Blackwood's Magazine/Volume 50/Issue 311/The Picture of Danäe, from the German of Deinhardstein
Blackwood's Magazine/Volume 50/Issue 311/The Picture of Danäe, from the German of Deinhardstein
THE PICTURE OF DANÄE.
FROM THE GERMAN OF DEINHARDSTEIN.
Andrea del Calmari—Director of the Painting Academy of St Carlo.
Laura- his Ward.
The Secretary of the Painting Academy of St Carlo.
Painters—Associates of the Academy of St Carlo.
Spectators at the distribution of the prizes.
The Scene is laid in Florence; about the middle of the seventeenth century.
Studio of Salvator Rosa.—Pictures, with and without frames, are leaning here and there against the wall.
On the table are scattered paper, pencil, and other implements of the painting art.
In the middle of the chamber stands an easel and before it an arm-chair.
Scene I.- Sal Rosa. Ravienna, (advancing out of a side chamber.)
Sal. (taking him by the hand.) Receive my thanks, my hearty thanks, Bernardo.
If ever, in return, I can do ought—
Rav. Pray, do not speak of my small services,
They are not worth a thought.
Sal. Not worth a thought!
Is it not worth a thought, that, when I lay
Sick and disabled for a month and upwards,
You tended me with more than woman's care,
Showering on me, a stranger and unknown,
All the affection of a long-tried friend?
You heal'd me with no mercenary hand,
But, watching every breath I drew; sat bound,
Through the long day and through the dreary night,
Fast to my bed as if chains held you there.
These, my Bernardo, these are offices
One does not easily forget.
Your language pains me—"Stranger" did you say?
A man "unknown" to me? Wherefore unknown?
Unless it be that, as a surgeon, I
Can nothing know of artists or of art.
By falling from your horse you broke your arm:
My business was to set the limb—no more—
Whether 'twas Rosa or a common man
Who sutfer'd that was no concern of mine—
At least so you appear to think-in short,
What can a surgeon know of art or artists?
Sal. (half in jest.) I'll grant you may have heard of me: I am,
I must confess, a somewhat noted person.
I sing, make verses, play the flute; besides,
I am a painter; and my new profession
Reveals, I fear somewhat too palpably,
The secrets of my former trade: the woods,
They are the haunts of a loose jovial race,
Whose figures, often glimpsing from my canvass,
Attest how well I knew them: the bald rocks,
The very deserts which I draw, bespeak
The hand of one who wielded in his youth
Another weapon than the brush-enroll'd
In Masaniello's sanguinary crew.
Rav. (departing as if displeased.) Farewell, Salvator!
Sal. Stay! What takes you off?
Sal. Bernardo, something vexes you;
Pray, let me know in what I have offended.
Rav. (after a pause, in which he appears struggling with his feelings.)
Salvator! I no longer can endure
Thus to be treated. It is now a month
Since I have been in daily converse with you;
Yet every time that I have sought to speak,
Touching the glorious art in which you shine,
You've stopp'd my mouth, declining all discussion.
'Tis plain you view me but as one to whom
You owe some intervals of ease—a man
Good at his own trade—good for nought beyond.
I wish not to seem better than I am,
Yet am I better than you take me for.
Sal. You're a strange man! I own I have remark'd
That sometimes you attempted to make painting
The topic of our conversation—why
I waived the subject I will now explain:
Either you thought 'twould be a mighty treat
For the sick man to be allow'd to ride
His favourite hobby—or—still more provoking—You are yourself a dauber with the brush,
And would exchange opinions upon art
With me—an equal with an equal.
Sal. Pray, hear me out.—In either case, my friend,
You were to blame: For this is your dilemma.—
You either think too meanly of Salvator,
Or else you think too highly of yourself.
You are a man of skill, and while I live
I shall remain your debtor. But be warn'd,
Strive to be perfect in one manly calling,
And do not seek to be supreme in two.
Rav. Suppose I should entreat your confidence.
Sal. (after a short pause.) Answer me this, my friend,—Suppose I came
To you and said, "Good sir, pray tell me when
The lancet may be used with best effect,
Explain to me how wounds should be bound up,
And all the et ceteras of surgery"—
In such a case what would your answer be?
Rav. I first would ask—"Why would you know all this?"
Sal. And I would answer—"I'd fain be a surgeon.
Rav. I'd then enquire what principles of healing
You were acquainted with.
Sal. I'd say, " With none.
I come to learn my principles from you."
Rav. (perplexed.) Then—Then—
Sal. (laying his hand on Ravienna's shoulder.) Then would you say, "My worthy sir,
You are a painter, mind your colours then,
And leave alone the lancet: 'tis a thing
With a sharp point, and may prove mischievous
In inexperienced hands: its use, believe me,
Cannot be taught by words: practice alone can give the necessary skill—in short,
You are a painter—mind your brushes, man."
Rav. Yet say, Salvator, might not you have been
As great a surgeon as you are a painter?
Salv. I fear the converse in respect to you
Will not hold good.
Rav. Nay, how can you tell that?
Salv. You may have talent: yet—
Rav. Let me speak out
At once. I've made the attempt.
Salv. I thought as much.
Rav. Pray, sir, will you be kind enough to examine
One of my pictures?
Salv. I would rather not.
Rav. Nay, why?
Salv. Bernardo, the plain truth is this:—
I would not hurt your feelings, which are keen;
And yet I promise you, your work would meet
With no indulgence at my hands.
Rav. I am
Content to run the risk.
Salv. Pray, do not urge me.
I'll readily believe that you possess
Talents for painting—that your pencil wiles
Agreeably away the idle hours:
But ask me not to judge you, for I'd be
So candid with you, and expect so much,
That probably I might condemn in you
What I should praise in any other person.
I fear, my friend, that your acquaintance with me
Will not add greatly to your peace or comfort.
Your restless blood bounds with the thought of fame,
And to your dazzled eyes my life appears
Surrounded with a golden atmosphere;
Yet, my Bernardo, if you look more closely,
You'll find the sunshine of a life like mine
Is like the rainbow—glory built on tears.
Weigh well the lives of those men you admire—
Guido, Leonardo, the two Allegri,
Raphael himself, or me, (if I may dare
To name myself with these illustrious men)—
Regard us well, and say, what are we all
But baffled swimmers, in a stormy flood,
Towards a goal that never may be reach'd?
Rav. (with warmth.) Yes, you have reach'd it.
Salv. Friend! you are mistaken,
And little know what toil our art demands
Before its pupils can become its priests.
The temple's sheen attracts you, like the stars
Which you shall reach—when you are dead and buried.
But come—if you have courage to begin
The toilsome journey of an artist's life,
To tread our thorny pathways—undeterr'd
By fear of envy, malice, or detraction—
If you are like the lark that yonder (pointing to one: out of the window) sends
Her strong notes heavenward, heedless of the frogs
That croak beneath her—bring your picture here.
Rav. I haste to fetch it—
Scene II.—Salvator. Ravienna. Calmari.
Cal. (putting his head in at the door.) Is not this the dwelling of the great Salvator Rosa?
Sal. (advancing towards him with a smile.) I am he,
Much at your service: pray, sir, who are you?
Cal. (coming forward.) Andrea del Calmari is my name,
Director of Saint Carl's academy.
Sal. This is a high and unexpected honour,
What has procured it for me?
To visit him who for two months has been
Our city's greatest ornament, has brought Me hither; and I trust that Providence
Will spare you long to be our glory—(he perceives Bernardo. Both of them look awkward on finding themselves brought together.) Ah!
Bernardo! are you here, my worthy friend?
Rav. As surgeon, I've the honour to attend
Our great friend here, who lately broke his arm
By a fall from horseback. (Addressing Salvator,) Now, sir, you must not
Remove the bandages too soon, nor task
Too much your scarcely renovated strength.
(Aside to Salvator,) Pray, if you love me, do not say a word
To this man here, touching our late discourse.—(Exit.)
Scene III.—Salvator. Calmari.
Cal. You are acquainted, then, with this Ravienna?
Salv. You heard him say he was my surgeon.
Merely Your surgeon. Let me speak a word
To you in confidence: he is a fellow
Full of impertinence: he worms himself
Into folks' houses, and do what we will,
We cannot keep him out.
Salv. (cutting him short, and pointing to a seat.) Be seated, sir.
Now, pray, what special mission brings you here?
Is it to buy a picture you are come?
Cal. In part it is.
Sal. In part! part of a picture!
Is that what you would purchase?
Cal. Nay, good sir,
You're jocular. I would not purchase part;
But I would have a bright transcendent whole.
Sal. And so you shall—if you will pay the price.
Cal. I'll pay you handsomely, and you shall see
How falsely I'm abused by the report
Which calls me covetous. But something more
Than payment is concerned in this transaction.
Salvator, the proposal I would make
Is one of a peculiar kind; it is—
It is—you see——
Sal. Come to the point at once.
Cal. You know to-morrow is the day on which
The prizes given by our Academy
Of Painting are to be decided?
I'm perfectly aware of that; the prize
For the best painting is five hundred crowns,
Two hundred for the second.
Cal. Quite correct.
Sal. I'm a competitor myself, and have
Sent in one picture; and I'm now engaged
In finishing a second. ·
Cal. (joyfully.) That will do?
'Tis that which bring me here.
Sal. To purchase?
That very picture.
Cal.The very one
You have just mention'd,
Sal. What! before you know
The subject of it?
Cal. I will take my chance!
'Twill gain the prize, and that's enough for me.
Sal. You're buying, as they say, a pig 'in a poke.·
Cal. I care not, if you will but promise me
Ne'er to make known the parent of the pig.
Sal. What is't you mean? I beg you will explain.
Cal. I mean that I would purchase not alone
Your painting, but the title to be held
Sal. What! so you would pass yourself
Off as the painter of my work?
Cal. I would.
Sal. You are a man with merits of your own,
Then wherefore deck yourself in borrow'd plumes?
Cal. Look ye, Salvator, all men must admit
That I know some things—as a connoisseur
In painting I rank high—no name deceives me,
No colour cheats my critical discernment;
But I cannot create—The living power
Of genius, which projects beyond itself
The creatures of the brain—the shaping hand—
These are not mine. I am a wealthy man,
And no one is esteem'd more highly here;
Yet, as you know, men oft covet most
That which they least possess; and hence my soul
Pants for an artist's fame.
Sal. Come! Come! Director,
You shall not gull me so. An artist's fame!
That is a light, I'm sure, which cannot dazzle
Experienced eyes like yours.
Cal. It does, indeed;
Full twenty times—I've sought this interview,
But never till to-day could get admittance—
Your accident excluding strangers from you.
But now I've found you just in the nick o' time—
Come I be persuaded; let me call myself
The painter of that picture.
Sal. If no other
Motive than vanity prompts your request,
I will not hear of it.
Cal. I beg of you—
Sal. You need not ask me, for I will not do it.
Cal. I'll pay you any price you choose to name.
Sal. What is your gold to me?
Cal. (after a pause.) Suppose I had
Some other motive—would you then give way?
Sal. That's as the case might be.
Cal. You know, Salvator.
That two things are reported to my hurt;
'Tis said I love, and that I'm covetous.
I grant one-half of the report is true:
I am not covetous; but—I'm in love—
Smile if you will—in love with my young ward
Sal. (astonished.) And what has that to do with your demand?
Cal. Hearken, Salvator! This child's father, smitten
By love of art, has order'd in his will·
That he alone shall gain his daughter's hand,
Who, in our yearly competition, wins
The highest prize for painting—that is to say,
Provided I object not to the match.
Now, I myself do love her—though perhaps
More as a father than a lover—yet
My heart is touch'd, and I have come to you
That you may help me to two blessed things—
A cherish'd wife and glory—both at once.
Sal. A wife and glory! I have heard it said
A wife, ere now, has proved her husband's shame.
Cal. You see then how the matter stands.
Sal. I do.
(Aside,) Scoundrel! I'll hackle you.—(Aloud,) Well, I agree.
Cal. To all I ask?
Sal. I've said it—we must now
Settle the price.
Cal. I pray you name your sum.
Sal. The sum must be enormous, or we split.
Cal. (in evident trepidation.) What do you call enormous?
Sal. Look ye, sir,
I'm selling to you not my work alone,
But my great name besides; you, in return,
Must part with a large share of the possessions
You hold most dear: that is but reasonable.
Cal. It is: provided you don't ask too much.
Sal. You said that you were rich.—
Cal. I meant to say—
Sal. Whate'er you meant, I tell you, friend, you must
Pay like a prince, or else the bargain's off.
Cal. What is the price then?
Sal. Twenty thousand crowns.
Cal. Almighty heavens! Salvator, are you mad?
Sal. Not one sous less than twenty thousand crowns.
Cal. I thought you said you cared not for my gold.
Sal. Nor do I—but if I permit another·
To call himself the father of my works,
It shall not be for nothing.
Cal. I'm in office,
And may be able to assist you, Rosa.
Sal. Thank you—but I require no man's assistance.
As long as I can paint—My time, good sir,
Is precious, and my painting still requires
Some finishing touches—
Cal. Rosa! think again,
And fix a lower sum.
Sal. I've named the price.
Cal. Well, then, it shall be paid give me the picture.
Sal. When you give me the money.
Cal. Do you think
That I have twenty thousand crowns about me
Sal. Then go and fetch them.
Cal. Yet suppose, Salvator,
Your picture should not gain the prise—What then?
Sal. I'll pay the money back.
Cal. I am content.
(Sighing.) Oh! What a sum is twenty thousand crowns!
Sal. Consider what you've purchased therewithal—
Your ward—is she a beauty?
Cal. She's but young—
Yet I admire her—you shall see her soon.
Of course, our marriage must be over first. For no man yet has seen her but myself.
You know how wickedly the world's inclined.
Sal. I know it well—see that you fetch the money.
Cal. One question further—the five hundred crowns,
To be awarded as the picture's prize, They should belong to—
Sal. You—that is but fair.
Cal. (Sighing.) Which still leaves more than nineteen thousand crowns.
(Exit, bowing courteously to Salvator, who accompanies him to the door.)
Sal. I did not think he would have closed with me.
Bring but the gold, and thou shalt be exposed
Till Florence wide shall ring with thy disgrace.
Thou thoughtest, didst thou, I would sell my birthright,
And tear for gold the laurel from my brow?
Old dotard! dealings such as thine would rob
The light of splendour, and the flower of bloom.
Think'st thou I came to Florence as a huckster—
Not as a painter lit by light from heaven?
I'll teach thee what it is to lay a hand,
Audacious and impure unholy things.
Love thou would'st purchase—thou would'st purchase fame,
And painting's pleasures, shunning all its pains.
The rose thou wishest I thou shalt feel the thorn—
This is a bargain thou shalt long remember.
Scene V.—Salvator, Ravienna, (bringing in a picture.)
Rav. I've brought my picture.
Sal. Prithee set it down—
In a few moments I'll attend to it.
Rav. Here, on the easel?
Sal. Set it where you please—
And now, Bernardo, tell me what you know
Of this old fool Calmari.
Rav. Ah! he is
A dragon watching an enchanted garden—
Laura his ward's the fairest thing that lives.
Sal. You know the maiden?
Rav. For these six months past
We have met daily.
Sal. How so? why, he told me
That not an eye but his had ever seen her.
Rav. And yet the two eyes of your friend Bernardo
Behold her daily.
Sal. How do you contrive
To hoodwink Cerberus?
Rav. Ten months ago,
This old Calmari sent for me to bleed him.
Then for the first time I beheld his ward:
She came into the chamber where we sat,
But scarcely had she enter'd it when he
Up starting fierce, despite his bleeding arm,
Thrust her out rudely, and slamm'd to the door.
Struck by the vision, I stood motionless,
While the old man—his keen eye scanning me,
His lower lip convulsed with passion—said,
"I shall require your services no longer,
We'll trust the rest to Providence." On that
I left the house, determined—to behold
Once more the vision that had moved me so.
But though for weeks I hover'd round the shrine
In which my treasure dwelt, I ne'er saw aught
Save th' Argus-eyed Calmari, who exchanged
A scornful greeting with me when we met.
Sal. (smiling.) No wonder that he lives in terror of you.
Rav. An accident at length procured for me
The blessed meeting I so long had courted.
One day I linger'd past my usual time
In the great hall of our academy,
Contemplating the pictures—when, behold!
Calmari's bald head stealthily protruded
In at the doorway, spying carefully
To see if any one was there. No sooner
Did he perceive me than he shouted out,
"You must begone, sir, it is past our hour
Of closing!" I departed—heard him draw
The bolts behind me—then stood still and listen'd.
I heard his creaking voice—I heard besides
The soft tones of a maiden—sweet to hear—
His ward's. My plan was speedily matured.
I bribed the porter, who at once agreed
To admit me to the hall whenever I pleased.
The difficulty next was where to hide me.
There are, you know, within the antechamber,
Two niches in the wall, in which are station'd
The waxen images of two great masters,
Attired as when they lived. One of these figures,
Old Cimabue, with the porter's aid,
I soon displaced—then wearing the costume
And beard of the dead painter, I ascended
The vacant pedestal.
Sal. I am delighted
With the adventure—pray, proceed.
Rav. In less
Than half an hour in comes our ancient friend,
And finding, as he thinks, the coast quite clear,
Goes out again, and then returns—with whom?
With whom, Salvator?—With his angel ward!
He leaves her in the room and goes his ways.
Now she and I are left alone together,
My heart beats loud—my knees grow tremulous,
And flinging off my trappings, I descend
And throw me at her feet. Full of alarm
She starts away—but love at length prevails,
And conquers shyness: I then learn from her
How every day her guardian brings her here
At the same hour, while he recieves his guests,
Anxious to keep her hid from all men's eyes.
Only conceive! the hoary miscreant
Pesters her daily with a dotard's love.
But she loves me if there is truth in heaven,
Although I dare not hope to call her mine.
Sal. You love her much, you say?
Sal. So it appears; for all absorb'd in her,
You have forgot the work which brought you here,
And the high art of painting, which in your
Eyes was the holiest of holy things.
Rav. You're in a merry humour.
Sal. Where's your work?
Rav. Not yet—not yet—this humour must be off you,
Let me arrange the light—oh, my great master!
My life or death depend on your decision,
Sal. Pooh! no more phrasing. Good wine needs no bush.
(Pushing Ravienna aside, he advances before the painting:
fixing his eye steadily upon it, he addresses Ravienna in a
tone of deep astonishment.)
Did you paint that, Bernardo?
Rav. Yes! great master;
How does it please you?
Sal. Please me!—you paint this!
This warm and soft creation, full of love,
Where all the goddess blends with woman's charms;
These lips that breathe the soul of soft desire;
These eyes, like rising stars, half hid beneath
The golden flood that breaks through yonder clouds,
Sunburst of Jove, that strews the earth with flowers!
If this creation—this fair Danäe —
Be yours, Bernardo, then you are indeed
A mighty master!
Rav. Sir, you banter well!
Sal. Look ye, Bernardo! Here, friend, is a picture
I painted for to-morrow's competition;
Its chance is gone—I now may lock it up.
'Tis a good painting; yet, compared with yours,
'Tis a mere daub—observe the two together.
When did I ever paint such arms as these?
Sal. Now, I ask you, by the art
In which you are so great a master—say,
Say what you know to be the naked truth.
Is not your picture better far than mine?
Rav. (after some hesitation.) I think 'tis better.
Sal. Yea, by God! it is.
(Embracing Ravienna,) Come to my arms, Bernardo. I am fill'd
With glad surprise to find in you so valiant
A fellow-labourer in the fields of art;
And if the world has hitherto been blind
To your great merits, it shall soon be taught
To do you justice—take my word for that.
Rav. Rosa! my art has all its roots in love.
Take love away, my art would wither soon.
'Twas Laura made me; without her, I am
Like to a voice whose sound hath pass'd away.
Sal. What would you say, Bernardo, if I knew
A secret which would keep your art alive,
By fostering the love in which 'tis rooted—
And make fair Laura yours?
Rav. Oh Rosa! Rosa!
Sal. Our game is not secured; but yet, I think,
With tolerable luck, we shall succeed.
Has no one seen this picture but myself?
Rav. No one has seen it. I have kept it close:
For the ideal Danäe before you
Is my own Laura's image to the life.
Sal. Is Laura's image! Better! better still!
Pray, let your picture for an hour be placed
At my disposal.
Rav. Use your pleasure with it.
Sal. Let no one—let not even your Laura—know
That you have painted this. Is she aware
That you're an artist?
Rav. No! Salvator; first
I was determined to have your approval
Or condemnation, ere she saw my work.
Sal. Step then, my good sir, into this, side-chamber,
And there remain while I give audience
To one whom 'tis as well you should not meet.
Rav. (who stands lost in a trance of delight.) Shall I survive this night!
Sal. Now go (Ravienna retires into the side chamber.)
Salvator, (contemplating his own painting.) Ah, my good picture! but your chance is gone.
No prize for you, if this fair Danäe
Comes into competition; and it shall.
Artists of Florence!—it shall far outshine
Your misty daubs, and lessen your conceit.—(Gazing on the picture of Danäe.)
'Tis wonderful! this surgeon beats us all.
But let me think how I may best promote
His love affair with Laura. The old man
Is keen and selfish.— 'twill be difficult.
Yet, if I have a head to plan a scheme,
His twenty thousand crowns shall gain him little.
I have it now—he shall be made to buy
Bernardo's picture, taking it for mine;
And, when he is once fairly in the net,
We will unmask the traitor. Here he comes.
Now, let us see how my design will work.
Scene VII.—Salvator. Calmari, (with a large purse of gold in his hand.)
Cal. Here is the money.—short of thirty crowns—
Which I will pay you soon. (Salvator closes the door—Calmari looks alarmed.) Why shut the door?
Sal. Methinks this business needs not witnesses.
Cal. You're right, Salvator; I commend your caution,
Sal. (showing him Ravienna'S painting.) Here is the picture.
Cal. (petrified with astonishment.) In the name of God!
Whence came this picture? Who and what is this?
Sal. 'Tis what I lately painted.
Cal. But these lips—
These eyes—these arms! This is the devil's own work
Sal. What moves you so?
Cal. Oh Laura!—Danäe
Sal. Methinks the picture does not please you, sir.
Cal. This magic piece! 'tis worth a million crowns,
Ay, a round million.
Sal. Then you'll grant, for once
I have not charged too highly for my picture.
You are a connoisseur.
Cal. (eagerly.) 'Tis mine, remember,
For twenty thousand crowns.
Sal. Ay, minus thirty.
Cal. Ah me! how fair and languishing she looks
Up to the golden shower above her head.
Sal. The piece, I see, is something to your taste.
Eh, signor! you desire a handsome wife,
And I'm mistaken if you'd love her less
Should she come to you in a shower of gold.
Cal. Oh, Laura!—Danäe! Unless I knew
No eye had ever seen her, I should say
This picture was the portrait of my·ward.
But I must take a seat. (He sits down exhausted in the arm chair.)
Now tell me, Rosa,.
Upon your honour; are you not acquainted
With any person whom this picture's like?
Sal. I'm not indeed.
Cal. 'Tis an ideal then?
Sal. I know no person who resembles it.
Cal. (rising up.) I'm satisfied—and now the work is mine.
Sal. It is.
Cal. Now, swear that you will never claim
This picture as your work.
Sal. Here is my hand—
I'll never claim that picture as my work.
Cal. Then take your gold; and take my thanks besides.
Sal. (bowing him out.) Farewell—farewell—most noble of directors!—
Scene VIII.—Salvator. Ravienna, (who has overheard Calmari's last words, and comes forward in astonishment.)
Rav. What have you done, Salvator?
Sal. Sold your picture.
Rav. To this Calmari?
Sal. You were pleased to place it
At my disposal, as you may remember,
And now the part you have to play is this—
To-morrow, when the notes are given in
Bearing the names of the competitors,
Write upon yours "Picture of Danae,"
And sign your name within. Calmari here
Will do the same—claiming your work as his.
When both are open'd, then you must stand forth,
And in plain terms, before the whole assembly,
Denounce the liar, as he well deserves.
Rav. But he is Laura's guardian, and this trick
Will make him my worst enemy for life.
No, let him take my work, and take my fame,
And give me Laura!
Sal. That will never do—
I will not hear of it. You must be known—
Florence must know the treasure she possesses.
Ten Lauras—ay! a hundred—you may find
Before you paint another piece like that.
Art is of higher worth than love, my friend!—(Exeunt.)
Antechamber of the Hall of the Painting Academy.
In the middle is a large curtain screening the body of the Hall.
In the foreground on the right, is a door leading into the house of the Director.
In the walls are two niches, each of which is covered by a curtain:
above the niche on the right is inscribed the name of Cimabue,
above that on the left the name of Leonardo da Vinci.
Scene I.—Laura. Ravienna, (in the attire of the ancient painter Cimabue, but without the beard.)
Lau.(to Ravienna, who is kneeling before her.) Rise, dear Bernardo; do you doubt me still?
Rav. I am bound down by chains I cannot break.
Lau. So speaks my guardian, when he lies for hours
Prostrate and whining at my feet. Pray, rise!
Rav. (rising.) Laura! how happy am I in your love! I never knew life's blessedness till now—
Fair days are ours, and brighter are to come,
Lau. I hope you may be able to effect
A safe retreat before my guardian comes;
He will be here immediately. To-day
Is fixed for the decision of the prizes.
Lau. Yea! were you not aware of that?
Rav. How should I know it?
Lau. (sighing) Ay! too true—too true—
You are no painter.
Rav. Wherefore do you sigh?
Oh, Laura—Laura! does the painter's art
Engross so large a share of your esteem,
That but a secondary love is left
For a poor surgeon?
Lau. What you are to me,
Bernardo—you know well. Yet I confess
If you were but a painter, all my wishes
Would be fulflll'd. I have a love for painters
A love inhaled with the first air I breathed —
My father was devoted to the art
With all the zeal of an enthusiast.
He had himself some skill—and our whole house
Was filled with paintings by the greatest masters.
Thus, in an atmosphere of grace and beauty
My infancy was spent—my playmates, pictures.
After my father's death my guardian took me;
And he, too, is possess'd by the same passion.
Mew'd up, secluded by his jealous care,
From all society of men, I still
Had friends about me, and these friends were still
The bright creations of the painter's hand.
The tender Guido and the soft Romano,
The earnest Annibal, the pious Durer—
These were the dear companions of my youth,
And with their works my fondest thoughts are twined.
Methinks, Bernardo, if you were to try,
You might become a painter; for so true
A feeling of the beautiful is yours,
And I have heard you speak respecting art
In terms so glowing, that I'm sure you love it.
Now, for my sake, do try. The laurel's green,
How well it would become these clustering locks!
Rav. (aside.) Oh, heavenly rapture!
Lau. (leaning on his shoulder.) Promise me you'll try?
Rav. If all goes well, I promise you I will.
Lau. Oh, that is charming!—Now, even now, methinks
I see you seated at your easel, with
Myself beside you, stealing, whilst I knit,
Admiring glances as your work proceeds.
I read your name already in the lists
Of glory—of myself I hear it said,
That is the wife of the illustrious Bernard—
Oh! what a dream of joy!
Rav. A dream indeed!
Lau. Which shall come true—if you'll but persevere.
No doubt the first steps will be difficult,
But practice in the end will make you perfect.
I can myself assist you with some hints.
Learn'd from my guardian.
Rav. Never breathe that name,
Its mention thrills me like an ague-shudder.
Lau. What is't you fear?—You know I love but you,
And that his bolts and bars are all in vain.
Rav. I know it—yet I scarcely dare to hope—
I see before me what appears a star,
And yet it may turn out a will-o'-the-wisp.
My heart is sore beset with anxious fear;
Yet perhaps, Laura, at this very moment
I'm nearer the fulfilment of my wishes
Than e'er I was before—
Lau. Bernardo, how?
Rav. Yes! dearest maiden, what I say is true,
Unless my spirit is a false foreboder,
This is the last time I shall wear these trappings.
I feel that now or never is the time.
Lau. What is't you mean?
Rav. Laura! I cannot now
Be more explicit—for my hopes are still.
Like a soap bubble, which a breath may mar. (A noise is heard at the door.)
Lau. Away! make haste! I hear my guardian coming—
(Ravienna runs towards the niche,
leaving his beard lying on the floor.)
Here, take your beard!
(He returns and takes it from her hand,
and again makes for the niche
—still leaving a piece of the beard behind him.
Laura picks it up.)
You have not got it all.
(He as on the point of returning to receive the
remaining portion, when the door opens.
He immediately draws back into the niche, and
closes the curtain upon himself from within. )
Scene II.—Ravienna (in the niche.) Laura., Calmari enters gaily attired.
Cal. (looking suspiciously at Laura, who endeavours to conceal the piece of the beard) What have you there?
Lau. (striving to hide her embarrassment.) Merely a plaything; sir.
When I was left alone, a childish freak.
Urged me to pluck the beard of old Leonardo;
And, as it seems, I tweak'd his chin too roughly,
For this small portion came away.
Cal. The beard.
Of old Leonardo, say you?—Let me see!
(He draws aside the curtain covering the niche in which the statue of Leonardo stands. )
Why, no deficiency of beard is here!
Lau. 'Twas from the other, then.
Cal. From Cimabue?
(He draws aside the curtain covering the niche. Ravienna is
revealed standing motionless; part of his beard is torn off.)
Ay! you are right; something is wanting here. Give me the hair, and I will fasten it.
Lau. (in an apparent fit of absence, has torn the hair in pieces, and scattered them on the floor)
Ah me! what's this! What have I been about!
I've torn the hair, not thinking what I did.
It cannot now be used.
Cal. (smiling upon her.) Is that the way
In which you treat grey hairs, you naughty gipsy?
Lau. It was quite unintentional, indeed.
Cal. I'm glad you say so, for I now may hope
That mine will meet with kindness at your hands,
And all due reverence, when I'm up in years.
Lau. Methinks, good sir, you have not long to wait.
Cal. I'll not be sixty for yet many a year.
My lovely ward, how well you look to day!
(Casting tender glances upon her, he chuckles and rubs his hands
as if he had some delightful secret to communicate.)
Lau. You seem much pleased, sir. What is the good news?
Cal. I'm thinking what a fine surprise you'll get
Lau. Surprise!—at what, good sir?
Cal. Oh! nothing—
Nothing, my Laura—nothing!
Lau. Sir, you know
How much I hate all mystery—speak out,
Or I shall leave you.
Cal. Well, my pretty one,
You shall behold some handiwork of mine,
And something on me.
Lau. On you!
Cal. On my head—
Lau. And what will that same something be?
Cal. A wreath.
Lau. A wreath! I'm glad 'tis nothing worse.
Cal. Come, are you not surprised?—yet there is more,
Far more, to tell you—but I must be silent.
Lau. Now, tell me plainly what may all this mean?
I ne'er before saw you in such a mood,
So festively attired.
Cal. The truth will out.
Laura! I am a painter.
Lau. You a painter!
Cal. Hush! Hush! for walls have ears. —yet if these lips
Would promise me a kiss—
Lau. I promise It.
Cal. Then hear, and be astonish'd—I have painted
One of the pictures enter'd for the prize!
Lau. (who is in a state of great anxiety on Ravienna's account.) Indeed!
Cal. What troubles you, my ward—you cast
Such anxious glances at the door?
The people are already pouring in.
Cal. You need not fear—the doors are bolted fast.
Lau. (extremely anxious to get him away.) Pray, let us go. I hear a crowd of people
Thronging the doorway, eager for admission
To witness the decision of the prizes.
Cal. My pretty pigeon!—what!—afraid of hawks?
Nay, never fear while the old huntsman's present.
He will protect you! (He opens the door leading into his house.)
Lau. (making a sign to Bernardo..) Then adieu, belov'd one!
Cal. (answering the salutation as if it had been meant for himself, and kissing her hand.)
Bless your sweet heart, my darling!
Scene III.—Ravienna (in the niche.) Calmari.
Cal. Belov'd one!—so she call'd me—I belov'd!
Belov'd by her!—hear it, ye images,
Ye silent witnesses of my delight—
Thou ancient Durer, and thou Cimabue—
Methinks it might have pour'd a flood of life
Through your pale forms, to hear her say she loved;
But there ye stand, cold on your pedestals,
While streams of fire are coursing through my veins.
Envy my happiness and my success.
I am your friend, I soon shall be your brother.
Love and the laurel—both are mine—ha! ha!
And what is better, both are—undeserved.
When the arbiters are met—and when they cry,
"Picture of Danäe gains prize the first—
Who is the painter?" When the secretary
Opens the seal'd note I shall give him—when
Calmari's name resounds from every lip—
What human transports then shall equal mine?
Then comes the laurel—the five hundred crowns—
My ward to be my wife! My brain grows dizzy,
I'll think of it no more—the joy' s too great.
(He listens to the noise of the people outside the Hall.)
There is an eager bustling throng without,
I'll go and ope the doors—yes, my good friends,
Ye all shall be admitted, and shall witness
My triumph with astonishment and envy.
(He enters the Hall through the curtain which screens it,
and having opened the outside doors, returns quickly,
and goes into his own house.)
Rav. (descending cautiously from the niche.) I must make haste.
(He peeps through the curtain which screens the Hall.)
God help me! 'tis too late!
The people are already in the hall;
I cannot face them in this strange attire.
(He hurries back towards the door
which leads to Calmari's house.)
I'll try the door of the director's house.
Good heavens! 'tis lock'd, I'm driven to despair!
What shall I do? (He hurries back into the niche.)
Scene V.—Ravienna. (in the niche)— Salvator (coming out of the hall, and looking round him.)
Sal. He must be here; the porter
Told me he had not left the hall. (He draws aside the curtain covering the niche.)
Rav. (remains standing on the pedestal.) Is't you, Salvator?
Sal. What detains you here?
Rav. The old man would not stir.
Sal. (with considerable irritation.) 'Tis passing strange!
It is incredible that you should play
These foolish tricks at such a time as this!
Rav. Is there no way by which I can escape?
Sal. I know of none; the hall is fill'd with people.
Rav. This is a dreadful scrape!
Sal. It serves you right.
What brought you here, I say, at such a time?
You know Calmari has his own suspicions,
And, if he finds you here, the game is up —
You lose your Laura—he escapes exposure.
Rav. Consider! I have given in my name
In a seal'd note.
Sal. Has he not done the same?
Now just suppose that his is open'd first,
How could you, in so critical a moment,
Appear in this fantastical disguise
Before the arbiter., and claim your picture?
A pretty figure you would cut indeed!
Who would be likest the impostor then?—
You or Calmari? Friend, look to your Laura;
I fear she's lost, unless the Fates assist you!
Rav. I must be gone, though I should lose my life!
Sal. Stay where you are; to move were. perfect madness.
'Twould ruin all if you were caught just now.
(Noise at the door of the Director's house.)
Some one is coming.
Rav. Laura! oh, my Laura!
Let me away!
Sal. (pushing him back into the niche.) Keep still, or all is lost.
Scene VI.—Ravienna (in the niche.) Salvator. Calmari enters
Sal. (to Calmari.) Your brows are itching for the laurel—eh?
Cal. Dear Rosa! I am steep'd in happiness—
This very day—
Sal. You shall not soon forget it,
That is most certain.
Cal. I shall not, indeed—
It is a most momentous day for me.
If all goes well, this day shall see me crown'd
At once with love and honour.
Sal. Have a care—
They say that "easy won is easy lost;"
Your honour and your ward—both are but young.
Cal. Leave me alone to manage her, my friend.
I'll keep a sharp look-out when we are wed;
She shall be safely screen'd from all men's eyes;
I'll watch each thought that crosses her by day,
I'll watch each dream that visits her by night,
I'll watch each tone that hovers on her lips,
And thus close up the avenues of danger.
When once she is my wife, adieu to music,
Dancing, and books—those roses where snakes nestle—
These in my house shall be forbidden things.
No friend, no confidant shall gain her ear,
And she shall never stir a step without me.
Methinks that thus 'twill be impossible
For her to play me false.
Sal. (casting a glance towards Ravienna.) Ay! ay! old friend,
You are the man to keep gallants at bay;
But your young wife—what will she say to this?
Cal. I care not what she says—she cost me dear,
And such a precious purchase must be lodged
Safe under lock and key..
Sal, (perceiving a sealed note in Calmari's hand.) What have you there?
Cal. The note.
Sal. What note?
Cal. (with a cunning look.) The note which certifies
That I am the painter of a certain picture.
This little token, like a magic spell,
Shall bear me into Laura's bridal chamber,
And into glory's temple.
Sal. Should it not
Have been given in ere now?
Cal. Far better not.
Look ye, Salvator! a wise man should be
Forearm'd 'gainst all contingencies. Suppose
Your picture should not gain the highest prize,
(I grant the case is scarcely possible,
But let it be supposed.)—In that case, then,
Our bargain's cancell'd; you get back your picture,
And I my crowns, and no man is the wiser.
With my own hand I will destroy this note,
And put our secret thus beyond betrayal.
Yes! yes! I'll wait Until it is announced
That our good picture has obtain'd the prize,
And then I will step forward with the note
And hand it in—What say you to the plan?
Sal. Its shrewdness is unmatch'd—(he raises his voice, and his words apparently addressed to Calmari, are in reality intended for Ravienna's ear.)
Now, friend, beware
How you desert the station you've assumed —
And do not—do not risk discovery.
Cal. Discovery! That's not possible—If you
Keep silent, and I have your word for that—
You have my gold. (playfully.)
Gold's not so bad a thing—
Is it, my brother, eh? you don't dislike it.
A heavy purse—nay, never look so savage;
Gold has the power of magic—entre nous,
There's nothing in the world gold cannot buy.
Sal. Some people may be sold as well as bought.
My friend, 'twas not your gold that tempted me;
Your singular proposal took my fancy,
And I assented—and now let me say,
As truly as that painting is my work,
So truly, sir, are you an honest man.
Scene VII.—Ravienna, (in the niche.) Salvator. Calmari.The Secretary of the Academy, (entering through the curtain which screens the Hall.)
Sec. The arbiters are met.
Cal. I will be with you.
In a few moments. (The Secretary is retiring.) Mister Secretary,
One word with you.
Sec. I'm at your service.
Oblige me by announcing to the artists
Assembled in the hall, that I intend
To give a feast to-day.
Sec. (in astonishment.) A feast, director!
Cal. Yes, sir—to-day I mean to give my ward
In marriage to the painter who shall gain
The highest prize. You understand?
Sec. I do.
I will inform them of your kind intentions.
Cal. Now leave us—I will follow.—(Exit.)
Scene VIII.—Ravienna, (in the niche.) Salvator. Calmari.
Sal. (aside) Would to God
The old man would go!
Cal. You seem uneasy, sir.
Sal. I wish this business were but fairly over.
Cal. Now, brother—honour bright!
Sal. What I have promised,
I will observe. He whom the note shall name,
And none but he, is painter of your picture.
Cal. I hope, my friend, you'll come into the hall,
And witness my great triumph.
Sal. Thank you—no;
I'll rather tarry here: I have no love
For crowds. We'll meet when the decision's over.
Cal. Just as you please. I hope, at any rate,
You'll come, this evening, to my marriage-feast;
I also hope that, to maintain my credit—
My credit as an artist—you will paint
Another picture for me, some time hence —
The price, however, must be somewhat lower.
'Twas Laura's eyes, more than your pencil's power,
Which gain'd for you your twenty thousand crowns;
You can't expect the like another time.
But Laura—She shall pay for what she cost me!
I'll keep it off her—au revoir, my brother!—(Exit.)
Scene IX.—Salvator, Ravienna. (in the niche.)
Sal. Brother—thy brother! scoundrel and impostor!
(To Ravienna,) Come down. The arbiters are on the point
Of giving their decision. Did you hear
All that Calmari said.
Rav. (comes down from the niche.) I overheard
Each word—he has not given in his note,
And mine is lodged—that makes my triumph safe.
Yet, Heaven protect us! how he'll fret and foam
To find that he himself has help'd his rival
To Laura's hand!
Sal. His punishment must be
More signal still—his infamous imposture
Must be laid bare before the whole assembly.
Rav. Rosa, consider he is Laura's guardian—
'Twill be sufficient punishment, if he
Loses her hand, and loses all the glory
Which he had counted so securely on—
Let us, dear sir, be silent, I entreat you,
Touching the rest—and pay him back his money.
Scene X.—Salvator. Ravienna. Laura enters
Lau. Still here, Bernardo! (beholding Salvator, she starts back.)
Sal. Maiden, why so shy?
Am I so very terrible and strange?
Am I, Ravienna?
Rav. Laura, in this man
Behold my dearest friend—the great preserver
Of all my happiness: you know his name,
The whole world rings with it—Salvator Rosa. (Laura looks bewildered.)
Sal. Fair maid, you seem astonish'd—Is it then
So strange a thing that one poor artist should
Lau. He! is he an artist?
Sal. Listen, and you shall hear—approach this curtain.
Give me your hand —
(He leads her to the curtain screening the Hall, which he draws aside,
so that the interior can be seen. In the Hall is a platform
on which a table is placed, and on the table stand two jars.
The Arbiters are seated round the table.
Calmari is close beside them—at the end of the table
stands the Secretary with a sealed note in his hand.)
Sec. (with a loud voice). "Picture of Danäe"
Gains the first prize. (Calmari thrusts forward his note.)
I thank you sir—'tis here.
I have the note already in my hand—(he opens the note)—
'Tis painted by "Bernardo Ravienna."
(Drums and trumpets sound. Calmari recoils from the table in
terrible dismay, and, thrusting the note into his breast, conceals
himself amongst the mass of spectators.
Salvator closes the curtain.)