Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/523

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CANTO IV.]
479
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

and the nobles, with a pride common to all Italians who have been masters, have not been persuaded to parade their insignificance. That splendour which was a proof and a portion of their power, they would not degrade into the trappings of their subjection. They retired from the space which they had occupied in the eyes of their fellow citizens; their continuance in which would have been a symptom of acquiescence, and an insult to those who suffered by the common misfortune. Those who remained in the degraded capital, might be said rather to haunt the scenes of their departed power, than to live in them. The reflection, "who and what enthrals," will hardly bear a comment from one who is, nationally, the friend and the ally of the conqueror. It may, however, be allowed to say thus much, that to those who wish to recover their independence, any masters must be an object of detestation; and it may be safely foretold that this unprofitable aversion will not have been corrected before Venice shall have sunk into the slime of her choked canals.


8.

Watering the tree which bears his Lady's name
With his melodious tears, he gave himself to Fame.

Stanza xxx. lines 8 and 9.

Thanks to the critical acumen of a Scotchman, we now know as little of Laura as ever.[1] The discoveries of the Abbé de Sade, his triumphs, his sneers, can no longer instruct or amuse. We must not, however, think that these memoirs[2] are as much a romance as Belisarius or the Incas, although we are told so by Dr. Beattie, a great name, but a little authority.[3] His "labour" has not been in vain, notwithstanding his "love" has, like most other passions, made him ridiculous.[4] The hypothesis which overpowered the

  1. See An Historical and Critical Essay on the Life and Character of Petrarch; and A Dissertation on an Historical Hypothesis of the Abbé de Sade. 1810. [An Italian version, entitled Riflessioni intorno a Madonna Laura, was published in 1811.]
  2. Memoires pour la Vie de François Pétrarque, Amsterdam, 1764, 3 vols. 4to.
  3. Letter to the Duchess of Gordon, August 17, 1782. Life of Beattie, by Sir W. Forbes, ii. 102-106.
  4. Mr. Gibbon called his Memoirs "a labour of love" (see Decline and Fall, chap. lxx. note 2), and followed him with