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Giuseppe Giusti - The Great Italian Satirist Poet

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Giuseppe Giusti, who is the greatest Italian satirist of this century, and is in some respects the greatest Italian poet, was born in 1809 at Mossummano in Tuscany, of parentage noble and otherwise distinguished; one of his paternal ancestors had assisted the liberal Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo to compile his famous code, and his mother's father had been a republican in 1799. There was also an hereditary taste for literature in the family; and Giusti says, in one of his charming letters, that almost as soon as he had learned to speak, his father taught him the ballad of Count Ugolino, and he adds, "I have always had a passion for song, a passion for verses, and more than a passion for Dante." His education passed later into the hands of a priest, who had spent much time as a teacher in Vienna, and was impetuous, choleric, and thoroughly German in principle. "I was given him to be taught," says Giusti, "but he undertook to tame me"; and he remembered reading with him a Plutarch for youth, and the "Lives of the Saints", but chiefly was, as he says, so "caned, contraried, and martyred" by him, that, when the priest wept at their final parting, the boy could by no means account for the burst of tenderness. Giusti was then going to Florence to be placed in a school where he had the immeasurable good fortune to fall into the hands of one whose gentleness and wisdom he remembered through life. "Drea Francioni," he says, "had not time to finish his work, but he was the first and the only one to put into my heart the need and love of study. Oh, better far than stuffing the head with Latin, with histories and with fables! Endear study, even if you teach nothing; this is the great task!" And he afterward dedicated his book on Tuscan proverbs, which he thought one of his best performances, to this beloved teacher.

He had learned to love study, yet from this school, and from others to which he was afterward sent, he came away with little Latin and no Greek; but, what is more important, he began life about this time as a poet—by stealing a sonnet. His theft was suspected, but could not be proved. "And so," he says of his teacher and himself, "we remained, he in his doubt and I in my lie. Who would have thought from this ugly beginning that I should really have gone on to make sonnets of my own?... The Muses once known, the vice grew upon me, and from my twelfth to my fifteenth year I rasped, and rasped, and rasped, until finally I came out with a sonnet to Italy, represented in the usual fashion, by the usual matron weeping as usual over her highly estimable misfortunes. In school, under certain priests who were more Chinese than Italian, and without knowing whether Italy were round or square, long or short, how that sonnet to Italy should get into my head I don't know. I only know that it was found beautiful, and I was advised to hide it,"—that being the proper thing to do with patriotic poetry in those days.

After leaving school, Giusti passed three idle years with his family, and then went to study the humanities at Pisa, where he found the café better adapted to their pursuit than the University, since he could there unite with it the pursuit of the exact science of billiards. He represents himself in his letters and verses to have led just the life at Pisa which was most agreeable to former governments of Italy,—a life of sensual gayety, abounding in the small excitements which turn the thought from the real interests of the time, and weaken at once the moral and intellectual fiber. But how far a man can be credited to his own disgrace is one of the unsettled questions: the repentant and the unrepentant are so apt to over-accuse themselves. It is very wisely conjectured by some of Giusti's biographers that he did not waste himself so much as he says in the dissipations of student life at Pisa. At any rate, it is certain that he began there to make those sarcastic poems upon political events which are so much less agreeable to a paternal despotism than almost any sort of love-songs. He is said to have begun by writing in the manner of Béranger, and several critics have labored to prove the similarity of their genius, with scarcely more effect, it seems to us, than those who would make him out the Heinrich Heine of Italy, as they call him. He was a political satirist, whose success was due to his genius, but who can never be thoroughly appreciated by a foreigner, or even an Italian not intimately acquainted with the affairs of his times; and his reputation must inevitably diminish with the waning interest of men in the obsolete politics of those vanished kingdoms and duchies. How mean and little were all their concerns is scarcely credible; but Giusti tells an adventure of his, at the period, which throws light upon some of the springs of action in Tuscany. He had been arrested for a supposed share in applause supposed revolutionary at the theater; he boldly denied that he had been at the play. "If you were not at the theater, how came your name on the list of the accused?" demanded the logical commissary. "Perhaps," answered Giusti, "the spies have me so much in mind that they see me where I am not.... Here," he continues, "the commissary fell into a rage, but I remained firm, and cited the Count Mastiani in proof, with whom the man often dined,"—Mastiani being governor in Pisa and the head of society. "At the name of Mastiani there seemed to pass before the commissary a long array of stewed and roast, eaten and to be eaten, so that he instantly turned and said to me, 'Go, and at any rate take this summons for a paternal admonition.'" Ever since the French Revolution of 1830, and the sympathetic movements in Italy, Giusti had written political satires which passed from hand to hand in manuscript copies, the possession of which was rendered all the more eager and relishing by the pleasure of concealing them from spies; so that for a defective copy a person by no means rich would give as much as ten scudi. When a Swiss printed edition appeared in 1844, half the delight in them was gone; the violation of the law being naturally so dear to the human heart that, when combined with patriotism, it is almost a rapture.

But, in the midst of his political satirizing, Giusti felt the sting of one who is himself a greater satirist than any, when he will, though he is commonly known for a sentimentalist. The poet fell in love very seriously and, it proved, very unhappily, as he has recorded in three or four poems of great sweetness and grace, but no very characteristic merit. This passion is improbably believed to have had a disastrous effect upon Giusti's health, and ultimately to have shortened his life; but then the Italians always like to have their poets agonizzanti, at least. Like a true humorist, Giusti has himself taken both sides of the question; professing himself properly heart-broken in the poems referred to, and in a letter written late in life, after he had encountered his faded love at his own home in Pescia, making a jest of any reconciliation or renewal of the old passion between them.

"Apropos of the heart," says Giusti in this letter, "you ask me about a certain person who once had mine, whole and sound, roots and all. I saw her this morning in passing, out of the corner of my eye, and I know that she is well and enjoying herself. As to our coming together again, the case, if it were once remote, is now impossible; for you can well imagine that, all things considered, I could never be such a donkey as to tempt her to a comparison of me with myself. I am certain that, after having tolerated me for a day or two for simple appearance' sake, she would find some good excuse for planting me a yard outside the door. In many, obstinacy increases with the ails and wrinkles; but in me, thank Heaven, there comes a meekness, a resignation, not to be expressed. Perhaps it has not happened otherwise with her. In that case we could accommodate ourselves, and talk as long as the evening lasted of magnesia, of quinine, and of nervines; lament, not the rising and sinking of the heart, but of the barometer; talk, not of the theater and all the rest, but whether it is better to crawl out into the sun like lizards, or stay at home behind battened windows. 'Good-evening, my dear, how have you been to-day?' 'Eh! you know, my love, the usual rheumatism; but for the rest I don't complain.' 'Did you sleep well last night?' 'Not so bad; and you?' 'O, little or none at all; and I got up feeling as if all my bones were broken.' 'My idol, take a little laudanum. Think that when you are not well I suffer with you. And your appetite, how is it?' 'O, don't speak of it! I can't get anything down.' 'My soul, if you don't eat you'll not be able to keep up.' 'But, my heart, what would you do if the mouthfuls stuck in your throat?' 'Take a little quassia; ... but, dost thou remember, once—?' 'Yes, I remember; but once was once,' ... and so forth, and so forth. Then some evening, if a priest came in, we could take a hand at whist with a dummy, and so live on to the age of crutches in a passion whose phases are confided to the apothecary rather than to the confessor."

{Illustration: GIUSEPPE GIUSTI.}

Giusti's first political poems had been inspired by the revolutionary events of 1830 in France; and he continued part of that literary force which, quite as much as the policy of Cavour, has educated Italians for freedom and independence. When the French revolution of 1848 took place, and the responsive outbreaks followed all over Europe, Tuscany drove out her Grand Duke, as France drove out her king, and, still emulous of that wise exemplar, put the novelist Guerrazzi at the head of her affairs, as the next best thing to such a poet as Lamartine, which she had not. The affair ended in the most natural way; the Florentines under the supposed popular government became very tired of themselves, and called back their Grand Duke, who came again with Austrian bayonets to support him in the affections of his subjects, where he remained secure until the persuasive bayonets disappeared before Garibaldi ten years later.

Throughout these occurrences the voice of Giusti was heard whenever that of good sense and a temperate zeal for liberty could be made audible. He was an aristocrat by birth and at heart, and he looked upon the democratic shows of the time with distrust, if not dislike, though he never lost faith in the capacity of the Italians for an independent national government. His broken health would not let him join the Tuscan volunteers who marched to encounter the Austrians in Lombardy; and though he was once elected member of the representative body from Pescia, he did not shine in it, and refused to be chosen a second time. His letters of this period afford the liveliest and truest record of feeling in Tuscany during that memorable time of alternating hopes and fears, generous impulses, and mean derelictions, and they strike me as among the best letters in any language.

Giusti supported the Grand Duke's return philosophically, with a sarcastic serenity of spirit, and something also of the indifference of mortal sickness. His health was rapidly breaking, and in March, 1850, he died very suddenly of a hemorrhage of the lungs.

II

In noticing Giusti's poetry I have a difficulty already hinted, for if I presented some of the pieces which gave him his greatest fame among his contemporaries, I should be doing, as far as my present purpose is concerned, a very unprofitable thing. The greatest part of his poetry was inspired by the political events or passions of the time at which it was written, and, except some five or six pieces, it is all of a political cast. These events are now many of them grown unimportant and obscure, and the passions are, for the most part, quite extinct; so that it would be useless to give certain of his most popular pieces as historical, while others do not represent him at his best as a poet. Some degree of social satire is involved; but the poems are principally light, brilliant mockeries of transient aspects of politics, or outcries against forgotten wrongs, or appeals for long-since-accomplished or defeated purposes. We know how dreary this sort of poetry generally is in our own language, after the occasion is once past, and how nothing but the enforced privacy of a desolate island could induce us to read, however ardent our sympathies may have been, the lyrics about slavery or the war, except in very rare cases. The truth is, the Muse, for a lady who has seen so much of life and the ways of the world, is an excessively jealous personification, and is apt to punish with oblivion a mixed devotion at her shrine. The poet who desires to improve and exalt his time must make up his mind to a double martyrdom,—first, to be execrated by vast numbers of respectable people, and then to be forgotten by all. It is a great pity, but it cannot be helped. It is chiefly your

    Rogue of canzonets and serenades 

who survives. Anacreon lives; but the poets who appealed to their Ionian fellow-citizens as men and brethren, and lectured them upon their servility and their habits of wine-bibbing and of basking away the dearest rights of humanity in the sun, who ever heard of them? I do not mean to say that Giusti ever lectured his generation; he was too good an artist for that; but at least one Italian critic forebodes that the figure he made in the patriotic imagination must diminish rapidly with the establishment of the very conditions he labored to bring about. The wit of much that he said must grow dim with the fading remembrance of what provoked it; the sting lie pointless and painless in the dust of those who writhed under it,—so much of the poet's virtue perishing in their death. We can only judge of all this vaguely and for a great part from the outside, for we cannot pretend to taste the finest flavor of the poetry which, is sealed to a foreigner in the local phrases and racy Florentine words which Giusti used; but I think posterity in Italy will stand in much the same attitude toward him that we do now. Not much of the social life of his time is preserved in his poetry, and he will not be resorted to as that satirist of the period to whom historians are fond of alluding in support of conjectures relative to society in the past. Now and then he touches upon some prevailing intellectual or literary affectation, as in the poem describing the dandified, desperate young poet of fashion, who,

    Immersed in suppers and balls,     A martyr in yellow gloves, 

sings of Italy, of the people, of progress, with the rhetoricalities of the modern Arcadians; and he has a poem called "The Ball", which must fairly, as it certainly does wittily, represent one of those anomalous entertainments which rich foreigners give in Italy, and to which all sorts of irregular aliens resort, something of the local aristocracy appearing also in a ghostly and bewildered way. Yet even in this poem there is a political lesson.

I suppose, in fine, that I shall most interest my readers in Giusti, if I translate here the pieces that have most interested me. Of all, I like best the poem which he calls "St. Ambrose", and I think the reader will agree with me about it. It seems not only very perfect as a bit of art, with its subtly intended and apparently capricious mingling of satirical and pathetic sentiment, but valuable for its vivid expression of Italian feeling toward the Austrians. These the Italians hated as part of a stupid and brutal oppression; they despised them somewhat as a torpid-witted folk, but individually liked them for their amiability and good nature, and in their better moments they pitied them as the victims of a common tyranny. I will not be so adventurous as to say how far the beautiful military music of the Austrians tended to lighten the burden of a German garrison in an Italian city; but certainly whoever has heard that music must have felt, for one base and shameful moment, that the noise of so much of a free press as opposed his own opinions might be advantageously exchanged for it. The poem of "St. Ambrose", written in 1846, when the Germans seemed so firmly fixed in Milan, is impersonally addressed to some Italian, holding office under the Austrian government, and, therefore, in the German interest.

    ST. AMBROSE.      Your Excellency is not pleased with me     Because of certain jests I made of late,     And, for my putting rogues in pillory,     Accuse me of being anti-German. Wait,     And hear a thing that happened recently:     When wandering here and there one day as fate     Led me, by some odd accident I ran     On the old church St. Ambrose, at Milan.      My comrade of the moment was, by chance,     The young son of one Sandro{1}—one of those     Troublesome heads—an author of romance—     Promessi Sposi—your Excellency knows     The book, perhaps?—has given it a glance?     Ah, no? I see! God give your brain repose;     With graver interests occupied, your head     To all such stuff as literature is dead.      I enter, and the church is full of troops:     Of northern soldiers, of Croatians, say,     And of Bohemians, standing there in groups     As stiff as dry poles stuck in vineyards,—nay,     As stiff as if impaled, and no one stoops     Out of the plumb of soldierly array;     All stand, with whiskers and mustache of tow,     Before their God like spindles in a row.      I started back: I cannot well deny     That being rained down, as it were, and thrust     Into that herd of human cattle, I     Could not suppress a feeling of disgust     Unknown, I fancy, to your Excellency,     By reason of your office. Pardon! I must     Say the church stank of heated grease, and that     The very altar-candles seemed of fat.      But when the priest had risen to devote     The mystic wafer, from the band that stood     About the altar came a sudden note     Of sweetness over my disdainful mood;     A voice that, speaking from the brazen throat     Of warlike trumpets, came like the subdued     Moan of a people bound in sore distress,     And thinking on lost hopes and happiness.      'T was Verdi's tender chorus rose aloof,—     That song the Lombards there, dying of thirst,     Send up to God, "Lord, from the native roof."     O'er countless thrilling hearts the song has burst,     And here I, whom its magic put to proof,     Beginning to be no longer I, immersed     Myself amidst those tallowy fellow-men     As if they had been of my land and kin.      What would your Excellency? The piece was fine,     And ours, and played, too, as it should be played;     It drives old grudges out when such divine     Music as that mounts up into your head!     But when the piece was done, back to my line     I crept again, and there I should have staid,     But that just then, to give me another turn,     From those mole-mouths a hymn began to yearn:      A German anthem, that to heaven went     On unseen wings, up from the holy fane;     It was a prayer, and seemed like a lament,     Of such a pensive, grave, pathetic strain     That in my soul it never shall be spent;     And how such heavenly harmony in the brain     Of those thick-skulled barbarians should dwell     I must confess it passes me to tell.      In that sad hymn, I felt the bitter sweet     Of the songs heard in childhood, which the soul     Learns from beloved voices, to repeat     To its own anguish in the days of dole;     A thought of the dear mother, a regret,     A longing for repose and love,—the whole     Anguish of distant exile seemed to run     Over my heart and leave it all undone:      When the strain ceased, it left me pondering     Tenderer thoughts and stronger and more clear;     These men, I mused, the self-same despot king,     Who rules in Slavic and Italian fear,     Tears from their homes and arms that round them cling.     And drives them slaves thence, to keep us slaves here;     From their familiar fields afar they pass     Like herds to winter in some strange morass.      To a hard life, to a hard discipline,     Derided, solitary, dumb, they go;     Blind instruments of many-eyed Rapine     And purposes they share not, and scarce know;     And this fell hate that makes a gulf between     The Lombard and the German, aids the foe     Who tramples both divided, and whose bane     Is in the love and brotherhood of men.      Poor souls! far off from all that they hold dear,     And in a land that hates them! Who shall say     That at the bottom of their hearts they bear     Love for our tyrant? I should like to lay     They've our hate for him in their pockets! Here,     But that I turned in haste and broke away,     I should have kissed a corporal, stiff and tall,     And like a scarecrow stuck against the wall. 

Note {1}: Alessandro Manzoni.

I could not well praise this poem enough, without praising it too much. It depicts a whole order of things, and it brings vividly before us the scene described; while its deep feeling is so lightly and effortlessly expressed, that one does not know which to like best, the exquisite manner or the excellent sense. To prove that Giusti was really a fine poet, I need give nothing more, for this alone would imply poetic power; not perhaps of the high epic sort, but of the kind that gives far more comfort to the heart of mankind, amusing and consoling it. "Giusti composed satires, but no poems," says a French critic; but I think most will not, after reading this piece, agree with him. There are satires and satires, and some are fierce enough and brutal enough; but when a satire can breathe so much tenderness, such generous humanity, such pity for the means, at the same time with such hatred of the source of wrong, and all with an air of such smiling pathos, I say, if it is not poetry, it is something better, and by all means let us have it instead of poetry. It is humor, in its best sense; and, after religion, there is nothing in the world can make men so conscious, thoughtful, and modest.

A certain pensiveness very perceptible in "St. Ambrose" is the prevailing sentiment of another poem of Giusti's, which I like very much, because it is more intelligible than his political satires, and because it places the reader in immediate sympathy with a man who had not only the subtlety to depict the faults of the time, but the sad wisdom to know that he was no better himself merely for seeing them. The poem was written in 1844, and addressed to Gino Capponi, the life-long friend in whose house Giusti died, and the descendant of the great Gino Capponi who threatened the threatening Frenchmen when Charles VIII occupied Florence: "If you sound your trumpets," as a call to arms against the Florentines, "we will ring our bells," he said.

Giusti speaks of the part which he bears as a spectator and critic of passing events, and then apostrophizes himself:

    Who art thou that a scourge so keen dost bear     And pitilessly dost the truth proclaim,     And that so loath of praise for good and fair,     So eager art with bitter songs of blame?     Hast thou achieved, in thine ideal's pursuit,     The secret and the ministry of art?     Did'st thou seek first to kill and to uproot     All pride and folly out of thine own heart     Ere turning to teach other men their part?  

    O wretched scorn! from which alone I sing,     Thou weariest and saddenest my soul!     O butterfly that joyest on thy wing,     Pausing from bloom to bloom, without a goal—     And thou, that singing of love for evermore,     Fond nightingale! from wood to wood dost go,     My life is as a never-ending war     Of doubts, when likened to the peace ye know,     And wears what seems a smile and is     a throe! 

There is another famous poem of Giusti's in quite a different mood. It is called "Instructions to an Emissary", sent down into Italy to excite a revolution, and give Austria a pretext for interference, and the supposed speaker is an Austrian minister. It is done with excellent sarcasm, and it is useful as light upon a state of things which, whether it existed wholly in fact or partly in the suspicion of the Italians, is equally interesting and curious. The poem was written in 1847, when the Italians were everywhere aspiring to a national independence and self-government, and their rulers were conceding privileges while secretly leaguing with Austria to continue the old order of an Italy divided among many small tyrants. The reader will readily believe that my English is not as good as the Italian.

    INSTRUCTIONS TO AN EMISSARY.      You will go into Italy; you have here       Your passport and your letters of exchange;     You travel as a count, it would appear,       Going for pleasure and a little change;     Once there, you play the rodomont, the queer       Crack-brain good fellow, idle gamester, strange     Spendthrift and madcap. Give yourself full swing;     People are taken with that kind of thing.      When you behold—and it will happen so—       The birds flock down about the net, be wary;     Talk from a warm and open heart, and show       Yourself with everybody bold and merry.     The North's a dungeon, say, a waste of snow,       The very house and home of January,     Compared with that fair garden of the earth,     Beautiful, free, and full of life and mirth.      And throwing in your discourse this word free,       Just to fill up, and as by accident,     Look round among your listeners, and see       If it has had at all the effect you meant;     Beat a retreat if it fails, carelessly       Talking of this and that; but in the event     Some one is taken with it, never fear,     Push boldly forward, for the road is clear.      Be bold and shrewd; and do not be too quick,       As some are, and plunge headlong on your prey     When, if the snare shall happen not to stick,       Your uproar frightens all the rest away;     To take your hare by carriage is the trick;       Make a wide circle, do not mind delay;     Experiment and work in silence; scheme     With that wise prudence that shall folly seem. 

The minister bids the emissary, "Turn me into a jest; say I'm sleepy and begin to dote; invent what lies you will, I give you carte-bianche."

    Of governments down yonder say this, too,       At the cafés and theaters; indeed     For this, I've made a little sign for you       Upon your passport that the wise will read     For an express command to let you do       Whatever you think best, and take no heed. 

Then the emissary is instructed to make himself center of the party of extremes, and in different companies to pity the country, to laugh at moderate progress as a sham, and to say that the concessions of the local governments are merely ruses to pacify and delude the people,—as in great part they were, though Giusti and his party did not believe so. The instructions to the emissary conclude with the charge to

    Scatter republican ideas, and say       That all the rich and all the well-to-do     Use common people hardly better, nay,       Worse, than their dogs; and add some hard words, too:     Declare that bread's the question of the day,       And that the communists alone are true;     And that the foes of the agrarian cause     Waste more than half of all by wicked laws. 

Then, he tells him, when the storm begins to blow, and the pockets of the people feel its effect, and the mob grows hungry, to contrive that there shall be some sort of outbreak, with a bit of pillage,—

    So that the kings down there, pushed to the wall,     For congresses and bayonets shall call.      If you should have occasion to spend, spend,       The money won't be wasted; there must be     Policemen in retirement, spies without end,       Shameless and penniless; buy, you are free.     If destiny should be so much your friend       That you could shake a throne or two for me,     Pour me out treasures. I shall be content;     My gains will be at least seven cent, per cent.      Or, in the event the inconstant goddess frown,       Let me know instantly when you are caught;     A thunderbolt shall burst upon your crown,       And you become a martyr on the spot.     As minister I turn all upside down,       Our government disowns you as it ought.     And so the cake is turned upon the fire,     And we can use you next as we desire.      In order not to awaken any fear       In the post-office, 't is my plan that you     Shall always correspond with liberals here;       Don't doubt but I shall hear of all you do.     ...'s a Republican known far and near;       I haven't another spy that's half as true!     You understand, and I need say no more;     Lucky for you if you get me up a war! 

We get the flavor of this, at least the literary flavor, the satire, and the irony, but it inevitably falls somewhat cold upon us, because it had its origin in a condition of things which, though historical, are so opposed to all our own experience that they are hard to be imagined. Yet we can fancy the effect such a poem must have had, at the time when it was written, upon a people who felt in the midst of their aspirations some disturbing element from without, and believed this to be espionage and Austrian interference. If the poem had also to be passed about secretly from one hand to another, its enjoyment must have been still keener; but strip it of all these costly and melancholy advantages, and it is still a piece of subtle and polished satire.

Most of Giusti's poems, however, are written in moods and manners very different from this; there is sparkle and dash in the movement, as well as the thought, which I cannot reproduce, and in giving another poem I can only hope to show something of his varying manner. Some foreigner, Lamartine, I think, called Italy the Land of the Dead,—whereupon Giusti responded with a poem of that title, addressed to his friend Gino Capponi:

    THE LAND OF THE DEAD.      'Mongst us phantoms of Italians,—       Mummies even from our birth,—     The very babies' nurses       Help to put them under earth.      'T is a waste of holy water       When we're taken to the font:     They that make us pay for burial       Swindle us to that amount.      In appearance we're constructed       Much like Adam's other sons,—     Seem of flesh and blood, but really       We are nothing but dry bones.      O deluded apparitions,       What do you do among men?     Be resigned to fate, and vanish       Back into the past again!      Ah! of a perished people       What boots now the brilliant story?     Why should skeletons be bothering       About liberty and glory?      Why deck this funeral service       With such pomp of torch and flower?     Let us, without more palaver,       Growl this requiem, of ours. 

And so the poet recounts the Italian names distinguished in modern literature, and describes the intellectual activity that prevails in this Land of the Dead. Then he turns to the innumerable visitors of Italy:

    O you people hailed down on us       From the living, overhead,     With what face can you confront us,       Seeking health among us dead?      Soon or late this pestilential       Clime shall work you harm—beware!     Even you shall likewise find it       Foul and poisonous grave-yard air.      O ye grim, sepulchral friars       Ye inquisitorial ghouls,     Lay down, lay down forever,       The ignorant censor's tools.      This wretched gift of thinking,       O ye donkeys, is your doom;     Do you care to expurgate us,       Positively, in the tomb?      Why plant this bayonet forest       On our sepulchers? what dread     Causes you to place such jealous       Custody upon the dead?      Well, the mighty book of Nature       Chapter first and last must have;     Yours is now the light of heaven,       Ours the darkness of the grave.      But, then, if you ask it,       We lived greatly in our turn;     We were grand and glorious, Gino,      Ere our friends up there were born!      O majestic mausoleums,       City walls outworn with time,     To our eyes are even your ruins       Apotheosis sublime!      O barbarian unquiet       Raze each storied sepulcher!     With their memories and their beauty       All the lifeless ashes stir.      O'er these monuments in vigil       Cloudless the sun flames and glows     In the wind for funeral torches,—       And the violet, and the rose,      And the grape, the fig, the olive,       Are the emblems fit of grieving;     'T is, in fact, a cemetery       To strike envy in the living.      Well, in fine, O brother corpses,       Let them pipe on as they like;     Let us see on whom hereafter       Such a death as ours shall strike!      'Mongst the anthems of the function       Is not Dies Irae? Nay,     In all the days to come yet,       Shall there be no Judgment Day? 

In a vein of like irony, the greater part of Giusti's political poems are written, and none of them is wanting in point and bitterness, even to a foreigner who must necessarily lose something of their point and the tang of their local expressions. It was the habi the satirist, who at least loved the people's quaintness and originality—and perhaps this is as much democracy as we ought to demand of a poet—it was Giusti's habit to replenish his vocabulary from the fountains of the popular speech. By this means he gave his satires a racy local flavor; and though he cannot be said to have written dialect, since Tuscan is the Italian language, he gained by these words and phrases the frankness and fineness of dialect.

But Giusti had so much gentleness, sweetness, and meekness in his heart, that I do not like to leave the impression of him as a satirist last upon the reader. Rather let me close these meager notices with the beautiful little poem, said to be the last he wrote, as he passed his days in the slow death of the consumptive. It is called

    A PRAYER.      For the spirit confused     With misgiving and with sorrow,     Let me, my Saviour, borrow     The light of faith from thee.     O lift from it the burden     That bows it down before thee.     With sighs and with weeping     I commend myself to thee;     My faded life, thou knowest,     Little by little is wasted     Like wax before the fire,     Like snow-wreaths in the sun.     And for the soul that panteth     For its refuge in thy bosom,     Break, thou, the ties, my Saviour,     That hinder it from thee. 

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