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    Florentine Notes

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    Chapter 18
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    I

    Yesterday that languid organism known as the Florentine Carnival
    put on a momentary semblance of vigour, and decreed a general
    corso through the town. The spectacle was not brilliant,
    but it suggested some natural reflections. I encountered the line
    of carriages in the square before Santa Croce, of which they were
    making the circuit. They rolled solemnly by, with their inmates
    frowning forth at each other in apparent wrath at not finding
    each other more worth while. There were no masks, no costumes, no
    decorations, no throwing of flowers or sweetmeats. It was as if
    each carriageful had privately and not very heroically resolved
    not to be at costs, and was rather discomfited at finding that it
    was getting no better entertainment than it gave. The middle of
    the piazza was filled with little tables, with shouting
    mountebanks, mostly disguised in battered bonnets and crinolines,
    offering chances in raffles for plucked fowls and kerosene lamps.
    I have never thought the huge marble statue of Dante, which
    overlooks the scene, a work of the last refinement; but, as it
    stood there on its high pedestal, chin in hand, frowning down on
    all this cheap foolery, it seemed to have a great moral
    intention. The carriages followed a prescribed course--through
    Via Ghibellina, Via del Proconsolo, past the Badia and the
    Bargello, beneath the great tessellated cliffs of the Cathedral,
    through Via Tornabuoni and out into ten minutes' sunshine beside
    the Arno. Much of all this is the gravest and stateliest part of
    Florence, a quarter of supreme dignity, and there was an almost
    ludicrous incongruity in seeing Pleasure leading her train
    through these dusky historic streets. It was most uncomfortably
    cold, and in the absence of masks many a fair nose was
    fantastically tipped with purple. But as the carriages crept
    solemnly along they seemed to keep a funeral march--to follow an
    antique custom, an exploded faith, to its tomb. The Carnival is
    dead, and these good people who had come abroad to make merry
    were funeral mutes and grave-diggers. Last winter in Rome it
    showed but a galvanised life, yet compared with this humble
    exhibition it was operatic. At Rome indeed it was too operatic.
    The knights on horseback there were a bevy of circus-riders, and
    I'm sure half the mad revellers repaired every night to the
    Capitol for their twelve sous a day.

    I have just been reading over the Letters of the President de
    Brosses. A hundred years ago, in Venice, the Carnival lasted six
    months; and at Rome for many weeks each year one was free, under
    cover of a mask, to perpetrate the most fantastic follies and
    cultivate the most remunerative vices. It's very well to read the
    President's notes, which have indeed a singular interest; but
    they make us ask ourselves why we should expect the Italians to
    persist in manners and practices which we ourselves, if we had
    responsibilities in the matter, should find intolerable. The
    Florentines at any rate spend no more money nor faith on the
    carnivalesque. And yet this truth has a qualification; for what
    struck me in the whole spectacle yesterday, and prompted these
    observations, was not at all the more or less of costume of the
    occupants of the carriages, but the obstinate survival of the
    merrymaking instinct in the people at large. There could be no
    better example of it than that so dim a shadow of entertainment
    should keep all Florence standing and strolling, densely packed
    for hours, in the cold streets. There was nothing to see that
    mightn't be seen on the Cascine any fine day in the year--nothing
    but a name, a tradition, a pretext for sweet staring idleness.
    The faculty of making much of common things and converting small
    occasions into great pleasures is, to a son of communities
    strenuous as ours are strenuous, the most salient characteristic
    of the so-called Latin civilisations. It charms him and vexes
    him, according to his mood; and for the most part it represents a
    moral gulf between his own temperamental and indeed spiritual
    sense of race, and that of Frenchmen and Italians, far wider than
    the watery leagues that a steamer may annihilate. But I think his
    mood is wisest when he accepts the "foreign" easy surrender to
    all the senses as the sign of an unconscious philosophy of
    life, instilled by the experience of centuries--the philosophy
    of people who have lived long and much, who have discovered no
    short cuts to happiness and no effective circumvention of effort,
    and so have come to regard the average lot as a ponderous fact
    that absolutely calls for a certain amount of sitting on the
    lighter tray of the scales. Florence yesterday then took its
    holiday in a natural, placid fashion that seemed to make its own
    temper an affair quite independent of the splendour of the
    compensation decreed on a higher line to the weariness of its
    legs. That the corso was stupid or lively was the shame or
    the glory of the powers "above"--the fates, the gods, the
    forestieri, the town-councilmen, the rich or the stingy.
    Common Florence, on the narrow footways, pressed against the
    houses, obeyed a natural need in looking about complacently,
    patiently, gently, and never pushing, nor trampling, nor
    swearing, nor staggering. This liberal margin for festivals in
    Italy gives the masses a more than man-of-the-world urbanity in
    taking their pleasure.

    Meanwhile it occurs to me that by a remote New England fireside
    an unsophisticated young person of either sex is reading in an
    old volume of travels or an old romantic tale some account of
    these anniversaries and appointed revels as old Catholic lands
    offer them to view. Across the page swims a vision of sculptured
    palace-fronts draped in crimson and gold and shining in a
    southern sun; of a motley train of maskers sweeping on in
    voluptuous confusion and pelting each other with nosegays and
    love-letters. Into the quiet room, quenching the rhythm of the
    Connecticut clock, floats an uproar of delighted voices, a medley
    of stirring foreign sounds, an echo of far-heard music of a
    strangely alien cadence. But the dusk is falling, and the
    unsophisticated young person closes the book wearily and wanders
    to the window. The dusk is falling on the beaten snow. Down the
    road is a white wooden meeting-house, looking grey among the
    drifts. The young person surveys the prospect a while, and then
    wanders back and stares at the fire. The Carnival of Venice, of
    Florence, of Rome; colour and costume, romance and rapture! The
    young person gazes in the firelight at the flickering chiaroscuro
    of the future, discerns at last the glowing phantasm of
    opportunity, and determines with a wild heart-beat to go and see
    it all--twenty years hence!

    II

    A couple of days since, driving to Fiesole, we came back by the
    castle of Vincigliata. The afternoon was lovely; and, though
    there is as yet (February 10th) no visible revival of vegetation,
    the air was full of a vague vernal perfume, and the warm colours
    of the hills and the yellow western sunlight flooding the plain
    seemed to contain the promise of Nature's return to grace. It's
    true that above the distant pale blue gorge of Vallombrosa the
    mountain-line was tipped with snow; but the liberated soul of
    Spring was nevertheless at large. The view from Fiesole seems
    vaster and richer with each visit. The hollow in which Florence
    lies, and which from below seems deep and contracted, opens out
    into an immense and generous valley and leads away the eye into a
    hundred gradations of distance. The place itself showed, amid its
    chequered fields and gardens, with as many towers and spires as a
    chess-board half cleared. The domes and towers were washed over
    with a faint blue mist. The scattered columns of smoke,
    interfused with the sinking sunlight, hung over them like
    streamers and pennons of silver gauze; and the Arno, twisting and
    curling and glittering here and there, was a serpent cross-
    striped with silver.

    Vincigliata is a product of the millions, the leisure and the
    eccentricity, I suppose people say, of an English gentleman--Mr.
    Temple Leader, whose name should be commemorated. You reach the
    castle from Fiesole by a narrow road, returning toward Florence
    by a romantic twist through the hills and passing nothing on its
    way save thin plantations of cypress and cedar. Upward of twenty
    years ago, I believe, this gentleman took a fancy to the
    crumbling shell of a mediæval fortress on a breezy hill-top
    overlooking the Val d' Arno and forthwith bought it and began to
    "restore" it. I know nothing of what the original ruin may have
    cost; but in the dusky courts and chambers of the present
    elaborate structure this impassioned archæologist must have
    buried a fortune. He has, however, the compensation of feeling
    that he has erected a monument which, if it is never to stand a
    feudal siege, may encounter at least some critical over-hauling.
    It is a disinterested work of art and really a triumph of
    æsthetic culture. The author has reproduced with minute accuracy
    a sturdy home-fortress of the fourteenth century, and has kept
    throughout such rigid terms with his model that the result is
    literally uninhabitable to degenerate moderns. It is simply a
    massive facsimile, an elegant museum of archaic images, mainly
    but most amusingly counterfeit, perched on a spur of the
    Apennines. The place is most politely shown. There is a charming
    cloister, painted with extremely clever "quaint" frescoes,
    celebrating the deeds of the founders of the castle--a cloister
    that is everything delightful a cloister should be except truly
    venerable and employable. There is a beautiful castle court, with
    the embattled tower climbing into the blue far above it, and a
    spacious loggia with rugged medallions and mild-hued Luca della
    Robbias fastened unevenly into the walls. But the apartments are
    the great success, and each of them as good a "reconstruction" as
    a tale of Walter Scott; or, to speak frankly, a much better one.
    They are all low-beamed and vaulted, stone-paved, decorated in
    grave colours and lighted, from narrow, deeply recessed windows,
    through small leaden-ringed plates of opaque glass.

    The details are infinitely ingenious and elaborately grim, and
    the indoor atmosphere of mediaevalism most forcibly revived. No
    compromising fact of domiciliary darkness and cold is spared us,
    no producing condition of mediaeval manners not glanced at. There
    are oaken benches round the room, of about six inches in depth,
    and gaunt fauteuils of wrought leather, illustrating the
    suppressed transitions which, as George Eliot says, unite all
    contrasts--offering a visible link between the modern conceptions
    of torture and of luxury. There are fireplaces nowhere but in the
    kitchen, where a couple of sentry-boxes are inserted on either
    side of the great hooded chimney-piece, into which people might
    creep and take their turn at being toasted and smoked. One may
    doubt whether this dearth of the hearthstone could have raged on
    such a scale, but it's a happy stroke in the representation of an
    Italian dwelling of any period. It shows how the graceful fiction
    that Italy is all "meridional" flourished for some time before
    being refuted by grumbling tourists. And yet amid this cold
    comfort you feel the incongruous presence of a constant intuitive
    regard for beauty. The shapely spring of the vaulted ceilings;
    the richly figured walls, coarse and hard in substance as they
    are; the charming shapes of the great platters and flagons in the
    deep recesses of the quaintly carved black dressers; the
    wandering hand of ornament, as it were, playing here and there
    for its own diversion in unlighted corners--such things redress,
    to our fond credulity, with all sorts of grace, the balance of
    the picture.

    And yet, somehow, with what dim, unillumined vision one fancies
    even such inmates as those conscious of finer needs than the mere
    supply of blows and beef and beer would meet passing their heavy
    eyes over such slender household beguilements! These crepuscular
    chambers at Vincigliata are a mystery and a challenge; they seem
    the mere propounding of an answerless riddle. You long, as you
    wander through them, turning up your coat-collar and wondering
    whether ghosts can catch bronchitis, to answer it with some
    positive notion of what people so encaged and situated "did," how
    they looked and talked and carried themselves, how they took
    their pains and pleasures, how they counted off the hours. Deadly
    ennui seems to ooze out of the stones and hang in clouds in the
    brown corners. No wonder men relished a fight and panted for a
    fray. "Skull-smashers" were sweet, ears ringing with pain and
    ribs cracking in a tussle were soothing music, compared with the
    cruel quietude of the dim-windowed castle. When they came back
    they could only have slept a good deal and eased their dislocated
    bones on those meagre oaken ledges. Then they woke up and turned
    about to the table and ate their portion of roasted sheep. They
    shouted at each other across the board and flung the wooden
    plates at the servingmen. They jostled and hustled and hooted and
    bragged; and then, after gorging and boozing and easing their
    doublets, they squared their elbows one by one on the greasy
    table and buried their scarred foreheads and dreamed of a good
    gallop after flying foes. And the women? They must have been
    strangely simple--simpler far than any moral archraeologist can
    show us in a learned restoration. Of course, their simplicity had
    its graces and devices; but one thinks with a sigh that, as the
    poor things turned away with patient looks from the viewless
    windows to the same, same looming figures on the dusky walls,
    they hadn't even the consolation of knowing that just this
    attitude and movement, set off by their peaked coifs, their
    falling sleeves and heavily-twisted trains, would sow the seed of
    yearning envy--of sorts--on the part of later generations.

    There are moods in which one feels the impulse to enter a tacit
    protest against too gross an appetite for pure aesthetics in this
    starving and sinning world. One turns half away, musingly, from
    certain beautiful useless things. But the healthier state of mind
    surely is to lay no tax on any really intelligent manifestation
    of the curious, and exquisite. Intelligence hangs together
    essentially, all along the line; it only needs time to make, as
    we say, its connections. The massive pastiche of
    Vincigliata has no superficial use; but, even if it were less
    complete, less successful, less brilliant, I should feel a
    reflective kindness for it. So disinterested and expensive a toy
    is its own justification; it belongs to the heroics of
    dilettantism.

    III

    One grows to feel the collection of pictures at the Pitti Palace
    splendid rather than interesting. After walking through it once
    or twice you catch the key in which it is pitched--you know what
    you are likely not to find on closer examination; none of the
    works of the uncompromising period, nothing from the half-groping
    geniuses of the early time, those whose colouring was sometimes
    harsh and their outlines sometimes angular. Vague to me the
    principle on which the pictures were originally gathered and of
    the aesthetic creed of the princes who chiefly selected them. A
    princely creed I should roughly call it--the creed of people who
    believed in things presenting a fine face to society; who
    esteemed showy results rather than curious processes, and would
    have hardly cared more to admit into their collection a work by
    one of the laborious precursors of the full efflorescence than to
    see a bucket and broom left standing in a state saloon. The
    gallery contains in literal fact some eight or ten paintings of
    the early Tuscan School--notably two admirable specimens of
    Filippo Lippi and one of the frequent circular pictures of the
    great Botticelli--a Madonna, chilled with tragic prescience,
    laying a pale cheek against that of a blighted Infant. Such a
    melancholy mother as this of Botticelli would have strangled her
    baby in its cradle to rescue it from the future. But of
    Botticelli there is much to say. One of the Filippo Lippis is
    perhaps his masterpiece--a Madonna in a small rose-garden (such a
    "flowery close" as Mr. William Morris loves to haunt), leaning
    over an Infant who kicks his little human heels on the grass
    while half-a-dozen curly-pated angels gather about him, looking
    back over their shoulders with the candour of children in
    tableaux vivants, and one of them drops an armful of
    gathered roses one by one upon the baby. The delightful earthly
    innocence of these winged youngsters is quite inexpressible.
    Their heads are twisted about toward the spectator as if they
    were playing at leap-frog and were expecting a companion to come
    and take a jump. Never did "young" art, never did subjective
    freshness, attempt with greater success to represent those
    phases. But these three fine works are hung over the tops of
    doors in a dark back room--the bucket and broom are thrust behind
    a curtain. It seems to me, nevertheless, that a fine Filippo
    Lippi is good enough company for an Allori or a Cigoli, and that
    that too deeply sentient Virgin of Botticelli might happily
    balance the flower-like irresponsibility of Raphael's "Madonna of
    the Chair."

    Taking the Pitti collection, however, simply for what it pretends
    to be, it gives us the very flower of the sumptuous, the courtly,
    the grand-ducal. It is chiefly official art, as one may say, but
    it presents the fine side of the type--the brilliancy, the
    facility, the amplitude, the sovereignty of good taste. I agree
    on the whole with a nameless companion and with what he lately
    remarked about his own humour on these matters; that, having
    been on his first acquaintance with pictures nothing if not
    critical, and held the lesson incomplete and the opportunity
    slighted if he left a gallery without a headache, he had come, as
    he grew older, to regard them more as the grandest of all
    pleasantries and less as the most strenuous of all lessons, and
    to remind himself that, after all, it is the privilege of art to
    make us friendly to the human mind and not to make us suspicious
    of it. We do in fact as we grow older unstring the critical bow a
    little and strike a truce with invidious comparisons. We work off
    the juvenile impulse to heated partisanship and discover that one
    spontaneous producer isn't different enough from another to keep
    the all-knowing Fates from smiling over our loves and our
    aversions. We perceive a certain human solidarity in all
    cultivated effort, and are conscious of a growing accommodation
    of judgment--an easier disposition, the fruit of experience, to
    take the joke for what it is worth as it passes. We have in short
    less of a quarrel with the masters we don't delight in, and less
    of an impulse to pin all our faith on those in whom, in more
    zealous days, we fancied that we made our peculiar meanings. The
    meanings no longer seem quite so peculiar. Since then we have
    arrived at a few in the depths of our own genius that are not
    sensibly less striking.

    And yet it must be added that all this depends vastly on one's
    mood--as a traveller's impressions do, generally, to a degree
    which those who give them to the world would do well more
    explicitly to declare. We have our hours of expansion and those
    of contraction, and yet while we follow the traveller's trade we
    go about gazing and judging with unadjusted confidence. We can't
    suspend judgment; we must take our notes, and the notes are
    florid or crabbed, as the case may be. A short time ago I spent a
    week in an ancient city on a hill-top, in the humour, for which I
    was not to blame, which produces crabbed notes. I knew it at the
    time, but couldn't help it. I went through all the motions of
    liberal appreciation; I uncapped in all the churches and on the
    massive ramparts stared all the views fairly out of countenance;
    but my imagination, which I suppose at bottom had very good
    reasons of its own and knew perfectly what it was about, refused
    to project into the dark old town and upon the yellow hills that
    sympathetic glow which forms half the substance of our genial
    impressions. So it is that in museums and palaces we are
    alternate radicals and conservatives. On some days we ask but to
    be somewhat sensibly affected; on others, Ruskin-haunted, to be
    spiritually steadied. After a long absence from the Pitti Palace
    I went back there the other morning and transferred myself from
    chair to chair in the great golden-roofed saloons--the chairs are
    all gilded and covered with faded silk--in the humour to be
    diverted at any price. I needn't mention the things that diverted
    me; I yawn now when I think of some of them. But an artist, for
    instance, to whom my kindlier judgment has made permanent
    concessions is that charming Andrea del Sarto. When I first knew
    him, in my cold youth, I used to say without mincing that I
    didn't like him. Cet âge est sans pitié. The fine
    sympathetic, melancholy, pleasing painter! He has a dozen faults,
    and if you insist pedantically on your rights the conclusive word
    you use about him will be the word weak. But if you are a
    generous soul you will utter it low--low as the mild grave tone
    of his own sought harmonies. He is monotonous, narrow,
    incomplete; he has but a dozen different figures and but two or
    three ways of distributing them; he seems able to utter but half
    his thought, and his canvases lack apparently some final return
    on the whole matter--some process which his impulse failed him
    before he could bestow. And yet in spite of these limitations his
    genius is both itself of the great pattern and lighted by the air
    of a great period. Three gifts he had largely: an instinctive,
    unaffected, unerring grace; a large and rich, and yet a sort of
    withdrawn and indifferent sobriety; and best of all, as well as
    rarest of all, an indescribable property of relatedness as to the
    moral world. Whether he was aware of the connection or not, or in
    what measure, I cannot say; but he gives, so to speak, the taste
    of it. Before his handsome vague-browed Madonnas; the mild,
    robust young saints who kneel in his foregrounds and look round
    at you with a conscious anxiety which seems to say that, though
    in the picture, they are not of it, but of your own sentient life
    of commingled love and weariness; the stately apostles, with
    comely heads and harmonious draperies, who gaze up at the high-
    seated Virgin like early astronomers at a newly seen star--there
    comes to you the brush of the dark wing of an inward life. A
    shadow falls for the moment, and in it you feel the chill of
    moral suffering. Did the Lippis suffer, father or son? Did
    Raphael suffer? Did Titian? Did Rubens suffer? Perish the
    thought--it wouldn't be fair to us that they should have
    had everything. And I note in our poor second-rate Andrea an
    element of interest lacking to a number of stronger talents.

    Interspersed with him at the Pitti hang the stronger and the
    weaker in splendid abundance. Raphael is there, strong in
    portraiture--easy, various, bountiful genius that he was--and
    (strong here isn't the word, but) happy beyond the common dream
    in his beautiful "Madonna of the Chair." The general instinct of
    posterity seems to have been to treat this lovely picture as a
    semi-sacred, an almost miraculous, manifestation. People stand in
    a worshipful silence before it, as they would before a taper-
    studded shrine. If we suspend in imagination on the right of it
    the solid, realistic, unidealised portrait of Leo the Tenth
    (which hangs in another room) and transport to the left the
    fresco of the School of Athens from the Vatican, and then reflect
    that these were three separate fancies of a single youthful,
    amiable genius we recognise that such a producing consciousness
    must have been a "treat." My companion already quoted has a
    phrase that he "doesn't care for Raphael," but confesses, when
    pressed, that he was a most remarkable young man. Titian has a
    dozen portraits of unequal interest. I never particularly noticed
    till lately--it is very ill hung--that portentous image of the
    Emperor Charles the Fifth. He was a burlier, more imposing
    personage than his usual legend figures, and in his great puffed
    sleeves and gold chains and full-skirted over-dress he seems to
    tell of a tread that might sometimes have been inconveniently
    resonant. But the purpose to have his way and work his
    will is there--the great stomach for divine right, the old
    monarchical temperament. The great Titian, in portraiture, however,
    remains that formidable young man in black, with the small
    compact head, the delicate nose and the irascible blue eye. Who
    was he? What was he? "Ritratto virile" is all the
    catalogue is able to call the picture. "Virile! " Rather! you
    vulgarly exclaim. You may weave what romance you please about it,
    but a romance your dream must be. Handsome, clever, defiant,
    passionate, dangerous, it was not his own fault if he hadn't
    adventures and to spare. He was a gentleman and a warrior, and
    his adventures balanced between camp and court. I imagine him the
    young orphan of a noble house, about to come into mortgaged
    estates. One wouldn't have cared to be his guardian, bound to
    paternal admonitions once a month over his precocious
    transactions with the Jews or his scandalous abduction from her
    convent of such and such a noble maiden.

    The Pitti Gallery contains none of Titian's golden-toned groups;
    but it boasts a lovely composition by Paul Veronese, the dealer
    in silver hues--a Baptism of Christ. W---- named it to me the
    other day as the picture he most enjoyed, and surely painting
    seems here to have proposed to itself to discredit and
    annihilate--and even on the occasion of such a subject--
    everything but the loveliness of life. The picture bedims and
    enfeebles its neighbours. We ask ourselves whether painting as
    such can go further. It is simply that here at last the art
    stands complete. The early Tuscans, as well as Leonardo, as
    Raphael, as Michael, saw the great spectacle that surrounded them
    in beautiful sharp-edged elements and parts. The great Venetians
    felt its indissoluble unity and recognised that form and colour
    and earth and air were equal members of every possible subject;
    and beneath their magical touch the hard outlines melted together
    and the blank intervals bloomed with meaning. In this beautiful
    Paul Veronese of the Pitti everything is part of the charm--the
    atmosphere as well as the figures, the look of radiant morning in
    the white-streaked sky as well as the living human limbs, the
    cloth of Venetian purple about the loins of the Christ as well as
    the noble humility of his attitude. The relation to Nature of
    the other Italian schools differs from that of the Venetian as
    courtship--even ardent courtship--differs from marriage.

    IV

    I went the other day to the secularised Convent of San Marco,
    paid my franc at the profane little wicket which creaks away at
    the door--no less than six custodians, apparently, are needed to
    turn it, as if it may have a recusant conscience--passed along
    the bright, still cloister and paid my respects to Fra Angelico's
    Crucifixion, in that dusky chamber in the basement. I looked
    long; one can hardly do otherwise. The fresco deals with the
    pathetic on the grand scale, and after taking in its beauty you
    feel as little at liberty to go away abruptly as you would to
    leave church during the sermon. You may be as little of a formal
    Christian as Fra Angelico was much of one; you yet feel
    admonished by spiritual decency to let so yearning a view of the
    Christian story work its utmost will on you. The three crosses
    rise high against a strange completely crimson sky, which deepens
    mysteriously the tragic expression of the scene, though I remain
    perforce vague as to whether this lurid background be a fine
    intended piece of symbolism or an effective accident of time. In
    the first case the extravagance quite triumphs. Between the
    crosses, under no great rigour of composition, are scattered the
    most exemplary saints--kneeling, praying, weeping, pitying,
    worshipping. The swoon of the Madonna is depicted at the left,
    and this gives the holy presences, in respect to the case, the
    strangest historical or actual air. Everything is so real that
    you feel a vague impatience and almost ask yourself how it was
    that amid the army of his consecrated servants our Lord was
    permitted to suffer. On reflection you see that the painter's
    design, so far as coherent, has been simply to offer an immense
    representation of Pity, and all with such concentrated truth that
    his colours here seem dissolved in tears that drop and drop,
    however softly, through all time. Of this single yearning
    consciousness the figures are admirably expressive. No later
    painter learned to render with deeper force than Fra Angelico the
    one state of the spirit he could conceive--a passionate pious
    tenderness. Immured in his quiet convent, he apparently never
    received an intelligible impression of evil; and his conception
    of human life was a perpetual sense of sacredly loving and being
    loved. But how, immured in his quiet convent, away from the
    streets and the studios, did he become that genuine, finished,
    perfectly professional painter? No one is less of a mere mawkish
    amateur. His range was broad, from this really heroic fresco to
    the little trumpeting seraphs, in their opaline robes, enamelled,
    as it were, on the gold margins of his pictures.

    I sat out the sermon and departed, I hope, with the gentle
    preacher's blessing. I went into the smaller refectory, near by,
    to refresh my memory of the beautiful Last Supper of Domenico
    Ghirlandaio. It would be putting things coarsely to say that I
    adjourned thus from a sernlon to a comedy, though Ghirlandaio's
    theme, as contrasted with the blessed Angelico's, was the
    dramatic spectacular side of human life. How keenly he observed
    it and how richly he rendered it, the world about him of colour
    and costume, of handsome heads and pictorial groupings! In his
    admirable school there is no painter one enjoys--pace
    Ruskin--more sociably and irresponsibly. Lippo Lippi is simpler,
    quainter, more frankly expressive; but we retain before him a
    remnant of the sympathetic discomfort provoked by the masters
    whose conceptions were still a trifle too large for their means.
    The pictorial vision in their minds seems to stretch and strain
    their undeveloped skill almost to a sense of pain. In Ghirlandaio
    the skill and the imagination are equal, and he gives us a
    delightful impression of enjoying his own resources. Of all the
    painters of his time he affects us least as positively not of
    ours. He enjoyed a crimson mantle spreading and tumbling in
    curious folds and embroidered with needlework of gold, just as he
    enjoyed a handsome well-rounded head, with vigorous dusky locks,
    profiled in courteous adoration. He enjoyed in short the various
    reality of things, and had the good fortune to live in an age
    when reality flowered into a thousand amusing graces--to speak
    only of those. He was not especially addicted to giving spiritual
    hints; and yet how hard and meagre they seem, the professed and
    finished realists of our own day, with the spiritual
    bonhomie or candour that makes half Ghirlandaio's richness
    left out! The Last Supper at San Marco is an excellent example of
    the natural reverence of an artist of that time with whom
    reverence was not, as one may say, a specialty. The main idea
    with him has been the variety, the material bravery and
    positively social charm of the scene, which finds expression,
    with irrepressible generosity, in the accessories of the
    background. Instinctively he imagines an opulent garden--imagines
    it with a good faith which quite tides him over the reflection
    that Christ and his disciples were poor men and unused to sit at
    meat in palaces. Great full-fruited orange-trees peep over the
    wall before which the table is spread, strange birds fly through
    the air, while a peacock perches on the edge of the partition and
    looks down on the sacred repast. It is striking that, without any
    at all intense religious purpose, the figures, in their varied
    naturalness, have a dignity and sweetness of attitude that admits
    of numberless reverential constructions. I should call all this
    the happy tact of a robust faith.

    On the staircase leading up to the little painted cells of the
    Beato Angelico, however, I suddenly faltered and paused. Somehow
    I had grown averse to the intenser zeal of the Monk of Fiesole. I
    wanted no more of him that day. I wanted no more macerated friars
    and spear-gashed sides. Ghirlandaio's elegant way of telling his
    story had put me in the humour for something more largely
    intelligent, more profanely pleasing. I departed, walked across
    the square, and found it in the Academy, standing in a particular
    spot and looking up at a particular high-hung picture. It is
    difficult to speak adequately, perhaps even intelligibly, of
    Sandro Botticelli. An accomplished critic--Mr. Pater, in his
    Studies on the History of the Renaissance--has lately paid
    him the tribute of an exquisite, a supreme, curiosity. He was
    rarity and distinction incarnate, and of all the multitudinous
    masters of his group incomparably the most interesting, the one
    who detains and perplexes and fascinates us most. Exquisitely
    fine his imagination--infinitely audacious and adventurous his
    fancy. Alone among the painters of his time he strikes us as
    having invention. The glow and thrill of expanding observation--
    this was the feeling that sent his comrades to their easels; but
    Botticelli's moved him to reactions and emotions of which they
    knew nothing, caused his faculty to sport and wander and explore
    on its own account. These impulses have fruits often so ingenious
    and so lovely that it would be easy to talk nonsense about them.
    I hope it is not nonsense, however, to say that the picture to
    which I just alluded (the "Coronation of the Virgin," with a
    group of life-sized saints below and a garland of miniature
    angels above) is one of the supremely beautiful productions of
    the human mind. It is hung so high that you need a good glass to
    see it; to say nothing of the unprecedented delicacy of the work.
    The lower half is of moderate interest; but the dance of hand-
    clasped angels round the heavenly couple above has a beauty newly
    exhaled from the deepest sources of inspiration. Their perfect
    little hands are locked with ineffable elegance; their blowing
    robes are tossed into folds of which each line is a study; their
    charming feet have the relief of the most delicate sculpture.
    But, as I have already noted, of Botticelli there is much, too
    much to say--besides which Mr. Pater has said all. Only add thus
    to his inimitable grace of design that the exquisite pictorial
    force driving him goes a-Maying not on wanton errands of its own,
    but on those of some mystic superstition which trembles for ever
    in his heart.

    [Illustration: THE GREAT EAVES, FLORENCE]

    V

    The more I look at the old Florentine domestic architecture the
    more I like it--that of the great examples at least; and if I
    ever am able to build myself a lordly pleasure-house I don't see
    how in conscience I can build it different from these. They are
    sombre and frowning, and look a trifle more as if they were meant
    to keep people out than to let them in; but what equally
    "important" type--if there be an equally important--is more
    expressive of domiciliary dignity and security and yet attests
    them with a finer æesthetic economy? They are impressively
    "handsome," and yet contrive to be so by the simplest means. I
    don't say at the smallest pecuniary cost--that's another matter.
    There is money buried in the thick walls and diffused through the
    echoing excess of space. The merchant nobles of the fifteenth
    century had deep and full pockets, I suppose, though the present
    bearers of their names are glad to let out their palaces in
    suites of apartments which are occupied by the commercial
    aristocracy of another republic. One is told of fine old
    mouldering chambers of which possession is to be enjoyed for a
    sum not worth mentioning. I am afraid that behind these so
    gravely harmonious fronts there is a good deal of dusky
    discomfort, and I speak now simply of the large serious faces
    themselves as you can see them from the street; see them ranged
    cheek to cheek, in the grey historic light of Via dei Bardi, Via
    Maggio, Via degli Albizzi. The force of character, the familiar
    severity and majesty, depend on a few simple features: on the
    great iron-caged windows of the rough-hewn basement; on the noble
    stretch of space between the summit of one high, round-topped
    window and the bottom of that above; on the high-hung sculptured
    shield at the angle of the house; on the flat far-projecting
    roof; and, finally, on the magnificent tallness of the whole
    building, which so dwarfs our modern attempts at size. The finest
    of these Florentine palaces are, I imagine, the tallest
    habitations in Europe that are frankly and amply habitations--not
    mere shafts for machinery of the American grain-elevator pattern.
    Some of the creations of M. Haussmann in Paris may climb very
    nearly as high; but there is all the difference in the world
    between the impressiveness of a building which takes breath, as
    it were, some six or seven times, from storey to storey, and of
    one that erects itself to an equal height in three long-drawn
    pulsations. When a house is ten windows wide and the drawing-room
    floor is as high as a chapel it can afford but three floors.
    The spaciousness of some of those ancient drawing-rooms is that
    of a Russian steppe. The "family circle," gathered anywhere
    within speaking distance, must resemble a group of pilgrims
    encamped in the desert on a little oasis of carpet. Madame
    Gryzanowska, living at the top of a house in that dusky, tortuous
    old Borgo Pinti, initiated me the other evening most good-
    naturedly, lamp in hand, into the far-spreading mysteries of her
    apartment. Such quarters seem a translation into space of the
    old-fashioned idea of leisure. Leisure and "room" have been
    passing out of our manners together, but here and there, being of
    stouter structure, the latter lingers and survives.

    Here and there, indeed, in this blessed Italy, reluctantly modern
    in spite alike of boasts and lamentations, it seems to have been
    preserved for curiosity's and fancy's sake, with a vague, sweet
    odour of the embalmer's spices about it. I went the other morning
    to the Corsini Palace. The proprietors obviously are great
    people. One of the ornaments of Rome is their great white-faced
    palace in the dark Trastevere and its voluminous gallery, none
    the less delectable for the poorness of the pictures. Here they
    have a palace on the Arno, with another large, handsome,
    respectable and mainly uninteresting collection. It contains
    indeed three or four fine examples of early Florentines. It was
    not especially for the pictures that I went, however; and
    certainly not for the pictures that I stayed. I was under the
    same spell as the inveterate companion with whom I walked the
    other day through the beautiful private apartments of the Pitti
    Palace and who said: "I suppose I care for nature, and I know
    there have been times when I have thought it the greatest
    pleasure in life to lie under a tree and gaze away at blue hills.
    But just now I had rather lie on that faded sea-green satin sofa
    and gaze down through the open door at that retreating vista of
    gilded, deserted, haunted chambers. In other words I prefer a
    good 'interior' to a good landscape. The impression has a greater
    intensity--the thing itself a more complex animation. I like fine
    old rooms that have been occupied in a fine old way. I like the
    musty upholstery, the antiquated knick-knacks, the view out of
    the tall deep-embrasured windows at garden cypresses rocking
    against a grey sky. If you don't know why, I'm afraid I can't
    tell you." It seemed to me at the Palazzo Corsini that I did know
    why. In places that have been lived in so long and so much and in
    such a fine old way, as my friend said--that is under social
    conditions so multifold and to a comparatively starved and
    democratic sense so curious--the past seems to have left a
    sensible deposit, an aroma, an atmosphere. This ghostly presence
    tells you no secrets, but it prompts you to try and guess a few.
    What has been done and said here through so many years, what has
    been ventured or suffered, what has been dreamed or despaired of?
    Guess the riddle if you can, or if you think it worth your
    ingenuity. The rooms at Palazzo Corsini suggest indeed, and seem
    to recall, but a monotony of peace and plenty. One of them imaged
    such a noble perfection of a home-scene that I dawdled there
    until the old custodian came shuffling back to see whether
    possibly I was trying to conceal a Caravaggio about my person: a
    great crimson-draped drawing-room of the amplest and yet most
    charming proportions; walls hung with large dark pictures, a
    great concave ceiling frescoed and moulded with dusky richness,
    and half-a-dozen south windows looking out on the Arno, whose
    swift yellow tide sends up the light in a cheerful flicker. I
    fear that in my appreciation of the particular effect so achieved
    I uttered a monstrous folly--some momentary willingness to be
    maimed or crippled all my days if I might pass them in such a
    place. In fact half the pleasure of inhabiting this spacious
    saloon would be that of using one's legs, of strolling up and
    down past the windows, one by one, and making desultory journeys
    from station to station and corner to corner. Near by is a
    colossal ball-room, domed and pilastered like a Renaissance
    cathedral, and super-abundantly decorated with marble effigies,
    all yellow and grey with the years.

    VI

    In the Carthusian Monastery outside the Roman Gate, mutilated
    and profaned though it is, one may still snuff up a strong if
    stale redolence of old Catholicism and old Italy. The road to it
    is ugly, being encumbered with vulgar waggons and fringed with
    tenements suggestive of an Irish-American suburb. Your interest
    begins as you come in sight of the convent perched on its little
    mountain and lifting against the sky, around the bell-tower of
    its gorgeous chapel, a coronet of clustered cells. You make your
    way into the lower gate, through a clamouring press of deformed
    beggars who thrust at you their stumps of limbs, and you climb
    the steep hillside through a shabby plantation which it is proper
    to fancy was better tended in the monkish time. The monks are not
    totally abolished, the government having the grace to await the
    natural extinction of the half-dozen old brothers who remain, and
    who shuffle doggedly about the cloisters, looking, with their
    white robes and their pale blank old faces, quite anticipatory
    ghosts of their future selves. A prosaic, profane old man in a
    coat and trousers serves you, however, as custodian. The
    melancholy friars have not even the privilege of doing you the
    honours of their dishonour. One must imagine the pathetic effect
    of their former silent pointings to this and that conventual
    treasure under stress of the feeling that such pointings were
    narrowly numbered. The convent is vast and irregular--it bristles
    with those picture-making arts and accidents which one notes as
    one lingers and passes, but which in Italy the overburdened
    memory learns to resolve into broadly general images. I rather
    deplore its position at the gates of a bustling city--it ought
    rather to be lodged in some lonely fold of the Apennines. And yet
    to look out from the shady porch of one of the quiet cells upon
    the teeming vale of the Arno and the clustered towers of Florence
    must have deepened the sense of monastic quietude.

    The chapel, or rather the church, which is of great proportions
    and designed by Andrea Orcagna, the primitive painter, refines
    upon the consecrated type or even quite glorifies it. The massive
    cincture of black sculptured stalls, the dusky Gothic roof, the
    high-hung, deep-toned pictures and the superb pavement of verd-
    antique and dark red marble, polished into glassy lights, must
    throw the white-robed figures of the gathered friars into the
    highest romantic relief. All this luxury of worship has nowhere
    such value as in the chapels of monasteries, where we find it
    contrasted with the otherwise so ascetic economy of the
    worshippers. The paintings and gildings of their church, the
    gem-bright marbles and fantastic carvings, are really but the
    monastic tribute to sensuous delight--an imperious need for which
    the fond imagination of Rome has officiously opened the door. One
    smiles when one thinks how largely a fine starved sense for the
    forbidden things of earth, if it makes the most of its
    opportunities, may gratify this need under cover of devotion.
    Nothing is too base, too hard, too sordid for real humility, but
    nothing too elegant, too amiable, too caressing, caressed,
    caressable, for the exaltation of faith. The meaner the convent
    cell the richer the convent chapel. Out of poverty and solitude,
    inanition and cold, your honest friar may rise at his will into a
    Mahomet's Paradise of luxurious analogies.

    There are further various dusky subterranean oratories where a
    number of bad pictures contend faintly with the friendly gloom.
    Two or three of these funereal vaults, however, deserve mention.
    In one of them, side by side, sculptured by Donatello in low
    relief, lie the white marble effigies of the three members of
    the Accaiuoli family who founded the convent in the thirteenth
    century. In another, on his back, on the pavement, rests a grim
    old bishop of the same stout race by the same honest craftsman.
    Terribly grim he is, and scowling as if in his stony sleep he
    still dreamed of his hates and his hard ambitions. Last and best,
    in another low chapel, with the trodden pavement for its bed,
    shines dimly a grand image of a later bishop--Leonardo
    Buonafede, who, dying in 1545, owes his monument to Francesco di
    San Gallo. I have seen little from this artist's hand, but it was
    clearly of the cunningest. His model here was a very sturdy old
    prelate, though I should say a very genial old man. The sculptor
    has respected his monumental ugliness, but has suffused it with a
    singular homely charm--a look of confessed physical comfort in
    the privilege of paradise. All these figures have an inimitable
    reality, and their lifelike marble seems such an incorruptible
    incarnation of the genius of the place that you begin to think of
    it as even more reckless than cruel on the part of the present
    public powers to have begun to pull the establishment down,
    morally speaking, about their ears. They are lying quiet yet a
    while; but when the last old friar dies and the convent formally
    lapses, won't they rise on their stiff old legs and hobble out to
    the gates and thunder forth anathemas before which even a future
    and more enterprising régime may be disposed to pause?

    Out of the great central cloister open the snug little detached
    dwellings of the absent fathers. When I said just now that the
    Certosa in Val d'Ema gives you a glimpse of old Italy I was
    thinking of this great pillared quadrangle, lying half in sun and
    half in shade, of its tangled garden-growth in the centre,
    surrounding the ancient customary well, and of the intense blue
    sky bending above it, to say nothing of the indispensable old
    white-robed monk who pokes about among the lettuce and parsley.
    We have seen such places before; we have visited them in that
    divinatory glance which strays away into space for a moment over
    the top of a suggestive book. I don't quite know whether it's
    more or less as one's fancy would have it that the monkish cells
    are no cells at all, but very tidy little appartements
    complets
    , consisting of a couple of chambers, a sitting-room
    and a spacious loggia, projecting out into space from the cliff-
    like wall of the monastery and sweeping from pole to pole the
    loveliest view in the world. It's poor work, however, taking
    notes on views, and I will let this one pass. The little chambers
    are terribly cold and musty now. Their odour and atmosphere are
    such as one used, as a child, to imagine those of the school-room
    during Saturday and Sunday.

    VII

    In the Roman streets, wherever you turn, the facade of a church
    in more or less degenerate flamboyance is the principal feature
    of the scene; and if, in the absence of purer motives, you are
    weary of aesthetic trudging over the corrugated surface of the
    Seven Hills, a system of pavement in which small cobble-stones
    anomalously endowed with angles and edges are alone employed, you
    may turn aside at your pleasure and take a reviving sniff at the
    pungency of incense. In Florence, one soon observes, the churches
    are relatively few and the dusky house-fronts more rarely
    interrupted by specimens of that extraordinary architecture which
    in Rome passes for sacred. In Florence, in other words,
    ecclesiasticism is less cheap a commodity and not dispensed in
    the same abundance at the street-corners. Heaven forbid, at the
    same time, that I should undervalue the Roman churches, which are
    for the most part treasure-houses of history, of curiosity, of
    promiscuous and associational interest. It is a fact,
    nevertheless, that, after St. Peter's, I know but one really
    beautiful church by the Tiber, the enchanting basilica of St.
    Mary Major. Many have structural character, some a great
    allure, but as a rule they all lack the dignity of the
    best of the Florentine temples. Here, the list being immeasurably
    shorter and the seed less scattered, the principal churches are
    all beautiful. And yet I went into the Annunziata the other day
    and sat there for half-an-hour because, forsooth, the gildings
    and the marbles and the frescoed dome and the great rococo shrine
    near the door, with its little black jewelled fetish, reminded me
    so poignantly of Rome. Such is the city properly styled eternal--
    since it is eternal, at least, as regards the consciousness of
    the individual. One loves it in its sophistications--though for
    that matter isn't it all rich and precious sophistication?--
    better than other places in their purity.

    Coming out of the Annunziata you look past the bronze statue of
    the Grand Duke Ferdinand I (whom Mr. Browning's heroine used to
    watch for--in the poem of "The Statue and the Bust"--from the red
    palace near by), and down a street vista of enchanting
    picturesqueness. The street is narrow and dusky and filled with
    misty shadows, and at its opposite end rises the vast bright-
    coloured side of the Cathedral. It stands up in very much the
    same mountainous fashion as the far-shining mass of the bigger
    prodigy at Milan, of which your first glimpse as you leave your
    hotel is generally through another such dark avenue; only that,
    if we talk of mountains, the white walls of Milan must be likened
    to snow and ice from their base, while those of the Duomo of
    Florence may be the image of some mighty hillside enamelled with
    blooming flowers. The big bleak interior here has a naked majesty
    which, though it may fail of its effect at first, becomes after a
    while extraordinarily touching. Originally disconcerting, it soon
    inspired me with a passion. Externally, at any rate, it is one of
    the loveliest works of man's hands, and an overwhelming proof
    into the bargain that when elegance belittles grandeur you have
    simply had a bungling artist.

    Santa Croce within not only triumphs here, but would triumph
    anywhere. "A trifle naked if you like," said my irrepressible
    companion, "but that's what I call architecture, just as I don't
    call bronze or marble clothes (save under urgent stress of
    portraiture) statuary." And indeed we are far enough away from
    the clustering odds and ends borrowed from every art and every
    province without which the ritually builded thing doesn't trust
    its spell to work in Rome. The vastness, the lightness, the open
    spring of the arches at Santa Croce, the beautiful shape of the
    high and narrow choir, the impression made as of mass without
    weight and the gravity yet reigning without gloom--these are my
    frequent delight, and the interest grows with acquaintance. The
    place is the great Florentine Valhalla, the final home or
    memorial harbour of the native illustrious dead, but that
    consideration of it would take me far. It must be confessed
    moreover that, between his coarsely-imagined statue out in front
    and his horrible monument in one of the aisles, the author of
    The Divine Comedy, for instance, is just hereabouts rather
    an extravagant figure. "Ungrateful Florence," declaims Byron.
    Ungrateful indeed--would she were more so! the susceptible spirit
    of the great exile may be still aware enough to exclaim; in
    common, that is, with most of the other immortals sacrificed on
    so very large a scale to current Florentine "plastic" facility.
    In explanation of which remark, however, I must confine myself to
    noting that, as almost all the old monuments at Santa Croce are
    small, comparatively small, and interesting and exquisite, so the
    modern, well nigh without exception, are disproportionately vast
    and pompous, or in other words distressingly vague and vain. The
    aptitude of hand, the compositional assurance, with which such
    things are nevertheless turned out, constitutes an anomaly
    replete with suggestion for an observer of the present state of
    the arts on the soil and in the air that once befriended them,
    taking them all together, as even the soil and the air of Greece
    scarce availed to do. But on this head, I repeat, there would be
    too much to say; and I find myself checked by the same warning at
    the threshold of the church in Florence really interesting beyond
    Santa Croce, beyond all others. Such, of course, easily, is Santa
    Maria Novella, where the chapels are lined and plated with
    wonderful figured and peopled fresco-work even as most of those
    in Rome with precious inanimate substances. These overscored
    retreats of devotion, as dusky, some of them, as eremitic caves
    swarming with importunate visions, have kept me divided all
    winter between the love of Ghirlandaio and the fear of those
    seeds of catarrh to which their mortal chill seems propitious
    till far on into the spring. So I pause here just on the praise
    of that delightful painter--as to the spirit of whose work the
    reflections I have already made are but confirmed by these
    examples. In the choir at Santa Maria Novella, where the incense
    swings and the great chants resound, between the gorgeous
    coloured window and the florid grand altar, he still "goes in,"
    with all his might, for the wicked, the amusing world, the world
    of faces and forms and characters, of every sort of curious human
    and rare material thing.

    [Illustration: BOBOLI GARDEN, FLORENCE.]

    VIII

    I had always felt the Boboli Gardens charming enough for me to
    "haunt" them; and yet such is the interest of Florence in every
    quarter that it took another corso of the same cheap
    pattern as the last to cause me yesterday to flee the crowded
    streets, passing under that archway of the Pitti Palace which
    might almost be the gate of an Etruscan city, so that I might
    spend the afternoon among the mouldy statues that compose with
    their screens of cypress, looking down at our clustered towers
    and our background of pale blue hills vaguely freckled with white
    villas. These pleasure-grounds of the austere Pitti pile, with
    its inconsequent charm of being so rough-hewn and yet somehow so
    elegantly balanced, plead with a voice all their own the general
    cause of the ample enclosed, planted, cultivated private
    preserve--preserve of tranquillity and beauty and immunity--in
    the heart of a city; a cause, I allow, for that matter, easy to
    plead anywhere, once the pretext is found, the large, quiet,
    distributed town-garden, with the vague hum of big grudging
    boundaries all about it, but with everything worse excluded,
    being of course the most insolently-pleasant thing in the world.
    In addition to which, when the garden is in the Italian manner,
    with flowers rather remarkably omitted, as too flimsy and easy
    and cheap, and without lawns that are too smart, paths that are
    too often swept and shrubs that are too closely trimmed, though
    with a fanciful formalism giving style to its shabbiness, and
    here and there a dusky ilex-walk, and here and there a dried-up
    fountain, and everywhere a piece of mildewed sculpture staring at
    you from a green alcove, and just in the right place, above all,
    a grassy amphitheatre curtained behind with black cypresses and
    sloping downward in mossy marble steps--when, I say, the place
    possesses these attractions, and you lounge there of a soft
    Sunday afternoon, the racier spectacle of the streets having made
    your fellow-loungers few and left you to the deep stillness and
    the shady vistas that lead you wonder where, left you to the
    insidious irresistible mixture of nature and art, nothing too
    much of either, only a supreme happy resultant, a divine
    tertium quid: under these conditions, it need scarce be
    said the revelation invoked descends upon you.

    The Boboli Gardens are not large--you wonder how compact little
    Florence finds room for them within her walls. But they are
    scattered, to their extreme, their all-romantic advantage and
    felicity, over a group of steep undulations between the rugged
    and terraced palace and a still-surviving stretch of city wall,
    where the unevenness of the ground much adds to their apparent
    size. You may cultivate in them the fancy of their solemn and
    haunted character, of something faint and dim and even, if you
    like, tragic, in their prescribed, their functional smile; as if
    they borrowed from the huge monument that overhangs them certain
    of its ponderous memories and regrets. This course is open to
    you, I mention, but it isn't enjoined, and will doubtless indeed
    not come up for you at all if it isn't your habit, cherished
    beyond any other, to spin your impressions to the last tenuity of
    fineness. Now that I bethink myself I must always have happened
    to wander here on grey and melancholy days. It remains none the
    less true that the place contains, thank goodness--or at least
    thank the grave, the infinitely-distinguished traditional
    taste of Florence--no cheerful, trivial object, neither
    parterres, nor pagodas, nor peacocks, nor swans. They have their
    famous amphitheatre already referred to, with its degrees or
    stone benches of a thoroughly aged and mottled complexion and its
    circular wall of evergreens behind, in which small cracked images
    and vases, things that, according to association, and with the
    law of the same quite indefinable, may make as much on one
    occasion for exquisite dignity as they may make on another for
    (to express it kindly) nothing at all. Something was once done in
    this charmed and forsaken circle--done or meant to be done; what
    was it, dumb statues, who saw it with your blank eyes? Opposite
    stands the huge flat-roofed palace, putting forward two great
    rectangular arms and looking, with its closed windows and its
    foundations of almost unreduced rock, like some ghost of a sample
    of a ruder Babylon. In the wide court-like space between the
    wings is a fine old white marble fountain that never plays. Its
    dusty idleness completes the general air of abandonment.
    Chancing on such a cluster of objects in Italy--glancing at them
    in a certain light and a certain mood--I get (perhaps on too easy
    terms, you may think) a sense of history that takes away
    my breath. Generations of Medici have stood at these closed
    windows, embroidered and brocaded according to their period, and
    held fetes champetres and floral games on the greensward,
    beneath the mouldering hemicycle. And the Medici were great
    people! But what remains of it all now is a mere tone in the air,
    a faint sigh in the breeze, a vague expression in things, a
    passive--or call it rather, perhaps, to be fair, a shyly,
    pathetically responsive--accessibility to the yearning guess.
    Call it much or call it little, the ineffaceability of this deep
    stain of experience, it is the interest of old places and the
    bribe to the brooding analyst. Time has devoured the doers and
    their doings, but there still hangs about some effect of their
    passage. We can "layout" parks on virgin soil, and cause them to
    bristle with the most expensive importations, but we
    unfortunately can't scatter abroad again this seed of the
    eventual human soul of a place--that comes but in its time and
    takes too long to grow. There is nothing like it when it
    has come.
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