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VALENTINE WRITING. By a most singular arrangement, the day in which a Christian bishop suffered martyrdom 1500 years ago, has been for a long course of time commemorated by the effusions of earthly love and fancy. Not one of the saints days in our calendar, we may safely say, has been so honoured by the Muses. Little dreamed the emperor Valerianus, when he gave the order which doomed this persecuted individual to the block, that he was bestowing a name upon a day to be held in a pleasant memory by youthful swains and blushing damsels--a day in which the spirit of martyrdom has little place, unless indeed the Muse may be doomed to act the part of the deceased saint, which, I believe, is pretty often the case.
The day, however, and its occupation, have been somehow long settled, and it is really a pleasant one. It is a day to make a poet feel himself somebody. The little children crowd about him in full dependence on his power of expressing in appropriate language their babyloves. And perhaps some full-grown youth, of greater modesty than ordinary, whose poetical spirit hardly keeps pace with the ardour of his passion, may put in his claim to the like indulgence. It is even possible that the discreet poet may be entrusted with secrets of yet more overpowering importance; and his may be the pleasant lot of touching the flinty heart of some yet insensible swain, by affecting representations of long-concealed maiden tenderness. What a proud and happy man is the bard then! He walks, and he has a right to walk, with a head more erect than usual, conscious that he bears about with him a hundred secrets, in revealing the least of which he might bring whole armies of lads and lasses, grave fathers, mothers and aunts, upon him, exulting, however, in the reflection that there is a power in asliance with him which will effectually enable him to elude discovery. If he be of a malevolent disposition, it might, perhaps, gratify him to witness the torturing anxiety of the lover for whom he has penned a sonnet (which he has been obliged to transcribe and alter at least a dozen times before it was sufficiently tender) under the uncertainty of the fair one's having received it at all
, or at any rate having given it a favourable reception. And if it should happen (such things have been) that the fair one herself, ignorant that her counsel has been previously engaged on the other side, should call in his aid and require him to weave an appropriate answer to his own rhymes -how gratifying, how pleasant to the vanity of the man and the poet !
Not but that in these degenerate days he feels his consequence greatly diminished, when every eighth man is an “ universal genius," when people are not content with being their own doctors, lawyers, and barbers, but “ every man" must be “his own” poet too. It is a certain fact (at least“ we have the best authority” for so stating) that young ladies and gentlemen at boarding-schools are regularly taught to make verses ; and it would be a great shame indeed if Valentine's day found them unfurnished with appropriate rhymes.
As I am free to confess, that in my time I have penned many Valentines, and after my reputation was established have been professionally consulted on many more, in which it was thought a little criticism if not alteration might be advisable, I have in my possession a consider
able stock of original poems of this sort; and from among them have selected a few which some of your readers may, perhaps, mentally compare to the addresses of love-sick Troubadours to their ladies. Now to tell the whole truth, it is part of my theory on the subject of Valentine writing, that the style of those worthies most befits compositions meet for an admirer to offer and for a lady's ear to listen to; and I am for considering this most ancient feast as a faint image of those principles of gallantry which graced the southern revelries in the bright reign of love and song. I see in the merry circle that gathers on this happy eve many faces calculated to form a most respectable Cour d'amour, and to determine perplexed "passages of love,", particularly those of other people. The sitting is not held sous l'ormel to be sure, but that is because our gala-day is in February, not on bright May-day, whose genial influence we can only counterfeit by a smiling fire. The poet lauds his mistress as devoutly and delicately; and though the chill of the season sometimes operates unfavourably on the ardour of his fancy, yet he sings with greater freedom from our throwing around him a veil of conventional incognito, while we still leave him sufficiently unmasked to receive, sooner or later, the smile of his mistress,-a reward quite as great as any golden violet awarded by the academy of the Gai Saber.
To return to mỳ subject :-Let me not forfeit my claim to the confidence of the young ladies and gentlemen of the present day,—a confidence of which I am exceedingly jealous. I can assure them, that of the pieces I send you there is not one which will now hurt the feelings of a single individual. I have so carefully selected them, that I may venture to subjoin critical remarks, which once I dared not have uttered to the winds. Yet to my mind each poem brings a crowd of recollections, which no doubt greatly heightens its interest as I transcribe; I wish my readers could follow me in those feelings. The first I shall send you is pretty, yet it is a little babyish or so; and I should suspect it to be written by a young lady only just sixteen, from the juvenility of the expressions and the clink of the verse.
It is the hour of morning's prime,
The young day of the year,
When brighter hopes appear.
When suns but faintly shine ;
The sweet St. Valentine!
And not a leaf is green,
A gleam of light is seen.
Darts forth a light divine;
Of thine, St. Valentine !
It is too laboured and lofty to be the offspring of real passion; and was, I believe, written by a person who thought more of himself than of his mistress.
My love is lovely in her smile of light,
Beautiful smile! that, like the sun in May,
Light, frolic spirits, innocently gay,
Wait on her steps, and chase iny cares away.
Dashing the intoxicating cup from me,
And in her high and matchless dignity,
Quelling each glance too passionately free.
By years of patient, meek humility,
And down there steals a tear of sympathy,
In noontide beams their apathy resign,
Melting and mingling hasten to combine
So mingled be our hearts, sweet Valentine ! The next is of so threatening a kind that I think I have understood the poor wight, who, with a mixture of feigned bravery and real cowardice, penned it, and who well knowing that his mistress suspected him, did not venture to appear before her till the month of May following: I hope I shall not be thought to break my pledge of secrecy when I hint he was very favourably received, considering the offence given.
I must sigh—for thy joy is iny sadness ;
Of the bitter revenge of despair ! The next is from a poor melancholy witling, who really loved love, because it added to his stock of romantic musings. . If his lady had smiled upon him, it would infallibly have broken the charm, and his heart also. But from this catastrophe he was happily delivered. He has not unaptly pourtrayed his feelings in these lines, and therefore I select them from among a dozen more appropriate to the occasion.
Poor Primrose ! that through covering snow
Peep’st forth the morn to greet,
Than summer flowers more sweet?
Tu man thus wayward prove ?
Ere aught he finds to love?
By storms, by perils tried,
'Mid smiles and sunshine died?
That Hope is man's true bliss
No fairer flower than this. It is said that the sweet air of “Rousseau's Dream," to which all our poets, now-a-days, have a song, was first imported into this country twenty-two years ago, and that the first English words ever written to it were in the form of a serenade from a lover to his betrothed on the morning of Valentine's day. If this be true, my readers will, no doubt, thank me for laying before them a copy of these lines.
Health to thee, mine own sweet lady!
Health and blessing, first and last!
Round thy path new spells to cast.
Blessed be thine evening close !
Summer hours, and winter snows.
Pure of spirit, frank of heart,
Act the faithless flatterer's part.
Faith as true, as pure as thine ;
From thy well-known Valentine.
“ Era 'l mio animo rozzo e selvaggio."
With thick and cloudy darkness overspread,
Its icy bands were loosed, iis rigour fed,
And many a budding flow'ret rear'd its head,
Flowers into fruit : and soon his fostering care
Had to a golden Autumn led the way ;-
Stirr'd by my lovely foe, soon fill'd the air,
CASANOVA's visit to VOLTAIRE.
(Concluded from page 178.) ACCORDING to my promise I went to dine with Voltaire on the following day, and met the Duke de Villars. He had just arrived at Geneva to consult the celebrated physician Tronchin, who had some years before saved his life. I said very little during dinner, but afterwards Voltaire entered into a conversation with me about the constitution of Venice; he knew that I was dissatisfied with the government ; I nevertheless disappointed his expectations. I endeavoured to convince him that no country in the world enjoyed greater liberty than Venice. Perceiving the subject was not agreeable to me, he took me aside, and went with me into his garden, of which he styled himself the creator. When we came to the extremity of a long avenue, close to a running water, “ This,” said he, “is the Rhone, which I send to France." He at the same time directed my attention to the beautiful prospect he had of Geneva and Mont Blanc.
He afterwards began a conversation upon Italian literature, and evinced great ingenuity and much learning; but his conclusions were generally erroneous: I however allowed him to enjoy his opinion. He disagreed with me on Homer, Dante, and Petrarch. His judgment of the works of these great men is well known. He could not refrain from writing exactly as objects represented themselves to his own mind, and this has greatly injured him in the public opinion. I contented myself with merely replying, that if these great men had not really deserved the admiration of all who had studied them, they would not have acquired the high reputation which they still maintained.
The Duke de Villars, and the celebrated Tronchin, had in the mean time joined us again. Tronchin was tall
, well formed, obliging, eloquent without being talkative, a profound naturalist, a man of genius, and, as a physician, a favourite pupil of Boerhaave. He was entirely free from the talkativeness and quackery of the inferior class of his profession. He expected the cure of his patients chiefly from a proper regimen ; but to determine this, a man must be an accurate and philosophical observer.
The exterior of the Duke de Villars, then governor of Provence, attracted my principal attention. When I contemplated his figure and demeanour, I fancied I saw a woman of sixty years of age in men's clothes, who, though now lean, shrunk, and feeble, might have been handsome in her youth. His copper-coloured cheeks were painted with rouge, his lips with carmine, his eye-brows black, and he had artificial teeth and hair. A well-scented pomatum kept the curls close to his head, and a large nosegay, fixed in the uppermost button-hole of his coat, reached to his chin. He affected the amiable man in every thing, and spoke so affectedly and lispingly, that it was difficult to understand him. He was, in other respects, polite and condescending, but all his manners were of the taste prevalent in the time of the Regency,
I accompanied Voltaire into his sleeping-room, where he changed his wig, and the little cap he used to wear under it as a preservative against rheumatism. On his writing-table lay several Italian poets, and among others, the “La Secchia rapita” of Tassoni. “ This," said he, “is the only tragi-comic poem Italy possesses. Tassoni was a monk,