Page images

his faults against taste and propriety are far fewer and lighter than might have been expected from his habits : and as he acknowledged that he could have formed no idea of a woman refined by high breeding and education, we cannot be surprised if he sometimes committed solecisms of which he was scarcely aware. For instance, he met a young lady (Miss Alexander, of Ballochmyle,) walking in her father's grounds, and struck by her charms and elegance, he wrote in her honour his well known song, “The lovely lass of Ballochmyle," and sent it to her. He was astonished and offended that no notice was taken of it; .but really, a young lady, educated in a due regard for the convenances and the bienséances of society, may be excused, if she was more embarrassed than flattered by the homage of a poet, who talked, at the first glance, of " clasping her to his bosom.” It was rather precipitating things.






Monti, who is lately dead, will at length be allowed to take the place which belongs to him among the great names of his country. A poet is ill calculated to play the part of a politician; and the praise and blame which have been so profusely and indiscriminately heaped on Monti while living, must be removed by time and dispassionate criticism, before justice can be done to him, either as a man or a poet. The mingled grace and energy of his style obtained him the name of il Dante grazioso, and he has left behind him something striking in every possible form of composition-lyric, dramatic, epic, and satirical.

Amid all the changes of his various life, and all the trying vicissitudes of spirits—the wear and tear of mind which attend a poet by profession, tasked to almost constant ex. ertion, Monti possessed two enviable treasures ;-a lovely and devoted wife, with a soul which could appreciate his powers and talents, and exult in his fame; and a daughter equally amiable, and yet more beautiful and highly gifted. He has immortalized both; and has left us delightful proofs of the charm and the glory which poetry can throw round the purest and most hallowed relations of domestic life.

When Monti was a young man at Rome, caressed by popes and nephews of popes, and with the most brilliant ecclesiastical preferment opening before him, all his views in life were at once bouleversé by a passion, which does sometimes in real life play the part assigned to it in romance-trampling on interest and ambition, and mocking at Cardinals' hats and tiaras. Monti fell into love and fell

out of the good graces of his patrons: he threw off the habit of an abbate,* married bis Teresa, in spite of the world and fortune; and instead of an aspiring priest, became a great poet.

Teresa Pichler was the daughter of Pichler, the cele. brated gem engraver. I have heard her described, by those who knew her in her younger years, as one of the most beautiful creatures in the world. Brought up in the studio of her father, in whom the spirit of ancient art seemed to have revived for modern times, Teresa's mind as well as person had caught a certain impress of antique grace, from the constant presence of beautiful and majestic forms: but her favourite study was music, in which she was a proficient; her voice and her harp made as many conquests as her faultless figure and her bright eyes. After her marriage she did not neglect her favourite art; and she, whose talent had charmed Zingarelli and Guglielmi, was accustomed, in their hours of domestic privacy, to soothe, to enchant, to inspire, her husband. Monti, in one of his poems, has tenderly commemorated her musical powers. He calls on his wife during a period of persecution, poverty and despondency, to touch her harp, and as she was wont, rouse his sinking spirit, and unlock the source of nobler thoughts.

Stendi, dolce amor mio! sposa diletta!
A quell' arpa la man; che la soave,

Dolce fatica di tue dite aspetta.
Svegliami l'armonia, ch' entro le cave

Latebre alberga del sonoro legno,

E de' forti pensier volgi la chiave! There is a resemblance in the sentiment of these verses, to some stanzas addressed by a living English poet to his wife;-she who, like Monti's Teresa, can strike her harp, till, as a spirit caught in some spell of his own teaching, music itself seems to flutter, imprisoned among the chords, -to come at her will and breathe her thought, rather than obey her touch!

Once more, among these rich and golden strings,

Wander with thy white arm, dear Lady, pale!

* Worn by the young men who are intended for the Church,

And when at last from thy sweet discord springs

The aerial music,-like the dreams that veil
Earth's shadows with diviner thoughts and things,

O let the passion and the time prevail !
O bid thy spirit through the mazes run!

For music is like love, and must be won! &c.*

The Italian verses have great power and beauty; but the English lines have the superiority, not in poetry only, but in rhythmical melody. They fall on the ear like a strain from the harp which inspired them-full, and rich, and thrilling sweet, -and not to be forgotten!

To return to Monti:—no man had more completely that temperament which is supposed to accompany genius. He was fond, and devoted in his domestic relations; but he was variable in spirits, ardent, restless, and subject to fits of gloom. And how often must the literary disputes and political tracasseries in which he was engaged, have embittered and irritated so susceptible a mind and temper! If his wife were at his side to soothe him with her music, and her smiles, and her tenderness,-it was well,-the cloud passed away. If she were absent, every suffering seemed aggravated, and we find him-like one spoiled and pampered, with attention and love,-yielding to an irritable despondency, which even the presence of his children could not alleviate.

Che più ti resta a far per mio dispetto,
Sorte crudel? mia donna è lungi, e io privo,
De' suoi conforti in miserando aspetto

Egro qui giaccio, al sofferir sol vivo!t But the most remarkable of all Monti's conjugal effusions, is a canzone written a short time before his death, and when he was more than seventy years of age. Nothing can be more affecting than the subdued tone of melancholy tenderness, with which the gray-haired poet apostrophises her who had been the love, the pride, the joy of his life for forty years. In power and in poetry, this canzone will bear a comparison with many of the more rapturous effusions of his youth. The occasion on

* Barry Cornwall. † Opere Varie, v. iii. This sonnet to his wife was written when Monti was ill at the house of his son-in-law, Count Perticari.

which it was composed is thus related in a note prefixed to it by the editor.* When Monti was recovering from a long and dangerous illness, through which he had been tenderly nursed by his wife and daughter, he accompanied them “in villeggiatura," to a villa near Brianza, the residence of a friend, where they were accustomed to celebrate the birth-day of Madame Monti; and it was here that her husband, now declining in years, weak from recent illness and accumulated infirmities, addressed to her the poem which may

be found in the recent edition of his works; it begins thus tenderly and sweetly

Donna ! dell' alma mia parte più cara !
Perchè muta in pensosa alto mi guati ?
E di segrete stille,

Rugiadose si fan le tue pupille ? &c. “Why, O thou dearer half of my soul, dost thou watch over me thus mute and pensive? Why are thine eyes heavy with suppressed tears ?" &c.

And when he reminds her touchingly, that his long and troubled life is drawing to its natural close, and that she cannot hope to retain him much longer, even by all her love and care, he adds with a noble spirit,-“Remem. ber, that Monti cannot wholly die! think, O think! I leave thee dowered with no obscure, no vulgar name! for the day shall come, when, among the matrons of Italy, it shall be thy boast to say,—I was the love of The tender translation to his daughter

E tu del pari sventurata e cara mia figlia! as alike unhappy and beloved, alludes to her recent widowhood. Costanza Monti, who inherited no small portion of her father's genius, and all her mother's grace and beauty, married the Count Giulio Perticari of Pesaro, a man of uncommon taste and talents, and an admired poet. He died in the same year with Canova, to whom he had been a favourite friend and companion: while his lovely wife furnished the sculptor with a model for his ideal heads of

* Edit. 1826, vol. vi. + In the original, Monti designates himself by an allusion to his chefd'euvre—“Del Cantor di Basville."

« EelmineJätka »