cherished guest. During the time he was with us his courtesy and high breeding never failed him ; he was touchingly pleased and happy with our life, and so delightful and amusing that we ourselves grieved when it came to an end."
Later, the Brownings took the Villa Alberti, a little distance from the Storys, and a villina close to the Brownings was engaged for Mr. Landor, who would be seen astir in the early mornings writing Latin verses under the cypress trees. Mrs. Story's letters mention how frequently the aged poet came to them, and she says.: "His mention of Rose Aylmer and he often mentioned her always brought the tears to his eyes if not to ours ; for there with her he had evidently buried his heart." And Mrs. Browning wrote of Landor to a friend, saying :
" He has excellent, generous, affectionate impulses, but the impulses of the tiger every now and then. Nothing coheres in him, either in his opinions, or, I fear, his affections. It is n't age he is precisely the man of his youth, I must believe. Still, his genius gives him the right to gratitude of all artists at least, and I must say that my Robert has generously paid the debt. Robert always said that he owed more as a writer to Landor than to any contemporary. At present Landor is very fond of him, but I am quite prepared for his turning against us as he has turned against Forster, who has been so devoted for years and years. Only one is n't kind for what one gets by it, or there would n't be much kindness in this world."
Landor's friendships, however, were for the most part very sincere and strong. The strangely trying domestic infelicities that he suffered evidently left their trace on him, but in the main his noble nature always prevailed. He was a keen observer of character. Being asked at one time if he had ever seen Daniel Webster, Landor replied, " I once met Mr. Webster at a dinner-party. We sat next each other, and had a most agreeable conversation. Finally Mr. Webster asked me if I would have taken him for an American, and I answered, ' Yes, for the best of Americans ! ' "
For Southey his friendship was abounding, as it was for Lamb and Coleridge ; and he gave to Keats an ardent appreciation. The remarkable quotation whose first line runs :
" I strove with none ; for none was worth my strife."
was written on the evening of his seventy-fifth birthday after the departure of his friends, Dickens and John Forster, who had passed the anniversary with him. He sent the stanza to Mr. Forster with a little note that ran :
" My thanks were not spoken to you and Dickens for your journey of two hundred miles upon my birthday. Here they are, not visible on the surface of the paper, nor on any surface whatever, but in the heart that is dictating this letter. On the night you left me I wrote the following DYING SPEECH OF AN OLD PHILOSOPHER."
Then followed the stanza which is given in full at the opening of this chapter.
Curiously, it is said that although Shelley and Landor both lived in Paris at the same time, and each highly appreciated the other's poetry, they never met. Landor cared for Wordsworth, but said that he found in him " a sad deficiency f vital heat." His closest affinities were with the Latin poets, and of the modern, Shakespeare and Milton were his best-loved. Browning he cared for in-tensely, and Mrs. Browning's friendship cheered the lonely old man who had outlived all his early contemporaries, almost to the last. Browning's poetry puzzled him, although he was one of the earliest to recognize the genius of the author of " Pauline," while of Browning himself Landor wrote :
" Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
" I have always deeply regretted that I never met Shelley," said Landor to Miss Field. " It was my own fault, for I was in Pisa the winter he resided there, and was told that Shelley de-sired to make my acquaintance. But I refused to make his, as at that time, I believed the disgraceful story related of him in connection with his first wife. Years after, when I called upon the second Mrs. Shelley, who, then a widow, was living out of London, I related to her what I had heard. She assured me that it was a most infamous falsehood, one of the many that had been maliciously circulated about her husband. I expressed my sorrow at not having been undeceived earlier, and assured her I never could forgive myself for crediting a slander that had prevented me from knowing Shelley. I was much pleased with Mrs. Shelley."
Landor's companionship was always inspiring to his friends. His profound and vast learning, his varied information, his wide acquaintance with celebrated persons, his ready wit and repartee rendered his conversation so rich and entertaining as to be an exceptional privilege.
In " Pericles and Aspasia," Cleone has written with Landor's pen, that " study is the bane of boyhood, the aliment of youth, the indulgence of manhood, and the restorative of old age." Of this theory there could be no better example than Landor himself. That life which outlasted all the friends of its zenith was made rich by a constant devotion to the greatest works of the greatest men. Milton and Shakespeare were his constant companions, by night as well as by day. " I never tire of them," he would say ; " they are always a revelation. And how grand is Milton's prose ! quite as fine as his poetry ! " He was said to be very fond of repeating the following celebrated lines that have the ring of truth :
"But when God commands to take the trumpet
" Was anything more harmonious ever writ-ten ? " Landor would ask. " But Milton, you know, is old-fashioned. I believe I am old-fashioned. However, it is rather an honor to be classed thus, if one may keep such distinguished company." How devoted a student of Milton Landor was is evidenced in his delightful critical conversation between Southey and himself, wherein he declared, " Such stupendous genius, so much fancy, so much eloquence, so much vigor of intellect never were united as in Paradise Lost."
In 1861 Landor sent to Kate Field the last lines he ever wrote, addressed to the English Homer, entitled
" MILTON IN ITALY.
" O Milton ! couldst thou rise again, and see
" We took many drives with Landor during the spring and summer of 1861, and made very delightful jaunts into the country," wrote Miss Field of one of his latest summers.
" Not forgetful in the least of things, the old man, in spite of his age, would always insist upon taking the front seat, and was more active than many a younger man in assisting us in and out of the carriage. ' You are the most genuinely polite man I know,' once wrote Lady Blessington to him. The verdict of 1840 could not have been overruled twenty-one years later. Once we drove up to ` aerial Fiesole,' and never can I forget Landor's manner while in the neighbor-hood of his former home. It had been proposed that we should turn back when only half-way up the hill. ' Ah, go a little farther,' Landor said nervously ; ' I should like to see my villa.' Of course his wish was our pleasure, and so the drive was continued. Landor sat immovable, with head turned in the direction of the Villa Gherardesca. At first sight of it he gave a sudden start, and genuine tears filled his eyes and coursed down his cheeks. ` There 's where I lived,' he said, breaking a long silence and pointing to his old estate. Still we mounted the hill, and when at a turn in the road the villa stood out before us clearly and distinctly, Landor said,
Let us give .the horses a rest here !' We stopped, and for several minutes Landor's gaze was fixed upon the villa. ' There now, we can return to Florence, if you like,' he murmured, finally, with a deep sigh. ' I have seen it probably for the last time.' Hardly a word was spoken during the drive home. Landor seemed to be absent-minded. A sadder, more pathetic picture than he made during this memorable drive is rarely seen. ' With me life has been a failure,' was the expression of that wretched, worn face. Those who believe Landor to have been devoid of heart should have seen him then."
To the visitor in Florence, Villa Landor is still one of the objects of pilgrimage, and to its history since the death of the poet has been added a chapter of rich memories in its having been the home, for more than twenty years, of Prof. Daniel Willard Fiske, formerly of Cornell University. Professor Fiske restored the special features of the villa as it had been during Landor's day ; but while preserving its historic aspect, Professor Fiske fitted up the villa with every modern convenience, and furnished it with the most exquisite taste. It is a spacious dwelling, with lofty salons on three floors. Rich rugs, woven expressly to the order of Professor Fiske in Damascus ; rare carvings, inlaid mosaics, decorated ceilings, and every conceivable luxury of a beautiful home filled the rooms pervaded by the genius of Walter Savage Landor. For it was here that he had written those brilliant " Imaginary Conversations " and nearly all his poems. The dining-room, which was the scene of the famous fray which terminated in Mr. Landor's throwing his cook out of the window, still has that violet bed beneath its windows, which the irascible poet feared he had injured, oblivious to any danger of a broken neck to his' victim. Above the dining-room is the room that Landor used for his study the windows framing another of those beautiful views that are enjoyed in every direction from Florence.
In one of the salons Professor Fiske had the portrait medallion head of Landor carved in stone over one of the mantelpieces. The choice books, many rare editions of beautiful folios, add distinction to the library. Every room held its enchantment in artistic interest. Professor Fiske was very hospitable, seldom being without guests under his roof. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Bailey Aldrich passed a part of one winter with him. Professor and Mrs. Goldwin Smith were his guests for some weeks, and many foreigners of distinction visited him. He was a reticent man, with a settled sadness of manner ; but when he was stimulated to his best by the congenial atmosphere of some group of near friends, his conversation was delightful.
By a curious coincidence, Professor Fiske died on the fortieth anniversary of Landor's death. To literature, Professor Fiske has rendered a great service in the collection of a specialist library of Dante, of Petrarcha, and of Icelandic literature. The Dante collection he had already presented to Cornell University ; that of the other two were placed in Florence, forming one of the most ideal of libraries, and one which, by the kind courtesy of Professor Fiske, it was the privilege of some tourists to visit. Professor Fiske domiciled this rare and exquisite collection in a noble apartment in a palace on the Via Lungo it Mugnone, facing the purple mountains. The spacious apartment was luxuriously fitted up with rich rugs, a great library-table, with every convenience and ornament; the walls of the room were lined with the books, running up to the Pompeian red frieze. Professor Fiske had two secretaries constantly in attendance
one an Italian for the Petrarcha collection, and a Dane (or Norwegian) for the Icelandic. It is a very rare and a very notable achievement to have brought together such a threefold collection as that of Professor Fiske, an achievement that required not only the finest taste and the most liberal scholarship, but also the wealth to make possible such fulfilment of an ideal. Many who might have the scholarly knowledge and the taste would be unable to command the required wealth ; others, more numerous, who might easily command the wealth, would be far from possessing the requisite knowledge and the literary taste inspiring such a work. It is a monument to elegant scholarship. The present collection is an evolutionary result, so to speak, of an idea that occurred to Professor Fiske in the spring of 1892, when, as he was searching for Petrarcha books in an old Italian shop, he chanced upon a copy of the " Divina Commedia " dated 1536, which he immediately purchased. For three years the professor continued his quest and his purchases.
" I not only wandered through the bookshops of all the larger and many of the smaller cities of Italy," he said, but visited, more than once, the principal book marts of Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, my journeys extending northward to Edinburgh and Stockholm. When not travelling or buying I was conning catalogues or corresponding with booksellers, publishers, and librarians in all the lands lying between Brazil and India, between Lisbon and St. Petersburg."
Curiously, the city that yielded him the largest and most important results in Dantean literature was London, where Professor Fiske found a dealer who had accumulated a private Dante library. After London he found the most productive markets in Florence, Rome, Milan, Turin, and Paris. The scholarly quest seems to have abounded in pleasant incidents. " When I chanced in Perugia ,to inquire at a street book stall in relation to Dante," said Professor Fiske, an elderly bystander. whom I afterward grew to know as a delightful scholar and gentleman turned to me, saying that he himself owned a small Dante collection, which he should take pleasure in showing me. Repairing with him to his home, I was taken to a little room, wherein were two or three presses filled with Dante literature, including nearly every opuscule concerning the poet which had been issued in Umbria or thereabouts, of most of which the various local librarians I had previously consulted had avowed their complete ignorance. Their possessor insisted upon my taking them all without payment, saying that his own little collection was of slight importance compared to the large one I was endeavoring to bring together. It was only on my positively declining to accept his too liberal offer that he consented to let me send him in exchange other works on the same theme which he lacked."
This magnificent gift to Cornell must be a feature that will always attract students of Italian literature and poetry to that university, and enable it to hold a kind of perpetual festival of scholarship. Of the supreme power of Dante, Lowell well said : Almost all the other poets have their seasons, but Dante penetrates to the moral core of those who once fairly come within his sphere, and possesses them wholly. His readers turn students, his students zealots, and what was a taste becomes a religion. If Shakespeare be the most comprehensive intellect, so Dante is the highest spiritual nature that has expressed itself in rhythmical form."
The atmosphere of scholarly culture and lofty aspiration with which Landor invested his home was revived by Daniel Willard Fiske during his tenure of the villa. Again was it pervaded by intellectual activities of a high order and by the social charm of lovely friends who lingered there. With this wealth of association and its romantic environment, Villa Landor will remain one of the monuments of Florence, invested with a rich and varied interest.
Landor remained for some weeks as the guest of the Storys, and later in his little casa in Siena, until the late autumn days of 1859 called the Brownings back to Florence, and the Storys to Rome. He loved the strange mediζval town ; for in Siena one feels that life of the fourteenth century when this city was the successful rival f Florence. It is an example of arrested development. Florence has progressed. Siena has stood still. Its narrow, dark streets, which seem like wells at the foot of the lofty stone buildings, are still traversed by white oxen and an occasional donkey cart. The streets are so steep that on most of them no horse could keep his footing on their stony pavement, and some of them, indeed, are more like stone staircases than streets.
Siena is a Tuscan town, about fifty miles from Florence, but the journey requires some five hours, as the Italian trains offer the maximum of delay and discomfort to the minimum of distance. It is a walled city with nine gates, and the city is absolutely limited to the space within the walls. It has never diffused itself into suburbs, and outside the wall there is the unbroken stretch of country. It is located on the summits of three hills, and all the country roads lead up to the nine gates. The view from the citadel is unique in all Europe. One looks down on the surrounding country, while in the distance from eight to ten lines of mountain ranges are seen, one after another, each undulating horizon line growing fainter and fainter as it recedes. The ground is of a brown tint, from which the name of Siena brown. A soft haze of purples and the most delicate suggestion of rose and mauve form a transparent veil over the landscape, while castles, towers, convents, and campaniles diversify all the hillsides in this great sweep of country.
The civilization about Siena is very old, and the people are proud of their university (whose specialties are law and medicine) of the purity of Italian as spoken by Sienese scholars, and of the galleries where Sienese art can be studied chronologically and in its completeness.
The home and haunts of Catharine of Siena form an object of pilgrimage. Catharine was born in 1347 and died in 1380. Her father was a dyer, and their home and the shop were in the Contrado d'Oca, a depressed district of poor people. The house and shop stand to-day as they stood during her lifetime, and over the door is written in gold letters, " Sposae Christi Catharine Domus." On the adjoining hill stands the vast church of St. Dominico, in the chapel of which Catharine prayed and saw visions.
" Catharine of Siena was to the fourteenth century what St. Bernard was to the twelfth, the light and support of the Church. At the moment when the bark f St. Peter was most strongly agitated by the tempest, God gave it for pilot a poor young girl who was concealing herself in the little shop of a dyer. Catharine travelled to France to lead the Pontiff Gregory XI. away from the delights of his native land ; she brought back the Popes to Rome, the real centre of Christianity. She addressed herself to cardinals, princes, and kings. . . . By the power of her eloquence and the ardor of her piety she succeeded as a mediator between Florence and her native city, and between Florence and the Pope. . . . Like St. Francis, St. Bernard, and Savonarola, Catharine became the fear-less monitor of the Church and a prophet to it of warning and rebuke."
The impressiveness of all this scenery of her life cannot be imagined until one is in the midst of it. The house where she lived has been bereft of much of its interest by the converting of all its rooms into chapels which are not distinctive ; but there is still shown the little cell where she slept, a tiny recess in the wall with a stone floor on which she lay, refusing comfort or warmth, and it is related that she always continued in prayer until the matin sounded from St. Dominico, in order that the district in which she lived might never be without its devotions ascending to God. There are shown certain relics, the lantern she carried when on her ministering errands at night about Siena ; the cap she wore, and her prayer, printed on slips that the tourist may buy.
The Church of St. Dominico is one of the most curious of the old mediaeval structures. It dates back to the twelfth century, and has apparently been very little altered since that time. It is perfectly bare in its interior, nor are the chapels particularly rich, although there are a few paintings and pieces of sculptures that are worth seeing. The little chapel where Catharine held her protracted vigils is kept in semi-privacy, and one enters by special permission only. On the stone floor there is a red heart inlaid with the inscription that on that spot Christ changed the heart of Catharine. Over the door of this chapel is inscribed :
"Haec tenet ara caput Catharinae ; corda respiris ?
Practically the church is unchanged, and one wanders through its vast and rather gloomy interior ; lingers in the chapel where Catharine saw visions and dreamed dreams, and where her head is preserved in a silver reliquary, while her body is entombed in Rome. It is related that when she was six years old she saw a vision of Jesus in the golden clouds of the evening, and that He smiled upon her, extending his hands in blessing. At another time in her childhood she longed to go to the desert, and she actually left the city and found a grotto in a hill, where, she said, God came to her and told her she had another work in life to do than that of seeking solitude, and that she must return to her father's house. At another time she said that the Lord thus counselled her when she had desired to seclude herself from men :
" Be calm, my child ; thou must accomplish all justice that my grace may become fruitful in thee and in others. I desire not that thou shouldst be separated from me ; on the contrary, I desire that thou shouldst become more closely nnited to me by charity toward thy fellow-creatures. Thou knowest that love has two commandments, to love me and to love thy neighbor. I desire that thou shouldst walk, not on one, but on two feet, and fly to heaven on two wings."
This counsel is well worth remembering in its breadth of application to life.
Siena is the one place in which to study the great frescoes of Sodoma. In the Palazza Publico one finds his figures of St. Ansano and St. Vittorio, San Bernardo, the Holy Family, and other of his most important works.
Once a year, on St. Catharine's day, which all Siena regards as a " festa," celebrating with processions and banners and high mass, the head of Catharine is exhibited to the people. The story of Catharine's miraculous life is too authentic in history to admit of doubt. John Addington Symonds says f her : " She walked surrounded by a spiritual world, environed by angels. Her habits were calculated to foster this disposition. She took little sleep ; she ate nothing but vegetables and the sacred wafer of the host, entirely abjuring wine and meat. This diet depressed the physical forces and exalted the nervous system. Thoughts became things, and ideas were projected from her vivid fancy upon the empty air about her."
In the light of modern psychical research, however, it is certainly conceivable that this depletion of the physical and exaltation of the nervous system may, instead of producing hallucination, have produced receptivity instead ; that it may have permitted her to see what truly existed, but that to which ordinary life is blind. The world of the unseen is as real is far more real, indeed than the world of the seen. It is a realm where everything is in a state of higher vibration, and is thus only visible to the most sensitive and exalted conditions. All these wonderful and mystic legends and history regarding Catharine of Siena seem not unlinked with the facts and results that invest psychic research in the present day.
One of the most interesting places in Italy is this Tuscan town of Siena. The interior of the cathedral is all in black and white, with curious effects of interarching and some of the finest wood carvings in the entire world.
Siena is a living page out of history, and, after Rome, Venice, and Florence, there is no question but that Siena is the most important city in Italy for the visitor to study.
The journey between Florence and Siena has perpetual change and charm. The hills are crowned with castles, towers, convents, and campaniles which silhouette themselves against the sky, and the wooded valleys are full of winding roadways and mysterious lights ; the horizon shows sometimes eight or ten undulating lines of mountain ranges ending in a line of snow, with the most delicate play of colors in the foreground, purple and rose and pale greens, -- while the old gray stone houses, often fortified just as they stood six hundred years ago, are surrounded by the silvery hue of the gray-green olive orchards, and defined by the tall, solemn cypress trees that stand like grim sentinels.
To what degree Siena impressed Landor is not recorded in any of his writings. Doubtless he had before visited the old city ; but at this time in his extreme old age it was his friends and his literary work that engaged his interest. The composition of a Latin verse enlisted his attention far more deeply than art, myth, or legend. The scenery of memory absorbed him rather than that of the outer world.
On their return to Florence, Mr. Browning established Landor in a little casa (number 2671) in the Via Nunziatina near the Church of the Carmine and also near Casa Guidi. The little street, whose name has now been changed, is in one of the most picturesque parts of Florence, and its high antique buildings hold always a nameless charm for the visitor. Mrs. Browning's own maid, Wilson, who had married an Italian, was placed in charge of Landor's household, and with his books about him, reading Odyssey in the original and happy in acquiring new pictures by Domenichino and Poussin, problematic as was their genuineness, Landor passed his time with his books and his thoughts. " Nothing," he wrote in a letter to John Forster about this time, " can exceed Mr. Browning's continued kindness. Life would be almost worth keeping for that recollection alone."
And Browning wrote of Landor to Mr. Forster :
"At present Landor's conduct is . faultless. His wants are so moderate, his evenness of temper so remarkable, his gentleness and readiness to be advised so exemplary, that it all seems too good ; as if some rock must lurk under such smooth water. His thankfulness for the least attention, and anxiety to return it, are almost affecting under all circumstances. He leads a life of the utmost simplicity."
The Brownings had arranged to pass this winter of 1859-60, in Rome, and Mr. Browning spoke to friends of his regret in this absence from the wonderful old man, whose gentle courtesy and benignancy increased during their closer intercourse. They often walked for two hours together in rambles about Florence. " He writes Latin verses," says Browning of him ; " few English, but a few ; and just before we left Siena an imaginary conversation suggested by some-thing one of us had said about the possible re-appearance of the body after death. He looks better than ever by the amplitude of a capital beard, most becoming, we all judge it." " If you could only see how well he looks in his curly white beard ! " Mrs. Browning wrote in a letter to England.
Mr. Burne-Jones and Mr. Val Prinsep were in Rome also that season carrying a letter of introduction to the Brownings from Rossetti, and the Brownings also met and knew Cardinal (then Dr.) Manning, in Rome that winter. " We left Mr. Landor in great comfort," Mrs. Browning writes from Rome to a friend. " I went to see his apartment before it was furnished. Rooms small, but with a lookout into a little garden quiet and cheerful. His genius gives him the right of gratitude on the part of all artists at least."
The rooms all opened into each other, and in the sitting-room Landor was usually to be found, " sitting in a large arm-chair, surrounded by paintings, which he declared he could not live without (all of them very bad for the most part, excepting one genuine small Salvator), his hair snowy white and his beard f patriarchal proportions, his gray eyes still keen and clear, his grand head not unlike Michael Angelo's Moses, and at his feet a pretty little Pomeranian dog called Gaillo, the gift f Mr. William Story."
In the following June the Brownings returned from Rome, and of Landor Mr. Browning says :
" I find him very well, satisfied on the whole, busy with verse-making, and particularly de-lighted at the acquisition of three execrable daubs by Domenichino and Gaspar Poussin, most benevolently battered by time. He has a beautiful beard, foam-white and soft. He reads the Odyssey in the original with extraordinary ease. When he alludes to that other matter, it is clear that he is, from whatever peculiarity, quite impervious to reasoning or common-sense. He cannot in the least understand that he is at all wrong, or injudicious, or unwary, or unfortunate in anything, but in the being prevented by you from doubling and quadrupling the offence. He spent the evening here the night before last. Whatever he may profess, the thing he really loves is a pretty girl to talk nonsense with ; and he finds comfort in American visitors, who hold him in proper respect."
The twilight deepened. His faithful friend, Mr. Kirkup continued to visit him. Algernon Charles Swinburne came to Florence to pay his tribute to England's oldest living poet, and later he wrote the beautiful lyric which forever links the names of those who were at the time,
" The youngest and the oldest singer
Mrs. Browning died in June of 1861, leaving as the last thing she had touched, a half finished letter to Mme. Mario " full of noble words about Italy." The death of Cavour had deeply affected her. Mr. Browning left Italy, never to return.
You cannot imagine how I miss him," wrote Mr. Story to Prof. Charles Eliot Norton. " For three years now we have always been together ; all the long summer evenings of these last summers in Siena we sat on our terrace night after night, talking, or we played and sang together. All the last winters he worked with me daily for three hours in my studio ; and we met, either at my house, or his, or at that of some friend, nearly every evening. There is no one to supply his place. . . . No one with whom I can sympathize on all points as with him, no one with whom I can walk any of the higher ranges of art and philosophy. Mrs. Browning is a great loss to literature the greatest poet among women. What energy and fire there was in that little frame. Never did I see any one, whom the world hastened to crown, who had so little vanity and so much pure humility."
Isa Blagden went with Mr. Browning to England, where she was to have had a villa near Miss Cobbe ; but in the end she returns to Bellosguardo and is one of the narrowing circle to cheer Landor's latest days.
During the last year of his life he collected and revised his poems that appear in the volume entitled " Heroic Idylls," to which he prefixed a preface that runs :
" He who is within two paces of the ninetieth year may sit down and make no excuses ; he must be unpopular, he never tried to be much otherwise, he never contended with a contemporary, but walked alone on the far eastern uplands, meditating and remembering."
The Florence on which Landor closed his eyes was the Florence of the Past and also of the Present. Not one charm of all its dead centuries has it ever lost. The spell of enchantment that brooded over the eleventh century still invests the twentieth century. The ages only glorify this City Beautiful.
The narrow, winding streets with their arcades, their overhanging loggias, the glow of color in niches and arch that surprises the eye, are thronged with invisible forms, and the irregular stone pavements echo to the tread of invisible footsteps. Every turn is invested with poetic legend ; every hour is filled with beauty. A morning atmosphere, clear as crystal, reveals the mountain ranges in tints of rose, purple, and azure, veined with colors that sparkle and change before the gaze like the flash of jewels. Again a wraith-like haze veils valley and mountains in the softest blue air, that half reveals and half conceals the towers and the ancient walls. Looking out on these and on the old church of the Car-mine, Landor might have said with Dante :
I lift mine eyes and all the windows blaze
During all the last dozen years or more of Landor's life he seemed to constantly anticipate death. As early as in 1857 when he arranged that collection of his poems that appears under the title of Dry Sticks," he insisted on placing his name on the title-page as " the late " W. S. Landor. His publisher, Mr. Nichol of Edinburgh wrote to him saying :
" I take the liberty of begging you to allow me to make the title stand thus ; ' Dry Sticks Faggoted by W. S. Landor,' and not, as you still continue to write it, the late W. S. Landor. It will sufficiently pain many when in God's good time you will be spoken of as ' the late ' ; and I think the expression would jar on the ear of all your friends as it does on mine."
About that time Landor wrote to John Forster :
"Why cannot this swimming of the head carry me to the grave a little more rapidly ?
This is the only thing I now desire. I remember faces and places, but their names I totally forget. Verses of the Odyssey and the Iliad, run perpetually in my mind, after the better part of a century, and there seems to be no room for anything else."
In his Ode to Southey, written at an earlier period than this, Landor had said :
"We hurry to the river we must cross,
The student of Landor cannot but note with some amusement, irreverent though it may seem, his habit of writing epitaphs for himself. The following Latin stanza is one of these :
"Ut sine censurβ, sine laude inscripta, sepulcro
This half-poetic, half-melancholy attitude toward death was, however, in the very spirit of the age in which Landor lived. Mrs. Browning and other persons of exceptional development spiritually, escaped this tendency of the day to contemplate death in its mere physical aspect. The one grave defect running through the character of Landor, or, as it might better be said, the one serious misfortune of his life, was his inability to so comprehend the true nature of life as to see death in its just relation merely one event in evolutionary progress. Religion as well as science is progressive in that each continually grasps larger truth ; and the closing years of the nineteenth century brought to bear on human life a wonderful quickening of perception regarding spiritual truth, and the power to receive anew, and realize with a far deeper significance, the revelation and the teachings of Jesus, the Christ.
The twilight deepened into dusk. It was, in-deed, the twilight of the gods. The old man was but groping his way through the gathering shadows. All his old friends save Mr. Kirkup who continued to visit him, had vanished. Those whose footsteps had been, with his own, bathed in the dew of Parnassus, were all gone. Mr. Browning made constant friendly inquiries, but he could never look again upon Florence now that his "star," the star that " opened its soul " to him, had vanished from earthly gaze. But Landor had his poems and his thoughts. His favorite classics were about him. On one night not long before his death the old man rang for his attendant about two o'clock in the morning, and insisted upon having the room lighted and the windows thrown open. He then asked for a' pen ; he wrote a few lines of poetry, then, leaning back, said, " I shall never write again. Put out the lights and draw the curtains."
On the seventeenth of September, 1864, Landor was released from the worn-out physical body and entered on the life radiant amid that loveliness which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive of its glory.
"A night of memories and of sighs"
And then the dawn of the Immortal Day.
In the literary Valhalla Landor's fame rests secure. The defect f his work is its lack f spiritual confidence. He had failed to lay hold on immortality with that abounding faith and exquisite certainty of recognition which imparts to life the glow and energy of achievement, and the joy that no man taketh from another. In this defect he did not rise above the general environment of his age as those more spiritually developed were enabled to do, in ascending into the more joyous ethereal atmosphere. This was the misfortune of temperament rather than the fault of conscious intention. This loftier development of his noble intellectual powers awaited him farther on in the eternal progress. John Forster, his biographer, admirably sums up Landor's life when he says :
" To the end we see him as it were unconquerable. He keeps an unquailing aspect to the very close. But he is only unvanquished ; he is not the victor. . . . Greatness there was always ; a something of the heroic element which lifted him, in nearly all that he said and very much that he did, considerably above ordinary stature ; but never to be admitted or described without important drawbacks. What was wanting most, in his books and his life alike, was the submission to some kind of law. . . . But though he would not accept those rules of obedience without which no man can wisely govern either himself or others ; and though he lived far beyond the allotted term of life without discovering that all the world is wiser than any one man in the world ; his genius was yet in itself so commanding and consummate as to bring into play the nobler part of his character only, and by this his influence will remain over others.. . . To refuse the recognition of any strength but one's own . . . and to rest all claim to magnanimity and honor on self-assertion rather than self-denial, cannot but be a grave fault in the conduct of life in modern times ; but shift it back into classic ages, and the heroes of Greece and Rome take visible shape once more."
This last statement contains the key-note to Landor's character. He was essentially of classic mould ; and his virtues and his defects were those seen in such high relief in any study of the Golden Age of Greece.
A man, however, is entitled to be judged by his noblest moments. Landor's entire character was of the heroic quality. His liberal sympathies, his hatred of all tyranny and oppression, and his great tenderness of nature must endear him to all who appreciate the majesty of his genius as revealed in his work.
In the little English cemetery, consecrated by the tomb of Elizabeth Barrett Browning whose earthly form was laid away in the marble de-signed by her friend, Sir Frederick Leighton ; near the graves of Isa Blagden, the Trollopes, and Theodore Parker, was the body of Landor laid.
"O, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west.
The beautiful little English cemetery just outside the old walls of Florence will forever remain a shrine of poetic pilgrimage. A double line of the dark cypress trees motionless as statues, surround the spot ; the encircling mountain lines tower above it from the near horizon and the golden Italian sunshine shimmers into a thousand opalescent, lights and shadows over the tombs whose names suggest so much of the poetic vitality f the nineteenth century. The flat entablature of marble laid on Landor's grave bears only his name and the two dates -17751864 within whose limits the story of his life on earth was comprised, the most beautiful chapters of which were set in the scenic enchantment of the Flower of all Cities and City of all Flowers.
The Twilight of the Gods had faded into the Immortal Dawn of the Glory Everlasting.
"And thou, his Florence, to thy trust
" So shall thy lovers, come from far,