Edward Bulwer Lytton
Part 3 out of 9
do not yield to curiosity."
Glyndon blushed, and rose. In spite of his love for Viola, and
his natural terror of such a rival, he felt himself irresistibly
drawn towards the very man he had most cause to suspect and
dread. He held out his hand to Zanoni, saying, "Well, then, if
we are to be rivals, our swords must settle our rights; till then
I would fain be friends."
"Friends! You know not what you ask."
"Enigmas!" cried Zanoni, passionately; "ay! can you dare to solve
them? Not till then could I give you my right hand, and call you
"I could dare everything and all things for the attainment of
superhuman wisdom," said Glyndon, and his countenance was lighted
up with wild and intense enthusiasm.
Zanoni observed him in thoughtful silence.
"The seeds of the ancestor live in the son," he muttered; "he
may--yet--" He broke off abruptly; then, speaking aloud, "Go,
Glyndon," said he; "we shall meet again, but I will not ask your
answer till the hour presses for decision."
'Tis certain that this man has an estate of fifty thousand
livres, and seems to be a person of very great accomplishments.
But, then, if he's a wizard, are wizards so devoutly given as
this man seems to be? In short, I could make neither head nor
tail on't--The Count de Gabalis, Translation affixed to the
second edition of the "Rape of the Lock."
Of all the weaknesses which little men rail against, there is
none that they are more apt to ridicule than the tendency to
believe. And of all the signs of a corrupt heart and a feeble
head, the tendency of incredulity is the surest.
Real philosophy seeks rather to solve than to deny. While we
hear, every day, the small pretenders to science talk of the
absurdities of alchemy and the dream of the Philosopher's Stone,
a more erudite knowledge is aware that by alchemists the greatest
discoveries in science have been made, and much which still seems
abstruse, had we the key to the mystic phraseology they were
compelled to adopt, might open the way to yet more noble
acquisitions. The Philosopher's Stone itself has seemed no
visionary chimera to some of the soundest chemists that even the
present century has produced. (Mr. Disraeli, in his "Curiosities
of Literature" (article "Alchem"), after quoting the sanguine
judgments of modern chemists as to the transmutation of metals,
observes of one yet greater and more recent than those to which
Glyndon's thoughts could have referred, "Sir Humphry Davy told me
that he did not consider this undiscovered art as impossible; but
should it ever be discovered, it would certainly be useless.")
Man cannot contradict the Laws of Nature. But are all the laws
of Nature yet discovered?
"Give me a proof of your art," says the rational inquirer. "When
I have seen the effect, I will endeavour, with you, to ascertain
Somewhat to the above effect were the first thoughts of Clarence
Glyndon on quitting Zanoni. But Clarence Glyndon was no
"rational inquirer." The more vague and mysterious the language
of Zanoni, the more it imposed upon him. A proof would have been
something tangible, with which he would have sought to grapple.
And it would have only disappointed his curiosity to find the
supernatural reduced to Nature. He endeavoured in vain, at some
moments rousing himself from credulity to the scepticism he
deprecated, to reconcile what he had heard with the probable
motives and designs of an imposter. Unlike Mesmer and
Cagliostro, Zanoni, whatever his pretensions, did not make them a
source of profit; nor was Glyndon's position or rank in life
sufficient to render any influence obtained over his mind,
subservient to schemes, whether of avarice or ambition. Yet,
ever and anon, with the suspicion of worldly knowledge, he strove
to persuade himself that Zanoni had at least some sinister object
in inducing him to what his English pride and manner of thought
considered a derogatory marriage with the poor actress. Might
not Viola and the Mystic be in league with each other? Might not
all this jargon of prophecy and menace be but artifices to dupe
He felt an unjust resentment towards Viola at having secured such
an ally. But with that resentment was mingled a natural
jealousy. Zanoni threatened him with rivalry. Zanoni, who,
whatever his character or his arts, possessed at least all the
external attributes that dazzle and command. Impatient of his
own doubts, he plunged into the society of such acquaintances as
he had made at Naples--chiefly artists, like himself, men of
letters, and the rich commercialists, who were already vying with
the splendour, though debarred from the privileges, of the
nobles. From these he heard much of Zanoni, already with them,
as with the idler classes, an object of curiosity and
He had noticed, as a thing remarkable, that Zanoni had conversed
with him in English, and with a command of the language so
complete that he might have passed for a native. On the other
hand, in Italian, Zanoni was equally at ease. Glyndon found that
it was the same in languages less usually learned by foreigners.
A painter from Sweden, who had conversed with him, was positive
that he was a Swede; and a merchant from Constantinople, who had
sold some of his goods to Zanoni, professed his conviction that
none but a Turk, or at least a native of the East, could have so
thoroughly mastered the soft Oriental intonations. Yet in all
these languages, when they came to compare their several
recollections, there was a slight, scarce perceptible
distinction, not in pronunciation, nor even accent, but in the
key and chime, as it were, of the voice, between himself and a
native. This faculty was one which Glyndon called to mind, that
sect, whose tenets and powers have never been more than most
partially explored, the Rosicrucians, especially arrogated. He
remembered to have heard in Germany of the work of John Bringeret
(Printed in 1615.), asserting that all the languages of the earth
were known to the genuine Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross. Did
Zanoni belong to this mystical Fraternity, who, in an earlier
age, boasted of secrets of which the Philosopher's Stone was but
the least; who considered themselves the heirs of all that the
Chaldeans, the Magi, the Gymnosophists, and the Platonists had
taught; and who differed from all the darker Sons of Magic in the
virtue of their lives, the purity of their doctrines, and their
insisting, as the foundation of all wisdom, on the subjugation of
the senses, and the intensity of Religious Faith?--a glorious
sect, if they lied not! And, in truth, if Zanoni had powers
beyond the race of worldly sages, they seemed not unworthily
exercised. The little known of his life was in his favour. Some
acts, not of indiscriminate, but judicious generosity and
beneficence, were recorded; in repeating which, still, however,
the narrators shook their heads, and expressed surprise how a
stranger should have possessed so minute a knowledge of the quiet
and obscure distresses he had relieved. Two or three sick
persons, when abandoned by their physicians, he had visited, and
conferred with alone. They had recovered: they ascribed to him
their recovery; yet they could not tell by what medicines they
had been healed. They could only depose that he came, conversed
with them, and they were cured; it usually, however, happened
that a deep sleep had preceded the recovery.
Another circumstance was also beginning to be remarked, and spoke
yet more in his commendation. Those with whom he principally
associated--the gay, the dissipated, the thoughtless, the sinners
and publicans of the more polished world--all appeared rapidly,
yet insensibly to themselves, to awaken to purer thoughts and
more regulated lives. Even Cetoxa, the prince of gallants,
duellists, and gamesters, was no longer the same man since the
night of the singular events which he had related to Glyndon.
The first trace of his reform was in his retirement from the
gaming-houses; the next was his reconciliation with an hereditary
enemy of his house, whom it had been his constant object for the
last six years to entangle in such a quarrel as might call forth
his inimitable manoeuvre of the stoccata. Nor when Cetoxa and
his young companions were heard to speak of Zanoni, did it seem
that this change had been brought about by any sober lectures or
admonitions. They all described Zanoni as a man keenly alive to
enjoyment: of manners the reverse of formal,--not precisely gay,
but equable, serene, and cheerful; ever ready to listen to the
talk of others, however idle, or to charm all ears with an
inexhaustible fund of brilliant anecdote and worldly experience.
All manners, all nations, all grades of men, seemed familiar to
him. He was reserved only if allusion were ever ventured to his
birth or history.
The more general opinion of his origin certainly seemed the more
plausible. His riches, his familiarity with the languages of the
East, his residence in India, a certain gravity which never
deserted his most cheerful and familiar hours, the lustrous
darkness of his eyes and hair, and even the peculiarities of his
shape, in the delicate smallness of the hands, and the Arab-like
turn of the stately head, appeared to fix him as belonging to one
at least of the Oriental races. And a dabbler in the Eastern
tongues even sought to reduce the simple name of Zanoni, which a
century before had been borne by an inoffensive naturalist of
Bologna (The author of two works on botany and rare plants.), to
the radicals of the extinct language. Zan was unquestionably the
Chaldean appellation for the sun. Even the Greeks, who mutilated
every Oriental name, had retained the right one in this case, as
the Cretan inscription on the tomb of Zeus (Ode megas keitai
Zan.--"Cyril contra Julian." (Here lies great Jove.))
significantly showed. As to the rest, the Zan, or Zaun, was,
with the Sidonians, no uncommon prefix to On. Adonis was but
another name for Zanonas, whose worship in Sidon Hesychius
records. To this profound and unanswerable derivation Mervale
listened with great attention, and observed that he now ventured
to announce an erudite discovery he himself had long since made,-
-namely, that the numerous family of Smiths in England were
undoubtedly the ancient priests of the Phrygian Apollo. "For,"
said he, "was not Apollo's surname, in Phrygia, Smintheus? How
clear all the ensuing corruptions of the august name,--Smintheus,
Smitheus, Smithe, Smith! And even now, I may remark that the
more ancient branches of that illustrious family, unconsciously
anxious to approximate at least by a letter nearer to the true
title, take a pious pleasure in writing their names Smith_e_!"
The philologist was much struck with this discovery, and begged
Mervale's permission to note it down as an illustration suitable
to a work he was about to publish on the origin of languages, to
be called "Babel," and published in three quartos by
Learn to be poor in spirit, my son, if you would penetrate that
sacred night which environs truth. Learn of the Sages to allow
to the Devils no power in Nature, since the fatal stone has shut
'em up in the depth of the abyss. Learn of the Philosophers
always to look for natural causes in all extraordinary events;
and when such natural causes are wanting, recur to God.--The
Count de Gabalis.
All these additions to his knowledge of Zanoni, picked up in the
various lounging-places and resorts that he frequented, were
unsatisfactory to Glyndon. That night Viola did not perform at
the theatre; and the next day, still disturbed by bewildered
fancies, and averse to the sober and sarcastic companionship of
Mervale, Glyndon sauntered musingly into the public gardens, and
paused under the very tree under which he had first heard the
voice that had exercised upon his mind so singular an influence.
The gardens were deserted. He threw himself on one of the seats
placed beneath the shade; and again, in the midst of his reverie,
the same cold shudder came over him which Zanoni had so
distinctly defined, and to which he had ascribed so extraordinary
He roused himself with a sudden effort, and started to see,
seated next him, a figure hideous enough to have personated one
of the malignant beings of whom Zanoni had spoken. It was a
small man, dressed in a fashion strikingly at variance with the
elaborate costume of the day: an affectation of homeliness and
poverty approaching to squalor, in the loose trousers, coarse as
a ship's sail; in the rough jacket, which appeared rent wilfully
into holes; and the black, ragged, tangled locks that streamed
from their confinement under a woollen cap, accorded but ill with
other details which spoke of comparative wealth. The shirt, open
at the throat, was fastened by a brooch of gaudy stones; and two
pendent massive gold chains announced the foppery of two watches.
The man's figure, if not absolutely deformed, was yet
marvellously ill-favoured; his shoulders high and square; his
chest flattened, as if crushed in; his gloveless hands were
knotted at the joints, and, large, bony, and muscular, dangled
from lean, emaciated wrists, as if not belonging to them. His
features had the painful distortion sometimes seen in the
countenance of a cripple,--large, exaggerated, with the nose
nearly touching the chin; the eyes small, but glowing with a
cunning fire as they dwelt on Glyndon; and the mouth was twisted
into a grin that displayed rows of jagged, black, broken teeth.
Yet over this frightful face there still played a kind of
disagreeable intelligence, an expression at once astute and bold;
and as Glyndon, recovering from the first impression, looked
again at his neighbour, he blushed at his own dismay, and
recognised a French artist, with whom he had formed an
acquaintance, and who was possessed of no inconsiderable talents
in his calling.
Indeed, it was to be remarked that this creature, whose externals
were so deserted by the Graces, particularly delighted in designs
aspiring to majesty and grandeur. Though his colouring was hard
and shallow, as was that generally of the French school at the
time, his DRAWINGS were admirable for symmetry, simple elegance,
and classic vigour; at the same time they unquestionably wanted
ideal grace. He was fond of selecting subjects from Roman
history, rather than from the copious world of Grecian beauty, or
those still more sublime stories of scriptural record from which
Raphael and Michael Angelo borrowed their inspirations. His
grandeur was that not of gods and saints, but mortals. His
delineation of beauty was that which the eye cannot blame and the
soul does not acknowledge. In a word, as it was said of
Dionysius, he was an Anthropographos, or Painter of Men. It was
also a notable contradiction in this person, who was addicted to
the most extravagant excesses in every passion, whether of hate
or love, implacable in revenge, and insatiable in debauch, that
he was in the habit of uttering the most beautiful sentiments of
exalted purity and genial philanthropy. The world was not good
enough for him; he was, to use the expressive German phrase, A
WORLD-BETTERER! Nevertheless, his sarcastic lip often seemed to
mock the sentiments he uttered, as if it sought to insinuate that
he was above even the world he would construct.
Finally, this painter was in close correspondence with the
Republicans of Paris, and was held to be one of those
missionaries whom, from the earliest period of the Revolution,
the regenerators of mankind were pleased to despatch to the
various states yet shackled, whether by actual tyranny or
wholesome laws. Certainly, as the historian of Italy (Botta.)
has observed, there was no city in Italy where these new
doctrines would be received with greater favour than Naples,
partly from the lively temper of the people, principally because
the most hateful feudal privileges, however partially curtailed
some years before by the great minister, Tanuccini, still
presented so many daily and practical evils as to make change
wear a more substantial charm than the mere and meretricious
bloom on the cheek of the harlot, Novelty. This man, whom I will
call Jean Nicot, was, therefore, an oracle among the younger and
bolder spirits of Naples; and before Glyndon had met Zanoni, the
former had not been among the least dazzled by the eloquent
aspirations of the hideous philanthropist.
"It is so long since we have met, cher confrere," said Nicot,
drawing his seat nearer to Glyndon's, "that you cannot be
surprised that I see you with delight, and even take the liberty
to intrude on your meditations.
"They were of no agreeable nature," said Glyndon; "and never was
intrusion more welcome."
"You will be charmed to hear," said Nicot, drawing several
letters from his bosom, "that the good work proceeds with
marvellous rapidity. Mirabeau, indeed, is no more; but, mort
Diable! the French people are now a Mirabeau themselves." With
this remark, Monsieur Nicot proceeded to read and to comment upon
several animated and interesting passages in his correspondence,
in which the word virtue was introduced twenty-seven times, and
God not once. And then, warmed by the cheering prospects thus
opened to him, he began to indulge in those anticipations of the
future, the outline of which we have already seen in the eloquent
extravagance of Condorcet. All the old virtues were dethroned
for a new Pantheon: patriotism was a narrow sentiment;
philanthropy was to be its successor. No love that did not
embrace all mankind, as warm for Indus and the Pole as for the
hearth of home, was worthy the breast of a generous man. Opinion
was to be free as air; and in order to make it so, it was
necessary to exterminate all those whose opinions were not the
same as Mons. Jean Nicot's. Much of this amused, much revolted
Glyndon; but when the painter turned to dwell upon a science that
all should comprehend, and the results of which all should
enjoy,--a science that, springing from the soil of equal
institutions and equal mental cultivation, should give to all the
races of men wealth without labour, and a life longer than the
Patriarchs', without care,--then Glyndon listened with interest
and admiration, not unmixed with awe. "Observe," said Nicot,
"how much that we now cherish as a virtue will then be rejected
as meanness. Our oppressors, for instance, preach to us of the
excellence of gratitude. Gratitude, the confession of
inferiority! What so hateful to a noble spirit as the
humiliating sense of obligation? But where there is equality
there can be no means for power thus to enslave merit. The
benefactor and the client will alike cease, and--"
"And in the mean time," said a low voice, at hand,--"in the mean
time, Jean Nicot?"
The two artists started, and Glyndon recognised Zanoni.
He gazed with a brow of unusual sternness on Nicot, who, lumped
together as he sat, looked up at him askew, and with an
expression of fear and dismay upon his distorted countenance.
Ho, ho! Messire Jean Nicot, thou who fearest neither God nor
Devil, why fearest thou the eye of a man?
"It is not the first time I have been a witness to your opinions
on the infirmity of gratitude," said Zanoni.
Nicot suppressed an exclamation, and, after gloomily surveying
Zanoni with an eye villanous and sinister, but full of hate
impotent and unutterable, said, "I know you not,--what would you
"Your absence. Leave us!"
Nicot sprang forward a step, with hands clenched, and showing his
teeth from ear to ear, like a wild beast incensed. Zanoni stood
motionless, and smiled at him in scorn. Nicot halted abruptly,
as if fixed and fascinated by the look, shivered from head to
foot, and sullenly, and with a visible effort, as if impelled by
a power not his own, turned away.
Glyndon's eyes followed him in surprise.
"And what know you of this man?" said Zanoni.
"I know him as one like myself,--a follower of art."
"Of ART! Do not so profane that glorious word. What Nature is
to God, art should be to man,--a sublime, beneficent, genial, and
warm creation. That wretch may be a PAINTER, not an ARTIST."
"And pardon me if I ask what YOU know of one you thus disparage?"
"I know thus much, that you are beneath my care if it be
necessary to warn you against him; his own lips show the
hideousness of his heart. Why should I tell you of the crimes he
has committed? He SPEAKS crime!"
"You do not seem, Signor Zanoni, to be one of the admirers of the
dawning Revolution. Perhaps you are prejudiced against the man
because you dislike the opinions?"
Glyndon paused, somewhat puzzled to define; but at length he
said, "Nay, I must wrong you; for you, of all men, I suppose,
cannot discredit the doctrine that preaches the infinite
improvement of the human species."
"You are right; the few in every age improve the many; the many
now may be as wise as the few were; but improvement is at a
standstill, if you tell me that the many now are as wise as the
"I comprehend you; you will not allow the law of universal
"Law! If the whole world conspired to enforce the falsehood they
could not make it LAW. Level all conditions to-day, and you only
smooth away all obstacles to tyranny to-morrow. A nation that
aspires to EQUALITY is unfit for FREEDOM. Throughout all
creation, from the archangel to the worm, from Olympus to the
pebble, from the radiant and completed planet to the nebula that
hardens through ages of mist and slime into the habitable world,
the first law of Nature is inequality."
"Harsh doctrine, if applied to states. Are the cruel disparities
of life never to be removed?"
"Disparities of the PHYSICAL life? Oh, let us hope so. But
disparities of the INTELLECTUAL and the MORAL, never! Universal
equality of intelligence, of mind, of genius, of virtue!--no
teacher left to the world! no men wiser, better than others,--
were it not an impossible condition, WHAT A HOPELESS PROSPECT FOR
HUMANITY! No, while the world lasts, the sun will gild the
mountain-top before it shines upon the plain. Diffuse all the
knowledge the earth contains equally over all mankind to-day, and
some men will be wiser than the rest to-morrow. And THIS is not
a harsh, but a loving law,--the REAL law of improvement; the
wiser the few in one generation, the wiser will be the multitude
As Zanoni thus spoke, they moved on through the smiling gardens,
and the beautiful bay lay sparkling in the noontide. A gentle
breeze just cooled the sunbeam, and stirred the ocean; and in the
inexpressible clearness of the atmosphere there was something
that rejoiced the senses. The very soul seemed to grow lighter
and purer in that lucid air.
"And these men, to commence their era of improvement and
equality, are jealous even of the Creator. They would deny an
intelligence,--a God!" said Zanoni, as if involuntarily. "Are
you an artist, and, looking on the world, can you listen to such
a dogma? Between God and genius there is a necessary link,--
there is almost a correspondent language. Well said the
Pythagorean (Sextus, the Pythagorean.), 'A good intellect is the
chorus of divinity.'"
Struck and touched with these sentiments, which he little
expected to fall from one to whom he ascribed those powers which
the superstitions of childhood ascribe to the darker agencies,
Glyndon said: "And yet you have confessed that your life,
separated from that of others, is one that man should dread to
share. Is there, then, a connection between magic and religion?"
"Magic! And what is magic! When the traveller beholds in Persia
the ruins of palaces and temples, the ignorant inhabitants inform
him they were the work of magicians. What is beyond their own
power, the vulgar cannot comprehend to be lawfully in the power
of others. But if by magic you mean a perpetual research amongst
all that is more latent and obscure in Nature, I answer, I
profess that magic, and that he who does so comes but nearer to
the fountain of all belief. Knowest thou not that magic was
taught in the schools of old? But how, and by whom? As the last
and most solemn lesson, by the Priests who ministered to the
Temple. (Psellus de Daemon (MS.)) And you, who would be a
painter, is not there a magic also in that art you would advance?
Must you not, after long study of the Beautiful that has been,
seize upon new and airy combinations of a beauty that is to be?
See you not that the grander art, whether of poet or of painter,
ever seeking for the TRUE, abhors the REAL; that you must seize
Nature as her master, not lackey her as her slave?
You demand mastery over the past, a conception of the future.
Has not the art that is truly noble for its domain the future and
the past? You would conjure the invisible beings to your charm;
and what is painting but the fixing into substance the Invisible?
Are you discontented with this world? This world was never meant
for genius! To exist, it must create another. What magician can
do more; nay, what science can do as much? There are two avenues
from the little passions and the drear calamities of earth; both
lead to heaven and away from hell,--art and science. But art is
more godlike than science; science discovers, art creates. You
have faculties that may command art; be contented with your lot.
The astronomer who catalogues the stars cannot add one atom to
the universe; the poet can call a universe from the atom; the
chemist may heal with his drugs the infirmities of the human
form; the painter, or the sculptor, fixes into everlasting youth
forms divine, which no disease can ravage, and no years impair.
Renounce those wandering fancies that lead you now to myself, and
now to yon orator of the human race; to us two, who are the
antipodes of each other! Your pencil is your wand; your canvas
may raise Utopias fairer than Condorcet dreams of. I press not
yet for your decision; but what man of genius ever asked more to
cheer his path to the grave than love and glory?"
"But," said Glyndon, fixing his eyes earnestly on Zanoni, "if
there be a power to baffle the grave itself--"
Zanoni's brow darkened. "And were this so," he said, after a
pause, "would it be so sweet a lot to outlive all you loved, and
to recoil from every human tie? Perhaps the fairest immortality
on earth is that of a noble name."
"You do not answer me,--you equivocate. I have read of the long
lives far beyond the date common experience assigns to man,"
persisted Glyndon, "which some of the alchemists enjoyed. Is the
golden elixir but a fable?"
"If not, and these men discovered it, they died, because they
refused to live! There may be a mournful warning in your
conjecture. Turn once more to the easel and the canvas!"
So saying, Zanoni waved his hand, and, with downcast eyes and a
slow step, bent his way back into the city.
The Goddess Wisdom.
To some she is the goddess great;
To some the milch cow of the field;
Their care is but to calculate
What butter she will yield.
This last conversation with Zanoni left upon the mind of Glyndon
a tranquillising and salutary effect.
From the confused mists of his fancy glittered forth again those
happy, golden schemes which part from the young ambition of art,
to play in the air, to illumine the space like rays that kindle
from the sun. And with these projects mingled also the vision of
a love purer and serener than his life yet had known. His mind
went back into that fair childhood of genius, when the forbidden
fruit is not yet tasted, and we know of no land beyond the Eden
which is gladdened by an Eve. Insensibly before him there rose
the scenes of a home, with his art sufficing for all excitement,
and Viola's love circling occupation with happiness and content;
and in the midst of these fantasies of a future that might be at
his command, he was recalled to the present by the clear, strong
voice of Mervale, the man of common-sense.
Whoever has studied the lives of persons in whom the imagination
is stronger than the will, who suspect their own knowledge of
actual life, and are aware of their facility to impressions, will
have observed the influence which a homely, vigorous, worldly
understanding obtains over such natures. It was thus with
Glyndon. His friend had often extricated him from danger, and
saved him from the consequences of imprudence; and there was
something in Mervale's voice alone that damped his enthusiasm,
and often made him yet more ashamed of noble impulses than weak
conduct. For Mervale, though a downright honest man, could not
sympathise with the extravagance of generosity any more than with
that of presumption and credulity. He walked the straight line
of life, and felt an equal contempt for the man who wandered up
the hill-sides, no matter whether to chase a butterfly, or to
catch a prospect of the ocean.
"I will tell you your thoughts, Clarence," said Mervale,
laughing, "though I am no Zanoni. I know them by the moisture of
your eyes, and the half-smile on your lips. You are musing upon
that fair perdition,--the little singer of San Carlo."
The little singer of San Carlo! Glyndon coloured as he
"Would you speak thus of her if she were my wife?"
"No! for then any contempt I might venture to feel would be for
yourself. One may dislike the duper, but it is the dupe that one
"Are you sure that I should be the dupe in such a union? Where
can I find one so lovely and so innocent,--where one whose virtue
has been tried by such temptation? Does even a single breath of
slander sully the name of Viola Pisani?"
"I know not all the gossip of Naples, and therefore cannot
answer; but I know this, that in England no one would believe
that a young Englishman, of good fortune and respectable birth,
who marries a singer from the theatre of Naples, has not been
lamentably taken in. I would save you from a fall of position so
irretrievable. Think how many mortifications you will be
subjected to; how many young men will visit at your house,--and
how many young wives will as carefully avoid it."
"I can choose my own career, to which commonplace society is not
essential. I can owe the respect of the world to my art, and not
to the accidents of birth and fortune."
"That is, you still persist in your second folly,--the absurd
ambition of daubing canvas. Heaven forbid I should say anything
against the laudable industry of one who follows such a
profession for the sake of subsistence; but with means and
connections that will raise you in life, why voluntarily sink
into a mere artist? As an accomplishment in leisure moments, it
is all very well in its way; but as the occupation of existence,
it is a frenzy."
"Artists have been the friends of princes."
"Very rarely so, I fancy, in sober England. There in the great
centre of political aristocracy, what men respect is the
practical, not the ideal. Just suffer me to draw two pictures of
my own. Clarence Glyndon returns to England; he marries a lady
of fortune equal to his own, of friends and parentage that
advance rational ambition. Clarence Glyndon, thus a wealthy and
respectable man, of good talents, of bustling energies then
concentrated, enters into practical life. He has a house at
which he can receive those whose acquaintance is both advantage
and honour; he has leisure which he can devote to useful studies;
his reputation, built on a solid base, grows in men's mouths. He
attaches himself to a party; he enters political life; and new
connections serve to promote his objects. At the age of
five-and-forty, what, in all probability, may Clarence Glyndon
be? Since you are ambitious I leave that question for you to
decide! Now turn to the other picture. Clarence Glyndon returns
to England with a wife who can bring him no money, unless he lets
her out on the stage; so handsome, that every one asks who she
is, and every one hears,--the celebrated singer, Pisani.
Clarence Glyndon shuts himself up to grind colours and paint
pictures in the grand historical school, which nobody buys.
There is even a prejudice against him, as not having studied in
the Academy,--as being an amateur. Who is Mr. Clarence Glyndon?
Oh, the celebrated Pisani's husband! What else? Oh, he exhibits
those large pictures! Poor man! they have merit in their way;
but Teniers and Watteau are more convenient, and almost as cheap.
Clarence Glyndon, with an easy fortune while single, has a large
family which his fortune, unaided by marriage, can just rear up
to callings more plebeian than his own. He retires into the
country, to save and to paint; he grows slovenly and
discontented; 'the world does not appreciate him,' he says, and
he runs away from the world. At the age of forty-five what will
be Clarence Glyndon? Your ambition shall decide that question
"If all men were as worldly as you," said Glyndon, rising, "there
would never have been an artist or a poet!"
"Perhaps we should do just as well without them," answered
Mervale. "Is it not time to think of dinner? The mullets here
are remarkably fine!"
Wollt ihr hoch auf ihren Flugeln schweben,
Werft die Angst des Irdischen von euch!
Fliehet aus dem engen dumpfen Leben
In des Ideales Reich!
"Das Ideal und das Leben."
Wouldst thou soar heavenward on its joyous wing?
Cast off the earthly burden of the Real;
High from this cramped and dungeoned being, spring
Into the realm of the Ideal.
As some injudicious master lowers and vitiates the taste of the
student by fixing his attention to what he falsely calls the
Natural, but which, in reality, is the Commonplace, and
understands not that beauty in art is created by what Raphael so
well describes,--namely, THE IDEA OF BEAUTY IN THE PAINTER'S OWN
MIND; and that in every art, whether its plastic expression be
found in words or marble, colours or sounds, the servile
imitation of Nature is the work of journeymen and tyros,--so in
conduct the man of the world vitiates and lowers the bold
enthusiasm of loftier natures by the perpetual reduction of
whatever is generous and trustful to all that is trite and
coarse. A great German poet has well defined the distinction
between discretion and the larger wisdom. In the last there is a
certain rashness which the first disdains,--
"The purblind see but the receding shore,
Not that to which the bold wave wafts them o'er."
Yet in this logic of the prudent and the worldly there is often a
reasoning unanswerable of its kind.
You must have a feeling,--a faith in whatever is self-sacrificing
and divine, whether in religion or in art, in glory or in love;
or Common-sense will reason you out of the sacrifice, and a
syllogism will debase the Divine to an article in the market.
Every true critic in art, from Aristotle and Pliny, from
Winkelman and Vasari to Reynolds and Fuseli, has sought to
instruct the painter that Nature is not to be copied, but
EXALTED; that the loftiest order of art, selecting only the
loftiest combinations, is the perpetual struggle of Humanity to
approach the gods. The great painter, as the great author,
embodies what is POSSIBLE to MAN, it is true, but what is not
COMMON to MANKIND. There is truth in Hamlet; in Macbeth, and his
witches; in Desdemona; in Othello; in Prospero, and in Caliban;
there is truth in the cartoons of Raphael; there is truth in the
Apollo, the Antinous, and the Laocoon. But you do not meet the
originals of the words, the cartoons, or the marble, in Oxford
Street or St. James's. All these, to return to Raphael, are the
creatures of the idea in the artist's mind. This idea is not
inborn, it has come from an intense study. But that study has
been of the ideal that can be raised from the positive and the
actual into grandeur and beauty. The commonest model becomes
full of exquisite suggestions to him who has formed this idea; a
Venus of flesh and blood would be vulgarised by the imitation of
him who has not.
When asked where he got his models, Guido summoned a common
porter from his calling, and drew from a mean original a head of
surpassing beauty. It resembled the porter, but idealised the
porter to the hero. It was true, but it was not real. There are
critics who will tell you that the Boor of Teniers is more true
to Nature than the Porter of Guido! The commonplace public
scarcely understand the idealising principle, even in art; for
high art is an acquired taste.
But to come to my comparison. Still less is the kindred
principle comprehended in conduct. And the advice of worldly
prudence would as often deter from the risks of virtue as from
the punishments of vice; yet in conduct, as in art, there is an
idea of the great and beautiful, by which men should exalt the
hackneyed and the trite of life. Now Glyndon felt the sober
prudence of Mervale's reasonings; he recoiled from the probable
picture placed before him, in his devotion to the one
master-talent he possessed, and the one master-passion that,
rightly directed, might purify his whole being as a strong wind
purifies the air.
But though he could not bring himself to decide in the teeth of
so rational a judgment, neither could he resolve at once to
abandon the pursuit of Viola. Fearful of being influenced by
Zanoni's counsels and his own heart, he had for the last two days
shunned an interview with the young actress. But after a night
following his last conversation with Zanoni, and that we have
just recorded with Mervale,--a night coloured by dreams so
distinct as to seem prophetic, dreams that appeared so to shape
his future according to the hints of Zanoni that he could have
fancied Zanoni himself had sent them from the house of sleep to
haunt his pillow,--he resolved once more to seek Viola; and
though without a definite or distinct object, he yielded himself
up to the impulse of his heart.
O sollecito dubbio e fredda tema
Che pensando l'accresci.
Tasso, Canzone vi.
(O anxious doubt and chilling fear that grows by thinking.)
She was seated outside her door,--the young actress! The sea
before her in that heavenly bay seemed literally to sleep in the
arms of the shore; while, to the right, not far off, rose the
dark and tangled crags to which the traveller of to-day is duly
brought to gaze on the tomb of Virgil, or compare with the cavern
of Posilipo the archway of Highgate Hill. There were a few
fisherman loitering by the cliffs, on which their nets were hung
to dry; and at a distance the sound of some rustic pipe (more
common at that day than at this), mingled now and then with the
bells of the lazy mules, broke the voluptuous silence,--the
silence of declining noon on the shores of Naples; never, till
you have enjoyed it, never, till you have felt its enervating but
delicious charm, believe that you can comprehend all the meaning
of the Dolce far niente (The pleasure of doing nothing.); and
when that luxury has been known, when you have breathed that
atmosphere of fairy-land, then you will no longer wonder why the
heart ripens into fruit so sudden and so rich beneath the rosy
skies and the glorious sunshine of the South.
The eyes of the actress were fixed on the broad blue deep beyond.
In the unwonted negligence of her dress might be traced the
abstraction of her mind. Her beautiful hair was gathered up
loosely, and partially bandaged by a kerchief whose purple colour
served to deepen the golden hue of her tresses. A stray curl
escaped and fell down the graceful neck. A loose morning-robe,
girded by a sash, left the breeze. That came ever and anon from
the sea, to die upon the bust half disclosed; and the tiny
slipper, that Cinderella might have worn, seemed a world too wide
for the tiny foot which it scarcely covered. It might be the
heat of the day that deepened the soft bloom of the cheeks, and
gave an unwonted languor to the large, dark eyes. In all the
pomp of her stage attire,--in all the flush of excitement before
the intoxicating lamps,--never had Viola looked so lovely.
By the side of the actress, and filling up the threshold,--stood
Gionetta, with her arms thrust to the elbow in two huge pockets
on either side of her gown.
"But I assure you," said the nurse, in that sharp, quick, ear-
splitting tone in which the old women of the South are more than
a match for those of the North,--"but I assure you, my darling,
that there is not a finer cavalier in all Naples, nor a more
beautiful, than this Inglese; and I am told that all these
Inglesi are much richer than they seem. Though they have no
trees in their country, poor people! and instead of twenty-four
they have only twelve hours to the day, yet I hear that they shoe
their horses with scudi; and since they cannot (the poor
heretics!) turn grapes into wine, for they have no grapes, they
turn gold into physic, and take a glass or two of pistoles
whenever they are troubled with the colic. But you don't hear
me, little pupil of my eyes,--you don't hear me!"
"And these things are whispered of Zanoni!" said Viola, half to
herself, and unheeding Gionetta's eulogies on Glyndon and the
"Blessed Maria! do not talk of this terrible Zanoni. You may be
sure that his beautiful face, like his yet more beautiful
pistoles, is only witchcraft. I look at the money he gave me the
other night, every quarter of an hour, to see whether it has not
turned into pebbles."
"Do you then really believe," said Viola, with timid earnestness,
"that sorcery still exists?"
"Believe! Do I believe in the blessed San Gennaro? How do you
think he cured old Filippo the fisherman, when the doctor gave
him up? How do you think he has managed himself to live at least
these three hundred years? How do you think he fascinates every
one to his bidding with a look, as the vampires do?"
"Ah, is this only witchcraft? It is like it,--it must be!"
murmured Viola, turning very pale. Gionetta herself was scarcely
more superstitious than the daughter of the musician. And her
very innocence, chilled at the strangeness of virgin passion,
might well ascribe to magic what hearts more experienced would
have resolved to love.
"And then, why has this great Prince di -- been so terrified by
him? Why has he ceased to persecute us? Why has he been so
quiet and still? Is there no sorcery in all that?"
"Think you, then," said Viola, with sweet inconsistency, "that I
owe that happiness and safety to his protection? Oh, let me so
believe! Be silent, Gionetta! Why have I only thee and my own
terrors to consult? O beautiful sun!" and the girl pressed her
hand to her heart with wild energy; "thou lightest every spot but
this. Go, Gionetta! leave me alone,--leave me!"
"And indeed it is time I should leave you; for the polenta will
be spoiled, and you have eat nothing all day. If you don't eat
you will lose your beauty, my darling, and then nobody will care
for you. Nobody cares for us when we grow ugly,--I know that;
and then you must, like old Gionetta, get some Viola of your own
to spoil. I'll go and see to the polenta."
"Since I have known this man," said the girl, half aloud,--"since
his dark eyes have haunted me, I am no longer the same. I long
to escape from myself,--to glide with the sunbeam over the
hill-tops; to become something that is not of earth. Phantoms
float before me at night; and a fluttering, like the wing of a
bird, within my heart, seems as if the spirit were terrified, and
would break its cage."
While murmuring these incoherent rhapsodies, a step that she did
not hear approached the actress, and a light hand touched her
She turned, and saw Glyndon. The sight of his fair young face
calmed her at once. His presence gave her pleasure.
"Viola," said the Englishman, taking her hand, and drawing her
again to the bench from which she had risen, as he seated himself
beside her, "you shall hear me speak! You must know already that
I love thee! It has not been pity or admiration alone that has
led me ever and ever to thy dear side; reasons there may have
been why I have not spoken, save by my eyes, before; but this
day--I know not how it is--I feel a more sustained and settled
courage to address thee, and learn the happiest or the worst. I
have rivals, I know,--rivals who are more powerful than the poor
artist; are they also more favoured?"
Viola blushed faintly; but her countenance was grave and
distressed. Looking down, and marking some hieroglyphical
figures in the dust with the point of her slipper, she said, with
some hesitation, and a vain attempt to be gay, "Signor, whoever
wastes his thoughts on an actress must submit to have rivals. It
is our unhappy destiny not to be sacred even to ourselves."
"But you do not love this destiny, glittering though it seem;
your heart is not in the vocation which your gifts adorn."
"Ah, no!" said the actress, her eyes filling with tears. "Once I
loved to be the priestess of song and music; now I feel only that
it is a miserable lot to be slave to a multitude."
"Fly, then, with me," said the artist, passionately; "quit
forever the calling that divides that heart I would have all my
own. Share my fate now and forever,--my pride, my delight, my
ideal! Thou shalt inspire my canvas and my song; thy beauty
shall be made at once holy and renowned. In the galleries of
princes, crowds shall gather round the effigy of a Venus or a
Saint, and a whisper shall break forth, 'It is Viola Pisani!'
Ah! Viola, I adore thee; tell me that I do not worship in vain."
"Thou art good and fair," said Viola, gazing on her lover, as he
pressed nearer to her, and clasped her hand in his; "but what
should I give thee in return?"
"Love, love,--only love!"
"A sister's love?"
"Ah, speak not with such cruel coldness!"
"It is all I have for thee. Listen to me, signor: when I look
on your face, when I hear your voice, a certain serene and
tranquil calm creeps over and lulls thoughts,--oh, how feverish,
how wild! When thou art gone, the day seems a shade more dark;
but the shadow soon flies. I miss thee not; I think not of thee:
no, I love thee not; and I will give myself only where I love."
"But I would teach thee to love me; fear it not. Nay, such love
as thou describest, in our tranquil climates, is the love of
innocence and youth."
"Of innocence!" said Viola. "Is it so? Perhaps--" She paused,
and added, with an effort, "Foreigner! and wouldst thou wed the
orphan? Ah, THOU at least art generous! It is not the innocence
thou wouldst destroy!"
Glyndon drew back, conscience-stricken.
"No, it may not be!" she said, rising, but not conscious of the
thoughts, half of shame, half suspicion, that passed through the
mind of her lover. "Leave me, and forget me. You do not
understand, you could not comprehend, the nature of her whom you
think to love. From my childhood upward, I have felt as if I
were marked out for some strange and preternatural doom; as if I
were singled from my kind. This feeling (and, oh! at times it is
one of delirious and vague delight, at others of the darkest
gloom) deepens within me day by day. It is like the shadow of
twilight, spreading slowly and solemnly around. My hour
approaches: a little while, and it will be night!"
As she spoke, Glyndon listened with visible emotion and
perturbation. "Viola!" he exclaimed, as she ceased, "your words
more than ever enchain me to you. As you feel, I feel. I, too,
have been ever haunted with a chill and unearthly foreboding.
Amidst the crowds of men I have felt alone. In all my pleasures,
my toils, my pursuits, a warning voice has murmured in my ear,
'Time has a dark mystery in store for thy manhood.' When you
spoke, it was as the voice of my own soul."
Viola gazed upon him in wonder and fear. Her countenance was as
white as marble; and those features, so divine in their rare
symmetry, might have served the Greek with a study for the
Pythoness, when, from the mystic cavern and the bubbling spring,
she first hears the voice of the inspiring god. Gradually the
rigour and tension of that wonderful face relaxed, the colour
returned, the pulse beat: the heart animated the frame.
"Tell me," she said, turning partially aside,--"tell me, have you
seen--do you know--a stranger in this city,--one of whom wild
stories are afloat?"
"You speak of Zanoni? I have seen him: I know him,--and you?
Ah, he, too, would be my rival!--he, too, would bear thee from
"You err," said Viola, hastily, and with a deep sigh; "he pleads
for you: he informed me of your love; he besought me not--not to
"Strange being! incomprehensible enigma! Why did you name him?"
"Why! ah, I would have asked whether, when you first saw him, the
foreboding, the instinct, of which you spoke, came on you more
fearfully, more intelligibly than before; whether you felt at
once repelled from him, yet attracted towards him; whether you
felt," and the actress spoke with hurried animation, "that with
HIM was connected the secret of your life?"
"All this I felt," answered Glyndon, in a trembling voice, "the
first time I was in his presence. Though all around me was gay,
--music, amidst lamp-lit trees, light converse near, and heaven
without a cloud above,--my knees knocked together, my hair
bristled, and my blood curdled like ice. Since then he has
divided my thoughts with thee."
"No more, no more!" said Viola, in a stifled tone; "there must be
the hand of fate in this. I can speak to you no more now.
Farewell!" She sprung past him into the house, and closed the
door. Glyndon did not follow her, nor, strange as it may seem,
was he so inclined. The thought and recollection of that moonlit
hour in the gardens, of the strange address of Zanoni, froze up
all human passion. Viola herself, if not forgotten, shrunk back
like a shadow into the recesses of his breast. He shivered as he
stepped into the sunlight, and musingly retraced his steps into
the more populous parts of that liveliest of Italian cities.
--i cavalier sen vanno
dove il pino fatal gli attende in porto.
Gerus. Lib., cant. xv (Argomento.)
The knights came where the fatal bark
Awaited them in the port.
But that which especially distinguishes the brotherhood is their
marvellous knowledge of all the resources of medical art. They
work not by charms, but simples.--"MS. Account of the Origin and
Attributes of the true Rosicrucians," by J. Von D--.
At this time it chanced that Viola had the opportunity to return
the kindness shown to her by the friendly musician whose house
had received and sheltered her when first left an orphan on the
world. Old Bernardi had brought up three sons to the same
profession as himself, and they had lately left Naples to seek
their fortunes in the wealthier cities of Northern Europe, where
the musical market was less overstocked. There was only left to
glad the household of his aged wife and himself, a lively,
prattling, dark-eyed girl of some eight years old, the child of
his second son, whose mother had died in giving her birth. It so
happened that, about a month previous to the date on which our
story has now entered, a paralytic affection had disabled
Bernardi from the duties of his calling. He had been always a
social, harmless, improvident, generous fellow--living on his
gains from day to day, as if the day of sickness and old age
never was to arrive. Though he received a small allowance for
his past services, it ill sufficed for his wants,; neither was he
free from debt. Poverty stood at his hearth,--when Viola's
grateful smile and liberal hand came to chase the grim fiend
away. But it is not enough to a heart truly kind to send and
give; more charitable is it to visit and console. "Forget not
thy father's friend." So almost daily went the bright idol of
Naples to the house of Bernardi. Suddenly a heavier affliction
than either poverty or the palsy befell the old musician. His
grandchild, his little Beatrice, fell ill, suddenly and
dangerously ill, of one of those rapid fevers common to the
South; and Viola was summoned from her strange and fearful
reveries of love or fancy, to the sick-bed of the young sufferer.
The child was exceedingly fond of Viola, and the old people
thought that her mere presence would bring healing; but when
Viola arrived, Beatrice was insensible. Fortunately there was no
performance that evening at San Carlo, and she resolved to stay
the night and partake its fearful cares and dangerous vigil.
But during the night the child grew worse, the physician (the
leechcraft has never been very skilful at Naples) shook his
powdered head, kept his aromatics at his nostrils, administered
his palliatives, and departed. Old Bernardi seated himself by
the bedside in stern silence; here was the last tie that bound
him to life. Well, let the anchor break and the battered ship go
down! It was an iron resolve, more fearful than sorrow. An old
man, with one foot in the grave, watching by the couch of a dying
child, is one of the most awful spectacles in human calamities.
The wife was more active, more bustling, more hopeful, and more
tearful. Viola took heed of all three. But towards dawn,
Beatrice's state became so obviously alarming, that Viola herself
began to despair. At this time she saw the old woman suddenly
rise from before the image of the saint at which she had been
kneeling, wrap herself in her cloak and hood, and quietly quit
the chamber. Viola stole after her.
"It is cold for thee, good mother, to brave the air; let me go
for the physician?"
"Child, I am not going to him. I have heard of one in the city
who has been tender to the poor, and who, they say, has cured the
sick when physicians failed. I will go and say to him, 'Signor,
we are beggars in all else, but yesterday we were rich in love.
We are at the close of life, but we lived in our grandchild's
childhood. Give us back our wealth,--give us back our youth.
Let us die blessing God that the thing we love survives us.'"
She was gone. Why did thy heart beat, Viola? The infant's sharp
cry of pain called her back to the couch; and there still sat the
old man, unconscious of his wife's movements, not stirring, his
eyes glazing fast as they watched the agonies of that slight
frame. By degrees the wail of pain died into a low moan,--the
convulsions grew feebler, but more frequent; the glow of fever
faded into the blue, pale tinge that settles into the last
The daylight came broader and clearer through the casement; steps
were heard on the stairs,--the old woman entered hastily; she
rushed to the bed, cast a glance on the patient, "She lives yet,
signor, she lives!"
Viola raised her eyes,--the child's head was pillowed on her
bosom,--and she beheld Zanoni. He smiled on her with a tender
and soft approval, and took the infant from her arms. Yet even
then, as she saw him bending silently over that pale face, a
superstitious fear mingled with her hopes. "Was it by lawful--by
holy art that--" her self-questioning ceased abruptly; for his
dark eye turned to her as if he read her soul, and his aspect
accused her conscience for its suspicion, for it spoke reproach
not unmingled with disdain.
"Be comforted," he said, gently turning to the old man, "the
danger is not beyond the reach of human skill;" and, taking from
his bosom a small crystal vase, he mingled a few drops with
water. No sooner did this medicine moisten the infant's lips,
than it seemed to produce an astonishing effect. The colour
revived rapidly on the lips and cheeks; in a few moments the
sufferer slept calmly, and with the regular breathing of painless
sleep. And then the old man rose, rigidly, as a corpse might
rise,--looked down, listened, and creeping gently away, stole to
the corner of the room, and wept, and thanked Heaven!
Now, old Bernardi had been, hitherto, but a cold believer; sorrow
had never before led him aloft from earth. Old as he was, he had
never before thought as the old should think of death,--that
endangered life of the young had wakened up the careless soul of
age. Zanoni whispered to the wife, and she drew the old man
quietly from the room.
"Dost thou fear to leave me an hour with thy charge, Viola?
Thinkest thou still that this knowledge is of the Fiend?"
"Ah," said Viola, humbled and yet rejoiced, "forgive me, forgive
me, signor. Thou biddest the young live and the old pray. My
thoughts never shall wrong thee more!"
Before the sun rose, Beatrice was out of danger; at noon Zanoni
escaped from the blessings of the aged pair, and as he closed the
door of the house, he found Viola awaiting him without.
She stood before him timidly, her hands crossed meekly on her
bosom, her downcast eyes swimming with tears.
"Do not let me be the only one you leave unhappy!"
"And what cure can the herbs and anodynes effect for thee? If
thou canst so readily believe ill of those who have aided and yet
would serve thee, thy disease is of the heart; and--nay, weep
not! nurse of the sick, and comforter of the sad, I should rather
approve than chide thee. Forgive thee! Life, that ever needs
forgiveness, has, for its first duty, to forgive."
"No, do not forgive me yet. I do not deserve a pardon; for even
now, while I feel how ungrateful I was to believe, suspect, aught
injurious and false to my preserver, my tears flow from
happiness, not remorse. Oh!" she continued, with a simple
fervour, unconscious, in her innocence and her generous emotions,
of all the secrets she betrayed,--"thou knowest not how bitter it
was to believe thee not more good, more pure, more sacred than
all the world. And when I saw thee,--the wealthy, the noble,
coming from thy palace to minister to the sufferings of the
hovel,--when I heard those blessings of the poor breathed upon
thy parting footsteps, I felt my very self exalted,--good in thy
goodness, noble at least in those thoughts that did NOT wrong
"And thinkest thou, Viola, that in a mere act of science there is
so much virtue? The commonest leech will tend the sick for his
fee. Are prayers and blessings a less reward than gold?"
"And mine, then, are not worthless? Thou wilt accept of mine?"
"Ah, Viola!" exclaimed Zanoni, with a sudden passion, that
covered her face with blushes, "thou only, methinks, on all the
earth, hast the power to wound or delight me!" He checked
himself, and his face became grave and sad. "And this," he
added, in an altered tone, "because, if thou wouldst heed my
counsels, methinks I could guide a guileless heart to a happy
"Thy counsels! I will obey them all. Mould me to what thou
wilt. In thine absence, I am as a child that fears every shadow
in the dark; in thy presence, my soul expands, and the whole
world seems calm with a celestial noonday. Do not deny to me
that presence. I am fatherless and ignorant and alone!"
Zanoni averted his face, and, after a moment's silence, replied
"Be it so. Sister, I will visit thee again!"
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy.
Who so happy as Viola now! A dark load was lifted from her
heart: her step seemed to tread on air; she would have sung for
very delight as she went gayly home. It is such happiness to the
pure to love,--but oh, such more than happiness to believe in the
worth of the one beloved. Between them there might be human
obstacles,--wealth, rank, man's little world. But there was no
longer that dark gulf which the imagination recoils to dwell on,
and which separates forever soul from soul. He did not love her
in return. Love her! But did she ask for love? Did she herself
love? No; or she would never have been at once so humble and so
bold. How merrily the ocean murmured in her ear; how radiant an
aspect the commonest passer-by seemed to wear! She gained her
home,--she looked upon the tree, glancing, with fantastic
branches, in the sun. "Yes, brother mine!" she said, laughing in
her joy, "like thee, I HAVE struggled to the light!"
She had never hitherto, like the more instructed Daughters of the
North, accustomed herself to that delicious Confessional, the
transfusion of thought to writing. Now, suddenly, her heart felt
an impulse; a new-born instinct, that bade it commune with
itself, bade it disentangle its web of golden fancies,--made her
wish to look upon her inmost self as in a glass. Upsprung from
the embrace of Love and Soul--the Eros and the Psyche--their
beautiful offspring, Genius! She blushed, she sighed, she
trembled as she wrote. And from the fresh world that she had
built for herself, she was awakened to prepare for the glittering
stage. How dull became the music, how dim the scene, so
exquisite and so bright of old. Stage, thou art the Fairy Land
to the vision of the worldly. Fancy, whose music is not heard by
men, whose scenes shift not by mortal hand, as the stage to the
present world, art thou to the future and the past!
In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes.
The next day, at noon, Zanoni visited Viola; and the next day and
the next and again the next,--days that to her seemed like a
special time set apart from the rest of life. And yet he never
spoke to her in the language of flattery, and almost of
adoration, to which she had been accustomed. Perhaps his very
coldness, so gentle as it was, assisted to this mysterious charm.
He talked to her much of her past life, and she was scarcely
surprised (she now never thought of TERROR) to perceive how much
of that past seemed known to him.
He made her speak to him of her father; he made her recall some
of the airs of Pisani's wild music. And those airs seemed to
charm and lull him into reverie.
"As music was to the musician," said he, "may science be to the
wise. Your father looked abroad in the world; all was discord to
the fine sympathies that he felt with the harmonies that daily
and nightly float to the throne of Heaven. Life, with its noisy
ambition and its mean passions, is so poor and base! Out of his
soul he created the life and the world for which his soul was
fitted. Viola, thou art the daughter of that life, and wilt be
the denizen of that world."
In his earlier visits he did not speak of Glyndon. The day soon
came on which he renewed the subject. And so trustful, obedient,
and entire was the allegiance that Viola now owned to his
dominion, that, unwelcome as that subject was, she restrained her
heart, and listened to him in silence.
At last he said, "Thou hast promised thou wilt obey my counsels,
and if, Viola, I should ask thee, nay adjure, to accept this
stranger's hand, and share his fate, should he offer to thee such
a lot,--wouldst thou refuse?"
And then she pressed back the tears that gushed to her eyes; and
with a strange pleasure in the midst of pain,--the pleasure of
one who sacrifices heart itself to the one who commands that
heart,--she answered falteringly, "If thou CANST ordain it,
"Dispose of me as thou wilt!"
Zanoni stood in silence for some moments: he saw the struggle
which the girl thought she concealed so well; he made an
involuntary movement towards her, and pressed her hand to his
lips; it was the first time he had ever departed even so far from
a certain austerity which perhaps made her fear him and her own
thoughts the less.
"Viola," said he, and his voice trembled, "the danger that I can
avert no more, if thou linger still in Naples, comes hourly near
and near to thee! On the third day from this thy fate must be
decided. I accept thy promise. Before the last hour of that
day, come what may, I shall see thee again, HERE, at thine own
house. Till then, farewell!"
Between two worlds life hovers like a star
'Twixt night and morn.
When Glyndon left Viola, as recorded in the concluding chapter of
the second division of this work, he was absorbed again in those
mystical desires and conjectures which the haunting recollection
of Zanoni always served to create. And as he wandered through
the streets, he was scarcely conscious of his own movements till,
in the mechanism of custom, he found himself in the midst of one
of the noble collections of pictures which form the boast of
those Italian cities whose glory is in the past. Thither he had
been wont, almost daily, to repair, for the gallery contained
some of the finest specimens of a master especially the object of
his enthusiasm and study. There, before the works of Salvator,
he had often paused in deep and earnest reverence. The striking
characteristic of that artist is the "Vigour of Will;" void of
the elevated idea of abstract beauty, which furnishes a model and
archetype to the genius of more illustrious order, the singular
energy of the man hews out of the rock a dignity of his own. His
images have the majesty, not of the god, but the savage; utterly
free, like the sublimer schools, from the common-place of
imitation,--apart, with them, from the conventional littleness of
the Real,--he grasps the imagination, and compels it to follow
him, not to the heaven, but through all that is most wild and
fantastic upon earth; a sorcery, not of the starry magian, but of
the gloomy wizard,--a man of romance whose heart beat strongly,
griping art with a hand of iron, and forcing it to idealise the
scenes of his actual life. Before this powerful will, Glyndon
drew back more awed and admiring than before the calmer beauty
which rose from the soul of Raphael, like Venus from the deep.
And now, as awaking from his reverie, he stood opposite to that
wild and magnificent gloom of Nature which frowned on him from
the canvas, the very leaves on those gnome-like, distorted trees
seemed to rustle sibylline secrets in his ear. Those rugged and
sombre Apennines, the cataract that dashed between, suited, more
than the actual scenes would have done, the mood and temper of
his mind. The stern, uncouth forms at rest on the crags below,
and dwarfed by the giant size of the Matter that reigned around
them, impressed him with the might of Nature and the littleness
of Man. As in genius of the more spiritual cast, the living man,
and the soul that lives in him, are studiously made the prominent
image; and the mere accessories of scene kept down, and cast
back, as if to show that the exile from paradise is yet the
monarch of the outward world,--so, in the landscapes of Salvator,
the tree, the mountain, the waterfall, become the principal, and
man himself dwindles to the accessory. The Matter seems to reign
supreme, and its true lord to creep beneath its stupendous
shadow. Inert matter giving interest to the immortal man, not
the immortal man to the inert matter. A terrible philosophy in
While something of these thoughts passed through the mind of the
painter, he felt his arm touched, and saw Nicot by his side.
"A great master," said Nicot, "but I do not love the school."
"I do not love, but I am awed by it. We love the beautiful and
serene, but we have a feeling as deep as love for the terrible
"True," said Nicot, thoughtfully. "And yet that feeling is only
a superstition. The nursery, with its tales of ghosts and
goblins, is the cradle of many of our impressions in the world.
But art should not seek to pander to our ignorance; art should
represent only truths. I confess that Raphael pleases me less,
because I have no sympathy with his subjects. His saints and
virgins are to me only men and women."
"And from what source should painting, then, take its themes?"
"From history, without doubt," returned Nicot, pragmatically,--
"those great Roman actions which inspire men with sentiments of
liberty and valour, with the virtues of a republic. I wish the
cartoons of Raphael had illustrated the story of the Horatii; but
it remains for France and her Republic to give to posterity the
new and the true school, which could never have arisen in a
country of priestcraft and delusion."
"And the saints and virgins of Raphael are to you only men and
women?" repeated Glyndon, going back to Nicot's candid confession
in amaze, and scarcely hearing the deductions the Frenchman drew
from his proposition.
"Assuredly. Ha, ha!" and Nicot laughed hideously, "do you ask me
to believe in the calendar, or what?"
"But the ideal?"
"The ideal!" interrupted Nicot. "Stuff! The Italian critics,
and your English Reynolds, have turned your head. They are so
fond of their 'gusto grande,' and their 'ideal beauty that speaks
to the soul!'--soul!--IS there a soul? I understand a man when
he talks of composing for a refined taste,--for an educated and
intelligent reason; for a sense that comprehends truths. But as
for the soul,--bah!--we are but modifications of matter, and
painting is modification of matter also."
Glyndon turned his eyes from the picture before him to Nicot, and
from Nicot to the picture. The dogmatist gave a voice to the
thoughts which the sight of the picture had awakened. He shook
his head without reply.
"Tell me," said Nicot, abruptly, "that imposter,--Zanoni!--oh! I
have now learned his name and quackeries, forsooth,--what did he
say to thee of me?"
"Of thee? Nothing; but to warn me against thy doctrines."
"Aha! was that all?" said Nicot. "He is a notable inventor, and
since, when we met last, I unmasked his delusions, I thought he
might retaliate by some tale of slander."
"Unmasked his delusions!--how?"
"A dull and long story: he wished to teach an old doting friend
of mine his secrets of prolonged life and philosophical alchemy.
I advise thee to renounce so discreditable an acquaintance."
With that Nicot nodded significantly, and, not wishing to be
further questioned, went his way.
Glyndon's mind at that moment had escaped to his art, and the
comments and presence of Nicot had been no welcome interruption.
He turned from the landscape of Salvator, and his eye falling on
a Nativity by Coreggio, the contrast between the two ranks of
genius struck him as a discovery. That exquisite repose, that
perfect sense of beauty, that strength without effort, that
breathing moral of high art, which speaks to the mind through the
eye, and raises the thoughts, by the aid of tenderness and love,
to the regions of awe and wonder,--ay! THAT was the true school.
He quitted the gallery with reluctant steps and inspired ideas;
he sought his own home. Here, pleased not to find the sober
Mervale, he leaned his face on his hands, and endeavoured to
recall the words of Zanoni in their last meeting. Yes, he felt
Nicot's talk even on art was crime; it debased the imagination
itself to mechanism. Could he, who saw nothing in the soul but a
combination of matter, prate of schools that should excel a
Raphael? Yes, art was magic; and as he owned the truth of the
aphorism, he could comprehend that in magic there may be
religion, for religion is an essential to art. His old ambition,
freeing itself from the frigid prudence with which Mervale sought
to desecrate all images less substantial than the golden calf of
the world, revived, and stirred, and kindled. The subtle
detection of what he conceived to be an error in the school he
had hitherto adopted, made more manifest to him by the grinning
commentary of Nicot, seemed to open to him a new world of
invention. He seized the happy moment,--he placed before him the
colours and the canvas. Lost in his conceptions of a fresh
ideal, his mind was lifted aloft into the airy realms of beauty;
dark thoughts, unhallowed desires, vanished. Zanoni was right:
the material world shrunk from his gaze; he viewed Nature as from
a mountain-top afar; and as the waves of his unquiet heart became
calm and still, again the angel eyes of Viola beamed on them as a
Locking himself in his chamber, he refused even the visits of
Mervale. Intoxicated with the pure air of his fresh existence,
he remained for three days, and almost nights, absorbed in his
employment; but on the fourth morning came that reaction to which
all labour is exposed. He woke listless and fatigued; and as he
cast his eyes on the canvas, the glory seemed to have gone from
it. Humiliating recollections of the great masters he aspired to
rival forced themselves upon him; defects before unseen magnified
themselves to deformities in his languid and discontented eyes.
He touched and retouched, but his hand failed him; he threw down
his instruments in despair; he opened his casement: the day
without was bright and lovely; the street was crowded with that
life which is ever so joyous and affluent in the animated
population of Naples. He saw the lover, as he passed, conversing
with his mistress by those mute gestures which have survived all
changes of languages, the same now as when the Etruscan painted
yon vases in the Museo Borbonico. Light from without beckoned
his youth to its mirth and its pleasures; and the dull walls
within, lately large enough to comprise heaven and earth, seemed
now cabined and confined as a felon's prison. He welcomed the
step of Mervale at his threshold, and unbarred the door.
"And is that all you have done?" said Mervale, glancing
disdainfully at the canvas. "Is it for this that you have shut
yourself out from the sunny days and moonlit nights of Naples?"
"While the fit was on me, I basked in a brighter sun, and imbibed
the voluptuous luxury of a softer moon."
"You own that the fit is over. Well, that is some sign of
returning sense. After all, it is better to daub canvas for
three days than make a fool of yourself for life. This little
"Be dumb! I hate to hear you name her."
Mervale drew his chair nearer to Glyndon's, thrust his hands deep
in his breeches-pockets, stretched his legs, and was about to
begin a serious strain of expostulation, when a knock was heard
at the door, and Nicot, without waiting for leave, obtruded his
"Good-day, mon cher confrere. I wished to speak to you. Hein!
you have been at work, I see. This is well,--very well! A bold
outline,--great freedom in that right hand. But, hold! is the
composition good? You have not got the great pyramidal form.
Don't you think, too, that you have lost the advantage of
contrast in this figure; since the right leg is put forward,
surely the right arm should be put back? Peste! but that little
finger is very fine!"
Mervale detested Nicot. For all speculators, Utopians, alterers
of the world, and wanderers from the high road, were equally
hateful to him; but he could have hugged the Frenchman at that
moment. He saw in Glyndon's expressive countenance all the
weariness and disgust he endured. After so wrapped a study, to
be prated to about pyramidal forms and right arms and right legs,
the accidence of the art, the whole conception to be overlooked,
and the criticism to end in approval of the little finger!
"Oh," said Glyndon, peevishly, throwing the cloth over his
design, "enough of my poor performance. What is it you have to
say to me?"
"In the first place," said Nicot, huddling himself together upon
a stool,--"in the first place, this Signor Zanoni,--this second
Cagliostro,--who disputes my doctrines! (no doubt a spy of the
man Capet) I am not vindictive; as Helvetius says, 'our errors
arise from our passions.' I keep mine in order; but it is
virtuous to hate in the cause of mankind; I would I had the
denouncing and the judging of Signor Zanoni at Paris." And
Nicot's small eyes shot fire, and he gnashed his teeth.
"Have you any new cause to hate him?"
"Yes," said Nicot, fiercely. "Yes, I hear he is courting the
girl I mean to marry."
"You! Whom do you speak of?"
"The celebrated Pisani! She is divinely handsome. She would
make my fortune in a republic. And a republic we shall have
before the year is out."
Mervale rubbed his hands, and chuckled. Glyndon coloured with
rage and shame.
"Do you know the Signora Pisani? Have you ever spoken to her?"
"Not yet. But when I make up my mind to anything, it is soon
done. I am about to return to Paris. They write me word that a
handsome wife advances the career of a patriot. The age of
prejudice is over. The sublimer virtues begin to be understood.
I shall take back the handsomest wife in Europe."
"Be quiet! What are you about?" said Mervale, seizing Glyndon as
he saw him advance towards the Frenchman, his eyes sparkling, and
his hands clenched.
"Sir!" said Glyndon, between his teeth, "you know not of whom you
thus speak. Do you affect to suppose that Viola Pisani would
"Not if she could get a better offer," said Mervale, looking up
to the ceiling.
"A better offer? You don't understand me," said Nicot. "I, Jean
Nicot, propose to marry the girl; marry her! Others may make her
more liberal offers, but no one, I apprehend, would make one so
honourable. I alone have pity on her friendless situation.
Besides, according to the dawning state of things, one will
always, in France, be able to get rid of a wife whenever one
wishes. We shall have new laws of divorce. Do you imagine that
an Italian girl--and in no country in the world are maidens, it
seems, more chaste (though wives may console themselves with
virtues more philosophical)--would refuse the hand of an artist
for the settlements of a prince? No; I think better of the
Pisani than you do. I shall hasten to introduce myself to her."
"I wish you all success, Monsieur Nicot," said Mervale, rising,
and shaking him heartily by the hand.
Glyndon cast at them both a disdainful glance.
"Perhaps, Monsieur Nicot," said he, at length, constraining his
lips into a bitter smile,--"perhaps you may have rivals."
"So much the better," replied Monsieur Nicot, carelessly, kicking
his heels together, and appearing absorbed in admiration at the
size of his large feet.
"I myself admire Viola Pisani."
"Every painter must!"
"I may offer her marriage as well as yourself."
"That would be folly in you, though wisdom in me. You would not
know how to draw profit from the speculation! Cher confrere, you
"You do not dare to say you would make profit from your own
"The virtuous Cato lent his wife to a friend. I love virtue, and
I cannot do better than imitate Cato. But to be serious,--I do
not fear you as a rival. You are good-looking, and I am ugly.
But you are irresolute, and I decisive. While you are uttering
fine phrases, I shall say, simply, 'I have a bon etat. Will you
marry me?' So do your worst, cher confrere. Au revoir, behind
So saying, Nicot rose, stretched his long arms and short legs,
yawned till he showed all his ragged teeth from ear to ear,
pressed down his cap on his shaggy head with an air of defiance,
and casting over his left shoulder a glance of triumph and malice
at the indignant Glyndon, sauntered out of the room.
Mervale burst into a violent fit of laughter. "See how your
Viola is estimated by your friend. A fine victory, to carry her
off from the ugliest dog between Lapland and the Calmucks."
Glyndon was yet too indignant to answer, when a new visitor
arrived. It was Zanoni himself. Mervale, on whom the appearance
and aspect of this personage imposed a kind of reluctant
deference, which he was unwilling to acknowledge, and still more
to betray, nodded to Glyndon, and saying, simply, "More when I
see you again," left the painter and his unexpected visitor.
"I see," said Zanoni, lifting the cloth from the canvas, "that
you have not slighted the advice I gave you. Courage, young
artist; this is an escape from the schools: this is full of the
bold self-confidence of real genius. You had no Nicot--no
Mervale--at your elbow when this image of true beauty was
Charmed back to his art by this unlooked-for praise, Glyndon
replied modestly, "I thought well of my design till this morning;
and then I was disenchanted of my happy persuasion."
"Say, rather, that, unaccustomed to continuous labour, you were
fatigued with your employment."
"That is true. Shall I confess it? I began to miss the world
without. It seemed to me as if, while I lavished my heart and my
youth upon visions of beauty, I was losing the beautiful
realities of actual life. And I envied the merry fisherman,
singing as he passed below my casement, and the lover conversing
with his mistress."
"And," said Zanoni, with an encouraging smile, "do you blame
yourself for the natural and necessary return to earth, in which
even the most habitual visitor of the Heavens of Invention seeks
his relaxation and repose? Man's genius is a bird that cannot be
always on the wing; when the craving for the actual world is
felt, it is a hunger that must be appeased. They who command
best the ideal, enjoy ever most the real. See the true artist,
when abroad in men's thoroughfares, ever observant, ever diving
into the heart, ever alive to the least as to the greatest of the
complicated truths of existence; descending to what pedants would
call the trivial and the frivolous. From every mesh in the
social web, he can disentangle a grace. And for him each airy
gossamer floats in the gold of the sunlight. Know you not that
around the animalcule that sports in the water there shines a
halo, as around the star (The monas mica, found in the purest
pools, is encompassed with a halo. And this is frequent amongst
many other species of animalcule.) that revolves in bright
pastime through the space? True art finds beauty everywhere. In
the street, in the market-place, in the hovel, it gathers food
for the hive of its thoughts. In the mire of politics, Dante and
Milton selected pearls for the wreath of song.
"Who ever told you that Raphael did not enjoy the life without,
carrying everywhere with him the one inward idea of beauty which
attracted and imbedded in its own amber every straw that the feet
of the dull man trampled into mud? As some lord of the forest
wanders abroad for its prey, and scents and follows it over plain
and hill, through brake and jungle, but, seizing it at last,
bears the quarry to its unwitnessed cave,--so Genius searches
through wood and waste, untiringly and eagerly, every sense
awake, every nerve strained to speed and strength, for the
scattered and flying images of matter, that it seizes at last
with its mighty talons, and bears away with it into solitudes no
footstep can invade. Go, seek the world without; it is for art
the inexhaustible pasture-ground and harvest to the world
"You comfort me," said Glyndon, brightening. "I had imagined my
weariness a proof of my deficiency! But not now would I speak to
you of these labours. Pardon me, if I pass from the toil to the
reward. You have uttered dim prophecies of my future, if I wed
one who, in the judgment of the sober world, would only darken
its prospects and obstruct its ambition. Do you speak from the
wisdom which is experience, or that which aspires to prediction?"
"Are they not allied? Is it not he best accustomed to
calculation who can solve at a glance any new problem in the
arithmetic of chances?"
"You evade my question."
"No; but I will adapt my answer the better to your comprehension,
for it is upon this very point that I have sought you. Listen to
me!" Zanoni fixed his eyes earnestly on his listener, and
continued: "For the accomplishment of whatever is great and
lofty, the clear perception of truths is the first requisite,--
truths adapted to the object desired. The warrior thus reduces
the chances of battle to combinations almost of mathematics. He
can predict a result, if he can but depend upon the materials he
is forced to employ. At such a loss he can cross that bridge; in
such a time he can reduce that fort. Still more accurately, for
he depends less on material causes than ideas at his command, can
the commander of the purer science or diviner art, if he once
perceive the truths that are in him and around, foretell what he
can achieve, and in what he is condemned to fail. But this
perception of truths is disturbed by many causes,--vanity,
passion, fear, indolence in himself, ignorance of the fitting
means without to accomplish what he designs. He may miscalculate
his own forces; he may have no chart of the country he would
invade. It is only in a peculiar state of the mind that it is
capable of perceiving truth; and that state is profound serenity.
Your mind is fevered by a desire for truth: you would compel it
to your embraces; you would ask me to impart to you, without
ordeal or preparation, the grandest secrets that exist in Nature.
But truth can no more be seen by the mind unprepared for it, than
the sun can dawn upon the midst of night. Such a mind receives
truth only to pollute it: to use the simile of one who has
wandered near to the secret of the sublime Goetia (or the magic
that lies within Nature, as electricity within the cloud), 'He
who pours water into the muddy well, does but disturb the mud.'"
("Iamb. de Vit. Pythag.")
"What do you tend to?"
"This: that you have faculties that may attain to surpassing
power, that may rank you among those enchanters who, greater than
the magian, leave behind them an enduring influence, worshipped
wherever beauty is comprehended, wherever the soul is sensible of
a higher world than that in which matter struggles for crude and
"But to make available those faculties, need I be a prophet to
tell you that you must learn to concentre upon great objects all
your desires? The heart must rest, that the mind may be active.
At present you wander from aim to aim. As the ballast to the
ship, so to the spirit are faith and love. With your whole
heart, affections, humanity, centred in one object, your mind and
aspirations will become equally steadfast and in earnest. Viola
is a child as yet; you do not perceive the high nature the trials
of life will develop. Pardon me, if I say that her soul, purer
and loftier than your own, will bear it upward, as a secret hymn
carries aloft the spirits of the world. Your nature wants the
harmony, the music which, as the Pythagoreans wisely taught, at
once elevates and soothes. I offer you that music in her love."
"But am I sure that she does love me?"
"Artist, no; she loves you not at present; her affections are
full of another. But if I could transfer to you, as the
loadstone transfers its attraction to the magnet, the love that
she has now for me,--if I could cause her to see in you the ideal
of her dreams--"
"Is such a gift in the power of man?"
"I offer it to you, if your love be lawful, if your faith in
virtue and yourself be deep and loyal; if not, think you that I
would disenchant her with truth to make her adore a falsehood?"
"But if," persisted Glyndon,--"if she be all that you tell me,
and if she love you, how can you rob yourself of so priceless a
"Oh, shallow and mean heart of man!" exclaimed Zanoni, with
unaccustomed passion and vehemence, "dost thou conceive so little
of love as not to know that it sacrifices all--love itself--for
the happiness of the thing it loves? Hear me!" And Zanoni's
face grew pale. "Hear me! I press this upon you, because I love
her, and because I fear that with me her fate will be less fair
than with yourself. Why,--ask not, for I will not tell you.
Enough! Time presses now for your answer; it cannot long be
delayed. Before the night of the third day from this, all choice
will be forbid you!"
"But," said Glyndon, still doubting and suspicious,--"but why
"Man, you are not worthy of her when you ask me. All I can tell
you here, you should have known yourself. This ravisher, this
man of will, this son of the old Visconti, unlike you,--
steadfast, resolute, earnest even in his crimes,--never
relinquishes an object. But one passion controls his lust,--it
is his avarice. The day after his attempt on Viola, his uncle,
the Cardinal --, from whom he has large expectations of land and
gold, sent for him, and forbade him, on pain of forfeiting all
the possessions which his schemes already had parcelled out, to
pursue with dishonourable designs one whom the Cardinal had
heeded and loved from childhood. This is the cause of his
present pause from his pursuit. While we speak, the cause
expires. Before the hand of the clock reaches the hour of noon,
the Cardinal -- will be no more. At this very moment thy friend,
Jean Nicot, is with the Prince di --."
"To ask what dower shall go with Viola Pisani, the morning that
she leaves the palace of the prince."
"And how do you know all this?"
"Fool! I tell thee again, because a lover is a watcher by night
and day; because love never sleeps when danger menaces the
"And you it was that informed the Cardinal --?"
"Yes; and what has been my task might as easily have been thine.
"You shall have it on the third day from this."
"Be it so. Put off, poor waverer, thy happiness to the last
hour. On the third day from this, I will ask thee thy resolve."
"And where shall we meet?"
"Before midnight, where you may least expect me. You cannot shun
me, though you may seek to do so!"
"Stay one moment! You condemn me as doubtful, irresolute,
suspicious. Have I no cause? Can I yield without a struggle to
the strange fascination you exert upon my mind? What interest
can you have in me, a stranger, that you should thus dictate to
me the gravest action in the life of man? Do you suppose that
any one in his senses would not pause, and deliberate, and ask
himself, 'Why should this stranger care thus for me?'"
"And yet," said Zanoni, "if I told thee that I could initiate
thee into the secrets of that magic which the philosophy of the
whole existing world treats as a chimera, or imposture; if I
promised to show thee how to command the beings of air and ocean,
how to accumulate wealth more easily than a child can gather
pebbles on the shore, to place in thy hands the essence of the
herbs which prolong life from age to age, the mystery of that
attraction by which to awe all danger and disarm all violence and
subdue man as the serpent charms the bird,--if I told thee that
all these it was mine to possess and to communicate, thou wouldst
listen to me then, and obey me without a doubt!"
"It is true; and I can account for this only by the imperfect
associations of my childhood,--by traditions in our house of--"
"Your forefather, who, in the revival of science, sought the
secrets of Apollonius and Paracelsus."
"What!" said Glyndon, amazed, "are you so well acquainted with
the annals of an obscure lineage?"
"To the man who aspires to know, no man who has been the meanest
student of knowledge should be unknown. You ask me why I have
shown this interest in your fate? There is one reason which I
have not yet told you. There is a fraternity as to whose laws
and whose mysteries the most inquisitive schoolmen are in the
dark. By those laws all are pledged to warn, to aid, and to
guide even the remotest descendants of men who have toiled,
though vainly, like your ancestor, in the mysteries of the Order.
We are bound to advise them to their welfare; nay, more,--if they
command us to it, we must accept them as our pupils. I am a
survivor of that most ancient and immemorial union. This it was
that bound me to thee at the first; this, perhaps, attracted
thyself unconsciously, Son of our Brotherhood, to me."
"If this be so, I command thee, in the name of the laws thou
obeyest, to receive me as thy pupil!"
"What do you ask?" said Zanoni, passionately. "Learn, first, the
conditions. No neophyte must have, at his initiation, one
affection or desire that chains him to the world. He must be
pure from the love of woman, free from avarice and ambition, free
from the dreams even of art, or the hope of earthly fame. The
first sacrifice thou must make is--Viola herself. And for what?
For an ordeal that the most daring courage only can encounter,
the most ethereal natures alone survive! Thou art unfit for the
science that has made me and others what we are or have been; for
thy whole nature is one fear!"
"Fear!" cried Glyndon, colouring with resentment, and rising to
the full height of his stature.
"Fear! and the worst fear,--fear of the world's opinion; fear of
the Nicots and the Mervales; fear of thine own impulses when most
generous; fear of thine own powers when thy genius is most bold;
fear that virtue is not eternal; fear that God does not live in
heaven to keep watch on earth; fear, the fear of little men; and
that fear is never known to the great."
With these words Zanoni abruptly left the artist, humbled,
bewildered, and not convinced. He remained alone with his
thoughts till he was aroused by the striking of the clock; he
then suddenly remembered Zanoni's prediction of the Cardinal's
death; and, seized with an intense desire to learn its truth, he
hurried into the streets,--he gained the Cardinal's palace. Five
minutes before noon his Eminence had expired, after an illness of
less than an hour. Zanoni's visit had occupied more time than
the illness of the Cardinal. Awed and perplexed, he turned from
the palace, and as he walked through the Chiaja, he saw Jean
Nicot emerge from the portals of the Prince di --.
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still.
Venerable Brotherhood, so sacred and so little known, from whose
secret and precious archives the materials for this history have
been drawn; ye who have retained, from century to century, all
that time has spared of the august and venerable science,--thanks
to you, if now, for the first time, some record of the thoughts
and actions of no false and self-styled luminary of your Order be
given, however imperfectly, to the world. Many have called
themselves of your band; many spurious pretenders have been
so-called by the learned ignorance which still, baffled and
perplexed, is driven to confess that it knows nothing of your
origin, your ceremonies or doctrines, nor even if you still have
local habitation on the earth. Thanks to you if I, the only one
of my country, in this age, admitted, with a profane footstep,
into your mysterious Academe (The reader will have the goodness
to remember that this is said by the author of the original MS.,
not by the editor.), have been by you empowered and instructed to
adapt to the comprehension of the uninitiated, some few of the
starry truths which shone on the great Shemaia of the Chaldean
Lore, and gleamed dimly through the darkened knowledge of latter
disciples, labouring, like Psellus and Iamblichus, to revive the
embers of the fire which burned in the Hamarin of the East.
Though not to us of an aged and hoary world is vouchsafed the
NAME which, so say the earliest oracles of the earth, "rushes
into the infinite worlds," yet is it ours to trace the reviving
truths, through each new discovery of the philosopher and
chemist. The laws of attraction, of electricity, and of the yet
more mysterious agency of that great principal of life, which, if
drawn from the universe, would leave the universe a grave, were
but the code in which the Theurgy of old sought the guides that
led it to a legislation and science of its own. To rebuild on
words the fragments of this history, it seems to me as if, in a
solemn trance, I was led through the ruins of a city whose only
remains were tombs. From the sarcophagus and the urn I awake the
genius (The Greek Genius of Death.) of the extinguished Torch,
and so closely does its shape resemble Eros, that at moments I
scarcely know which of ye dictates to me,--O Love! O Death!
And it stirred in the virgin's heart,--this new, unfathomable,
and divine emotion! Was it only the ordinary affection of the
pulse and the fancy, of the eye to the Beautiful, of the ear to
the Eloquent, or did it not justify the notion she herself
conceived of it,--that it was born not of the senses, that it was
less of earthly and human love than the effect of some wondrous
but not unholy charm? I said that, from that day in which, no
longer with awe and trembling, she surrendered herself to the
influence of Zanoni, she had sought to put her thoughts into
words. Let the thoughts attest their own nature.
THE SELF CONFESSIONAL.
"Is it the daylight that shines on me, or the memory of thy
presence? Wherever I look, the world seems full of thee; in
every ray that trembles on the water, that smiles upon the
leaves, I behold but a likeness to thine eyes. What is this
change, that alters not only myself, but the face of the whole
How instantaneously leaped into life the power with which thou
swayest my heart in its ebb and flow. Thousands were around me,
and I saw but thee. That was the night in which I first entered
upon the world which crowds life into a drama, and has no
language but music. How strangely and how suddenly with thee
became that world evermore connected! What the delusion of the
stage was to others, thy presence was to me. My life, too,
seemed to centre into those short hours, and from thy lips I
heard a music, mute to all ears but mine. I sit in the room
where my father dwelt. Here, on that happy night, forgetting why
THEY were so happy, I shrunk into the shadow, and sought to guess
what thou wert to me; and my mother's low voice woke me, and I
crept to my father's side, close--close, from fear of my own
"Ah! sweet and sad was the morrow to that night, when thy lips
warned me of the future. An orphan now,--what is there that
lives for me to think of, to dream upon, to revere, but thou!
"How tenderly thou hast rebuked me for the grievous wrong that my
thoughts did thee! Why should I have shuddered to feel thee
glancing upon my thoughts like the beam on the solitary tree, to
which thou didst once liken me so well? It was--it was, that,
like the tree, I struggled for the light, and the light came.
They tell me of love, and my very life of the stage breathes the
language of love into my lips. No; again and again, I know THAT
is not the love that I feel for thee!--it is not a passion, it is
a thought! I ask not to be loved again. I murmur not that thy
words are stern and thy looks are cold. I ask not if I have
rivals; I sigh not to be fair in thine eyes. It is my SPIRIT
that would blend itself with thine. I would give worlds, though
we were apart, though oceans rolled between us, to know the hour
in which thy gaze was lifted to the stars,--in which thy heart
poured itself in prayer. They tell me thou art more beautiful
than the marble images that are fairer than all human forms; but
I have never dared to gaze steadfastly on thy face, that memory
might compare thee with the rest. Only thine eyes and thy soft,
calm smile haunt me; as when I look upon the moon, all that
passes into my heart is her silent light.
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