Imágenes de páginas



ONE daisy and two violets

Mix and mingle their faint sweets,
For they grew like soft regrets

On the grave of English Keats,
In that Rome in which the past
Folds dusky wings and sleeps at last.
Two violets and one daisy here

Meet me with their tender look,
And my lost youth grows all clear,

Like a pool in summer brook
When the sunshine manifold
Turns all the pebbles into gold.
In that time a spirit bright

Came and took me by the hand,
In his eyes was all the light

Of that wondrous pagan land
Where the gods still dwell, but we
Are cold at heart and cannot see.

One light finger touch'd my heart,

And as fairy clouds arise
When the wind's most cunning art
Rears them up against the skies,
So within me dreams rise up
Like angels holding each a cup.
And I drank, and straightway came

Shapes of beauty, and their feet
Made rare music, just the same

As those melodies so sweet
Which this spirit sang, for he
Was one great throb of song to me.
There were forms of half-seen things,

Shadows that the dim woods keep;
Shapes of tender fashionings,

Such as those love who will reap
Dim fields of the past, but leave
Behind them aught that tends to grieve.

Glimpses into high abodes

Where the winds have never sound,
Profiles of the idle gods

Lying half asleep, and crown'd
With a wreath of vine which they
Felt with their fingers all the day.

[blocks in formation]


[ocr errors]


THAT the smallest and the oldest of European governments should

be combined in one is in itself a curious fact; that this government should be engulfed, so to speak, in the middle of Italy, with principalities, duchies, and kingdoms whirling around it like leaves driven by a winter's storm, adds force to this political phenomenon ; but that so little is known and so little veneration paid to this Methuselah amongst States is perhaps the most extraordinary feature in its existence amongst us in the nineteenth century.

For this is a community whose authentic history dates from the days of Pepin, father of Charlemagne, and whose legendary history carries us back to the days when the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Diocletian drove a pious anchorite to the mountains in the neighbourhood of Rimini, there to form a semi-ecclesiastical community, which still retains its primitive simplicity both in constitution and customs.

San Marino is the name of this Liliputian State; it has a population of eight thousand souls, an area of sixteen square miles; it is governed by two Captains, it has Secretaries of State for home and foreign affairs, and above all it has a most exemplary Chancellor of its limited Exchequer, who has invariably an annual balance to place at his country's disposition.

Here, indeed, is a field for a modern Gulliver; the whole atmosphere of the place is, politically speaking, Liliputian, and one longs to people the solitary mountain which occupies almost the whole of the Republic with dwarfs and beings of another world. Strange to say, in Roman days this mountain was known as the “Titanic rock;' here, amongst the upheaval of strata and yawning chasms of tufa, the ancients conjured up a race of giants, ambitious in their greatness to overthrow the King of Heaven ; whilst now we find existing on this very spot the most pigmy of States. As the scene of a fairy tale San Marino would offer the facilities of a Brobdingnag and a Liliput all in one.

Curiosity led me to this mountain Republic, curiosity led me to examine its history and its constitution, and my curiosity was rewarded by the discovery of a unique instance of medieval statecraft, the sole survivor of the countless republics which once dotted Italy, still governed by institutions which were hoary with age when Cæsar Borgia endeavoured to add it to his dominions, and which Napoleon the Great respected and Garibaldi treated with decorum. Let those who feel disposed visit with me this tiny State and discuss its peculiarities, only alluding to its constitution and history with Napoleonic respect when occasion may require.


After a drive of a few hours from Rimini our vetturino made us aware that we were crossing the frontier of the Republic, where the road which leads to the little commercial village at the foot of the Titanic rock traversed a stream which formed the eastern boundary, and Gulliver found himself amongst the ever free' Liliputians. And indeed there are not wanting numerous signs of this much vaunted liberty which the eight thousand Liliputians enjoy. The word Libertà is chalked up in large letters against every second house; their motto of Libertas is forced on your notice at every turn; it adorns their stamps, their coins, their flag; it is engraven over each of the city portals; and before a few days' residence amongst them had expired, the very notion of liberty became irksome in the extreme. I went to the theatre and was greeted by a drop scene representing almost naked Liberty. I mounted up to the piazza and found a white marble statue representing the same personage. I ascended still higher to the parish church, and lo! the patron saint stood over the high altar, with a scroll in his right hand on which was written Liberty!

Nevertheless it was satisfactory to learn that this liberty ended not in a display of the simple word, and this boast of fifteen centuries' standing is still genuine in all its branches. Taxation here is reduced to a mere nothing; the voice of the people governs everything. The officials are sufficiently paid by the honour conferred upon them, and receive a mere nominal salary. Property, hence, as compared with Italy, is of enormous value, and a law has been passed enacting that no foreigner can hold land within the narrow precincts of the Republic unless he has spent six consecutive years as a citizen within its boundaries, and during this period has conducted himself as a moral and exemplary citizen should.

Very simple-minded are these Republicans; their requirements are but few, and the luxuries they can offer to visitors are exceedingly limited, so that to one anxious to reside amongst them for any length of time the accommodation offered by the little inn in the Borgo or commercial centre at the foot of the rock, will be looked upon with blank dismay. Ankle-deep we sank in mire as we crossed the threshold, to be accosted by every stench with which an Italian pothouse is redolent; the bedroom looked alive with discomforts, and, though breathing an air of freedom far older than any we could find elsewhere, we heaved a sigh, and wished it could be less impure.

Before, however, we decided on establishing ourselves in these quarters, I determined to issue forth and see if the little town, the centre of government, built upon a cliff a thousand feet above the centre of commerce, could offer us a more inviting resting place. I was fortified in my search by a letter of introduction to a leading Republican, Domenico Fattori by name, no less a personage than the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and brother of a most learned citizen, who had printed a little story of his country's liberties which was exhi

bited, together with other treasures of the like sort, in San Marino's little room at the last Paris Exhibition.

Thus I stepped up the steep, rugged path which leads to the city, gaining confidence at every step as I left below me the loathsome · Borgo, and saw enchanting panoramas of mountains, plain, and sea, all brilliantly illumined by a rich opalesque sunset over the pinnacled Apennines, which here assume those grotesque shapes delineated by masters of the Umbrian school.

Did my eyes deceive me? No, it was indeed true. Coming towards me down the rugged path, I saw a gentleman in a tall hat, wearing a badly-fitting suit of dress clothes and a white tie, and in attendance upon him was a lackey in gaudy livery. Nothing more out of place could be imagined : a half-naked anchorite or a skinclad herdsman one would have passed by unnoticed; and my heart misgave me, for into this wild spot I had not thought it necessary to drag my evening toilette. I questioned my conductor as to the meaning of this apparition, and learned to my relief that he was a Captain of the most serene Republic of San Marino out for a state walk. When engaged in his official capacity a Captain always wears this dress, and in the state wardrobe six dress suits are kept to fit all shapes and sizes of Republicans who may attain to the dignity of ruler.

It was with some feelings of trepidation that I knocked at Fattori's door, and was ushered into a sitting-room to interview his wife and sister, owing to the absence of the lord. I told my tale candidly. I stated how charmed I was with all I had seen escept the inn, and that I craved for a more pleasing habitation. They referred me to a neighbouring house, and invited us next day to join their party in witnessing the grand ceremony of the installation of the incoming Captains, on which occasion, twice a year, the Sammarinesi shake off their lethargy and appear right merry in holiday attire.

Charmingly primitive were our host and hostess, whom I found inhabiting a little house near the principal gate of the city; perhaps no two people could be more entertaining in their domestic arrangements. The lady of the house was portly and garrulous; she was, we remarked, most noble in her bearing, and of noble Republican blood she proved to be. Hers was one of the oldest of San Marino's noble families, for, owing to the inconvenience of having two illiterate Captains, certain families are set apart as noble, from amongst whom one of the rulers is chosen. Here their privileges of nobility cease, but not their pride, for old Signora Casali, whose maiden name was Belluzzi, was most proud of her pedigree. She scoffed at the later elevations to the Sammarinese peerage as ‘nobilità di carta,' mere paper upstarts, and for her own parental house she claimed the honour of possessing the genuine nobility of blood. She thoroughly despised her lame and drunken husband, who was the impersonation of a henpecked nonentity. Every meal we ate under the shadow of their

« AnteriorContinuar »