Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

«VHTO T.

reign had over his family; and on the power a husband will always have over a wife, who (as seems to have been the case in this instance) continues to love him, notwithstanding her disaproval of his conduct. If then the poor mother, in conducting her girl to the nuptial chamber and making her ascend the decorated couch, gave vent to a bitter flood of conscious sorrow, it was not strange Francesca should attribute it exclusively to their approaching separation ; and if the maid too trembled, and let fall ' some natural drops,' it is what frequently occurs on similar occasions: but few mothers had ever such real cause to weep; and few brides ever advanced to such a ruinous catastrophe, under the false impression that none ever had her timidity balanced by more exquisite hopes, nor her grief, tit parting from those who gave her birth, by the consolation of yielding to such an engaging spouse

When her eyes reopened , it was all over : and recognising her loss as utterly irretrievable, she uttered a frantic shriek on descrying, whether, ere dawn, by the light of a taper (0, or, later, by tha t of the offended sun, the features of him she had embraced, and who was now rising from the bed (»); not her charming suitor, not he to

(i) . . . e trovandosi la sera allato Gianciotto. M- S. ut supra, (a) Nod s'avvide prima dello iuganno, ch' essa vide la matlina u•ABTO T.

whom her faith had been pledged upon the altar, where God-like beauty and the solemnity of Religion joined in kindling up her heart and brain, but one of the most loathsome, severe,and deformed of men , and whose base stratagem had just proved his mind to be as ill-fashioned as his body. None but a female can form any adequate conception oftheo'er-whelming misery of such a moment, when the brain must be agonized by the simultaneous rush of all the most excruciating feelings of our nature, the past, the future, crushed hopes, everlasting regrets, the sense of remediless disaster, the prospect of an entire life to be consumed in the inseparable fetters of a close junction with a wretch, whom it is criminal not to love and honor

yet impossible not to despise and abhor: for

me, I can do no better than follow the reserve of my good old Author, fully convinced, as I am, that no man, whatever calamities may befall him, can ever suffer any blow half so calculated to create despair. 'Madonna' (is the only observation hazarded ) 'perceiving herself cheated declined into a state of deep discontent (0.'Her attachment however to the youth who had received her plighted hand, and who was probably, like herself, a victim of duplicity, did not fade; on the contrary, that

piente+l dl dclle nozze levar da lato a se Gi.meiotto. Boccaccio, ut supra.

(i) . . . fu male coutenta, e vidde ch' ella era stata ingannata- M. 5. ut supra.

I:a!ito V.

perillous attachment increased with every effort to stifle it (0. Whether this were the involuntary effect to be predicted, I cannot tell; or whether it would not have been more natural for her to have begun to view the whole of mankind with detestation : but in resolving to struggle with the sentiments of her heart, to resign herself under such irreparable wrongs , and to spurn legal interference, which, even if attainable, would have been only vengeance (not reparation) of an injury not redressed by human power, nor even by Omnipotence himself, unless, as is doubtful, he could change the past (a), and which could not be sought for without bringing eternal disgrace on her family

in determining to make a voluntary sacrifice

of the little remnant of her peace of mind, after its main portion had been already irrevocably sacrificed, rather than brand her father as a villain,

and plunge her country in war in submitting

to her mate however unworthy, and in undertaking to dedicate the residue of her lingering existence to the duties of a forlorn, but lofty, spotless wife, she formed an idea of the most difficult and exalted virtue. Had her attempt succeeded, she would have been by far the brightest specimen of female heroism that the world ever saw: as it is, who

(i) Non lcv6 l'amore ch' ella avea prcso per Paolo, ma crebbe continuatamente. M. S. ut supra.

(a) Hoc namque duintaxat ntgatum etiam Deo est, qua; facta sunt infecta posse reddere . Aristotle , de Mori bus, Lib. vi.

GiKTO T.

shall assail her with the first stone? Most elevated was her notion of moral excellence, and admirable and laudable her ambition in aspiring to such perfection; but who shall reproach her for fainting in the ascent, or not rather bewail the frailty of human-nature? For fourteen years (until i289) her virtue persisted in its glorious career, maintaining an unblemished reputation in a court so full ofspies,that,on the first occasion of her trespassing decorum by permitting oue single kiss, it was instantly discovered. During that long period, she was exposed to the severest trials human-nature can sustain —the continual presence of a loving and beloved object (one whom a little sophism might have taught her to consider her true husband) and the absence, or neglect of him who was ostensibly her husband, but whose rights would at any legal tribunal have been questionable,and whom not to hate was a mighty exertion of goodness, but whom to cherish, or respect, was above mortal power. And if we reduce her error to the receiving of that one, single, trembling kiss ( a stain which her heart blood quickly washed out ) who, while admiring the judgment of the poet, in presenting us with her fictitious shade in hell, will not be induced to alter the award, and trust that the real Francesca is a saint in Paradise ? Her husband continually employed in the chase, or in the repelling, or the directing of martial inroads, the society of her beloved brother-in-law becajue her • iKTO T.

principal, or only recreation; their near relationship , and the purity of her soul prevented either of them from foreseeing peril in their attachment; and it the primal dream of love was found by them to be fallacious, a connexion formed upon affinity, and chaste, tender friendship, seemed to repose unshakeably. Reading was their favourite delight; and, since they were not more remarkable for exterior loveliness than for gentle manners, adorned feelings, and the enthusiasm of fine associations, every circumstance conspired to cultivate between them a most high, mental sympathy, which is always infinitely more puissant than that caused by exterior attractions alone. By these too, however, the juvenile couple were distinguished above any others of that age. Their choice of books was in conformity with the reigning fashion and ■ led them to the perusal of ihe glowing romances of Chivalry: in one of which Launqelot of the lake, in a situation somewhat resembling their own, advances, through all the tremors and colouring of passion, to the boldness of pilfering a kiss from his adored Ginevra; on which Paul, whose nerves were over-come, was unable to refrain from realising the storied rapture, and thus sullied the lips of his brother's consort by touching them with his own . This is not only Dante's account of the transaction, but also the historical truth; and if he attributes to them no deeper guilt, neither do the genuine records either. No doubt however but

« AnteriorContinuar »