Изображения страниц

The face of wife or child, or friend or foe,
And all the while men spake not each to each.
But as a captive, in some gloom-bound cell
Under the level of a stormy lake,

Feels that the roof has shifted and the walls;
And, where he finds himself, there crouches down
Mute, and in horror lest his blood's quick beat
Rive up the ruin and let in the lake-

So, with clenched hands, they, crouching whisperless,
Feared lest a heart-vibration should unbind
Loud dooms that rocked in ambush overhead.

Meanwhile Apollo, through that dire eclipse,
Dwelt in the dim light of his azure halls,
Likest in beauty to the perfect form
Stamped on the soul of some great statuary
Waking and sleeping, who with touch divine
Breathes life and love into the chill dead stone,
And warms it with the warmth of his own soul;
Till some one finds him in the cold grey dawn
Laid mute by the mute marble, his long toil
Just ended, and the mighty brain at rest.
Like to that dream which made the dreamer die,
So proud, so beautiful in pensive pain,
Sat Phoebus, veiled in dark divinity,
Dreadly repentant, as a god repents,
Nor yet so wholly wrapt in self-remorse,
But that at times his gloomy veins would feel
Wild frenzies, ruminant of wrong to Zeus-
Zeus, saviour of the world by that one stroke-
But loss is loss, though worlds be profited;
And deep love will remember, there and here.

But when the long dread night was overpast,
Came to Eridanus, the lord of streams,
Clymene, and the weeping Heliades,
And Phaethon they found, or what seemed he.
There, with his eyes in ashes, and the once
So radiant locks by cruel thunder scathed,
Recumbent in the reeds, a charred black mass,
Furrowed with trenchant fire from head to foot;
Whom yet with reverent hands they lifted up,
And bare him to the bank, and washed the limbs
In vain; and for the burnt shreds clinging to him,
Robed the cold form in raiment shining white;
Then on the river-marge they scooped a grave,
And laid him in the dank earth far apart,
Near to none else; for so the dead lie down,
Whom Zeus, the Thunderer, hath cut off by fire.
And on the tomb they poured forth wine and oil,
And sacrificed much substance thirty days:
Nor failed they to record in distich due,
How from a kingly venture kingly fall
Resulted, and a higher than human fame.
And there, amid those comely services,
Brake into song the weeping Heliades


2 c

"O that much sighing could these lips restore, And make them bloom with kisses as before! But Phaethon returns no more, no more!"

And answer made the childless Clymene :

"O that this love, which on thy welfare fed, Could with new pangs renew that lovely head! My Phaethon, my child, is dead, is dead!"

And yet again the weeping Heliades :

"O to be guided to that sunless shore, There clasp the glimmering Phaethon o'er and o'er! Since Phaethon returns no more, no more!


And once more sang the childless Clymene :

"O if to that dark land I might be led, Loose his dear life, and leave mine own instead! My Phaethon, my child, is dead, is dead!"

So ever sang the weeping Heliades,
And so made answer childless Clymene.
Cycnus the while, half-brother and whole friend,
Sat housed in lamentation far apart,
Brooding alone, discomfited with ills;
He oft in the night-season, chill with stars,
Sat moaning in the thickets, and by day
Sat moaning in the thickets, till his voice,
By reason of long sorrow, conceived a key
Sweeter than any harp and tales grew rife
Of him that sang so sweetly. Dream in peace ;
Yea, waste thyself long while in tender song,
Cycnus;-the bending woods listen for love,
And old Eridanus flows faint with sound,
But, ah me! for thou singest in vain, in vain!
Heart cold is Persephassa, and her ear
Cold and impenetrable by plaintive song.
Cold is the dust of thy familiar friend!



MR WESTMACOTT, R.A., Professor of Sculpture to the Royal Academy, delivered, during the past season, a lecture to the students on the benefits and the disadvantages of a Roman residence. Our fellow-countryman, Mr Gibson, long a denizen in Italy, is known to have expressed the deliberate opinion, that the public monuments erected in England are inferior to those found in other countries, that English sculptors are deficient in early education, and that it is desirable that our artstudents, by the opening of a Branch Academy in Rome, should be brought into more immediate contact with the best works of classic times. With this opinion, expressed by Mr Gibson,-than whom no man living is better entitled to a hearing, we entirely concur. But as its terms were by no means flattering to our English artists, or to the professors under whose tuition our students had been reared -as, moreover, this severe judgment had acquired additional weight by repetition in the House of Lords -we were not surprised that some member of the Royal Academy was found to vindicate the British schools, and to insist on the advantages of a London residence. Mr Westmacott accordingly made himself the champion of things as they are. He obtained an easy, but withal a worthless victory. It was of course not difficult to secure a response from home sympathies. Every reference to his own services -every hint delicately pointed to the genius he recognised around him was sure to be echoed with applause. But we are bound to say that we have seldom listened to a lecture more vague or more vacillating. The utmost we could get from it was this-that Rome was good and that London was good, provided a person had not too much of either. It is doubtless one of the evils incident to an

institution deriving prestige from Government sanction, that its professors will seldom speak boldly. But some one should be found publicly to declare and make it known that France, that Russia, and even the smaller states in Europe, have already established in Rome, for the culture of the higher departments of art, academies with pensioned students, while England has hitherto denied to her artists any commensurate advantages. It is not surprising that our English school of sculpture and painting has suffered accordingly. Rome is, for art, the capital of the world. It is, indeed, itself a world—a community of sculptors, painters, architects, assembled from all the nations of the earth, surrounded by historic associations the most thrilling, in the midst of monuments the most inspiring. It is of the advantages of such a residence that we now propose to speak.

Most travellers are acquainted with the "Greco," renowned for coffee, tobacco, noise, and dirt. Let us turn in at early morning, and already shall we find a few artists breakfasting betimes by candlelight. The Germans flock in, a boisterous crew, accompanied by a rough dog-bearded, sturdy fellows, having little in common with their spiritual brethren of Munich and Dusseldorf. Towards half-past seven, when daylight in the winter months has fairly established itself, the Nestor of British sculpture, and others of the English school, beginto congregate. The first quarter of an hour, devoted to the satisfying of hunger, generally passes away in silence, broken only by a few detached, desultory words. But at the important stage when cigars commence to be handed round, and the more weighty portion of the repast disposed of, the cup is idly sipped at lengthening intervals. At this auspicious moment do ideas

begin to flow, do thoughts flock along the awakened morning brain, eager in pursuit of art, and earnest in the love of the noble and the true. Often have we sat by and listened to high discourse of gods of Greece, theories of ancient mythologies, mingled with bold speculation touching more modern creeds. Often have we lent an attentive ear to passing yet profound criticisms upon the renowned statues of the Capitol and the Vatican-the anguish of the Laocoon, the proud defiance of the Apollo, the pathos of the dying Gaul. It has been no ordinary privilege thus to enter into the artist mind, caught in the freedom of unreserve, when reason and fancy and speculation play together in hours of undisguised social converse, mingled with anecdote, pointed by playful satire, and made merry by hearty laughter. In such seasons as these, art seems clothed in living personalities: thoughts which had slumbered as dead abstractions in the mind walk freely abroad; ideas in their first germs are thrown out, and paraded on private view, ere they take their public stand in marble or on canvass; and thus the inward workings of the painter's or sculptor's genius are unconsciously revealed, and the artist himself becomes the interpreter to his works. This Café Greco" is thus, as it were, an academy of art and a school for criticism. And we deem it no small advantage that the professors and students of all countries-the painters, the architects, and sculptors of every diversity of style, classic, medieval, Christian, landscape, and -domestic-can freely intermingle, talk openly of their works without fear of plagiarism, invite friendly criticism in defiance of jealousy and rivalry. Towards noon there is a second and minor gathering. After the "mezzo giorno" comes a sequel of coffee, flavoured sometimes with a "petit verre de cognac." In the evening, again, following the Ave Maria, dinner or supper is a larger and more general assemblage. Then

is heard a general strife of tongues and clatter of cups; the news of the day is noised from mouth to mouth; the American brogue breaks loose into a republic of discord; and painters, poets, and whiskered genius in questionable guise, glory in the biggest of words and the thickest of smoke. Then, at length, the coffee drunk to the dregs, the short pipe reduced to its ashes, and the last joke worn threadbare, the medley throng gradually clear away -some for social whist, others to solitary work.

To the sculptor the advantages of a Roman residence are undoubted. Rome has for years held within her walls some of the most famed professors of the art. ova, writing from the banks of the Tiber, says: Italy is my country


is the country and native soil of the arts. I cannot leave her-my infancy was nurtured here." It was among the seven hills, in the immediate presence of the Forum, the Coliseum, and the Vatican, that Canova's genius found a fitting and abiding home. Thorwaldsen, again, born in the far north, obtained, at the age of twentythree, a pension from the Academy of Copenhagen, started at once for Rome, fixed his studio near the Piazza Barberini, and founded, as is well known, his classic style upon the great originals of the Capitol and the Vatican. We find, also, that our own countryman, Flaxman, toiled for five continuous years in order to lay in store sufficient means for the Roman journey upon which he had set his heart. During a seven years' residence in the land of poets he executed his famed outlines of Homer, Eschylus, Dante, and other works. And now that these three great sculptors-Canova, Thorwaldsen, and Flaxman-are gone, Rome still finds in Mr Gibson a worthy successor. Like those great men whose mantle he inherits, he came at an early age to Italy, and formed his style upon the Grecian masterworks. In the studios of Canova


and Thorwaldsen he laboured, and in the midst of the antique marbles have the last forty years of his life been passed. He knows how much he owes to Italy; and therefore it is that he has urged upon the Government of his country the foundation of an English academy in Rome, wherein pensioned students should be nurtured in the higher walks of the plastic and pictorial arts.

Speaking from personal observation, we can say there is no city comparable to Rome as a place for artistic study. It may be a minor, yet certainly it is by no means an unimportant matter, that the ardour of the youthful mind is kindled by the immediate presence of the great originals themselves. Casts from statues are often faulty; and no one will pretend that the congregated plaster copies at Sydenham can be looked upon with precisely the emotion awakened by the marbles of the Vatican. Standing before the Apollo, the Laocoon, or the Dying Gladiator, it is not merely a question of what the eye can see, but how much the imagination will realise. We may rest assured that Byron would never have written his immortal lines at the foot of a chalk-white Venus. Mechanical products of but yesterday cannot have about them the halo of antiquity. A statue which has felt the chisel of Phidias, which, as god or goddess, has been worshipped in temples, which had to endure for long ages a nation's overthrow, and then, for a second time, rose into life, is necessarily encircled with a thousand memories, and grows eloquent in event ful story. To adapt an oft-repeated saying, the society of such works constitutes of itself a liberal education. Actual history seems handed down in bodily shape; the poetry of mythology is seen in the most perfect of forms; and thus, the mental horizon extended indefinitely from the immediate point of view, art becomes, as she ever should be, the entrance-gate to noble knowledge.

The society likewise found in Rome, notwithstanding the foxhunting on the Campagna, and the small gossip inevitable among idlers and loungers, is somewhat, it must be admitted, of an intellectual cast. Conversation round the dinnertable, in cafés and at evening receptions, almost necessarily concerns itself with the pictures, the ruins, and the church ceremonies which during the day have been seen or studied. In the political stagnation which has long become chronic in the Eternal City, people naturally surrender their thoughts to refined dilettante excitement; and the arts, without hostile competition from foreign topics, come not merely to amuse the passing hour, but grow into the grave business of life. Men are permitted to move in the ideal world of pictures and statues without incurring the charge of mere elegant trifling or the neglect of more serious duties. Refined minds can here give themselves wholly to æsthetic culturewalk among ruins without troubling about political economy, saunter along the byways of Tivoli, Albano, or Frascati, mingle among a picturesque peasantry, without discussing the theory of Malthus on population, freed from the trouble of reading a single page in The Wealth of Nations. Men, thus saved from the turmoil of an agitated intellect, glide gently along the more secluded paths of life, grow calmly meditative, simple in their tastes, yet subtle in their enjoyments, living in daily converse with the silent past, and finding companionship in thoughts which steal away to sheltered retreat. It is in an existence thus harmoniously set that the arts can best be cultivated. To sit under the arch of a ruined aqueduct, and think of Rome's decay; to listen, at vesper twilight, to the plaintive chant of nuns; to gaze from Pincian Hill on St Peter's dome, or on Hadrian's massive pile, angel-guarded;— at each hour and at every step thus may the student dote on pictures

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »