Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 2.djvu/543

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CANTO IV.]
499
CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE.

amongst them, were it only to correct their style.[1] Petrarch seemed at first to listen to the flattery and to the entreaties of his friend, but he did not return to Florence, and preferred a pilgrimage to the tomb of Laura and the shades of Vaucluse.


21.

Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed
His dust.

Stanza lviii. lines 1 and 2.

Boccaccio was buried in the church of St. Michael and St. James, at Certaldo, a small town in the Valdelsa, which was by some supposed the place of his birth. There he passed the latter part of his life in a course of laborious study, which shortened his existence; and there might his ashes have been secure, if not of honour, at least of repose. But the "hyena bigots" of Certaldo tore up the tombstone of Boccaccio and ejected it from the holy precincts of St. Michael and St. James. The occasion, and, it may be hoped, the excuse, of this ejectment was the making of a new floor for the church; but the fact is, that the tombstone was taken up and thrown aside at the bottom of the building. Ignorance may share the sin with bigotry. It would be painful to relate such an exception to the devotion of the Italians for their great names, could it not be accompanied by a trait more honourably conformable to the general character of the nation. The principal person of the district, the last branch of the house of Medicis, afforded that protection to the memory of the insulted dead which her best ancestors had dispensed upon all contemporary merit. The Marchioness Lenzoni rescued the tombstone of Boccaccio from the neglect in which it had some time lain, and found for it an honourable elevation in her own mansion. She has done more: the house in which the poet lived has been as little respected as his tomb, and is falling to ruin over the head of one indifferent to the name of its former tenant. It consists of two or three little chambers, and a low tower, on which Cosmo II. affixed an inscription. This house she has taken measures to purchase,

  1. "Accingiti innoltre, se ci è lecito ancor l' esortarti, a compire l' immortal tua Africa ... Se ti avviene d'incontrare nel nostro stile cosa che ti dispiaccia, ciò debb' essere un altro motivo ad esaudire i desiderj della tua patria." Storia della Lett. Ital., edit. Venice, 1795, torn. v. par. i. lib. i. p. 75.