主页 Delphi Complete Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt (Illustrated) (Delphi Poets Series)

Delphi Complete Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt (Illustrated) (Delphi Poets Series)

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A friend and keen supporter of Shelley and Keats, Leigh Hunt produced a large body of poetry in a variety of forms, including narrative poems, satires, poetic dramas, odes, epistles, sonnets, short lyrics and translations from Greek, Roman, Italian and French poems. A central figure of the Romantic movement, Hunt produced poetry that reflected his learned knowledge of French and Italian versification, while imbued with a spirit of cheerfulness and originality. The Delphi Poets Series offers readers the works of literature's finest poets, with superior formatting. This volume presents Hunt’s complete poetical works, with beautiful illustrations and the usual Delphi bonus material. (Version 1)* Beautifully illustrated with images relating to Hunt's life and works* Concise introduction to the poetry and life of Hunt* Complete poetical works appear for the first time in digital print* Excellent formatting of the poems* Special chronological and alphabetical contents tables for the poetry* Rare poetic dramas, including Hunt’s translation of Tasso’s ‘Amyntas’* Easily locate the poems you want to read* Includes a selection of Hunt’s prose works - spend hours exploring the poet's diverse works* Features a bonus biography - discover Hunt's literary life* Scholarly ordering of texts into chronological order and literary genresPlease visit www.delphiclassics.com to see our wide range of poet titlesCONTENTS:The Life and Poetry of Leigh HuntBRIEF INTRODUCTION: LEIGH HUNTPOETICAL WORKS: S. ADAMS LEE 1857 EDITIONThe PoemsLIST OF POEMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDERLIST OF POEMS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDERThe Poetic DramasAMYNTASA LEGEND OF FLORENCELOVERS’ AMAZEMENTSABRAHAM AND THE FIRE WORSHIPPERThe ProseSTORIES FROM THE ITALIAN POETSA JAR OF HONEY FROM MOUNT HYBLATHE TOWNCOACHES AND COACHINGMISCELLANEOUS PIECESThe BiographyLEIGH HUNT’S RELATIONS WITH BYRON, SHELLEY AND KEATS by Barnette MillerPlease visit www.delphiclassics.com to browse through our range of poetry titles or buy the entire Delphi Poets Series as a Super Set
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Leigh Hunt



The Life and Poetry of Leigh Hunt



The Poems



The Poetic Dramas





The Prose






The Biography


The Delphi Classics Catalogue

© Delphi Classics 2016

Version 1

Leigh Hunt

By Delphi Classics, 2016


Leigh Hunt - Delphi Poets Series

First published in the United Kingdom in 2016 by Delphi Classics.

© Delphi Classics, 2016.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form other than that in which it is published.

ISBN: 978 1 78656 205 0

Delphi Classics

is an imprint of

Delphi Publishing Ltd

Hastings, East Sussex

United Kingdom

Contact: sales@delphiclassics.com



When reading poetry on an eReader, it is advisable to use a small font size and landscape mode, which will allow the lines of poetry to display correctly.

The Life and Poetry of Leigh Hunt

Southgate, London — Hunt’s birthplace

Leigh Hunt was the youngest son of Isaac Hunt, born on 19 October 1784 at Eagle Hall, Southgate


by Alexander Ireland

JAMES HENRY LEIGH HUNT (1784–1859), essayist, critic, and poet, was born at Southgate, Middlesex, on 19 Oct. 1784. His father, Isaac, was descended from one of the oldest settlers in Barbadoes, and studied at a college in Philadelphia, U.S.A. He married Mary Shewell, a lady of quaker extraction, a tender-hearted, refined, and sensitively conscientious;  woman, whose memory was, says Leigh Hunt, ‘a serene and inspiring influence to animate me in the love of truth.’ The father was sanguine, pleasure-loving, and unpractical. He encountered much persecution as a loyalist, and finally, with broken fortunes, came to England, where he became a popular metropolitan preacher. His manners were theatrical, and he was fond of society. He acquired a reputation for unsteadiness, which prevented him from getting preferment in the church. He found a friend in James Brydges, third duke of Chandos, and was engaged by him as a tutor to his nephew, James Henry Leigh (the father of Chandos Leigh, first Lord Leigh [q.v.]), after whom Leigh Hunt was called. He was subsequently placed on the Loyalist Pension Fund with 100l. a year, but he mortgaged the pension, and after undergoing a series of mortifications and distresses died in 1809.

Leigh Hunt was a delicate child. He was watched over with great tenderness by his mother, and after a short visit to the coast of France his health improved. He was nervous, and his elder brothers took a pleasure in terrifying him by telling him ghost-stories, and by pretended apparitions. In 1792 he went to Christ’s Hospital School. His recollections of his schooldays and schoolmates occupy a large portion of his ‘Autobiography.’ He describes himself as an ‘ultra-sympathising and timid boy.’ The thrashing system then in vogue horrified him. His gentle disposition often made him the victim of rougher boys, but he at length gained strength and address enough to stand his own ground. He only fought once, beat his antagonist, and then made a friend of him. Among his school-fellows were Mitchell, the translator of Aristophanes, and Thomas Barnes (1785-1841) [q. v.], subsequently editor of the ‘Times.’ With Barnes he learned Italian, and the two lads used to wander over the Hornsey fields together, shouting verses from Metastasio. Coleridge and Lamb quitted the school just before he entered it. On account of some hesitation in his speech, which was afterwards overcome, he was not sent to the university. While at school he wrote verses in imitation of Collins and Gray, whom he passionately admired. He revelled in the six-penny edition of English poets then published by John Cooke (1731-1810) [q.v.], and among his favourite volumes were Tooke’s ‘Pantheon,’ Lemprière’s ‘Classical Dictionary,’ and Spence’s ‘Polymetis,’ with the plates. He wrote a poem called ‘Winter’ in imitation of Thomson, and another called ‘The Fairy King’ in the manner of Spenser. At thirteen, ‘if so old,’ he fell in love with a charming cousin of fifteen. After leaving school his time was chiefly spent in visiting his schoolfellows, haunting the bookstalls, reading whatever came in his way, and writing poetry. His father obtained subscribers from his old congregation for ‘Juvenilia; or, a Collection of Poems, written between the ages of twelve and sixteen, by J. H. L. Hunt, late of the Grammar School of Christ’s Hospital, and dedicated by permission to the Honble. J. H. Leigh, containing Miscellanies, Translations, Sonnets, Pastorals, Elegies, Odes, Hymns, and Anthems, 1801.’ The book reached a fourth edition in 1804. Hunt himself afterwards thought these poems ‘good for nothing.’ Subsequently he visited Oxford, and was patronised by Henry Kett [q.v.], who ‘hoped the young poet would receive inspiration from the muse of Warton.’ He was soon ‘introduced to literati, and shown about among parties in London.’ His father had given him a set of the British classics, which he read with avidity, and he began essay-writing, contributing several papers, written with the ‘dashing confidence’ of a youth, barely of age, to the ‘Traveller.’ They were signed ‘Mr. Town, Junior, Critic and Censor-general,’ a signature borrowed from the ‘Connoisseur.’ In 1805 his brother John started a short-lived paper called ‘The News.’ Its theatrical criticisms by Leigh Hunt, however, attracted attention by their independence and originality. A selection from them, published in 1807, was entitled ‘Critical Essays on the Performers of the London Theatres, including General Remarks on the Practice and Genius of the Stage.’ In 1807 appeared in five duodecimo volumes ‘Classic Tales, Serious and Lively; with Critical Essays on the Merits and Reputation of the Authors.’ The tales were selected from Johnson, Voltaire, Marmontel, Goldsmith, Mackenzie, Brooke, Hawkesworth, and Sterne.

About this time Hunt was for a while a clerk under his brother Stephen, an attorney, and afterwards obtained a clerkship in the war office under the patronage of Addington, the premier, his father’s friend. This situation he abandoned in 1808 to co-operate with his brother John in a weekly newspaper, to be called ‘The Examiner.’ Although no politician, he undertook to be editor and leader-writer. The paper soon became popular. It was thoroughly independent, and owed allegiance to no party, but advocated liberal politics with courage and consistency. Its main object was to assert the cause of reform in parliament, liberality of opinion in general, and to infuse in its readers a taste for literature. As a journalist no man did more than Leigh Hunt, during his thirteen years’ connection with the ‘Examiner,’ to raise the tone of newspaper writing, and to introduce into its keenest controversies a spirit of fairness and tolerance.

In 1809 Hunt married Miss Marianne Kent. In the same year appeared ‘An Attempt to show the Folly and Danger of Methodism …,’ a reprint, with additions, from the ‘Examiner.’ In 1810 his brother John started a quarterly magazine called ‘The Reflector,’ which Leigh Hunt edited. Only four numbers of it appeared. Barnes, Charles Lamb, and other friends contributed to it. Hunt wrote for it a poem called ‘The Feast of the Poets’ (afterwards published separately), a playful and satirical piece, which offended most of the poetical fraternity, especially Gilford, editor of the ‘Quarterly Review.’ The ‘Round Table,’ a series of essays on literature, men, and manners, by William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt (2 vols. 1817), originally appeared in the ‘Examiner ‘ between 1815 and 1817.

The ‘Examiner’ was looked upon with suspicion by those in power. More than once the brothers were prosecuted by the government for political offences, but in each case were acquitted. An article on the savagery of military floggings led to a prosecution early in 1811, when Brougham successfully defended the Hunts. Immediately after the acquittal Shelley first introduced himself to Hunt, by sending him from Oxford a sympahetic note of congratulation. At a political dinner in 1812 the assembled company significantly omitted the usual toast of the prince regent. A writer in the ‘Morning Post,’ noticing this, printed a poem of adulation, describing the prince as the ‘Protector of the Arts,’ the ‘Mæcenas of the Age,’ the ‘Glory of the People,’ an ‘Adonis of Loveliness, attended by Pleasure, Honour, Virtue, and Truth.’ The ‘Examiner’ retorted by a plain description of the prince. ‘This Adonis in loveliness,’ the article concluded, ‘was a corpulent man of fifty’ — in short, this delightful, blissful, wise, honourable, virtuous, true, and immortal prince was a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without one single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity.’ A prosecution of Hunt and his brother followed. They were tried in December 1812; Brougham again appeared in their defence, but both were convicted, and each was sentenced by the judge, Lord Ellenborough, in the following February to two years’ imprisonment in separate gaols and a fine of 500l. They were subsequently informed that if a pledge were given by them to abstain in future from attacks on the regent it would insure them a remission of both the imprisonment and the fine. This was indignantly rejected, and the two brothers went to prison, John to Clerkenwell and Leigh to Surrey gaol. Leigh was then in delicate health. With his invincible cheerfulness he had the walls of his room papered with a trellis of roses, the ceiling painted with sky and clouds, the windows furnished with Venetian blinds, and an unfailing supply of flowers. He had the companionship of his books, busts, and a pianoforte. He was not debarred from the society of his wife and friends. Charles Lamb declared there was no other such room, except in a fairy tale. Moore, a frequent visitor to the gaol, brought Byron with him in May 1813, and Hunt’s intimacy with Byron was thus begun (Moore, Life, ii. 204). Shelley had made him ‘a princely offer,’ which was declined immediately after the sentence was pronounced (Autobiog. i. 221). When Jeremy Bentham came to see him he found him playing at battledore. During his imprisonment he wrote ‘The Descent of Liberty: a Masque, dealing with the downfall of Napoleon, published in 1815, and dedicated to his friend Barnes. All through his imprisonment he continued to edit the ‘Examiner.’ He left prison in February 1815, and, after a year’s lodging in the Edgware Road, went to live at Hampstead, where Shelley, who had just sent him a sum of money, was his guest in December 1816. About the same time Charles Cowden Clarke introduced Keats to him, and Hunt was the means of bringing Keats and Shelley together for the first time (ib. i. 224 228). An article by Hunt on ‘Young Poets, published in the ‘Examiner,’ 1 Dec. 1816, first made the genius of Shelley and Keats known to the public. To both Hunt was a true friend, and both recorded their gratitude. Hunt addressed three sonnets to Keats, and afterwards devoted many pages of his ‘Indicator’ to a lengthened and glowing criticism of one of the young poet’s volumes. Keats stayed with him at Hampstead shortly before leaving for Italy. Shelley made him many handsome gifts; often invited him and his wife to stay with him at Marlow in 1817; and dedicated his ‘Cenci’ to him in 1819. Keats thought that Hunt afterwards neglected him, though Hunt disclaimed the imputation in an article in the ‘Examiner.’

In 1816 appeared ‘The Story of Rimini,’ a poem. It was dedicated to Lord Byron. The greater part of it was written during his imprisonment. The subject of it was Dante’s love-story of Paolo and Francesca. It is conceived in the spirit of Chaucer and has in it lines worthy of Dryden. In conformity with the strictures of some of his critics he rewrote the poem some years later, but it is questionable whether he improved it. When he wrote it, he had not been in Italy, and afterwards he corrected some mistakes in the scenery, and restored its true historical conclusion. At this time Hunt became the object of the most bitter attacks on the part of many tory writers. His close friendship with Shelley, whom he actively assisted in the difficulties consequent on his desertion of his first wife, and whom he vigorously defended from the onslaughts of the ‘Quarterly’ in the ‘Examiner’ (September–October 1819), caused him to be identified with some opinions which he himself did not entertain. He was bitterly attacked in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ and the ‘Quarterly Review.’ In the words of Carlyle, he suffered ‘obloquy and calumny through the tory press — perhaps a greater quantity of baseness, persevering, implacable calumny, than any other living writer has undergone, which long course of hostility … may be regarded as the beginning of his other worst distresses, and a main cause of them down to this day.’ The ‘Quarterly Review’ nearly fifty years later gave utterance, through the pen of Bulwer, to a generous recognition of the genius of both Hunt and Hazlitt, whom it had similarly attacked, and fifteen years afterwards Wilson in ‘Blackwood’ made a graceful reference to him in one of the ‘Noctes,’ the concluding words of which were ‘the animosities are mortal, the humanities live for ever.’ Wilson even invited him to write for the magazine, but Hunt declined the offer.

In 1818 appeared ‘Foliage; or Poems, Original and Translated.’ This was followed in 1819 by ‘The Literary Pocket-book,’ a kind of pocket and memorandum book for men of intellectual and literary tastes. Three more numbers of it appeared, viz. in 1820, 1821, and 1822. The articles in the ‘Pocket-book’ for 1819 descriptive of the successive beauties of the year were printed with considerable additions in a separate volume in 1821, under the title of ‘The Months.’ In 1819 Hunt also published ‘Hero and Leander’ and ‘Bacchus and Ariadne.’ A new journalistic venture, ‘The Indicator,’ in which some of his finest essays appeared, commenced in October 1819. During the seventy-six weeks of its existence his papers on literature, life, manners, morals, and nature were all characterised by subtle and delicate criticisms, kindly cheerfulness, and sympathy with nature and art. ‘Amyntas, a Tale of the Woods; from the Italian of Torquato Tasso,’ appeared in 1820.

In 1821 a proposal was made to Hunt by Shelley and Byron, who were then in Italy, to join them in the establishment of a quarterly liberal magazine, the profits to be divided between Hunt and Byron. The ‘Examiner’ was declining in circulation, and Hunt was in delicate health. He had been compelled to discontinue the ‘Indicator,’ ‘having,’ as he said, ‘almost died over the last number.’ He set sail with his wife and seven children on 15 Nov. 1821. After a tremendous storm the vessel was driven into Dartmouth, where they relanded and passed on to Plymouth. Here they remained for several months. Shelley sent Hunt 150l. in January 1822, and urged him to secure some means of support other than the projected quarterly before finally leaving England. In May, however, the Hunts sailed for Leghorn, where they arrived at length at the close of June. They were joined by Shelley, and removed to Pisa, Hunt and his family occupying rooms on the ground floor of Byron’s house there. Shelley was drowned on 8 July 1822, and Hunt was present at the burning of his body, and wrote the epitaph for his tomb in the protestant cemetery at Rome. Byron’s interest in the projected magazine had already begun to cool. Hunt’s reliance on its speedy appearance was frustrated by Byron’s procrastination, and he was thus compelled to unwilling inactivity, and to the humiliation of having to ask for pecuniary assistance. The two men were thoroughly uncongenial, and their relations mutually vexatious [see under Byron, George Gordon]. The ‘Liberal’ lived through four numbers (1822–3). Hunt had left Pisa with Byron in September 1822 for Genoa. In 1823 he removed to Florence, and remained there till his return to England two years later. After Byron’s departure for Greece in 1823, Hunt and his family were left in a foreign country without the means of support, and much suffering ensued. He produced during that period ‘Ultra-Crepidarius; a Satire on William Gifford,’ and ‘Bacchus in Tuscany, a Dithyrambic Poem from the Italian of Francesco Redi, with Notes, original and select.’ He also issued the ‘Literary Examiner,’ an unstamped weekly paper, extending to twenty-seven numbers; and wrote ‘The Wishing Cap,’ a series of papers which appeared in the ‘Examiner;’ and a number of papers in the ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ called ‘The Family Journal,’ signed ‘Harry Honeycomb.’ To the ‘New Monthly’ he also contributed many essays at later dates. Hunt left Italy in September 1825, one of his reasons for returning to England being a litigation with his brother John. He settled on Highgate Hill, and energetically continued his journalistic work, but in 1828 he committed the great blunder of his life by writing and publishing ‘Lord Byron and some of his Contemporaries, with Recollections of the Author’s Life, and of his visit to Italy, with Portraits.’ Although everything stated in the book was undoubtedly true, it ought never to have been written, far less printed. He himself afterwards regretted the imprudent act. ‘I had been goaded,’ he wrote, ‘to the task by misrepresentation …,’ and added that he might have said more ‘but for common humanity.’ At a later period he admitted that he had been ‘agitated by anger and grief,’ though he had said nothing in which he did not believe. The book has its historical value, however improper it may have been that one who was under obligations to Byron and had been Byron’s guest should publish it.

In 1828, while living at Highgate, he issued, under the title of ‘The Companion,’ a weekly periodical in the style of the ‘Indicator.’ It extended to twenty-eight numbers, and consisted of criticisms on books, the theatres, and public events. ‘They contained some of what afterwards turned out to be my most popular writings.’ In the ‘Keepsake,’ one of the annuals of 1828, there are two articles from his pen; one on ‘Pocket-books and Keepsakes,’ and the other ‘Dreams on the Borderlands of the Land of Poetry’ (cf. for extracts from these articles art. in Temple Bar for 1873). In 1828 he went to live at Epsom, where he started a periodical called ‘The Chat of the Week,’ which ceased with the thirteenth number, owing to difficulties connected with the compulsory stamp on periodicals containing news. He thereupon undertook the laborious task of issuing a daily sheet of four pages folio, called ‘The Tatler,’ devoted to literature and the stage, entirely written by himself. It commenced on 4 Oct. 1830, and ended 13 Feb. 1832. ‘I did it all myself,’ he writes, ‘except when too ill; and illness seldom hindered me either from supplying the review of a book, going every night to the play, or writing the notice of the play the same night at the printing-office.’ The work, he adds, almost killed him, and left a feeling of fatigue for a year and a half. Still he was never in better spirits or wrote such good theatrical criticisms. He was living at this period in London, successively at Old Brompton, St. John’s Wood, and the New (now Euston) Road. While at Epsom he had commenced writing ‘Sir Ralph Esher; or Memoirs of a Gentleman of the Court of Charles the Second, including those of his Friend, Sir Philip Herne.’ It was published in 1832, and in 1836 reached a third edition. In 1832, by the pecuniary assistance of his intimate friend John Forster, he printed for private circulation among friends a thin volume, entitled ‘Christianism; being Exercises and Meditations. “Mercy and Truth have met together; Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other.” Not for sale — only 75 copies printed.’ It was written while in Italy. It was printed in an enlarged form in 1853, under the title of ‘The Religion of the Heart.’ He sent a copy of ‘Christianism’ to Thomas Carlyle, which led to an interview, and ultimately to a lifelong friendship. In 1832 there was published by subscription in a handsome volume the first collected edition of his poems, with a preface of fifty-eight pages. A list of the subscribers appeared in the ‘Times,’ comprising names of all shades of opinion, some of his sharpest personal antagonists being included. The prejudices against him had to a great extent died away. In the same year Shelley’s ‘Masque of Anarchy’ appeared with a preface by Leigh Hunt of thirty pages.

Hunt settled in 1833 at 4 Cheyne Row, next door to Carlyle, where he remained till 1840. In 1833 he contributed six articles to ‘Tait’s Magazine,’ being a new series of ‘The Wishing Cap.’ Between 1838 and 1841 he wrote five articles in the ‘Monthly Chronicle,’ a magazine which had among its contributors Sir E. L. Bulwer and Dr. Lardner. In the same year he wrote reviews of new books in the ‘True Sun,’ a daily newspaper. His health was at this time so feeble that he had for some time to be taken daily in a coach to the office. He then made the acquaintance of Laman Blanchard [q.v.], to whom he pays a tribute in his ‘Autobiography.’ In 1834 appeared two volumes with the title ‘The Indicator and the Companion; a Miscellany for the Fields and the Fireside.’ They contained a selection of the best papers in these periodicals written in 1819–21 and in 1828. The publisher afterwards issued these volumes in two parts, double columns, at a moderate price, and they were several times reprinted. His next venture, one of the best-known of his periodicals, was ‘Leigh Hunt’s London Journal,’ begun in 1834— ‘To Assist the Inquiring, Animate the Struggling, and Sympathise with All.’ Partly modelled on Chambers’s ‘Edinburgh Journal’ (established in 1832), it was a miscellany of essays, sketches, criticisms, striking passages from books, anecdotes, poems, translations, and romantic short stories of real life. Admirable in every way, it was, unhappily, too literary and refined for ordinary tastes, and ceased on 26 Dec. 1835. Christopher North praised it warmly in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine.’ In 1835 Hunt published a poem called ‘Captain Sword and Captain Pen; with some Remarks on War and Military Statesmen.’ It is chiefly remarkable for its vivid descriptions of the horrors of war. He succeeded William Johnson Fox [q.v.] as editor, and contributed to the ‘Monthly Repository’ (July 1837 to March 1838). In it appeared his poem, ‘Blue-Stocking Revels, or The Feast of the Violets,’ a sort of female ‘Feast of the Poets,’ which was well spoken of by Rogers and Lord Holland. In 1840 was published ‘The Seer, or Common-Places Refreshed,’ consisting of selections from the ‘London Journal,’ the ‘Liberal,’ the ‘Tatler,’ the ‘Monthly Repository,’ and the ‘Round Table.’ The preface concludes: ‘Given at our suburban abode, with a fire on one side of us, and a vine at the window of the other, this 19th day of October 1840, and in the very green and invincible year of our life, the 56th.’ From 1840 to 1851 he lived in Edwardes Square, Kensington.

On 7 Feb. 1840 Hunt’s fine play, in five acts, ‘A Legend of Florence,’ was brought out at Covent Garden Theatre. Its poetical qualities and brilliant dialogue secured for it a deserved success. During its first season it was witnessed two or three times by the queen. It was revived ten years later at Sadler’s Wells, and in 1852 it was performed at Windsor Castle by her majesty’s command. In a letter to the present writer, who had informed Hunt of its favourable reception in Manchester, he described with great satisfaction how highly the queen had praised it. In 1840 he wrote ‘Introductory Biographical and Critical Notices to Moxon’s Edition of the Dramatic Works of Wycherley, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Farquhar.’ He took great pains with these prefaces, which are written in his best style. Macaulay’s essay on ‘The Dramatists of the Restoration’ was suggested by this volume. He also at this time wrote a ‘Biographical and Critical Sketch of Sheridan,’ prefixed to Moxon’s edition of the works of that dramatist. In 1842 appeared ‘The Palfrey; a Love-Story of Old Times,’ with illustrations; a variation of one of the most amusing of the old French narrative poems, treated with great freshness and originality and unbounded animal spirits. In 1843 he published ‘One Hundred Romances of Real Life, comprising Remarkable Historical and Domestic Facts illustrative of Human Nature.’ These had appeared in his ‘London Journal’ in 1834–5. In 1844 his poetical works, containing many pieces hitherto uncollected, were published in a neat pocket-volume. In the same year appeared ‘Imagination and Fancy, or Selections from the English Poets illustrative of those First Requisites of their Art; with Markings of the best Passages, Critical Notices of the Writers, and an Essay in answer to the Question, “What is Poetry?”’ The prefatory essay gives a masterly and subtle definition of the nature and requisites of poetry. In 1846 he produced ‘Wit and Humour, selected from the English Poets; with an Illustrative Essay and Critical Comments.’ In the same year was published ‘Stories from the Italian Poets, with Lives of the Writers,’ 2 vols. These volumes summarised in prose the ‘Commedia’ of Dante, and the most celebrated narratives of Pulci, Boiardo, Ariosto, and Tasso, with comments throughout, occasional passages versified, and critical notices of the lives and genius of the authors. In 1847 he contributed a set of papers to the ‘Atlas’ newspaper, which were afterwards collected and published under the title of ‘A Saunter through the West-End.’ A very delightful collection of his papers in two volumes was published in 1847, entitled ‘Men, Women, and Books; a Selection of Sketches, Essays, and Critical Memoirs, from the Author’s uncollected Prose Writings.’ They consist of contributions to the ‘Edinburgh’ and ‘Westminster’ reviews, the ‘New Monthly Magazine,’ ‘Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine,’ ‘Ainsworth’s Magazine,’ and the ‘Monthly Chronicle.’

Thornton Hunt tells us that between 1834 and 1840 his father’s embarrassments were at their worst. He was in perpetual difficulties. On more than one occasion he was literally without bread. He wrote to friends to get some of his books sold, so that he and his family may have something to eat. There were gaps of total destitution, in which every available source had been absolutely exhausted. He suffered, too, from bodily and mental ailments, and had ‘great family sufferings apart from considerations of fortune,’ of which some hint is given in his correspondence (Autobiog. ii. i. 164, 268). Macaulay, who writing to Napier in 1841 suggested that in case of Southey’s death Hunt would make a suitable poet laureate, obtained for him some reviewing in the ‘Edinburgh.’ His personal, friends, aware of his struggles, were anxious to see some provision made for his declining years. Already on two occasions a royal grant of 200l. had been secured for him, and a pension of 120l. was settled upon him by Sir Percy Shelley upon succeeding to the family estates in 1844. Among those who urged Hunt’s claims to a moderate public provision most earnestly, was his friend Carlyle. The characteristic paper which Carlyle drew up on the subject eulogised Hunt with admirable clearness and force. On 22 June 1847 the prime minister, Lord John Russell, wrote to Hunt that a pension of 200l. a year would be settled upon him. During the summer of 1847 Charles Dickens, with a company of amateur comedians, chiefly men of letters and artists, gave two performances of Ben Jonson’s ‘Every Man in his Humour’ for Hunt’s benefit, in Manchester and Liverpool, by which 900l. was raised.

In 1848 appeared ‘A Jar of Honey from Mount Hybla, illustrated by Richard Doyle.’ The substance of the volume had appeared in ‘Ainsworth’s Magazine’ in 1844. It includes a retrospect of the mythology, history, and biography of Sicily, and ancient legends and examples of pastoral poetry selected from Greece, Italy, and Britain, with illustrative criticisms, including a notice of Theocritus, with translated specimens. In the same year appeared ‘The Town: its Memorable Characters and Events — St. Paul’s to St. James’s — with 45 Illustrations,’ in 2 vols., containing an account of London, partly topographical and historical, but chiefly memoirs of remarkable characters and events associated with the streets between St. Paul’s and St. James’s. The principal portion of the work had appeared thirteen years before in ‘Leigh Hunt’s London Journal.’ His next work was ‘A Book for a Corner, or Selections in Prose and Verse from Authors the best suited to that mode of enjoyment, with Comments on each, and a General Introduction, with 80 Wood Engravings.’ In 1849 he issued ‘Readings for Railways, or Anecdotes and other Short Stories, Reflections, Maxims, Characteristics, Passages of Wit, Humour, Poetry, &c., together with Points of Information on Matters of General Interest, collected in the course of his own reading.’ In 1850 he gave to the world ‘The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, with Reminiscences of A revised edition, brought down to near his death (1859), with an introduction by his eldest son, Thornton, was published in 1860. A new edition, edited by Roger Ingpen, appeared in 1903. The book is one of the most graceful and genial chronicles of its kind. Carlyle reckoned it only second to Boswell’s ‘Life of Johnson,’ and called it (in a letter to Hunt which belonged to the present writer) ‘a pious, ingenious, altogether human, and worthy book, imaging with graceful honesty and free felicity many interesting objects and persons on your life-path, and imaging throughout what is best of all, a gifted, gentle, patient, and valiant human soul as it buffets its way through the billows of the time, and will not drown, though often in danger cannot be drowned, but conquers and leaves a tract of radiance behind it. …’ Between 1845 and 1850 there appeared several poems by Hunt in ‘Ainsworth’s Magazine’ and the ‘New Monthly Magazine.’ In 1851 was issued ‘Table-Talk, to which are added Imaginary Conversations of Pope and Swift.’ The matter consisted partly of short pieces first published under the head of ‘Table-Talk’ in the ‘Atlas ‘ newspaper, and partly of passages scattered in periodicals, and never before collected. In 1850 he revived an old venture under the slightly changed title of ‘Leigh Hunt’s Journal: xx Miscellany for the Cultivation of the Memorable, the Progressive, and the Beautiful.’ Carlyle contributed to it three articles. It was discontinued in March 1851, failing ‘chiefly from the smallness of the means which the originators of it had thought sufficient for its establishment.’ In 1852 his youngest son, Vincent, died. In the same year Dickens wrote ‘Bleak House,’ in which Harold Skimpole was generally understood to represent Hunt. But Dickens categorically denied in ‘All the Year Round’ (24 Dec. 1859) that Hunt’s character had suggested any of the unpleasant features of the portrait. ‘In the midst of the sorest temptations,’ Dickens wrote of Hunt, ‘He maintained his honesty unblemished by a single stain. He was in all public and private transactions the very soul of truth and honour.’

‘The Old Court Suburb, or Memorials of Kensington — Royal, Critical, and Anecdotical,’ 2 vols., appeared in 1855. The book is full of historical and literary anecdotes. There followed in the same year ‘Beaumont and Fletcher, or the finest Scenes, Lyrics, and other Beauties of these two Poets now first selected from the whole of their works, to the exclusion of whatever is morally objectionable; with Opinions of distinguished Critics, Notes explanatory and otherwise, and a General Introductory Preface.’ It was dedicated to Bryan Waller Procter (Barry Cornwall). The volume is somewhat on the plan of ‘Lamb’s Specimens of the Old Dramatists,’ but gives whole scenes as well as separate passages. In 1855 appeared ‘Stories in Verse, now first collected.’ All his narrative poems are here reprinted. In the story of ‘Rimini’ he has restored the omitted and altered passages. His wife died in 1857, at the age of 69. In 1857 an American edition of his poems appeared in 2 vols., ‘The Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt, now first entirely collected, revised by himself, and edited with an introduction by S. Adams Lee, Boston.’ It contains all the verses that he had published, with the exception of such as were rejected by him in the course of reperusal. This edition contains his play ‘Lovers’ Amazements,’ which is not given in any English edition. In 1859 he contributed two poems to ‘Fraser’s Magazine,’ in the manner of Chaucer and Spenser, viz. ‘The Tapiser’s Tale’ and ‘The Shewe of Fair Seeming.’ Three of Chaucer’s poems, ‘The Manciple’s Tale,’ ‘The Friar’s Tale,’ and ‘The Squire’s Tale,’ had been modernised by him in 1841, in a volume by various writers, entitled ‘The Poems of Chaucer Modernised.’ The last product of his pen was a series of papers in the ‘Spectator’ in 1859, under the title of ‘The Occasional,’ the last of which appeared about a week before his death.

For about two years he had been declining in health, but he still retained a keen interest in life. Early in August 1859 he went for a change of air to his old friend Charles Reynell at Putney, carrying with him his work and the books he needed, and there he quietly sank to rest on the 28th. His death was simply exhaustion. His latest words were in the shape of eager questions about the vicissitudes and growing hopes of Italy, in inquiries from the children and friends around him for news of those he loved, and messages to the absent who loved him. He had lived in his later years at Phillimore Terrace,whence he removed in 1853 to 7 Cornwall Road, Hammersmith, his last residence. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery. Ten years later a bust, executed by Joseph Durham [q.v.], was placed over his grave, with the motto, from his own poem, ‘Abou-ben-Adhem,’ ‘Write me as one who loves his fellow-men.’ The memorial was unveiled on 19 Oct. 1869 by Lord Houghton.

Not many months after his death there appeared in ‘Fraser’s Magazine’ a reply by Hunt to Cardinal Wiseman, who had in a lecture charged Chaucer and Spenser with occasional indecency. In 1860 was published ‘The Poetical Works of Leigh Hunt, now finally collected, revised by himself, and edited by his Son, Thornton Hunt.’ In 1862 was published ‘The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, edited by his Eldest Son, with a Portrait,’ 2 vols. A number of his letters, not included in these volumes, were published in 1878 by Mr. and Mrs. Cowden Clarke in their ‘Recollections of Writers.’ In 1867 appeared ‘The Book of the Sonnet, edited by Leigh Hunt and S. Adams Lee,’ 2 vols. It was published simultaneously in London and Boston, U.S. This volume is entirely devoted to the history and literature of the sonnet, with specimens by English and American authors. An introductory letter of four pages, and an essay of ninety-one pages are prefixed.

Despite the numerous collections of his scattered essays and articles published by himself, very many of Leigh Hunt’s contributions to periodical literature have never been reprinted. The most interesting of these are his papers in the ‘New Monthly Magazine’ for 1825-6 (the present writer possesses a number of revised proofs of unreprinted articles of this date; others are in the Forster library at South Kensington); ‘A Rustic Walk and Dinner,’ a poem, in the ‘Monthly Magazine,’ 1842; a series of articles in the ‘Musical World,’ called first ‘Words for Composers,’ and afterwards ‘The Musician’s Poetical Companion,’ 1838-9; two articles in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ (on the Colman family, October 1841, and George Selwyn, July 1844); and eight articles in the ‘Musical Times,’ 1853-4.

His son Thornton [q.v.] bequeathed some unpublished manuscript by his father to Mr. Townshend Mayer, but none of it was of sufficient importance to warrant publication.

Leigh Hunt takes high rank as an essayist and critic. The spirit of his writings is eminently cheerful and humanising. He is perhaps the best teacher in our literature of the contentment which flows from a recognition of everyday joys and blessings. A belief in all that is good and beautiful, and in the ultimate success of every true and honest endeavour, and a tender consideration for mistake and circumstance, are the pervading spirit of all his writings. Cheap and simple enjoyments, true taste leading to true economy, the companionship of books and the pleasures of friendly intercourse, were the constant themes of his pen. He knew much suffering, physical and mental, and experienced many cares and sorrows; but his cheerful courage, imperturbable sweetness of temper, and unfailing love and power of forgiveness never deserted him.

It is in the familiar essay that he shows to greatest advantage. Criticism, speculation, literary gossip, romantic stories from real life, and descriptions of country pleasures, are charmingly mingled in his pages; he can be grave as well as gay, and speak consolation to friends in trouble. ‘No man,’ says Mr. Lowell, ‘has ever understood the delicacies and luxuries of language better than he; and his thoughts often have all the rounded grace and shifting lustre of a dove’s neck. … He was as pure-minded a man as ever lived, and a critic whose subtlety of discrimination and whose soundness of judgment, supported as it was on a broad basis of truly liberal scholarship, have hardly yet won fitting appreciation.’

As a poet Leigh Hunt showed much tenderness, a delicate and vivid fancy, and an entire freedom from any morbid strain of introspection. His verses never lack the sense and expression of quick, keen delight in all things naturally and wholesomely delightful. But an occasional mannerism, bordering on affectation, detracts somewhat from the merits of his poetry. His narrative poems, such as ‘The Story of Kimini,’ are, however, among the very best in the language. He is most successful in the heroic couplet. His exquisite little fable ‘Abou ben Adhem’ has assured him a permanent place in the records of the English language.

‘In appearance,’ says his son, ‘Leigh Hunt was tall and straight as an arrow, and looked slenderer than he really was. His hair was black and shining, and slightly inclined to wave. His head was high, his forehead straight and white, under which beamed a pair of eyes, dark, brilliant, reflecting, gay, and kind, with a certain look of observant humour. His general complexion was dark. There was in his whole carriage and manner an extraordinary degree of life. His whole existence and habit of mind were essentially literary. He was a hard and conscientious worker, and most painstaking as regards accuracy. He would often spend hours in verifying some fact or event which he had only stated parenthetically. Few men were more attractive in society, whether in a large company or over the fireside. His manner was particularly animated, his conversation varied, ranging over a great field of subjects. There was a spontaneous courtesy in him that never failed, and a considerateness derived from a ceaseless kindness of heart that invariably fascinated.’ Hawthorne and Emerson have left on record the delightful impression he made when they visited him. He led a singularly plain life. His customary drink was water, and his food of the plainest and simplest kind; bread alone was what he took for luncheon or supper. His personal friendships embraced men of every party, and among those who have eloquently testified to his high character as a man and an author are Carlyle, Lytton, Shelley, Macaulay, Dickens, Thackeray, Lord Houghton, Forster, Macready, Jerrold, W. J. Fox, Miss Martineau, and Miss Mitford.

A portrait of Hunt by Haydon is in the National Portrait Gallery. There is a portrait by Maclise in ‘Fraser’s Magazine.’

[The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt, a new Edition, revised by the Author, with further Revision, and an Introduction by his Eldest Son, 1860; The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, edited by his Eldest Son, with a Portrait, 2 vols. 1862; Recollections of Writers, by Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke, with Letters of Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Douglas Jerrold, and Charles Dickens, and a Preface by Mary Cowden Clarke, 1878; Professor Dowden’s Life of Shelley; Moore’s Life of Byron; List of the Writings of William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, chronologically arranged,with Notes, descriptive, critical, and explanatory, by Alexander Ireland, 1868 (two hundred copies printed); Characteristics of Leigh Hunt as exhibited in that typical Literary Periodical Leigh Hunt’s London Journal, 1834-5, with Illustrative Notes by Lancelot Cross (Frank Carr), 1878. References to Leigh Hunt occur in the writings of his contemporaries William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, and Barry Cornwall (Bryan Waller Procter), and in the Reminiscences and Letters of Thomas Carlyle. Selections from his writings have been made by Edmund Oilier, with introduction and notes, 1869; by Arthur Symons, with useful introduction and notes, 1887; by Charles Kent, with a biographical introduction and portrait, 1889, and chiefly from the poems, by Reginald Brimley Johnson, in the Temple Library, 1891, with a biographical and critical introduction and portrait from an unpublished sketch, and views of his birthplace and the various houses inhabited by him; A Life of Hunt, by Cosmo Monkhouse, in the Great Writers series, is in preparation.]

Leigh Hunt, engraved by H. Meyer from a drawing by J. Hayter

Portrait of John Keats by William Hilton

A Phiz illustration for Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’. Leigh Hunt was the inspiration for the character Harold Skimpole (pictured far left).

John Russell, 1st Earl Russell (1792-1878). Russell was a friend and patron of Hunt and in 1847 he procured the author a much needed pension of £200.

1814 title page of ‘The Feast of the Poets’, which was originally published in 1811 in the Reflector. The poem describes Hunt's contemporary poets, and either praises or mocks them by allowing only the best to dine with Apollo. The work also provided commentary on William Wordsworth and Romantic poetry.
































































TO T. L. H.

TO J. H.



























































































A name synonymous with taste and beneficence; the princeliest representative of an ever princely house; the landlord beloved of his tenants, both in England and in Ireland; the friend of honest adversity, notwithstanding differences of opinion; the discerner and raiser of merit in humble station; the adorner of his country with beautiful gardens, and with the far-fetched botany of other climates; one, of whom it may be said, without poetical exaggeration, and even without metaphor, that his footsteps may be traced in flowers, and that he has made the houses of the poor to smile; — these productions of an imperfect but zealous pen, which aspires to assist in diffusing a love of the graces and generosities that sweeten and exalt humanity, are inscribed, with every sentiment of gratitude, by his Grace’s Most obliged, and most affectionate Humble servant,



T’OTHER day, as Apollo sat pitching his darts

Through the clouds of November by fits and by starts,

He began to consider how long it had been,

Since the bards of Old England a session had seen.

“I think,” said the God, recollecting, (and then

He fell twiddling a sunbeam, as I may my pen,)

“I think — let me see — yes, it is, I declare,

As long ago now as that Buckingham there:

And yet I can’t see why I’ve been so remiss,

Unless it may be — and it certainly is,

That since Dryden’s fine verses, and Milton’s sublime,

I have fairly been sick of their sing-song and rhyme.

There was Collins, ’tis true, had a good deal to say;

But the dog had no industry, — neither had Gray:

And Thomson, though dear to my heart, was too florid

To make the world see that their own taste was horrid.

So ever since Pope, my pet bard of the town,

Set a tune with his verses, half up and half down,

There has been such a doling and sameness — by Jove

I’d as soon have gone down to see Kemble in love.

However, of late, as they’ve rous’d them anew,

I’ll e’en go and give them a lesson or two,

And as nothings done there nowadays without eating,

See what kind of set I can muster worth treating.”

So saying, the God bade his horses walk for’ard,

And, leaving them, took a long dive to the nor’ard:

For Gordon’s he made; and as Gods who drop in do,

Came smack on his legs through the drawing-room window.

And here I could tell, were I given to spin it,

How all the town shook, as the godhead came in it;

How bright look’d the poets, and brisk blew the airs,

And the laurels shot up in the gardens and squares; —

But fancies like these, though I’ve stores to supply me,

I’d better keep back for a poem I’ve by me,

And merely observe that the girls look’d divine,

And the old folks in-doors exclaim’d “Bless us, how fine!”

If you’d fancy, however, what Phoebus might be,

Imagine a shape above mortal degree,

His limbs the perfection of elegant strength, —

A fine flowing roundness inclining to length, —

A presence that spoke, — an expansion of chest,

(For the God, you’ll observe, like his statues was drest.)

His throat like a pillar for smoothness and grace,

His curls in a cluster, — and then such a face,

As mark’d him at once the true offspring of Jove,

The brow all of wisdom, and lips all of love;

For though he was blooming, and oval of cheek,

And youth down his shoulders went smoothing and sleek,

Yet his look with the reach of past ages was wise,

And the soul of eternity thought through his eyes.

I wouldn’t say more, lest my climax should lose; —

Yet now I have mention’d those lamps of the

Muse, — I can’t but observe what a splendour they shed,

When a thought more than common came into his head:

Then they leap’d in their frankness, deliciously bright,

And shot round about them an arrowy light;

And if, as he shook back his hair in its cluster,

A curl fell athwart them and darken’d their lustre,

A sprinkle of gold through the duskiness came,

Like the sun through a tree, when he’s setting in flame.

The God then no sooner had taken a chair,

And rung for the landlord to order the fare,

Than he heard a strange noise and a knock from without, —

And scraping and bowing, came in such a rout!

There were all the worst play-wrights from Dibdin to Terry,

All grinning, as who should say, “Sha’n’t we be merry?”

With men of light comedy lumb’ring like bears up,

And men of deep tragedy patting their hairs up.

The God, for an instant, sat fix’d as a stone,

Till recov’ring, he said, in a good-natur’d tone,

“Oh, the waiters, I see; — ah, it’s all very well, —

Only one of you’ll do, just to answer the bell.”

But lord! to see all the great dramatists’ faces!

They look’d at each other, and made such grimaces!

Then turning about, left the room in vexation.

And Colman, they say, fairly mutter’d “Damnation!”

The God fell a-laughing to see his mistake,

But stopp’d with a sigh for poor Comedy’s sake;

Then gave mine host orders, who bow’d to the floor,

And had scarcely back’d out, and shut gently the door,

When a hemming was heard, consequential and snapping,

And a sour little gentleman walk’d with a rap in:

He bow’d, look’d about him, seem’d cold, and sat down,

And said, “I’m surpris’d that you’ll visit this town: —

To be sure, there are one or two of us who know you,

But as for the rest, they are all much below you.

So stupid, in gen’ral, the natives are grown,

They really prefer Scotch reviews to their own;

So that what with their taste, their reformers, and stuff,

They Have sicken’d myself and my friends long enough.”

“Yourself and your friends!” cried the God in high glee;

“And pray, my frank visitor, who may you be?”

“Who be?” cried the other; “why really — this

tone —— William Gifford’s a name, I think, pretty well known!”

“Oh — now I remember,” said Phoebus; “ah true ——

The Anti-La Cruscan that writes the review: —

The rod, though ’twas no such vast matter, that fell

On that plague of the butterflies, — did very well;

And there’s something, which even distaste must respect,

In the self-taught example, that conquer’d neglect:

But not to insist on the recommendations

Of modesty, wit, and a small stock of patience,

My visit just now is to poets alone,

And not to small critics, however well known.”

So saying he rang, to leave nothing in doubt,.

And the sour little gentleman bless’d himself out.

But glad look’d the God at the next who appear’d,

For ’twas Campbell, by Poland’s pale blessing endear’d:

And Montgom’ry was with him, a freeman as true,

(Heav’n loves the ideal, which practises too;)

And him follow’d Rogers, whose laurel-tree shows

Thicker leaves, and more sunny, the older it grows;

Rejoicing he came in the god-send of weather:

Then Scott (for the famous ones all came together);

His host overwhelm’d him with thanks for his novels;

Then Crabbe, asking questions concerning Greek hovels;

And Byron, with eager indifference; and Moore

With admiring glad eyes, that came leaping before

And Keats, with young tresses and thoughts, like the god’s;

And Shelley, a sprite from his farthest abodes;

Phoebus gave him commissions from Marlowe and Plato;

And Landor, whom two Latin poets sent bay to,

(Catullus and Ovid); and Southey with looks

Like a man just awak’d from the depth of his books;

And Coleridge, fine dreamer, with lutes in his rhyme;

And Wordsworth, the prince of the bards of his time.

“And now,” said the God, — but he scarcely had spoken,

When bang went the door — you’d have thought it was broken;

And in rush’d a mob with a scuffle and squeeze,

Exclaiming, “What! Wordsworth, and fellows like these!

Nay then, we may all take our seats as we please!”

I can’t, if I would, tell you who they all were;

But a whole shoal of fops and of pedants were there,

All the heart and impart men, and such as suppose

They write like the Virgils, and Popes, and Boileaus.

The God smil’d at first with a turn tow’rds the fire,

And whisper’d “There, tell ’em they’d better retire;”

But lord! this was only to set all their quills up;

The rogues did but bustle; and pulling their frills up,

Stood fixing their faces, and star’d not an inch;

Nay, some took their snuff out, and join’d in a pinch.

Then wrath seiz’d Apollo; and turning again,

“Ye rabble,” he cried, “common-minded and vain,

Whate’er be the faults which true bards may commit,

( And most of ’em lie in your own want of wit.)

Ye shall try, wretched creatures, how well ye can bear

What such only witness, unsmote with despair.”

He said; and the place all seem’d swelling with light,

While his locks and his visage grew awfully bright;

And clouds, burning inward, roll’d round on each side,

To encircle his state as he stood in his pride;

Till at last the full Deity put on his rays,

And burst on the sight in the pomp of his blaze!

Then a glory beam’d round, as of fiery rods,

With the sound of deep organs and chorister gods;

And the faces of bards, glowing fresh from their skies,

Came thronging about with intentness of eyes, —

And the Nine were all heard, as the harmony swell’d, —

And the spheres, pealing in, the long rapture upheld, —

And all things above, and beneath, and around,

Seem’d a world of bright vision, set floating in sound.

That sight and that music might not be sustain’d,

But by those who in wonder’s great school had been train’d;

And even the bards who had graciousness found,

After gazing awhile, bow’d them down to the ground.

What then could remain for that feeble-eyed crew?

Through the door in an instant they rush’d and they flew; —

They rush’d, and they dash’d, and they scrambled, and stumbled,

And down the hall staircase distractedly tumbled,

And never once thought which was head or was feet,

And slid through the hall, and fell plump in the street

So great was the panic that smote them to flight,

That of all who had come to be feasted that night.

Not one ventur’d back, or would stay near the place;

Even Ireland declin’d, notwithstanding his face.

But Phoebus no sooner had gain’d his good ends,

Than he put off his terrors, and rais’d up his friends,

Who stood for a moment entranc’d to behold

The glories subside and the dim-rolling gold,

And listen’d to sounds, that with ecstasy burning

Seem’d dying far upward, like heaven returning.

Then “Come,” cried the God in his elegant mirth,

“Let us make us a heaven of our own upon earth,

And wake with the lips, that we dip in our bowls,

That divinest of music, — congenial souls.”

So saying, he led through the door in his state,

Each bard as he follow’d him blessing his fate;

And by some charm or other, as each took his chair,

There burst a most beautiful wreath in his hair.

I can’t tell ’em all, but the groundwork was bay,

And Campbell, in his, had some oak-leaves and May;

And Forget-me-not, Rogers; and Moore had a vine;

And Shelley, besides most magnificent pine,

Had the plant which thy least touch, Humanity, knows;

And Keats’s had forest tree, basil, and rose;

And Southey some buds of the tell Eastern palm;

And Coleridge mandragoras, mingled with balm;

And Wordsworth, with all which the field-walk endears,

The blossom that counts by its hundreds of years,

Then Apollo put his on, that sparkled with beams,

And rich rose the feast as an epicure’s dreams, —

Not epicure civic, or grossly inclin’d,

But such as a poet might dream ere he din’d;

For the God had no sooner determin’d the fare,

Than it turn’d to whatever was racy and rare:

The fish and the flesh for example were done,

On account of their fineness, in flame from the sun;

The wines were all nectar of different smack,

To which Muskat was nothing, nor Virginis Lac,

No, nor even Johannisberg, soul of the Rhine,

Nor Montepulciano, though King of all Wine.

Then as for the fruits, you might garden for ages,

Before you could raise me such apples and gages;

And all on the table no sooner were spread,

Than their cheeks next the God blush’d a beautiful red.

’Twas magic, in short, and deliciousness all; —

The very men-servants grew handsome and tall;

To velvet-hung ivory the furniture turn’d,

The service with opal and adamant burn’d,

Each candlestick chang’d to a pillar of gold,

While a bundle of beams took the place of the mould,

The decanters and glasses pure diamond became,

And the corkscrew ran solidly round into flame: —

In a word, so completely forestall’d were the wishes,

E’en harmony struck from the noise of the dishes.

It can’t be suppos’d I should think of repeating

The fancies that flow’d at this laureat meeting;

I haven’t the brains, and besides was not there;

But the wit may be easily guess’d by the chair.

I must mention, however, that during the wine,

Our four great old poets were toasted with nine.

Then others with six or with three as it fitted,

Nor were those who translate with a gusto, omitted.

At this, Southey begging the deity’s ear —

“I know,” interrupted Apollo, “’tis Frere:”

And Scott put a word in, and begg’d to propose —

“I’ll drink him with pleasure,” said Phoebus, “’tis Rose.”

Then talking of lyrics, he call’d upon Moore,

Who sung such a song, that they shouted “Encore!”

And the God was so pleas’d with his taste and his tone,

He obey’d the next call, and gave one of his own, —

At which you’d have thought, — (’twas so witching a warble,)

The guests had all turn’d into listening marble;

The wreaths on their temples grew brighter of bloom,

As the breath of the deity circled the room;

And the wine in the glasses went rippling in rounds,

As if follow’d and fann’d by the soft-winged sounds.

Thus chatting and singing they sat till eleven,

When Phœbus shook hands, and departed for heaven;

“For poets,” he said, “who would cherish their powers,

And hop’d to be deathless; must keep to good hours.”

So off he betook him the way that he came,

And shot up the north like an arrow of flame;

For the Bear was his inn; and the comet, they say,

Was his tandem in waiting to fetch him away.

The others then parted, all highly delighted;

And so shall I be, when you find me invited.




ARGUMENT. — Giovanni Malatesta, Lord of Rimini, has won by his victoires the hand of the Princess Francesca, daughter of the reigning Count of Ravenna; and is expected, with a gorgeous procession, to come and marry her. She has never yet seen him. The procession arrives, and is described.

’Tis morn, and never did a lovelier day

Salute Ravenna from its leafy bay:

For a warm eve, and gentle rains at night,

Have left a sparkling welcome for the fight,

And April, with his white hands wet with flowers,

Dazzles the bride-maids, looking from the towers:

Green vineyards and fair orchards, far and near,

Glitter with drops, and heaven is sapphire clear,

And the lark rings it, and the pine-trees glow,

And odours from the citrons come and go,

And all the landscape — earth, and sky, and sea —

Breathes like a bright-eyed face, that laughs out openly.

’Tis nature, full of spirits, wak’d and lov’d.

E’en sloth, to-day, goes quick and unreprov’d;

For where’s the living soul, priest, minstrel, clown,

Merchant, or lord, that speeds not to the town?

Hence happy faces, striking through the green

Of leafy roads, at every turn are seen;

And the far ships, lifting their sails of white

Like joyful hands, come up with scatter’d light;

Come gleaming up — true to the wish’d-for day —

And chase the whistling brine, and swirl into the bay.

And well may all the world come crowding there,

If peace returning, and processions rare,

And, to crown all, a marriage in the spring

Can set men’s hearts and fancies on the wing;

For, on this beauteous day, Ravenna’s pride —

The daughter of their prince — becomes a bride;

A bride to ransom an exhausted land;

And he, whose victories have obtain’d her hand,

Has taken with the dawn — so flies report —

His promis’d journey to the expecting court,

With hasting pomp, and squires of high degree,

The bold Giovanni, Lord of Rimini.

The road, that way, is lined with anxious eyes,

And false announcements and fresh laughters rise.

The horseman hastens through the jeering crowd,

And finds no horse within the gates allow’d;

And who shall tell the drive there, and the din?

The bells, the drums, the crowds yet squeezing in,

The shouts, from mere exuberance of delight,

The mothers with their babes in sore affright,

And armed bands making important way,

Gallant and grave, the lords of holiday;

Minstrels, and friars, and beggars many a one

That pray, and roll their blind eyes in the sun,

And all the buzzing throngs, that hang like bees

On roofs, and walls, and tops of garden trees?

With tap’stries bright the windows overflow,

By lovely faces brought, that come and go,

Till by their work the charmers take their seats,

Themselves the sweetest pictures in the streets,

In colours, by light awnings beautified;

Some re-adjusting tresses newly tied,

Some turning a trim waist, or o’er the flow

Of crimson cloths hanging a hand of snow:

Smiling and laughing some, and some serene,

But all with flowers, and all with garlands green,

And most in flattering talk impatient, For the scene.

At length the approaching trumpets, with a start

On the smooth wind, come dancing to the heart;

The crowd are mute; and, from the southern wall,

A lordly blast gives welcome to the call.

Then comes the crush; and all who best can strive

In shuffling struggle, tow’rds the palace drive,

Where, baluster’d and broad, of marble fair,

Its portico commands the public square:

For there Duke Guido is to hold his state,

With his fair daughter, seated o’er the gate.

But far too well the square has been supplied;

And, after a rude heave from side to side,

With angry faces turn’d and nothing gain’d,

The order, first found easiest, is maintain’d,

Leaving the pathways only for the crowd,

The space within for the procession proud.

For in this manner is the square set out: —

The sides, path-deep, are crowded round about,

And fac’d with guards, who keep the horse-way clear;

And, round a fountain in the midst, appear —

Seated with knights and ladies, in discourse —

Rare Tuscan wits and warbling troubadours,

Whom Guido (for he lov’d the Muse’s race)

Has set there to adorn his public place.

The seats with boughs are shaded from above

Of bays and roses, — trees of wit and love;

And in the midst, fresh whistling through the scene,

The lightsome fountain starts from out the green,

Clear and compact; till, at its height o’errun,

It shakes its loosening silver in the sun.

There, with the wits and beauties, you may see,

As in some nest of faery poetry,

Some of the chiefs, the noblest in the land, —

Hugo, and Borso of the Liberal Hand,

And Gino, and Ridolfo, and the flower

Of jousters, Everard of the Sylvan Tower;

And Felix the Fine Arm, and him who well

Repaid the Black-Band robbers, Lionel;

With more that have pluck’d beards of Turk and Greek,

And made the close Venetian lower his sails and speak.

There, too, in thickest of the bright-eyed throng,

Stands a young father of Italian song —

Guy Cavalcanti, of a knightly race;

The poet looks out in his nearest face:

He with the pheasant’s plume — there — bending now:

Something he speaks around him with a bow,

And all the listening looks, with nods and flushes,

Break round him into smiles and grateful blushes.

Another start of trumpets, with reply;

And o’er the gate a crimson canopy

Opens to right and left its flowing shade,

And Guido issues with the princely maid,

And sits; — the courtiers fall on either side;

But every look is fixed upon the bride,

Who seems all thought at first, and hardly hears

The enormous shout that springs as she appears;

Till, as she views the countless gaze below,

And faces that with grateful homage glow,

A home to leave and husband yet to see

Are mix’d with thoughts of lofty charity:

And hard it is, she thinks, to have no will;

But not to bless these thousands, harder still.

With that a keen and quivering sense of tears

Scarce moves her sweet, proud lip, and disappears;

A smile is underneath, and breaks away,

And round she looks and breathes, as best befits the day.

What need I tell of cheeks, and lips, and eyes,

The locks that fall, and bosom’s balmy rise?

Beauty’s whole soul is hers, though shadow’d still

With anxious thought, and doubtful maiden will;

A lip for endless love, should all prove just;

An eye that can withdraw into as deep distrust.

While thus with earnest looks the people gaze,

Another shout the neighb’ring quarters raise:

The train are in the town, and gathering near

With noise of cavalry, and trumpets clear,

A princely music, unbedinn’d with drums;

The mighty brass seems opening as it comes;

And now it fills, and now it shakes the air,

And now it bursts into the sounding square;

At which the crowd with such a shout rejoice,

Each thinks he’s deafen’d with his neighbour’s voice.

Then with a long-drawn breath the clangours die,

The palace trumpets give a last reply,

And clustering hoofs succeed, with stately stir

Of snortings proud and clinking furniture, —

The most majestic sound of human will:

Nought else is heard sometime, the people are so still.

First come the trumpeters, clad all in white,

Except the breast, which wears a scutcheon bright.

By four and four they ride, on horses gray;

And as they sit along their easy way,

To the steed’s motion yielding as they go,

Each plants his trumpet on his saddle-bow.

The heralds next appear, in vests attir’d,

Of stiffening gold with radiant colours fir’d; —

And then the pursuivants who wait on these,

All dress’d in painted richness to the knees:

Each rides a dappled horse, and bears a shield.

Charg’d with three heads upon a golden field.

Twelve ranks of squires come after, twelve in one,

With forked pennons lifted in the sun,

Which tell, as they look backward in the wind,

The bearings of the knights that ride behind.

Their horses are deep bay; and every squire

His master’s colour shows in his attire.

These past, and at a lordly distance, come

The knights themselves, and fill the quickening hum —

The flower of Rimini. Apart they ride,

Two in a rank, their falchions by their side,

But otherwise unarm’d, and clad in hues

Such as their ladies had been pleas’d to chuse,

Bridal and gay, — orange, and pink, and white, —

All but the scarlet cloak for every knight;

Which thrown apart, and hanging loose behind,

Rests on the horse, and ruffles in the wind.

The horses, black and glossy every one,

Supply a further stately unison —

A solemn constancy of martial show;

Their frothy bits keep wrangling as they go.

The bridles red, and saddle-cloths of white,

Match well the blackness with its glossy light,

While the rich horse-cloths, mantling half the steed,

Are some of them all thick with golden thread;

Others have spots, on grounds of different hue —

As burning stars upon a cloth of blue;

Or heart’s-ease purple with a velvet light,

Rich from the glary yellow, thickening bright;

Or silver roses in carnation sewn,

Or flowers in heaps, or colours pure alone:

But all go sweeping back, and seem to dress

The forward march with loitering stateliness.

The crowd, with difference of delight, admire

Horseman and horse, the motion and the attire.

Some watch the rider’s looks as they go by,

Their self-possess’d though pleas’d observancy;

And some their skill admire, and careless heed,

Or body curving to the rearing steed,

Or patting hand that best persuades the check,

Ana makes the quarrel up with a proud neck.

Others are bent upon the horses most, —

Their shape, their breed, the glory of their host:

The small bright head, free nostrils, fetlocks clean,

The branching veins ridging the glossy lean,

The start and snatch, as if they felt the comb,

With mouths that fling about the creamy foam. —

The snorting turbulence, the nod, the champing,

The shift, the tossing, and the fiery tramping.

And now the Princess, pale and with fix’d eye,

Perceives the last of those precursors nigh,

Each rank uncovering as they pass in state,

Both to the courtly fountain and the gate;

And then a second interval succeeds

Of stately length, and then a troop of steeds

Milk-white and azure-draped, Arabian bred,

Each by a blooming boy lightsomely led.

In every limb is seen their faultless race,

A fire well-temper’d, and a free left grace:

Slender their spotless shapes, and greet the sight

With freshness after all those colours bright;

And as with easy pitch their steps they bear,

Their yielding heads have half a loving air,

These for a princely present are divin’d,

And show the giver is not far behind.

The talk increases now, and now advance,

Space after space, with many a sprightly prance,

The pages of the court, in rows of three;

Of white and crimson in their livery.

Space after space, and still the train appear;

A fervid whisper fills the general ear —

“Ah — yes — no! ’tis not he, but ’tis the squires

Who go before him when his pomp requires.”

And now his huntsman shows the lessening train,

Now the squire-carver, and the chamberlain;

And now his banner comes, and now his shield,

Borne by the squire that waits him to the field;

And then an interval, — a lordly space; —

A pin-drop silence strikes o’er all the place.

The Princess, from a distance, scarcely knows

Which way to look; her colour comes and goes,

And, with an impulse like a piteous plea,

She lays her hand upon her father’s knee,

Who looks upon her with a labour’d smile,

Gathering it up into his own the while,

When some one’s voice, as if it knew not how

To check itself, exclaims, “The Prince! now, now!”

And on a milk-white courser, like the air,

A glorious figure springs into the square: —

Up, with a burst of thunder, goes the shout,

And rolls the trembling walls and peopled roofs about.

Never was nobler finish of fair sight, —

’Twas like the coming of a shape of light;

And many a lovely gazer, with a start,

Felt the quick pleasure smite across her heart

The Princess, who at first could scarcely see,

Though looking still that way from dignity,

Gathers new courage as the praise goes round,

And bends her eyes to learn what they have found.

And see — his horse obeys the check unseen,

And, with an air ‘twixt ardent and serene,

Letting a fall of curls about his brow,

He takes, to all, his cap off with a bow.

Then for another, and a deafening shout,

And scarfs are wav’d, and flowers come pouring out;

And, shaken by the noise, the reeling air

Sweeps with a giddy whirl among the fair,

And whisks their garments-and their shining hair.

With busy interchange of wonder glows

The crowd, and loves ms bravery as he goes;

But on his shape the gentler sight attends,

Moves as he passes, as he bends him bends, —

Watches his air, his gesture, and his face,

And thinks it never saw such manly grace,

So fine are his bare throat, and curls of black, —

So lightsomely dropt in, his lordly back,

His thigh so fitted for the tilt or dance,

So heap’d with strength, and turn’d with elegance;

But, above all, so meaning in his look, —

As easy to be read as open book;

And such true gallantry the sex descries

In the grave thanks within his cordial eyes.

His haughty steed, who seems by turns to be

Vex’d and ‘made proud by that cool mastery,

Shakes at his bit, and rolls his eyes with care,

Reaching with stately step at the fine air;

And now and then, sideling his restless pace,

Drops with his hinder legs, and shifts his place,

And feels through all his frame a fiery thrill;

The princely rider on his back sits still,

And looks where’er he likes, and sways him at his will.

Surprise, relief, a joy scarce understood —

Something, in truth, of very gratitude,

And fifty feelings undefin’d and new,

Dart through the bride, and flush her faded hue.

“Could I but once,” she thinks, “securely place

A trust for the contents on such a case —

On such a mind, now seemingly beheld —

This chance of mine were hardly one compell’d.”

And see! the stranger looking with delight

Tow’rds the sweet fountain with its circle bright,

And bending, as he looks, with frequent thanks,

Beckons a follower to him from the ranks,

And loos’ning, as he speaks, from its light hold,

A princely jewel with its chain of gold,

Sends it, in token he had lov’d him long,

To the young master of Italian song.

The poet starts, and with a lowly grace

Bending his lifted eyes and blushing face,

Looks after his new friend, who scarcely gone

In the wide turning, bows, and passes on.

This is sufficient for the destin’d bride:

She took an interest first, but now a pride;

And as the Prince comes riding to the place,

Baring his head, and raising his fine face,

She meets his full obeisance with an eye

Of self-permission and sweet gravity:

He looks with touch’d respect, and gazes, and goes by.


ARGUMENT. — The Prince is discovered not to be Giovanni Malatesta, but his brother Paulo; whom he has sent as his proxy. Francesca, nevertheless, is persuaded to be affianced, and goes with him to Rimini. Description of the journey, and of the Ravenna Pine-Forest.

I PASS the followers, and their closing state;

The court was enter’d by an outer gate:

The Count and Princess had retir’d before,

In time to greet his guest at the hall-door:

But something seem’d amiss, and there ensued

Deep talk among the spreading multitude,

Who stood in groups, or pac’d the measur’d street,

Filling with earnest hum the noontide heat.

Nor ceas’d the wonder, as the day increas’d,

And brought no symptoms of a bridal feast;

No mass, no tilt, no largess for the crowd,

Nothing to answer that procession proud,

But a blank look, as if no court had been —

Silence without, and secrecy within;

And nothing heard by listening at the walls,

But now and then a bustling through the halls,

Or the dim organ rous’d at gathering intervals.

The truth was this: — The bridegroom had not come,

But sent his brother Paulo in his room.

The former, said to have a handsome face,

Though lame of foot, (“some victory’s very grace;” —

So Guido call’d it,) yet was stern and proud,

Little gallant, and had a chilling cloud

Hanging forever on his blunt address,

Which he mistook for sovereign manliness; —

But more of this hereafter. Guido knew

The Prince’s faults; and he was conscious too,

That sweet as was his daughter, and prepar’d

To do her duty where appeal was barr’d,

She had a sense of marriage, just and free,

And where the lover wooed but ruggedly,

Might pause, for aught he knew, and fail to strike

A chord her own sweet music so unlike.

The old man, therefore, not unkind at heart,

Yet fond, from habit, of intrigue and art,

And little form’d for sentiments like these

Which seem’d to him mere maiden niceties,

(For lovers of the Muse, alas! could then

As well as now, be but half-loving men,)

Had thought at once to gratify the pride,

Of his stern neighbour, and secure the bride,

By telling him, that if, as he had heard,

Busy he was just then, ’twas but a word,

And he might send and wed her by a third;

Only the Count thus farther must presume,

For both their sakes, that still a prince must come.

The bride meantime was told, and not unmov’d,

To look for one no sooner seen than lov’d;

And when Giovanni, struck with what he thought

Mere proof how his triumphant hand was sought,

Despatch’d the wish’d-for prince, who was a man

Noble as eye had seen since earth began,

The effect was perfect, and the future wife

Caught in the elaborate snare — perhaps for life.

One truth, however, craft was forc’d to tell,

And chance, alas! supported it too well.

She saw, when they were hous’d, in Guido’s face

A look of stupefied surprise take place;

Of anger next, of candour in a while,

And then ’twas told her with a begging smile,

That Prince Giovanni, to his deep chagrin,

Had been delay’d by troubles unforeseen,

But rather than delay his day of bliss,

(If his fair ruler took it not amiss,)

Had sent his brother Paulo in his stead;

“Who,” said old Guido, with a nodding head,

“May well be said to represent his brother,

For when you see the one, you know the other.”

By this time Paulo join’d them where they stood,

And seeing her in some uneasy mood,

Chang’d the mere cold respects his brother sent

To such a strain of cordial compliment,

And gave her thanks, in terms, and with a face,

So fill’d with attribution of all grace, —

That air, in short, which sets you at your ease

Without implying your perplexities, —

That what with the surprise in every way,

The hurry of the time, the appointed day,

The very shame which now appear’d increas’d

Of begging leave to have her hand releas’d —

And above all, those tones, and words, and looks

Which seem’d to realize the dreams of books,

And help’d her genial fancy to conclude

That fruit of such a stock must all be good,

She knew no longer how she could oppose.

Quick was the plighted troth; and at the close

The proxy, turning mid the general hush,

Kiss’d her sweet lips, betwixt a rosy blush.

Two days and nights ensued. At length, a state

Of trumpets issued from the palace gate,

The banners of their brass with favours tied,

And with a blast proclaim’d the affianc’d bride.

But not a word the people’s silence broke,

Till something of a gift the herald spoke,

And bringing the good coin by handfuls out,

Scatter’d the ready harvest round about;

Then burst the mob into a jovial cry,

And “largess! largess!” claps against the sky,

And bold Giovanni’s name, the lord of Rimini.

The rest, however, still were looking on,

Sullen and mute, and scarce the noise was gone,

When riding from the gate with banners rear’d,

Again the gorgeous visitors appear’d.

The Prince was in his place; and in a car,

Before him, glistening like a farewell star,

Sate the dear lady with her brimming eyes,

And off they set, through doubtful looks and cries,

For some too shrewdly guess’d, and some were vex’d

At the dull time, and some the whole perplex’d,

And all great pity thought it to divide

Two that seem’d made for bridegroom and for bride.

Ev’n she, whose wits this strange abrupt event

Had over-borne in pure astonishment,

Could scarce at times a wilder’d cry forbear

At leaving her own home and native air;

Till passing now the limits of the town,

And on the last few gazers looking down,

She saw by the road-side an aged throng,

Who wanting power to bustle with the strong,

Had learnt their gracious mistress was to go,

And gather’d there, an unconcerted show.

Bending they stood, with their old foreheads bare,

And the winds finger’d with their reverend hair.

“Farewell, farewell, my friends!” she would have cried,

But in her throat the leaping accents died,

And waving with her hand a vain adieu,

She dropt her veil, and in her grief withdrew,

And let the kindly tears their own good course pursue.

The morn was sweet, as when they journey’d last; —

The smoke from cottage-tops ran bright and fast,

And every tree in passing, one by one,

Gleam’d out with twinkles of the golden sun:

For leafy was the road, with tall array,

On either side, of mulberry and bay,

And distant snatches of blue hills between;

And there the alder was with its bright green,

And the broad chestnut, and the poplar’s shoot,

That like a feather waves from head to foot,

With ever and anon majestic pines;

And still, from tree to tree, the early vines

Hung garlanding the way in amber lines.

Nor long the Princess kept her from the view

Of the dear scenes her happy childhood knew;

For sitting now, calm from the gush of tears,

With dreaming eye fix’d down, and half-shut ears,

Hearing, yet hearing not, the fervent sound

Of hoofs thick reckoning and the wheel’s moist round,

A call of “slower,” from the farther part

Of the check’d riders, woke her with a start,

And looking up again, half sigh, half stare,

She lifts her veil, and feels the freshening air.

’Tis down a hill they go, gentle indeed,

And such as with a bold and playful speed

Another time they would have scorn’d to heed;

But now they take a lady down the hill,

And feel they should consult her gentle will.

And now with thicker shades the pines appear, —

The noise of hoofs grows duller on the ear;

And quitting suddenly their gravelly toil,

The wheels go spinning o’er a sandy soil.

Here first the silence of the country seems

To come about her with its listening dreams;

And full of anxious thoughts, half-treed from pain,

She fell into her musing mood again;

Leaving the others, who had pass’d that way

In careless spirits of the first blithe day,

To look about, and mark the reverend scene,

For awful tales renown’d and everlasting green.

A heavy spot the forest looks at first,

To one grim shade condemn’d, and sandy thirst,

Chequer’d with thorns, and thistles run to seed,

Or plashy pools half-cover’d with green weed,

About whose sides the swarming insects fry

In the hot sun, a noisome company;

But, entering more and more, they quit the sand

At once, and strike upon a grassy land,

From which the trees as from a carpet rise

In knolls and clumps, in rich varieties.

The knights are for a moment forc’d to rein

Their horses in, which, feeling turf again,

Thrill, and curvet, and long to be at large

To scour the space, and give the winds a charge,

Or pulling tight the bridles as they pass.

Dip their warm mouths into the freshening grass:

But soon in easy rank, from glade to glade,

Proceed they, coasting underneath the shade;

Some bearing to the cool their placid brows,

Some looking upward through the glimmering boughs,

Or peering into spots that inwardly

Open green glooms, and half-prepar’d to see

The lady cross it, that as stories tell,

Ran loud and torn before the knight of hell.

Various the trees and passing foliage here, —

Wild pear, and oak, and dusky juniper,

With briony between in trails of white,

And ivy, and the suckled streaky light,

And moss, warm gleaming with a sudden mark,

Like growths of sunshine left upon the bark;

And still the pine flat-topp’d, and dark, and tall,

In lordly right predominant o’er all.

Anon the sweet birds, like a sudden throng

Of happy children, ring their tangled song

From out the greener trees; and then a cloud

Of cawing rooks breaks o’er them, gathering loud

Like savages at ships; and then again

Nothing is heard but their own stately train,

Or ring-dove that repeats his pensive plea,

Or startled gull up-screaming toward the sea.

But scarce their eyes encounter living thing

Save, now and then, a goat loose wandering,

Or a few cattle looking up askance

With ruminant meek mouths and sleepy glance,

Or once, a plodding woodman, old and bent,

Passing, half-wond’ring — half indifferent —

Yet turning at the last to look once more;

Then feels his trembling staff, and onward as before.

So ride they pleas’d; — till now the couching sun

Levels his final look through shadows dun;

And the clear moon, with meek o’er-lifted face,

Seems come to look into the silvering place.

Then woke the bride indeed, for then was heard

The sacred bell by which all hearts are stirr’d, —

The tongue ‘twixt heav’n and earth, the memory mild,

Which bids adore the Mother and her Child.

The train are hush’d; they halt; their heads are bare;

Earth for a moment breathes angelic air.

Francesca weeps for lowliness and love;

Her heart is at the feet of Her who site above.

Softly they move again through beam and shade;

Till now by stragglers met, and watch-dogs bay’d,

They quit the piny labyrinths, and soon

Emerge into the full and day-like moon:

Chilling it seems; and pushing steed on steed,

They start them freshly with a homeward speed.

Then well-known fields they pass, and straggling cots,

Boy-storied trees, and love-remember’d spots,

And turning last a sudden corner, see

The moonlit towers of wakeful Rimini.

The marble bridge comes heaving forth below

With a long gleam; and nearer as they go,

They see the still Marecchia, cold and bright,

Sleeping along with face against the light.

A hollow trample now, — a fall of chains, —

The bride has enter’d, — not a voice remains; —

Night, and a maiden silence, wrap the plains.


ARGUMENT. — Effects of the sight and manners of her husband upon the bride. His character. Paulo discovers the part he had been led to play. Result of the discovery to him and Francesca. Giovanni is catted away from Rimini by a revolt. Description of a garden, and of a summer-house.

WEAK were the moon to welcome princely trains: —

Thousands of lights, thousands of faces, strains

Of music upon music, roaring showers,

High as the roofs, of blessings mix’d with flowers;

Through these, with one huge hopeful wild accord,

The gentle lady of a fiery lord

Is welcom’d, and is borne straight to the halls

That hold his presence in the palace walls;

And there, as pale as death, the future wife

Looks on his face that is to sway her life.

It stoop’d; she knelt; a kiss was on her brow:

And two huge hands rais’d her she scarce knew how.

Oh, foolish, false old man! now boast thine

That has undone thee in a daughter’s heart.

Great was the likeness that the brothers bore;

The lie spoke truth in that, and lied the more.

Not that the face on which the lady stared

Was hideous; nay, ’twas handsome; yet it scared.

The likeness was of race, the difference dire —

The brows were shadow’d with a stormy fire;

The handsome features had a wild excess,

That discommended e’en the handsomeness;

And though a smile the lip now gentlier warm’d,

The whole big face o’erhung a trunk deform’d, —

Warp’d in the shoulder, broken at the hip,

Though strong withal, nor spoilt for soldiership;

A heap of vigour planted on two stands

Of shapeless bone, and hung with giant hands.

Compare with this the shape that fetch’d the bride!

Compare the face now gazing by its side!

A face, in which was nothing e’en to call

A stamp exclusive and professional:

No courtier’s face, and yet the smile was there;

No scholar’s, yet the look was deep and rare;

No soldier’s, for the power was all of mind,

Too true for violence, and too refin’d:

A countenance, in short, seem’d made to show

How far the genuine flesh and blood would go;

A morning glass of unaffected nature,

Something that baffled looks of loftier feature, —

The visage of a glorious human creature.

Nevertheless, the cripple foremost there,

Stern gainer by a crafty father’s care,

But ignorant of the plot, and aught beside,

Except that he had won a peerless bride, —

This vision, dress’d beyond its own dress’d court

To cloak defects that still belied its port,

Gave the bewilder’d beauty what was meant For

thanks so gracious, flattery so content,

And spoke in tones so harsh, yet so assur’d,

So proud of a good fortune now secur’d,

That her low answers, for mere shame, implied

Thanks for his thanks, and pleasure in his pride;

And so the organ blew, and the priest read,

And under his grim gaze the life-long words were said.

A banquet follow’d, not in form and state,

But small, and cheerful, and considerate;

Her maidens half-enclos’d her; and her lord

With such mild grace presided at the board,

And time went flowing in a tide so fair,

That from the calm she felt a new despair. —

Suddenly her eyes clos’d, her lips turn’d white,

The maidens in alarm enclos’d her quite,

And the Prince rose, but with no gentle looks;

He bade them give her air, with sharp rebukes,

Grasp’d her himself with a suspicious force,

And altogether skew’d a mood so coarse,

So hasty, and to love so ill attun’d,

That, with her own good-will, the lady swoon’d.

Alas for wrongs that nature does the frame!

The pride she gives compensates not the shame.

And yet why moot those puzzles? ’tis the pride,

And not the shape, were still the thing to hide.

Spirits there are (I’ve known them) that like gods

Who dwelt of old in rustical abodes,

Have beam’d through clay the homeliest, bright and wise, —

And made divinest windows of the eyes.

Two fiends possess’d Giovanni’s, — Will and Scorn;

And high they held him, till a third was born.

He strove to hide the secret from himself, —

But his shape rode him like some clinging elf

At once too scorn’d and dreaded to be own’d.

Valour, and wit, and victory enthron’d,

Might bind, he thought, a woman to his worth,

Beyond the threads of all the fops on earth;

But on his secret soul the fiend still hung,

Darken’d his face, made sour and fierce his tongue,

And was preparing now a place for thee

In his wild heart, O murderous Jealousy!

Not without virtues was the Prince. Who is?

But all were marr’d by moods and tyrannies.

Brave, decent, splendid, faithful to his word,

Late watching, busy with the first that stirr’d,

Yet rude, sarcastic, ever in the vein

To give the last thing he would suffer, — pain,

He made his rank serve meanly to his gall,

And thought his least good word a salve for all.

Virtues in him of no such marvellous weight

Claim’d tow’rd themselves the exercise of great

He kept no reckoning with his sweets and sours;

He’d hold a sullen countenance for hours,

And then if pleas’d to cheer himself a space,

Look for th’ immediate rapture in your face,

And wonder that a cloud could still be there,

How small soever, when his own was fair.

Yet such is conscience, so design’d to keep

Stern central watch, though fancied fast asleep,

And so much knowledge of one’s self there lies

Cored, after all, in our complacencies,

That no suspicion touch’d his temper more

Than that of wanting on the generous score:

He overwhelm’d it with a weight of scorn,

Was proud at eve, inflexible at morn,

In short, ungenerous for a week to come,

And all to strike that desperate error dumb.

Taste had he, in a word, for high-turn’d merit,

But not the patience or the genial spirit;

And so he made, ‘twixt daring and defect,

A sort of fierce demand on your respect, —

Which, if assisted by his high degree,

It gave him in some eyes a dignity,

And struck a meaner deference in the small,

Left him at last unlovable with all.

What sort of life the bride and bridegroom led

From that first jar the history hath not said:

No happy one, to guess from looks constrain’d,

Attentions over-wrought, and pleasures feign’d.

The Prince, ’twas clear, was anxious to imply

That all was love and grave felicity;

The least suspicion of his pride’s eclipse

Blacken’d his lowering brow, and blanch’d his lips,

And dreadful look’d he underneath his wrath

Francesca kept one tranquil-seeming path,

Mild with her lord, generous to high and low, —

But in her heart was anger too, and woe.

Paulo meantime, the Prince that fetch’d the bride,

(Oh, shame that lur’d him from a brother’s side!)

Had learnt, I know not how, the secret snare,

That gave her up to his admiring care.

Some Dabbler, may-be, of old Guido’s court,

Or foolish friend had told him, half in sport;

But to his heart the fatal flattery went,

And grave he grew, and inwardly intent,

And ran back in his mind, with sudden spring,

Look, gesture, smile, speech, silence, everything,

E’en what before had seem’d indifference,

And read them over in another sense.

Then would he blush with sudden self-disdain,

To think how fanciful he was, and vain;

And with half angry, half regretful sigh,

Tossing his chin, and feigning a free eye,

Breathe off, as ‘twere, the idle tale, and look

About him for his falcon or his book;

Scorning that ever he should entertain

One thought that in the end might give his brother pain.

Not that he lov’d him much, or could; but still

Brother was brother, and ill visions ill.

This start, however, came so often round, —

So often fell he in deep thought, and found

Occasion to renew his carelessness,

Yet every time the little power grown less,

That by degrees, half wearied, half inclin’d,

To the sweet struggling image he resign’d;

And merely, as he thought, to make the best

Of what by force would come about his breast,

Began to bend down his admiring eyes

On all her soul-rich looks and qualities,

Turning their shapely sweetness every way,

Till ’twas his food and habit day by day,

And she became companion of his thought; —

Oh wretched sire! thy snare has yet but half been wrought

Love by the object lov’d is soon discern’d,

And grateful pity is love half return’d.

Of pity for herself the rest was made,

Of first impressions and belief betray’d;

Of all which the unhappy sire had plann’d

To fix his dove within the falcon’s hand.

Bright grew the morn whenever Paulo came;

The only word to write was either’s name;

Soft in each other’s presence fell their speech;

Each, though they look’d not, felt they saw but each;

’Twas-day, ’twas night, as either came or went,

And bliss was in two hearts, with misery strangely blent.

Oh, now ye gentle hearts, now think awhile,

Now while ye still can think and still can smile;

Thou, Paulo, most; — whom, though the most to blame,

The world will visit with but half the shame.

Bethink thee of the future days of one

Who holds her heart the rightest heart undone.

Thou holdest not thine such. Be kind and wise; —

Where creeps the once frank wisdom of thine eyes?

To meet e’en thus may cost her many a tear:

“Meet not at all!” cries Fate, to all who love and fear.

A fop there was, rich, noble, well receiv’d,

Who, pleas’d to think the Princess inly griev’d,

Had dar’d to hope, beside the lion’s bower,

Presumptuous fool! to play the paramour.

Watching his time one day, when the grim lord

Had left her presence with an angry word,

And giving her a kind, adoring glance,

The coxcomb feign’d to press her hand by chance;

The Princess gaz’d a moment with calm eyes,

Then bade him call the page than fann’d away the flies.

For days, for weeks, the daring coward shook

At dreams of daggers in the Prince’s look,

Till finding nothing said, the shame and fright

Turn’d his conceited misery to spite.

The lady’s silence might itself be fear;

What if there lurk’d some wondrous rival near?

He watch’d. — He watch’d all movements, looks, words, sighs,

And soon found cause to bless his shabby eyes.

It chanc’d alas! that for some tax abhorr’d,

A conquer’d district fell from its new lord;

Black as a storm the Prince the frontier cross’d

In fury to regain his province lost,

Leaving his brother, who had been from home

On state affairs, to govern in his room.

Right zealous was the brother; nor had aught

Yet giv’n Giovanni one mistrusting thought

He deem’d his consort cold as wintriest night,

Paulo a kind of very fop of right;

For though he cloak’d his own unshapeliness,

And thought to glorify his power, with dress,

He held all virtues, not in his rough ken,

But pickthank pedantries in handsome men.

The Prince had will’d, however, that his wife

Should lead, till his return, a closer life.

She therefore disappear’d; not pleas’d, not proud

To have her judgment still no voice allow’d;

Not without many a gentle hope repress’d,

And tears; yet conscious that retreat was best.

Besides, she lov’d the place to which she went —

A bower, a nest, in which her grief had spent

Its calmest time: and as it was her last

As well as sweetest, and the fate comes fast

That is to fill it with a dreadful cry,

And make its walls ghastly to passers by,

I’ll hold the gentle reader for a space

Ling’ring with piteous wonder in the place.

A noble range it was, of many a rood,

Wall’d and tree-girt, and ending in a wood.

A small sweet house o’erlook’d it from a nest

Of pines: — all wood and garden was the rest,

Lawn, and green lane, and covert: — and it had

A winding stream about it, clear and glad,

With here and there a swan, the creature born

To be the only graceful shape of scorn.

The flower-beds all were liberal of delight;

Roses in heaps were there, both red and white,

Lilies angelical, and gorgeous glooms

Of wall-flowers, and blue hyacinths, and blooms

Hanging thick clusters from light boughs; in short,

All the sweet cups to which the bees resort,

With plots of grass, and leafier walks between

Of red geraniums, and of jessamine,

And orange, whose warm leaves so finely suit,

And look as if they shade a golden fruit;

And midst the flow’rs, turf’d round beneath a shade

Of darksome pines, a babbling fountain play’d,

And ‘twixt their shafts you saw the water bright,

Which through the tops glimmer’d with show’ring light

So now you stood to think what odours best

Made the air happy in that lovely nest;

And now you went beside the flowers, with eyes

Earnest as bees, restless as butterflies;

And then turn’d off into a shadier walk

Close and continuous, fit for lover’s talk;

And then pursued the stream, and as-you trod

Onward and onward o’er the velvet sod,

Felt on your face an air, watery and sweet,

And a new sense in your soft-lighting feet

At last you enter’d shades indeed, the wood,

Broken with glens and pits, and glades far-view’d,

Through which the distant palace now and then

Look’d lordly forth with many-window’d ken;

A land of trees, — which reaching round about

In shady blessing stretch’d their old arms out;

With spots of sunny openings, and with nooks

To lie and read in, sloping into brooks,

Where at her drink you startled the slim deer,

Retreating lightly with a lovely fear.

And all about, the birds kept leafy house,

And sung and darted in and out the boughs;

And all about, a lovely sky of blue

Clearly was felt, or down the leaves laugh’d through;

And here and there, in every part, were seats,

Some in the open walks, some in retreats, —

With bowering leaves o’erhead, to which the eye

Look’d up half sweetly and half awfully, —

Places of nestling green, for poets made,

Where, when the sunshine struck a yellow shade,

The rugged trunks, to inward peeping sight,

Throng’d in dark pillars up the gold green light.

But ‘twixt the wood and flowery walks, half-way,

And form’d of both, the loveliest portion lay, —

A spot, that struck you like enchanted ground: —

It was a shallow dell, set in a mound

Of sloping orchards, — fig, and almond trees,

Cherry and pine, with some few cypresses;

Down by whose roots, descending darkly still,

(You saw it not, but heard) there gush’d a rill,

Whose low sweet talking seem’d as if it said

Something eternal to that happy shade.

The ground within was lawn, with fruits and flowers

Heap’d towards the centre, half of citron bowers;

And in the middle of those golden trees,

Half seen amidst the globy oranges,

Lurk’d a rare summer-house, a lovely sight, —

Small, marble, well-proportion’d creamy white,

Its top with vine-leaves sprinkled, — but no more, —

And a young bay-tree either side the door.

The door was to the wood, forward and square,

The rest was dom