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but drenched and bleeding. Without doubt had the little vivacious brutes once disabled me, I should have had scant mercy shown me, and would have been eaten alive.

I went home and changed, but mentioned the story to none, fancying that it would seem hardly credible for a man to have been exposed to such danger from these small creatures. But a month afterwards I met the keeper, attended by his two inseparable terriers. On asking him, as I usually did, whether he had seen any uncommon bird or the like of late, he answered, “No, but a curious thing has happened all the same. I have not lately seen or trapped a weasel in these woods, where there are generally plenty, nor have the dogs found or chased one. I can't think what has come of them all !” I could have told him, but I didn't.







La mente mia è più dura che pietra

In tener forte immagine di Pietra.
N the history of the human spirit, as recorded in painting and in

poetry, there have been women who have played no little part and yet who survive to us as little more than a rich mysterious aroma. Their names have not been handed down ; of their lives and fate there is only vague conjecture to work upon; yet for a time they had at their feet the greatest of men, and from their souls drew forth a music strange and manifold :

How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway'st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest reap,

At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
That unknown dark-eyed and dusky-haired woman, with her pale
face and Circean wiles, her fingers toying with the keys of the
virginal, evoking melody to find a deathless echo from the soul of
Shakespeare, will for ever remain an insoluble problem invested with
unfading fascination, a gorgeous wonder as long as books are read,
with an intensity of human interest and passion which the fabulous
enchantresses of Ariosto and Tasso can never afford :

O, from what power bast thou this powerful might
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,

And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Less than a century earlier another woman, now equally hidden
from our knowledge in the mist of centuries, had played upon the
chords of Raphael's heart. The vague and silly gossip of Vasari
may well be neglected- dismissed with the later Fornarina legend
into the ante-hell of oblivion, and a certain painting in the Barberini
Palace left to Giulio Romano or to whomsoever else the critical
historian of art may be pleased to ascribe it. A sonnet, a divine

portrait, and then one ineffable vision rising through the beloved to the greatest conception of the ideal of womanhood-these are the records and memories that remain of the woman whom Raphael loved.

In a fragment of verse still preserved, Raphael speaks of the sweetness of her embrace

Quanto fu dolce .... la catena
De suoi candidi bracci al col mio volti,

Che sciogliendomi io sento mortal pena.' And, again, while he worked upon what is perhaps the noblest fruit of his genius, those frescoes for Pope Julius in the Stanza della Segnatura, the young artist in the full enthusiasm of his first visit to the eternal city and the certainty of an audience and a patron worthy of his highest endeavours, "pouring his soul with kings and popes to see,” has told us how sweet was the remembrance in his work of their mutual love : un pensier dolce è rimembrare. For, as he set forth those wondrous conceptions of Poetry, Philosophy, and Theology, with their work throughout the ages upon the spirit of man, while Aquinas and Dante, Plato and Aristotle, with Apollo and the Muses and sages and poets of old, took new life beneath his hand, and the sacred things of Christian Faith were no less brought nearer and rendered more vivid to men, we know how on the page of studies still to be seen in the British Museum he strove to record in a sonnet that love :

Or lingua di parlar disciogli il nodo

A dir di questo inusitato inganno

Che amor mi fece per mio grave affanno,

Ma lui più ne ringrazio e lei ne lodo.? Some years later Raphael painted her portrait-that white veiled lady with the splendid eyes and passionate face, the “Donna Velata” of the Pitti Palace. There is perhaps a trace of her too in the St. Mary Magdalene of the St. Cecilia altar-piece at Bologna ; and at last, when the sublime vision of the Madonna di San Sisto was to be painted, it was her face that inspired the artist's hand and led him on to Mary, almost as Beatrice led a still greater Italian into the snow white Rose of Paradise and up to the very foot of Madonna's throne.

Like Shakespeare's dark lady, so Raphael's “ Donna Velata"

"How sweet was the chain of her white arms round my neck, from which in freeing myself I feel mortal pain.

2 May my tongue have power to tell of this strange deceit that Love has made to torment me, yet the more I thank him for it and give praise to her. VOL, CCLXXXII.

NO. 1995.


remains a mystery. A third unknown, less in importance and fame than these, has been constructed out of certain of Dante's verses and named “Donna Pietra." Her objective existence is certainly highly doubtful. If she was a real woman, and not a mere creation of the poet's mind to serve as basis for an art experiment and perhaps a future allegory, she would be one who for a very short time swayed Dante's heart, when Beatrice had passed into Paradise and the poet was perhaps striving to drown remembrance of his loss in the courses which Forese recalls to him in the sixth terrace of Purgatory, and for which he receives those bitter reproaches. from the lips of Beatrice on the banks of Lethe. We may possibly be permitted to regard this period as following the death of Beatrice, but before Dante's marriage with Gemma Donati. With this “Donna Pietra,” real or imaginary, would seem to be connected the much discussed group of Dantesque poems of undoubted authenticity, to which modern Italian criticism has given the title of the “Canzoni pietrose."

There are certain famous lines of John Marston's in the prologue to his drama of “ Antonio's Revenge” which will serve as a most fitting prelude to these poems :

The rawish dank of clumsy winter ramps
The fluent summer's vein: and drizzling sleet
Chilleth the wan bleak cheek of the numb'd earth,
Whilst snarling gusts nibble the juiceless leaves
In the naked, shuddering branch.


For winter is the season depicted in these canzoni, a hard and biting winter amidst mountainous surroundings; and the form of the poems is as complicated as the patterns upon the ice, and the passion they express as fierce and as bitter as the gusts of the wintry wind. They are four in number, and are distinguishable from Dante's other minor poems by this involved and difficult artistic form (one being a sestina and another a kind of double sestina); by their obscurity and general asperity of rhythm; by this wintry setting and bitter tone, so absolutely different from that of the poetry addressed to Beatrice and belonging to the cycle of the “Vita Nuova,” as also from that of the canzoni connected with the allegorical lady of the “Convito," who symbolises philosophy; and, above all, by the perpetual playing upon the word pietra, or "stone," which occurs persistently in all the four. It is conjectured with every degree of probability that they were composed about the same time, addressed to one object real or imaginary, and it has even been

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supposed that Pietra may probably be the real name of the lady to whom they refer.

The poet Giosuè Carducci, in an essay in “ Il Secolo di Dante," and again in his "Studi Letterari,” has drawn at some length an eloquent comparison between the poems of this little group and those of the “ Vita Nuova.” He contrasts the suprasensible, ethereal, and angelical spirit of the latter with the hard and fierce similes of this “stony" group, the mystical semi-ecclesiastical perfume of the Beatrice

poems with the almost savage naturalism of some of the others, which yet are not without an occasional breath of the freshness of the country and the joy of the open sky with a hint of the spring to come. He remarks that they are as the passion of manhood following after the love of youth, and that this poetry was needed also for the singer of Beatrice to completely develop into the future poet.

In his “Storia della Letteratura Italiana,” Professor Bartoli writes of these poems in a somewhat similar strain. As to the use of the word pietra, he does not believe that Pietra is the true name of the lady Dante loves, but rather a name invented by the poet to express her dominant characteristics, her obdurate coldness towards himself. He regards both Selvaggia (the name by which Cino da Pistoia describes his golden-haired lady of the Apennines) and Beatrice herself as merely names of this kind, and possibly Petrarch's Laura as no more. Whether these ladies were real or only ideals, their poet lovers concealed the real names-Dante, indeed, in one of these very poems implies that he will not reveal the name of her who so fills his heart. These names, according to Professor Bartoli, are mere poetical fictions to express what he calls “ un modo soggettivo di provare l'amor.” Just as Beatrice (the giver of blessing) perfectly corresponds to the sweet and gentle poems of the "Vita Nuova," so Pietra is the fittest possible name to connect with the aspro parlare of this group. The whole subject has been treated in a thorough but very unpleasant manner by the late Signor V. Imbriani in his essay “Sulle canzoni Pietrose di Dante.” 3 He contrives from the text of these poems to evolve a tolerably scandalous story concerning this lady Pietra, and to weave it in with a highly imaginative and absolutely impossible theory of his own about the Francesca da Rimini incident in the “Inferno." His theory and his method of supporting it are alike so unpleasing to a true lover of the divine

G. Carducci, “Studi Letterari,” Livorno, 1880, pp. 203 and 204. -2 A. Bartoli, “Storia della Letteratura Italiana," vol. 4, PP. 296-298. • V. Imbriani, “Studi Danteschi,” Firenze, 1891.


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