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cliffs, where they rose higher and more | whiskers came inquiringly over the sheer from the sea. But we never edge of the plate ; then he made one went so far afield as those great preci- sudden hop, lunged once, with a lightpices, and even if we had reached their ning stroke of his beak, at the beautifeet or summits we could no more have ful glossy black muzzle, and was back arrived at the ravens' nests than if again in his watchful attitude so quickly they had been in another planet. The that one almost felt disposed to doubt few ravens we have seen in captivity if he had ever left it. There was no behaved themselves rather after the doubt in the mind of the cat. That staid manner of the jackdaws ; they lightning stroke of the beak had much had none of the engaging social qual the same effect on the Persian as if a ities of the magpie.
bomb had burst somewhere in its midLong after we had left boy hood be- dle. It lcaped with a yell five paces hind us we met the most amusing pet backward, its legs extended, every sepof our acquaintance. He too was of arate hair of its long fur standing off it the corvine tribe, but he came from at full length. When it reached the Australia, was called, in fact, an Aus- ground it hesitated not for one tralian magpie, though he looked rather ment; no fleeting notion of vengeance more like a saddle-backed crow. We crossed its mind ; with head and tail were staying in the house of his owner depressed, in manner as unlike as poswhen he arrived. A large plate of sible to its dignified approach, it remeat was set for him on the terrace in treated at a good round trot to the front of the house ; but he paid a shrubbery whence it had come. The dilettante attention to the victuals, oc- magpie slowly relaxed its attentive ascupying himself chiefly with a scrutiny pect, and as it addressed itself once of the house and his new surroundings, more to the plate of viands there were while on his side he was the cynosure those among the spectators at the winof the eyes of all the family gazing at dow who were ready to aver most sol. the new pet from the drawing-room emply that they saw it wink. The windows. Other pets of the house comedy was not yet finished. Before were three very large black cats, great our laughter at the discomfiture of favorites, immensely spoiled, and very Tigris had died away, a second Perdignified and lazy. As we regarded sian, Darius, emerged from the shrubthe antipoclean somewhat scornfully bery in the same stately fashion. The dallying with his dinner, we saw one bird at once resumed the statuesque of these solemn black monsters ad- pose. In the same manner as before vancing at its usual dignitied pace the cat advanced ; the bird repeated its towards him. A cry arose from the tactics with the same triumphant reassembled family, “Oh, Tigris will kill sults ; and within two minutes of its the magpie !” The head of the family first advance the cat was retreating desired to await developments. There with undignified haste to recover its was a painful suspense of breath, as composure in the haven of the shrubwe watched the shaggy black Persian bery. There was yet another act. The advancing on the plate and the magpie third cat came on the scene, approached with a steady, unhurried step. The the plate, met with a like reception ; magpie stood aside from the plate, and he too rejoined his stricken comand, with head well on one side, panions in the laurels. It was evident watched the on-coming robber. There that the cats had played the game in was a world of meaning in the glance the spirit of those who go into a “Hoax of that wicked grey eye, but it was all Exhibition” at a charitable bazaar, the lost on the dignified composure of the first comers revealing nothing to those Persian who, without deigning to look who follow them of the nature of the at the magpie, proceeded to sniff at the entertainment which they will find contents of the plate. The bird, mo- within. tionless as a statue, waited till the black From this day forth, however, the
Australian magpie was headman of all
From The Contemporary Review. the pets on the premises, and none
VIRGIL IN THE COUNTRY. dared interfere with him any more.
Io toglierò il poeta dalle scuole degli eruditie His first success encouraged bim to dalle academie dei letterati, dalle aule dei potenti
e lo restituirò a te, o popolo di agri coltori e di further triumphs. He used to lie in lavoratori, o popolo vero d'Italia-Egli è sangue wait, screwed up in a corner, on the vostro e vostra anima : egli è un antico fratello, un stone steps by which the pursewaids, dalle rive del Mincio sali al Campidoglio e dal Cam
paesano, un agricoltore, un lavoratore italico, che with the children, descended the ter- pidoglio all'Olimpo. – G. Carducci. race. As they stepped past him he (Per la inaugurazione d'un monumento a Virgilio.) would dash out, with bark like a dog To Virgil the problems of existence (though we believe the native Austra- appeared in a less complex form than lian dingo is voiceless) and, with a dab to the great Roman poet who preceded of his vicious beak on the unprotected him. Like Lucretius, he was drawn to ankles of the maids, so frighten them the conception of nature as a divine that they almost dropped the babies. force, but he shaped it in his own inThis was his favorite pastime, until he tellectual mould. He could not think had established so complete a reign of of such a force except as beneficent, terror that this part at least of his occu- and thus the tilling of the soil became pation was gone. His crowning impu- to him a holy ministry, a kind of sacradence, however, was exhibited when ment. The cultivator was the priest the regimental band of the neighboring who gave the gift on the altar to the garrison came over to play at a garden-people. He co-operated in a divine party. The soldiers, arranged in the scheme of which man, nay, and the usual circle, were discoursing popular very gods, were the inevitable instruairs under the conduct of a glorious ments. individual who beat time very impres- The idea that the cultivator of the sively in the centre. The display of soil is, in a way, acting a consecrated martial bravery should have been suffi- part, was not confined to Virgil ; it is cient to inspire reverence in any one, noticeable, for instance, in that beautimost of all, as might have been ful essay of Cicero on old age, of which thought, in a colonist. The magpie, Montaigne said, “il donne l'appétit de however, utterly unimpressed, crept vieillir.” After declaring that nothing between the legs of the cornet-à-piston, contributes so much to a happy old age and, taking a position within the circle as the management of a country estate opposite to the bandmaster, began with its well-ordered vineyards, olive mimicking his rather pompous gestures groves and plantations, Cicero answers with so ludicrously successful a carica- the possible objection, “ What is the ture that the gallant tune came to an good of all this when you are too old to untimely end in the uncontrollable hope to see your labors fulfilled and laughter of the performers. This was rewarded ? ” in the noble words : “If his last great effort. His talent for any one should ask the cultivator for practical joking brought him into so whom he plants, let him not hesitate much disfavor that, chiefly through the to make this reply : 'For the immortal petticoated influence of the nursery, he gods who, as they willed me to inherit was expelled as remorsely as any other these possessions from my forefathers, anarchist; and his genius now finds so would have me band them on to fewer opportunities in the less con- those that shall come after.'” genial atmosphere of the Zoological To rejoice in the good things of naGardens.
ture, the beautiful earth, the glorious sun, the fruitful fields, was for Virgil almost an act of worship ; had he been told that a preacher would arise who turned from the genial light as from a spare, he would have charged him with blasphemy. The view of the visible world filled him with pious exultation ; speedily revoked. He describes the but besides being a religious man, neighbors bewailing the loss of him : Virgil was an artist, and nature de- “ Who would now be their poet ?” lighted him because it is such excellent The farm hands know snatches of his art. In looking at a meadow he felt verses, just as Verdi's peasants at what Balzac felt when he said, “ Oh! Busseto sing his airs as they follow the voilà la vraie littérature ! Il n'y a plough. jamais de faute de style dans une If Virgil ever did hear any of his prairie."
lines repeated by peasant folk, one may Virgil's own origin (not differing be sure that he was better pleased by much from that of Shakespeare) bad a it than by many a loftier sign of popu. lasting effect in determining his char-larity. He evidently listened with acter. He never became a thorough pleasure to folk-songs ; he would nerer townsman; even in his appearance have spoken with scorn, like the old there was said to be something coun- poet Ennius, of “the songs of fauds tryfied. All his life he felt keenly the and bards of ancient times.” He loss of his father's farm on the Mincio. makes the long-haired bard Topas sing The Civil Wars which ended with the of the sun and moon, rain and lightfall of the Republic at Philippi, were ning, the seasons, map, and cattle, at the cause of the confiscations in which the banquet of Dido. He potices the Virgil's property was involved. Cre- wife singing over her household tasks mona having backed Pompey, its terri- and the shepherd youths whose high tory was given to the soldiers who voices send a thrill of passion through fought against him and in favor of Au- the summer nights. Any one who is gustus. The Mantovano, being near familiar with the Italian folk-songs of at hand, had the same fate meted out to-day must fancy that he catches in to it. Scholars have not yet decided the exquisite songs of Damon and Al. the exact locality of the poet's estate, phesibæus something more than the though every villager of Pietole is popular spirit — almost the words, here ready to stake his life on Dante's accu- and there, of folk-poets of long ago. racy in placing it in that commune. Virgil observed, and remembered, Tradition in such cases is not to be and even when he is most conventional lightly set aside, but strong reasons there is au undercurrent of truth, of have been advanced for thinking that experience. In the first place, bis enthe farm lay farther away from Man-joyment is so sincere that even an tua and nearer to where the Mincio artificial setting could not make the leaves the Lake of Garda. This situa- substance of his picture false. He tion gives the scenery of the “Ec- actually thought that a town mansion logues” with the gentle hills so often crammed with bric-à-brac bouglat or described in them. There is no doubt looted (which made a Roman house of that Virgil was thinking less of Sicily that period almost as impossible to than of his childhood's home when he turn round in as an English house of wrote these carly poems, in several of this) was a less agreeable place to live which he alludes to his own troubles in than a plain farm interior, surunder what must have been then a rounded by the luxury of the countrytransparent disguise. It seems that, side. touched by his songs, Augustus inter- Who was ever dull in the country vened to save “all that land where the that had eyes and ears — if there were bills begin to decline and by an easy nothing but the birds, who could be declivity to sink their ridges as far as dull ? Virgil knew them well ; le the water and the old beeches whose watched the winged legions as they tops are now broken,” but that, either bastened to the woods at dusk; he because it was difficult to make an ex- took attentive note of the larks and the ception in his favor or from some other kingfishers, the chattering swallows cause, the imperial benevolence was ' skimming over the pools before rain,
the wood-pigeon cooing itself hoarse, found in Virgil's rural poetry. The and the sweeter turtle-dove in its airy | land under cultivation (according to elm. He has been blamed for making some calculations a larger area than at the nightingale bemoau her lost young present) must have exhibited the same which the cruel ploughman had taken signs of orderly arrangement, of minute unfledged from the nest ; because, it is utilization of the smallest spaces, that a objected, the nightingale does not sing well-cared-for Italian estate exhibits after the eggs are hatched ; but if the to-day. Probably it was in the north objector would take the train to Mantua of Italy, then as now, that farming was in June he would hear nightingales most scientifically practised ; we know singing so loud in the woods through that the chief irrigatory canals date which the railway passes as it nears from Roman times. As Virgil's landthe morass, that they drown the noise scape is north Italian with the backof the engine. Climate and environ- ground which we feel even when we meut have much influence on birds' do not see it, of the “ aërial Alps," so singing. Italians say that the robin is his peasant is essentially a north Italian not a singing-bird, and I have certainly contadino. Let us inquire what kind of never heard it sing in Italy. Nightin- life he led. gales stop singing sooner in northern The luxuries which the Virgilian than in southern climes, and the En- husbandman allows himself in the way glish critic, though right as to his own of food are fruit, chestnuts, and pressed birds, was wrong as to Virgil's ; a point curd, the modern mascherpone. А worth mentioning, trifling as it seems, salad or a drink made with pounded for the reason that it shows how diffi- garlic and thyme refreshes him after cult it is to decide offhand upon the mowing the sweet hay through the reality or unreality of the whole class precious hours when the morning star of Bucolics unless you know the coun- shines in the sunrise. At noon he try which inspired them. A more sleeps under a tree while the herds low grounded reproach against this partic- not far off. When the smoke rises ular passage would be that it is not from the village and the shadows mourning which makes the nightingale lengthen on the hills, he returns to the pour out his passionate soul in song ; house where the girls are carding wool it is hope, desire, pain, perhaps — not and the wife is boiling down sweet regret. But the error belongs to the wine which makes an excellent drink. legend-weaver, to the child-man to She finds time to ply the shuttle, bewhom all the songs of birds sounded tween her other occupations, singing sail; who, io Sclavonic lands, inter- as she weaves to make the toil less preted even the cuckoo's cry to mean a tedious. There is always indoor work clirge.
for women to do where they spin Virgil has one bird-picture which the clothes of the family ; only when now, at least, is more English than the indestructible frieze made from Italian : that of the rooks bustling the peasants' own fleeces is replaced by among the branches of the tall trees shoddy cotton, are women set to do and cawing joyfully because the rain is men's work out of doors. That veverover, happy in their nests and little ending spinning was a bond of union,
The rookery remains in En-too, between all classes ; “quando gland with certain other free, wild Berta filava,” say the Italian peasants ibings intermixed closely with cultiva- remembering the queen who spun. I tion that give a sense of the unex- have seen a coat made from what was pected to the English wold for which possibly the last piece of cloth spun by in Italy one has to go to the pathless noble Italian hands; it came to LomMaremme or the bare, mysterious des- bardy in the middle of this century, a erts of the south. It is surprising, gift from a Sardinian countess. by the by, not how many, but how few, When Virgil's husbandman takes his suggestions of a wilder nature can belevening rest, bis sweet children come
round him, the girls modest and fair to / with him ; he lived with her beauty, see, the boys willing to work, not and to live with the beauty of nature spendthrift, observant of religion, rev. was worth all the fine houses with erent towards age. He himself is a doorposts set with tortoise-shell and careful observer of feast-days, on them cornices inlaid with gold — so Virgil he abstains froni all hard labor, only thought. Yet the farmer's son knew doing such light tasks as can offend no too much of agriculture to imagine that god; raising a fence, snaring birds, all was bliss in Arcadia. In the first washing sheep, or driving the ass to place, there was insecurity of tenure the town with load of apples, and with a vengeance. You might lose your bringing back needful tools. land by sheer confiscation, as Virgil Winter is his long rest-time; then he himself had done ; or you might be invites and accepts invitations to little- shipped off bodily to the torrid sands of costing gaicties. Yet in winter there the contemporary Massowah, or, just as are numberless small things to be bad, to Britain,“ totally separated from done : storing olives, acorns, and bay- the rest of the world.” In that case, berries – those that have been picked, even if your homestead was not sequesfor some always fall on the ground, tered before you left, ten to one, if you and under every old bay-tree there is ever chance to come back, you will find a little forest of young ones; a true some brutal soldier in possession of the detail. (What, one would like to fields you tilled with so much love. A know, were bay-berries used for then ? strange mau meets you with the words, Now they are made to yield a strong " These are mine ; get you gone, old poison). Hunting hares and netting tenants !” The present of kids which roebuck are other winter employments, Mæris sends the master will and if the peasant wants amusement he neither soften his heart nor will it carry goes to watch the herdsmen in their with it the bad luck which the sender wrestling matches. He has also the would very gladly convey with it. Of most charming of toys — a bit of gar- human redress there is none, and Virgil den, half kitchen-garden, half flower- does not propose recourse to the Black bed. It is the orto of the modern Art. He kept the charms, of which he peasant, with its sage and rosemary, had an extensive knowledge, for the its lettuces and leeks, its purple iris service of lovers, who in the Roman (Spade di Sant Antonio) and virgin provinces and in Tuscany weave the lilies.
self-same incantations in A.D. 1895. A peasant who is old and past hard Even the were-wolves spoken of by the work may even devote himself wholly poet have their descendants in the to a garden. Thus did the aged Cory- Cani guasti which frighten children cian peasant turn a few poor, aban- who go out after dark in Umbria. Virdoned acres that had been thought good gil was interested in charms because he for nothing into the sweetest place in had the soul of a folk-lorist, but though the world. Around he set a fence of he believed firmly in dreams and thorns, inside he sowed a few vegeta- omens, it may be doubted if he took bles, and planted simple flowers. At witchcraft very seriously. He would night he could set something on his have been the first to be surprised at table, a salad, a few onions, two or finding himself converted into a wizard three pears, and he felt possessed of in the Middle Ages. the riches of kings. His roses, sweet
Even if left, by a wonder, in peaceas Pæstum's, were before any one ful possession of his farm, Virgil's else's; his fruit was the earliest to farmer has still his full share of cares ripen. And how well his bees four- and ills. He suffers from dishonest ished; what a rich store of frothing farm-servants ; from the bireling who honey they furnished ! Happy old neglects the flock because he is a hireman !
ling, and who robs the lambs of the The husbandman had nature always | milk which should be theirs. Then he