Samuel Rogers

30 July 1763 – 18 December 1855

Italy : 11. Bergamo

The song was one that I had heard before,
But where I knew not. It inclined to sadness;
And, turning round from the delicious fare
My landlord's little daughter Barbara
Had from her apron just rolled out before me,
Figs and rock-melons -- at the door I saw
Two boys of lively aspect. Peasant-like
They were, and poorly clad, but not unskilled;
With their small voices and an old guitar
Winning their way to my unguarded heart
In that, the only universal tongue.
But soon they changed the measure, entering on
A pleasant dialogue of sweet and sour,
A war of words, with looks and gestures waged
Between Trappanti and his ancient dame,
Mona Lucilia. To and fro it went;
While many a titter on the stairs was heard,
And Barbara's among them. When it ceased,
Their dark eyes flashed no longer, yet, methought,
In many a glance as from the soul, disclosed
More than enough to serve them. Far or near,
Few looked not for their coming ere they came,
Few, when they went, but looked till they were gone;
And not a matron, sitting at her wheel,
But could repeat their story. Twins they were,
And orphans, as I learnt, cast on the world;
Their parents lost in an old ferry-boat
That, three years since, last Martinmas, went down,
Crossing the rough Benacus.
May they live
Blameless and happy -- rich they cannot be,
Like him who, in the days of Minstrelsy,
Came in a beggar's weeds to Petrarch's door,
Asking, beseeching for a lay to sing,
And soon in silk (then such the power of song)
Returned to thank him; or like that old man,
Old, not in heart, who by the torrent-side
Descending from the Tyrol, as Night fell,
Knocked at a City-gate at the hill-foot,
The gate that bore so long, sculptured in stone,
An eagle on a ladder, and at once
Found welcome -- nightly in the bannered hall
Tuning his harp to tales of Chivalry
Before the great Mastino, and his guests,
The three-and-twenty kings, by adverse fate,
By war or treason or domestic strife,
Reft of their kingdoms, friendless, shelterless,
And living on his bounty.
But who comes,
Brushing the floor with what was once, methinks,
A hat of ceremony? On he glides,
Slip-shod, ungartered; his long suit of black
Dingy, thread-bare, tho', patch by patch, renewed
Till it has almost ceased to be the same.
At length arrived, and with a shrug that pleads
''Tis my necessity!' he stops and speaks,
Screwing a smile into his dinnerless face.
'Blame not a Poet, Signor, for his zeal--
When all are on the wing, who would be last?
The splendour of thy name has gone before thee;
And Italy from sea to sea exults,
As well indeed she may! But I transgress.
He, who has known the weight of Praise himself,
Should spare another.' Saying so, he laid
His sonnet, an impromptu, at my feet,
(If his, then Petrarch must have stolen it from him)
And bowed and left me; in his hollow hand
Receiving my small tribute, a zecchine,
Unconsciously, as doctors do their fees.
My omelet, and a flagon of hill-wine,
Pure as the virgin-spring, had happily
Fled from all eyes; or, in a waking dream,
I might have sat as many a great man has,
And many a small, like him of Santillane,
Bartering my bread and salt for empty praise.
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