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    Siena Early and Late

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    Chapter 16
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    I

    Florence being oppressively hot and delivered over to the
    mosquitoes, the occasion seemed to favour that visit to Siena
    which I had more than once planned and missed. I arrived late in
    the evening, by the light of a magnificent moon, and while a
    couple of benignantly-mumbling old crones were making up my bed
    at the inn strolled forth in quest of a first impression. Five
    minutes brought me to where I might gather it unhindered as it
    bloomed in the white moonshine. The great Piazza of Siena is
    famous, and though in this day of multiplied photographs and
    blunted surprises and profaned revelations none of the world's
    wonders can pretend, like Wordsworth's phantom of delight, really
    to "startle and waylay," yet as I stepped upon the waiting scene
    from under a dark archway I was conscious of no loss of the edge
    of a precious presented sensibility. The waiting scene, as I have
    called it, was in the shape of a shallow horse-shoe--as the
    untravelled reader who has turned over his travelled friends'
    portfolios will respectfully remember; or, better, of a bow in
    which the high wide face of the Palazzo Pubblico forms the cord
    and everything else the arc. It was void of any human presence
    that could figure to me the current year; so that, the moonshine
    assisting, I had half-an-hour's infinite vision of mediæval
    Italy. The Piazza being built on the side of a hill--or rather,
    as I believe science affirms, in the cup of a volcanic crater--
    the vast pavement converges downwards in slanting radiations of
    stone, the spokes of a great wheel, to a point directly before
    the Palazzo, which may mark the hub, though it is nothing more
    ornamental than the mouth of a drain. The great monument stands
    on the lower side and might seem, in spite of its goodly mass and
    its embattled cornice, to be rather defiantly out-countenanced by
    vast private constructions occupying the opposite eminence. This
    might be, without the extraordinary dignity of the architectural
    gesture with which the huge high-shouldered pile asserts itself.

    On the firm edge of the palace, from bracketed base to grey-
    capped summit against the sky, where grows a tall slim tower
    which soars and soars till it has given notice of the city's
    greatness over the blue mountains that mark the horizon. It rises
    as slender and straight as a pennoned lance planted on the steel-
    shod toe of a mounted knight, and keeps all to itself in the blue
    air, far above the changing fashions of the market, the proud
    consciousness or rare arrogance once built into it. This
    beautiful tower, the finest thing in Siena and, in its rigid
    fashion, as permanently fine thus as a really handsome nose on a
    face of no matter what accumulated age, figures there still as a
    Declaration of Independence beside which such an affair as ours,
    thrown off at Philadelphia, appears to have scarce done more than
    helplessly give way to time. Our Independence has become a
    dependence on a thousand such dreadful things as the incorrupt
    declaration of Siena strikes us as looking for ever straight over
    the level of. As it stood silvered by the moonlight, while my
    greeting lasted, it seemed to speak, all as from soul to soul,
    very much indeed as some ancient worthy of a lower order,
    buttonholing one on the coveted chance and at the quiet hour,
    might have done, of a state of things long and vulgarly
    superseded, but to the pride and power, the once prodigious
    vitality, of which who could expect any one effect to testify
    more incomparably, more indestructibly, quite, as it were, more
    immortally? The gigantic houses enclosing the rest of the Piazza
    took up the tale and mingled with it their burden. "We are very
    old and a trifle weary, but we were built strong and piled high,
    and we shall last for many an age. The present is cold and
    heedless, but we keep ourselves in heart by brooding over our
    store of memories and traditions. We are haunted houses in every
    creaking timber and aching stone." Such were the gossiping
    connections I established with Siena before I went to bed.

    Since that night I have had a week's daylight knowledge of the
    surface of the subject at least, and don't know how I can better
    present it than simply as another and a vivider page of the
    lesson that the ever-hungry artist has only to trust old
    Italy for her to feed him at every single step from her hand--and
    if not with one sort of sweetly-stale grain from that wondrous
    mill of history which during so many ages ground finer than any
    other on earth, why then always with something else. Siena has at
    any rate "preserved appearances"--kept the greatest number of
    them, that is, unaltered for the eye--about as consistently as
    one can imagine the thing done. Other places perhaps may treat
    you to as drowsy an odour of antiquity, but few exhale it from so
    large an area. Lying massed within her walls on a dozen clustered
    hill-tops, she shows you at every turn in how much greater a way
    she once lived; and if so much of the grand manner is extinct,
    the receptacle of the ashes still solidly rounds itself. This
    heavy general stress of all her emphasis on the past is what she
    constantly keeps in your eyes and your ears, and if you be but a
    casual observer and admirer the generalised response is mainly
    what you give her. The casual observer, however beguiled, is
    mostly not very learned, not over-equipped in advance with data;
    he hasn't specialised, his notions are necessarily vague, the
    chords of his imagination, for all his good-will, are inevitably
    muffled and weak. But such as it is, his received, his welcome
    impression serves his turn so far as the life of sensibility
    goes, and reminds him from time to time that even the lore of
    German doctors is but the shadow of satisfied curiosity. I have
    been living at the inn, walking about the streets, sitting in the
    Piazza; these are the simple terms of my experience. But streets
    and inns in Italy are the vehicles of half one's knowledge; if
    one has no fancy for their lessons one may burn one's note-book.
    In Siena everything is Sienese. The inn has an English sign over
    the door--a little battered plate with a rusty representation of
    the lion and the unicorn; but advance hopefully into the mouldy
    stone alley which serves as vestibule and you will find local
    colour enough. The landlord, I was told, had been servant in an
    English family, and I was curious to see how he met the probable
    argument of the casual Anglo-Saxon after the latter's first
    twelve hours in his establishment. As he failed to appear I asked
    the waiter if he, weren't at home. "Oh," said the latter, "he's a
    piccolo grasso vecchiotto who doesn't like to move." I'm
    afraid this little fat old man has simply a bad conscience. It's
    no small burden for one who likes the Italians--as who doesn't,
    under this restriction?--to have so much indifference even to
    rudimentary purifying processes to dispose of. What is the real
    philosophy of dirty habits, and are foul surfaces merely
    superficial? If unclean manners have in truth the moral meaning
    which I suspect in them we must love Italy better than
    consistency. This a number of us are prepared to do, but while we
    are making the sacrifice it is as well we should be aware.

    We may plead moreover for these impecunious heirs of the past
    that even if it were easy to be clean in the midst of their
    mouldering heritage it would be difficult to appear so. At the
    risk of seeming to flaunt the silly superstition of restless
    renovation for the sake of renovation, which is but the challenge
    of the infinitely precious principle of duration, one is still
    moved to say that the prime result of one's contemplative strolls
    in the dusky alleys of such a place is an ineffable sense of
    disrepair. Everything is cracking, peeling, fading, crumbling,
    rotting. No young Sienese eyes rest upon anything youthful; they
    open into a world battered and befouled with long use. Everything
    has passed its meridian except the brilliant façade of the
    cathedral, which is being diligently retouched and restored, and
    a few private palaces whose broad fronts seem to have been lately
    furbished and polished. Siena was long ago mellowed to the
    pictorial tone; the operation of time is now to deposit
    shabbiness upon shabbiness. But it's for the most part a patient,
    sturdy, sympathetic shabbiness, which soothes rather than
    irritates the nerves, and has in many cases doubtless as long a
    career to run as most of our pert and shallow freshnesses. It
    projects at all events a deeper shadow into the constant twilight
    of the narrow streets--that vague historic dusk, as I may call
    it, in which one walks and wonders. These streets are hardly more
    than sinuous flagged alleys, into which the huge black houses,
    between their almost meeting cornices, suffer a meagre light to
    filter down over rough-hewn stone, past windows often of
    graceful Gothic form, and great pendent iron rings and twisted
    sockets for torches. Scattered over their many-headed hill, they
    suffer the roadway often to incline to the perpendicular,
    becoming so impracticable for vehicles that the sound of wheels
    is only a trifle less anomalous than it would be in Venice. But
    all day long there comes up to my window an incessant shuffling
    of feet and clangour of voices. The weather is very warm for the
    season, all the world is out of doors, and the Tuscan tongue
    (which in Siena is reputed to have a classic purity) wags in
    every imaginable key. It doesn't rest even at night, and I am
    often an uninvited guest at concerts and conversazioni at
    two o'clock in the morning. The concerts are sometimes charming.
    I not only don't curse my wakefulness, but go to my window to
    listen. Three men come carolling by, trolling and quavering with
    voices of delightful sweetness, or a lonely troubadour in his
    shirt-sleeves draws such artful love-notes from his clear, fresh
    tenor, that I seem for the moment to be behind the scenes at the
    opera, watching some Rubini or Mario go "on" and waiting for the
    round of applause. In the intervals a couple of friends or
    enemies stop--Italians always make their points in conversation
    by pulling up, letting you walk on a few paces, to turn and find
    them standing with finger on nose and engaging your interrogative
    eye--they pause, by a happy instinct, directly under my window,
    and dispute their point or tell their story or make their
    confidence. One scarce is sure which it may be; everything has
    such an explosive promptness, such a redundancy of inflection and
    action. But everything for that matter takes on such dramatic
    life as our lame colloquies never know--so that almost any
    uttered communications here become an acted play, improvised,
    mimicked, proportioned and rounded, carried bravely to its
    dénoûment. The speaker seems actually to establish his
    stage and face his foot-lights, to create by a gesture a little
    scenic circumscription about him; he rushes to and fro and shouts
    and stamps and postures, he ranges through every phase of his
    inspiration. I noted the other evening a striking instance of the
    spontaneity of the Italian gesture, in the person of a small
    Sienese of I hardly know what exact age--the age of inarticulate
    sounds and the experimental use of a spoon. It was a Sunday
    evening, and this little man had accompanied his parents to the
    café. The Caffè Greco at Siena is a most delightful institution;
    you get a capital demi-tasse for three sous, and an
    excellent ice for eight, and while you consume these easy
    luxuries you may buy from a little hunchback the local weekly
    periodical, the Vita Nuova, for three centimes (the two
    centimes left from your sou, if you are under the spell of this
    magical frugality, will do to give the waiter). My young friend
    was sitting on his father's knee and helping himself to the half
    of a strawberry-ice with which his mamma had presented him. He
    had so many misadventures with his spoon that this lady at length
    confiscated it, there being nothing left of the ice but a little
    crimson liquid which he might dispose of by the common instinct
    of childhood. But he was no friend, it appeared, to such
    freedoms; he was a perfect little gentleman and he resented it
    being expected of him that he should drink down his remnant. He
    protested therefore, and it was the manner of his protest that
    struck me. He didn't cry audibly, though he made a very wry face.
    It was no stupid squall, and yet he was too young to speak. It
    was a penetrating concord of inarticulately pleading, accusing
    sounds, accompanied by gestures of the most exquisite propriety.
    These were perfectly mature; he did everything that a man of
    forty would have done if he had been pouring out a flood of
    sonorous eloquence. He shrugged his shoulders and wrinkled his
    eyebrows, tossed out his hands and folded his arms, obtruded his
    chin and bobbed about his head--and at last, I am happy to say,
    recovered his spoon. If I had had a solid little silver one I
    would have presented it to him as a testimonial to a perfect,
    though as yet unconscious, artist.

    My actual tribute to him, however, has diverted me from what I
    had in mind--a much weightier matter--the great private palaces
    which are the massive majestic syllables, sentences, periods, of
    the strange message the place addresses to us. They are
    extraordinarily spacious and numerous, and one wonders what part
    they can play in the meagre economy of the actual city. The Siena
    of to-day is a mere shrunken semblance of the rabid little
    republic which in the thirteenth century waged triumphant war
    with Florence, cultivated the arts with splendour, planned a
    cathedral (though it had ultimately to curtail the design) of
    proportions almost unequalled, and contained a population of two
    hundred thousand souls. Many of these dusky piles still bear the
    names of the old mediaeval magnates the vague mild occupancy of
    whose descendants has the effect of armour of proof worn over
    "pot" hats and tweed jackets and trousers. Half-a-dozen of them
    are as high as the Strozzi and Riccardi palaces in Florence; they
    couldn't well be higher. The very essence of the romantic and the
    scenic is in the way these colossal dwellings are packed together
    in their steep streets, in the depths of their little enclosed,
    agglomerated city. When we, in our day and country, raise a
    structure of half the mass and dignity, we leave a great space
    about it in the manner of a pause after a showy speech. But when
    a Sienese countess, as things are here, is doing her hair near
    the window, she is a wonderfully near neighbour to the cavalier
    opposite, who is being shaved by his valet. Possibly the countess
    doesn't object to a certain chosen publicity at her toilet; what
    does an Italian gentleman assure me but that the aristocracy make
    very free with each other? Some of the palaces are shown, but
    only when the occupants are at home, and now they are in
    villeggiatura. Their villeggiatura lasts eight months of
    the year, the waiter at the inn informs me, and they spend little
    more than the carnival in the city. The gossip of an inn-waiter
    ought perhaps to be beneath the dignity of even such thin history
    as this; but I confess that when, as a story-seeker always and
    ever, I have come in from my strolls with an irritated sense of
    the dumbness of stones and mortar, it has been to listen with
    avidity, over my dinner, to the proffered confidences of the
    worthy man who stands by with a napkin. His talk is really very
    fine, and he prides himself greatly on his cultivated tone, to
    which he calls my attention. He has very little good to say about
    the Sienese nobility. They are "proprio d'origine egoista"--
    whatever that may be--and there are many who can't write their
    names. This may be calumny; but I doubt whether the most
    blameless of them all could have spoken more delicately of a lady
    of peculiar personal appearance who had been dining near me.
    "She's too fat," I grossly said on her leaving the room. The
    waiter shook his head with a little sniff: "È troppo materiale."
    This lady and her companion were the party whom, thinking I might
    relish a little company--I had been dining alone for a week--he
    gleefully announced to me as newly arrived Americans. They were
    Americans, I found, who wore, pinned to their heads in
    permanence, the black lace veil or mantilla, conveyed their beans
    to their mouth with a knife, and spoke a strange raucous
    Spanish. They were in fine compatriots from Montevideo.

    [Illustration: THE RED PALACE, SIENA.]

    The genius of old Siena, however, would make little of any stress
    of such distinctions; one representative of a far-off social
    platitude being about as much in order as another as he stands
    before the great loggia of the Casino di Nobili, the club of the
    best society. The nobility, which is very numerous and very rich,
    is still, says the apparently competent native I began by
    quoting, perfectly feudal and uplifted and separate. Morally and
    intellectually, behind the walls of its palaces, the fourteenth
    century, it's thrilling to think, hasn't ceased to hang on. There
    is no bourgeoisie to speak of; immediately after the aristocracy
    come the poor people, who are very poor indeed. My friend's
    account of these matters made me wish more than ever, as a lover
    of the preserved social specimen, of type at almost any price,
    that one weren't, a helpless victim of the historic sense,
    reduced simply to staring at black stones and peeping up stately
    staircases; and that when one had examined the street-face of the
    palace, Murray in hand, one might walk up to the great drawing-
    room, make one's bow to the master and mistress, the old abbe and
    the young count, and invite them to favour one with a sketch of
    their social philosophy or a few first-hand family anecdotes.

    The dusky labyrinth of the streets, we must in default of such
    initiations content ourselves with noting, is interrupted by two
    great candid spaces: the fan-shaped piazza, of which I just now
    said a word, and the smaller square in which the cathedral erects
    its walls of many-coloured marble. Of course since paying the
    great piazza my compliments by moonlight I have strolled through
    it often at sunnier and shadier hours. The market is held there,
    and wherever Italians buy and sell, wherever they count and
    chaffer--as indeed you. hear them do right and left, at almost
    any moment, as you take your way among them--the pulse of life
    beats fast. It has been doing so on the spot just named, I
    suppose, for the last five hundred years, and during that time
    the cost of eggs and earthen pots has been gradually but
    inexorably increasing. The buyers nevertheless wrestle over their
    purchases as lustily as so many fourteenth-century burghers
    suddenly waking up in horror to current prices. You have but to
    walk aside, however, into the Palazzo Pubblico really to feel
    yourself a thrifty old medievalist. The state affairs of the
    Republic were formerly transacted here, but it now gives shelter
    to modern law-courts and other prosy business. I was marched
    through a number of vaulted halls and chambers, which, in the
    intervals of the administrative sessions held in them, are
    peopled only by the great mouldering archaic frescoes--anything
    but inanimate these even in their present ruin--that cover the
    walls and ceiling. The chief painters of the Sienese school lent
    a hand in producing the works I name, and you may complete there
    the connoisseurship in which, possibly, you will have embarked at
    the Academy. I say "possibly" to be very judicial, my own
    observation having led me no great length. I have rather than
    otherwise cherished the thought that the Sienese school suffers
    one's eagerness peacefully to slumber--benignantly abstains in
    fact from whipping up a languid curiosity and a tepid faith. "A
    formidable rival to the Florentine," says some book--I forget
    which--into which I recently glanced. Not a bit of it thereupon
    boldly say I; the Florentines may rest on their laurels and the
    lounger on his lounge. The early painters of the two groups have
    indeed much in common; but the Florentines had the good fortune
    to see their efforts gathered up and applied by a few pre-eminent
    spirits, such as never came to the rescue of the groping Sienese.
    Fra Angelico and Ghirlandaio said all their feebler
    confrères dreamt of and a great deal more beside, but the
    inspiration of Simone Memmi and Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Sano di
    Pietro has a painful air of never efflorescing into a maximum.
    Sodoma and Beccafumi are to my taste a rather abortive maximum.
    But one should speak of them all gently--and I do, from my soul;
    for their labour, by their lights, has wrought a precious
    heritage of still-living colour and rich figure-peopled shadow
    for the echoing chambers of their old civic fortress. The faded
    frescoes cover the walls like quaintly-storied tapestries; in one
    way or another they cast their spell. If one owes a large debt of
    pleasure to pictorial art one comes to think tenderly and easily
    of its whole evolution, as of the conscious experience of a
    single mysterious, striving spirit, and one shrinks from saying
    rude things about any particular phase of it, just as one would
    from referring without precautions to some error or lapse in the
    life of a person one esteemed. You don't care to remind a
    grizzled veteran of his defeats, and why should we linger in
    Siena to talk about Beccafumi? I by no means go so far as to say,
    with an amateur with whom I have just been discussing the matter,
    that "Sodoma is a precious poor painter and Beccafumi no painter
    at all"; but, opportunity being limited, I am willing to let the
    remark about Beccafumi pass for true. With regard to Sodoma, I
    remember seeing four years ago in the choir of the Cathedral of
    Pisa a certain small dusky specimen of the painter--an Abraham
    and Isaac, if I am not mistaken--which was charged with a gloomy
    grace. One rarely meets him in general collections, and I had
    never done so till the other day. He was not prolific,
    apparently; he had however his own elegance, and his rarity is a
    part of it.

    Here in Siena are a couple of dozen scattered frescoes and three
    or four canvases; his masterpiece, among others, an harmonious
    Descent from the Cross. I wouldn't give a fig for the equilibrium
    of the figures or the ladders; but while it lasts the scene is
    all intensely solemn and graceful and sweet--too sweet for so
    bitter a subject. Sodoma's women are strangely sweet; an
    imaginative sense of morbid appealing attitude--as notably in the
    sentimental, the pathetic, but the none the less pleasant,
    "Swooning of St. Catherine," the great Sienese heroine, at San
    Domenico--seems to me the author's finest accomplishment. His
    frescoes have all the same almost appealing evasion of
    difficulty, and a kind of mild melancholy which I am inclined to
    think the sincerest part of them, for it strikes me as
    practically the artist's depressed suspicion of his own want of
    force. Once he determined, however, that if he couldn't be strong
    he would make capital of his weakness, and painted the Christ
    bound to the Column, of the Academy. Here he got much nearer and
    I have no doubt mixed his colours with his tears; but the result
    can't be better described than by saying that it is, pictorially,
    the first of the modern Christs. Unfortunately it hasn't been the
    last.

    [Illustration: SAN DOMINICO, SIENA]

    The main strength of Sienese art went possibly into the erection
    of the Cathedral, and yet even here the strength is not of the
    greatest strain. If, however, there are more interesting temples
    in Italy, there are few more richly and variously scenic and
    splendid, the comparative meagreness of the architectural idea
    being overlaid by a marvellous wealth of ingenious detail.
    Opposite the church--with the dull old archbishop's palace on one
    side and a dismantled residence of the late Grand Duke of Tuscany
    on the other--is an ancient hospital with a big stone bench
    running all along its front. Here I have sat a while every
    morning for a week, like a philosophic convalescent, watching the
    florid façade of the cathedral glitter against the deep blue sky.
    It has been lavishly restored of late years, and the fresh white
    marble of the densely clustered pinnacles and statues and beasts
    and flowers flashes in the sunshine like a mosaic of jewels.
    There is more of this goldsmith's work in stone than I can
    remember or describe; it is piled up over three great doors with
    immense margins of exquisite decorative sculpture--still in the
    ancient cream-coloured marble--and beneath three sharp pediments
    embossed with images relieved against red marble and tipped with
    golden mosaics. It is in the highest degree fantastic and
    luxuriant--it is on the whole very lovely. As a triumph of the
    many-hued it prepares you for the interior, where the same parti-
    coloured splendour is endlessly at play--a confident complication
    of harmonies and contrasts and of the minor structural
    refinements and braveries. The internal surface is mainly wrought
    in alternate courses of black and white marble; but as the latter
    has been dimmed by the centuries to a fine mild brown the place
    is all a concert of relieved and dispersed glooms. Save for
    Pinturicchio's brilliant frescoes in the Sacristy there are no
    pictures to speak of; but the pavement is covered with many
    elaborate designs in black and white mosaic after cartoons by
    Beccafumi. The patient skill of these compositions makes them a
    rare piece of decoration; yet even here the friend whom I lately
    quoted rejects this over-ripe fruit of the Sienese school. The
    designs are nonsensical, he declares, and all his admiration is
    for the cunning artisans who have imitated the hatchings and
    shadings and hair-strokes of the pencil by the finest curves of
    inserted black stone. But the true romance of handiwork at Siena
    is to be seen in the wondrous stalls of the choir, under the
    coloured light of the great wheel-window. Wood-carving has ever
    been a cherished craft of the place, and the best masters of the
    art during the fifteenth century lavished themselves on this
    prodigious task. It is the frost-work on one's window-panes
    interpreted in polished oak. It would be hard to find, doubtless,
    a more moving illustration of the peculiar patience, the sacred
    candour, of the great time. Into such artistry as this the author
    seems to put more of his personal substance than into any other;
    he has to wrestle not only with his subject, but with his
    material. He is richly fortunate when his subject is charming--
    when his devices, inventions and fantasies spring lightly to his
    hand; for in the material itself, after age and use have ripened
    and polished and darkened it to the richness of ebony and to a
    greater warmth there is something surpassingly delectable and
    venerable. Wander behind the altar at Siena when the chanting is
    over and the incense has faded, and look well at the stalls of
    the Barili.

    1873.

    II

    I leave the impression noted in the foregoing pages to tell its
    own small story, but have it on my conscience to wonder, in this
    connection, quite candidly and publicly and by way of due
    penance, at the scantness of such first-fruits of my sensibility.
    I was to see Siena repeatedly in the years to follow, I was to
    know her better, and I would say that I was to do her an ampler
    justice didn't that remark seem to reflect a little on my earlier
    poor judgment. This judgment strikes me to-day as having fallen
    short--true as it may be that I find ever a value, or at least an
    interest, even in the moods and humours and lapses of any
    brooding, musing or fantasticating observer to whom the finer
    sense of things is on the whole not closed. If he has on a
    given occasion nodded or stumbled or strayed, this fact by itself
    speaks to me of him--speaks to me, that is, of his faculty and
    his idiosyncrasies, and I care nothing for the application of his
    faculty unless it be, first of all, in itself interesting. Which
    may serve as my reply to any objection here breaking out--on the
    ground that if a spectator's languors are evidence, of a sort,
    about that personage, they are scarce evident about the case
    before him, at least if the case be important. I let my perhaps
    rather weak expression of the sense of Siena stand, at any rate--
    for the sake of what I myself read into it; but I should like to
    amplify it by other memories, and would do so eagerly if I might
    here enjoy the space. The difficulty for these rectifications is
    that if the early vision has failed of competence or of full
    felicity, if initiation has thus been slow, so, with renewals and
    extensions, so, with the larger experience, one hindrance is
    exchanged for another. There is quite such a possibility as
    having lived into a relation too much to be able to make a
    statement of it.

    I remember on one occasion arriving very late of a summer night,
    after an almost unbroken run from London, and the note of that
    approach--I was the only person alighting at the station below
    the great hill of the little fortress city, under whose at once
    frowning and gaping gate I must have passed, in the warm darkness
    and the absolute stillness, very much after the felt fashion of a
    person of importance about to be enormously incarcerated--gives
    me, for preservation thus belated, the pitch, as I may call it,
    at various times, though always at one season, of an almost
    systematised esthetic use of the place. It wasn't to be denied
    that the immensely better "accommodations" instituted by the
    multiplying, though alas more bustling, years had to be
    recognised as supplying a basis, comparatively prosaic if one
    would, to that luxury. No sooner have I written which words,
    however, than I find myself adding that one "wouldn't," that one
    doesn't--doesn't, that is, consent now to regard the then "new"
    hotel (pretty old indeed by this time) as anything but an aid to
    a free play of perception. The strong and rank old Arme
    d'Inghilterra, in the darker street, has passed away; but its
    ancient rival the Aquila Nera put forth claims to modernisation,
    and the Grand Hotel, the still fresher flower of modernity near
    the gate by which you enter from the station, takes on to my
    present remembrance a mellowness as of all sorts of comfort,
    cleanliness and kindness. The particular facts, those of the
    visit I began here by alluding to and those of still others, at
    all events, inveterately made in June or early in July, enter
    together in a fusion as of hot golden-brown objects seen through
    the practicable crevices of shutters drawn upon high, cool,
    darkened rooms where the scheme of the scene involved longish
    days of quiet work, with late afternoon emergence and
    contemplation waiting on the better or the worse conscience. I
    thus associate the compact world of the admirable hill-top, the
    world of a predominant golden-brown, with a general invocation of
    sensibility and fancy, and think of myself as going forth into
    the lingering light of summer evenings all attuned to intensity
    of the idea of compositional beauty, or in other words, freely
    speaking, to the question of colour, to intensity of picture. To
    communicate with Siena in this charming way was thus, I admit, to
    have no great margin for the prosecution of inquiries, but I am
    not sure that it wasn't, little by little, to feel the whole
    combination of elements better than by a more exemplary method,
    and this from beginning to end of the scale.

    More of the elements indeed, for memory, hang about the days that
    were ushered in by that straight flight from the north than about
    any other series--if partly, doubtless, but because of my having
    then stayed longest. I specify it at all events for fond
    reminiscence as the year, the only year, at which I was present
    at the Palio, the earlier one, the series of furious horse-races
    between elected representatives of different quarters of the town
    taking place toward the end of June, as the second and still more
    characteristic exhibition of the same sort is appointed to the
    month of August; a spectacle that I am far from speaking of as
    the finest flower of my old and perhaps even a little faded
    cluster of impressions, but which smudges that special sojourn as
    with the big thumb--mark of a slightly soiled and decidedly
    ensanguined hand. For really, after all, the great loud gaudy
    romp or heated frolic, simulating ferocity if not achieving it,
    that is the annual pride of the town, was not intrinsically, to
    my-view, extraordinarily impressive--in spite of its bristling
    with all due testimony to the passionate Italian clutch of any
    pretext for costume and attitude and utterance, for mumming and
    masquerading and raucously representing; the vast cheap vividness
    rather somehow refines itself, and the swarm and hubbub of the
    immense square melt, to the uplifted sense of a very high-placed
    balcony of the overhanging Chigi palace, where everything was
    superseded but the intenser passage, across the ages, of the
    great Renaissance tradition of architecture and the infinite
    sweetness of the waning golden day. The Palio, indubitably, was
    criard--and the more so for quite monopolising, at Siena,
    the note of crudity; and much of it demanded doubtless of one's
    patience a due respect for the long local continuity of such
    things; it drops into its humoured position, however, in any
    retrospective command of the many brave aspects of the prodigious
    place. Not that I am pretending here, even for rectification, to
    take these at all in turn; I only go on a little with my rueful
    glance at the marked gaps left in my original report of
    sympathies entertained.

    I bow my head for instance to the mystery of my not having
    mentioned that the coolest and freshest flower of the day was
    ever that of one's constant renewal of a charmed homage to
    Pinturicchio, coolest and freshest and signally youngest and most
    matutinal (as distinguished from merely primitive or crepuscular)
    of painters, in the library or sacristy of the Cathedral. Did I
    always find time before work to spend half-an-hour of
    immersion, under that splendid roof, in the clearest and
    tenderest, the very cleanest and "straightest," as it masters our
    envious credulity, of all storied fresco-worlds? This wondrous
    apartment, a monument in itself to the ancient pride and power of
    the Church, and which contains an unsurpassed treasure of
    gloriously illuminated missals, psalters and other vast parchment
    folios, almost each of whose successive leaves gives the
    impression of rubies, sapphires and emeralds set in gold and
    practically embedded in the page, offers thus to view, after a
    fashion splendidly sustained, a pictorial record of the career of
    Pope Pius II, Aeneas Sylvius of the Siena Piccolomini (who gave
    him for an immediate successor a second of their name), most
    profanely literary of Pontiffs and last of would-be Crusaders,
    whose adventures and achievements under Pinturicchio's brush
    smooth themselves out for us very much to the tune of the
    "stories" told by some fine old man of the world, at the restful
    end of his life, to the cluster of his grandchildren. The end of
    AEneas Sylvius was not restful; he died at Ancona in troublous
    times, preaching war, and attempting to make it, against the then
    terrific Turk; but over no great worldly personal legend, among
    those of men of arduous affairs, arches a fairer, lighter or more
    pacific memorial vault than the shining Libreria of Siena. I seem
    to remember having it and its unfrequented enclosing precinct so
    often all to myself that I must indeed mostly have resorted to it
    for a prompt benediction on the day. Like no other strong
    solicitation, among artistic appeals to which one may compare it
    up and down the whole wonderful country, is the felt neighbouring
    presence of the overwrought Cathedral in its little proud
    possessive town: you may so often feel by the week at a time that
    it stands there really for your own personal enjoyment, your
    romantic convenience, your small wanton aesthetic use. In such a
    light shines for me, at all events, under such an accumulation
    and complication of tone flushes and darkens and richly recedes
    for me, across the years, the treasure-house of many-coloured
    marbles in the untrodden, the drowsy, empty Sienese square. One
    could positively do, in the free exercise of any responsible
    fancy or luxurious taste, what one would with it.

    But that proposition holds true, after all, for almost any mild
    pastime of the incurable student of loose meanings and stray
    relics and odd references and dim analogies in an Italian hill-
    city bronzed and seasoned by the ages. I ought perhaps, for
    justification of the right to talk, to have plunged into the
    Siena archives of which, on one occasion, a kindly custodian gave
    me, in rather dusty and stuffy conditions, as the incident
    vaguely comes back to me, a glimpse that was like a moment's
    stand at the mouth of a deep, dark mine. I didn't descend into
    the pit; I did, instead of this, a much idler and easier thing: I
    simply went every afternoon, my stint of work over, I like to
    recall, for a musing stroll upon the Lizza--the Lizza which had
    its own unpretentious but quite insidious art of meeting the
    lover of old stories halfway. The great and subtle thing, if you
    are not a strenuous specialist, in places of a heavily charged
    historic consciousness, is to profit by the sense of that
    consciousness--or in other words to cultivate a relation with the
    oracle--after the fashion that suits yourself; so that if the
    general after-taste of experience, experience at large, the fine
    distilled essence of the matter, seems to breathe, in such a
    case, from the very stones and to make a thick strong liquor of
    the very air, you may thus gather as you pass what is most to
    your purpose; which is more the indestructible mixture of lived
    things, with its concentrated lingering odour, than any
    interminable list of numbered chapters and verses. Chapters and
    verses, literally scanned, refuse coincidence, mostly, with the
    divisional proprieties of your own pile of manuscript--which is
    but another way of saying, in short, that if the Lizza is a mere
    fortified promontory of the great Sienese hill, serving at once
    as a stronghold for the present military garrison and as a
    planted and benched and band-standed walk and recreation-ground
    for the citizens, so I could never, toward close of day, either
    have enough of it or yet feel the vaguest saunterings there to be
    vain. They were vague with the qualification always of that finer
    massing, as one wandered off, of the bronzed and seasoned
    element, the huge rock pedestal, the bravery of walls and gates
    and towers and palaces and loudly asserted dominion; and then of
    that pervaded or mildly infested air in which one feels the
    experience of the ages, of which I just spoke, to be exquisitely
    in solution; and lastly of the wide, strange, sad, beautiful
    horizon, a rim of far mountains that always pictured, for the
    leaner on old rubbed and smoothed parapets at the sunset hour, a
    country not exactly blighted or deserted, but that had had its
    life, on an immense scale, and had gone, with all its memories
    and relics, into rather austere, in fact into almost grim and
    misanthropic, retirement. This was a manner and a mood, at any
    rate, in all the land, that favoured in the late afternoons the
    divinest landscape blues and purples--not to speak of its
    favouring still more my practical contention that the whole
    guarded headland in question, with the immense ramparts of golden
    brown and red that dropped into vineyards and orchards and
    cornfields and all the rustic elegance of the Tuscan
    podere, was knitting for me a chain of unforgettable
    hours; to the justice of which claim let these divagations
    testify.

    It wasn't, however, that one mightn't without disloyalty to that
    scheme of profit seek impressions further afield--though indeed I
    may best say of such a matter as the long pilgrimage to the
    pictured convent of Monte Oliveto that it but played on the same
    fine chords as the overhanging, the far-gazing Lizza. What it
    came to was that one simply put to the friendly test, as it were,
    the mood and manner of the country. This remembrance is precious,
    but the demonstration of that sense as of a great heaving region
    stilled by some final shock and returning thoughtfully, in fact
    tragically, on itself, couldn't have been more pointed. The long-
    drawn rural road I refer to, stretching over hill and dale and to
    which I devoted the whole of the longest day of the year--I was
    in a small single-horse conveyance, of which I had already made
    appreciative use, and with a driver as disposed as myself ever to
    sacrifice speed to contemplation--is doubtless familiar now with
    the rush of the motor-car; the thought of whose free dealings
    with the solitude of Monte Oliveto makes me a little ruefully
    reconsider, I confess, the spirit in which I have elsewhere in
    these pages, on behalf of the lust, the landscape lust, of the
    eyes, acknowledged our general increasing debt to that vehicle.
    For that we met nothing whatever, as I seem at this distance of
    time to recall, while we gently trotted and trotted through the
    splendid summer hours and a dry desolation that yet somehow
    smiled and smiled, was part of the charm and the intimacy of the
    whole impression--the impression that culminated at last, before
    the great cloistered square, lonely, bleak and stricken, in the
    almost aching vision, more frequent in the Italy of to-day than
    anywhere in the world, of the uncalculated waste of a myriad
    forms of piety, forces of labour, beautiful fruits of genius.
    However, one gaped above all things for the impression, and what
    one mainly asked was that it should be strong of its kind. That
    was the case, I think I couldn't but feel, at every moment of the
    couple of hours I spent in the vast, cold, empty shell, out of
    which the Benedictine brotherhood sheltered there for ages had
    lately been turned by the strong arm of a secular State. There
    was but one good brother left, a very lean and tough survivor, a
    dusky, elderly, friendly Abbate, of an indescribable type and a
    perfect manner, of whom I think I felt immediately thereafter
    that I should have liked to say much, but as to whom I must have
    yielded to the fact that ingenious and vivid commemoration was
    even then in store for him. Literary portraiture had marked him
    for its own, and in the short story of Un Saint, one of
    the most finished of contemporary French nouvelles, the
    art and the sympathy of Monsieur Paul Bourget preserve his
    interesting image. He figures in the beautiful tale, the Abbate
    of the desolate cloister and of those comparatively quiet years,
    as a clean, clear type of sainthood; a circumstance this in
    itself to cause a fond analyst of other than "Latin" race (model
    and painter in this case having their Latinism so strongly in
    common) almost endlessly to meditate. Oh, the unutterable
    differences in any scheme or estimate of physiognomic values, in
    any range of sensibility to expressional association, among
    observers of different, of inevitably more or less opposed,
    traditional and "racial" points of view! One had heard convinced
    Latins--or at least I had!--speak of situations of trust and
    intimacy in which they couldn't have endured near them a
    Protestant or, as who should say for instance, an Anglo-Saxon;
    but I was to remember my own private attempt to measure such a
    change of sensibility as might have permitted the prolonged close
    approach of the dear dingy, half-starved, very possibly all
    heroic, and quite ideally urbane Abbate. The depth upon depth of
    things, the cloud upon cloud of associations, on one side and the
    other, that would have had to change first!

    To which I may add nevertheless that since one ever supremely
    invoked intensity of impression and abundance of character, I
    feasted my fill of it at Monte Oliveto, and that for that matter
    this would have constituted my sole refreshment in the vast icy
    void of the blighted refectory if I hadn't bethought myself of
    bringing with me a scrap of food, too scantly apportioned, I
    recollect--very scantly indeed, since my cocchiere was to
    share with me--by my purveyor at Siena. Our tragic--even if so
    tenderly tragic--entertainer had nothing to give us; but the
    immemorial cold of the enormous monastic interior in which we
    smilingly fasted would doubtless not have had for me without that
    such a wealth of reference. I was to have "liked" the whole
    adventure, so I must somehow have liked that; by which remark I
    am recalled to the special treasure of the desecrated temple,
    those extraordinarily strong and brave frescoes of Luca
    Signorelli and Sodoma that adorn, in admirable condition, several
    stretches of cloister wall. These creations in a manner took care
    of themselves; aided by the blue of the sky above the cloister-
    court they glowed, they insistently lived; I remember the frigid
    prowl through all the rest of the bareness, including that of the
    big dishonoured church and that even of the Abbate's abysmally
    resigned testimony to his mere human and personal situation; and
    then, with such a force of contrast and effect of relief, the
    great sheltered sun-flares and colour-patches of scenic
    composition and design where a couple of hands centuries ago
    turned to dust had so wrought the defiant miracle of life and
    beauty that the effect is of a garden blooming among ruins.
    Discredited somehow, since they all would, the destroyers
    themselves, the ancient piety, the general spirit and intention,
    but still bright and assured and sublime--practically, enviably
    immortal--the other, the still subtler, the all aesthetic good
    faith.

    1909.
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