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SCENE I. - A garden ornamented with busts of the epic poets.
In front, on the right, is Virgil ; on the left, Ariosto.
The PRINCESS, LEONORA SANVITALI, with garlands in their
Prin. You look at me and smile, my Leonora,
Then turn away your face and smile again :
Why do you not express to your companion
Those pleasing, pensive thoughts ?
Leon. I mused, my princess,
On the sweet rural peace we now enjoy ;
We live here like the careless shepherdesses,
And like them pass the hours in weaving garlands.
See what a variegated wreath is mine!
How many flowers and buds ! But thine is laurel.
Thy lofty mind could joy in nothing less.
Prin. And to an honored head I consecrate
What I have twined amid such happy thoughts ;
[She crowns the bust of Virgil. Leon. And thou, Ludovico,
Whose fancy like the spring, sportive and blooming,
Brought forth such wealth of buds and flowers, thou wilt not
Disdain my motley offering. [She crowns Ariosto's bust.
Prin. My brother has been kind indeed to send us
Thus early to this dear retreat, where truly
We live unto ourselves, and, undisturbed,
Dream back the golden days of poesy.
Youth's brightest hours I passed at Belriguardo,
And May-time here gives them to me again.
Yes ; all here smiles in tender youthful beauty;
The warm airs woo us, and the plashing fountains ;
The heavy shadows of the evergreens
Are not unwelcome. The young trees and shrubs
Put forth new leaves with each day's warmer sun ;
And now from every bed flowers turn up to us
Their loving, childish eyes. The gardener
Released the citron and the orange trees
To-day from their confinement. The wide heavens
Are curtained o'er with one soft sleepy blue,
Save that the now dissolving snows have edged
The horizon with their vapors as a border.
Prin. Ah! why must a regret mar all this beauty ?
This lovely spring removes thee from my side.
Leon. Remind me not, dear princess, in this hour,
That I so soon must leave thy gentle presence. Prin. The city soon shall give thee other pleasures,
And we shall be forgot.
Duty and love
Now call me to the husband who so long
Has suffered my delay. I carry him our son,
Whom for a year he has not seen ;
I joy that his improved mind and beauty
Will give such pleasure to a father's heart.
But for the rest, there is in splendid Florence
Nought that can vie with dear Ferrara's gems.
Florence is great but through the people's wealth ;
Ferrara through her princess.
Prin. Say rather through those wise men
Whom chance brought hither and good luck detained. Leon. Chance scatters that which she alone collected :
Only the noble can attract the noble,
And hold them firmly bound as you have done.
You and your brother have assembled round you
Men worthy of yourselves and your great father,
Who kindled in this palace the twin lights
Of wisdom and of mental freedom, when
Our other realms were sleeping in the night
Of barbarous ignorance. To my childish ear,
Hippolytus and Hercules d’Esti
Were names of magic power. My parents loved
Florence and Rome ; my heart turned to Ferrara,
Where Petrarch found a home, and Ariosto models.
Here the great men whom Italy reveres
Have all been entertained with honor due,
And honorably have repaid your kindness,
Sounding abroad the praises of your house.
Your grandchildren will glory in these days
Of splendid hospitality.
Prin. Yes, if they feel like thee;
I envy thee such happy sensibility.
Leon. Nay, thine is happier. How pure and tranquil
Are thy enjoyments. My full heart impels me
At once to speak what I so lively feel ;
Thou feel'st it deeper, better, and art silent.
No meteoric lights can dazzle thee ;
Wit bribes thee not, and flattery wooes in vain,
Still with fine taste, and as unerring judgment,
Thy soul appropriates the great and fair
In feature new, familiar in the spirit. — Prin. It is not well to mask such flattery.
Beneath the guise of friendly confidence.
Leon. A friend alone can justly praise and prize
Such worth as thine. But since thou art so modest
We will impute it to some happy circumstance
Of education or companionship
Thou hast it. And thy sister of Urbino
Stands first amid the women of our day.
Prin. 'Tis true, Leonora, flattery could never
So swell our hearts if we would call to mind
How piece by piece we thankless have received
Our all from others. All that I have learned
Of ancient lore and speech is from my mother ;
And if in wisdom or in manners either
Lucretia or myself can be compared
With such a model, surely 'tis my sister.
My rank, my name are gifts of a kind fate ;
I joy that I may hear when wise men speak,
And understandingly receive those words
Breathed to instruct and elevate their kind.
Delighted listen I when eloquence
Pours forth the mingled treasures of the breast
Obedient to its glowing impulses. And whether
The poet tunes his lyre to eulogize
The deeds of princes, or philosophers
Refine upon the simplest, obscure action,
My ear is ready, and my mind can follow;
And this indeed is happiness!
I too love
The poet's gentle yet inspiring influence ;
Thy range is wider. I could live forever
Upon the isle of Poesy, nor weary
Of roaming through its laurel groves.
Prin. Not laurel only –
The myrtle also decks that beauteous isle,
And in the fair companionship of Muses
May not a lady hope to meet some poet
Who rapturously may recognize in her
The treasure he was seeking far and wide ?
Leon. That arrow glanced aside. The jest doth touch me,
But goes not home. To all I would be just,
And admiration is the due of Tasso.
His inspired eye which roves from earth to heaven,
His ear which drinks the harmonies of Nature;
The past and present have enriched his mind,
And much that Nature scattered far apart
Combines there to a new and beauteous being.
The dead and mute find life and voice,
And daily glow with colors not their own,
And all false pomps fade to their native dulness.
He draws us to him in his magic circle,
Then he seems near, and yet again so far,
And oft appears to gaze on us when shapes
From other worlds stand betwixt us and him.
Prin. Thou givest a faithful picture of the poet
Enthroned above his shadowy world; but yet
There are realities that can attract him.
Tell me, those sonnets we so often find
Upon these trees, breathing to us the perfume
. Of new Hesperian fruits, dost thou not deem them
Formed from the blossoms of true love ?