UP AT A VILLA--DOWN IN THE CITY
_(As distinguished by an Italian person of quality.)_
Had I but plenty of money, money enough and to spare,
The house for me, no doubt, were a house in the city square;
Ah, such a life, such a life, as one leads at the window there!
Something to see, by Bacchus°, something to hear, at least!
There, the whole day long, one's life is a perfect feast;
While up at a villa one lives, I maintain it, no more than
Well now, look at our villa! stuck like the horn of a bull
Just on a mountain edge as bare as the creature's skull,
Save a mere shag of a bush with hardly a leaf to pull!
--I scratch my own, sometimes, to see if the hair's turned
But the city, oh the city--the square with the houses! Why?
They are stone-faced, white as a curd, there's something to
take the eye!
Houses in four straight lines, not a single front awry;
You watch who crosses and gossips, who saunters, who hurries
Green blinds, as a matter of course, to draw when the sun
And the shops with fanciful signs which are painted properly.
What of a villa? Tho' winter be over in March, by rights,
'Tis May perhaps ere the snow shall have withered well off
You've the brown ploughed land before, where the oxen steam
And the hills over-smoked behind by the faint gray olive trees.
Is it better in May, I ask you? You've summer all at once;
In a day he leaps complete with a few strong April suns,
'Mid the sharp short emerald wheat, scarce risen three fingers
The wild tulip, at end of its tube, blows out its great red
Like a thin clear bubble of blood, for the children to pick
Is it ever hot in the square? There's a fountain to spout
In the shade it sings and springs; in the shine such foam-bows
On the horses with curling fish-tails, that prance and paddle
Round the lady atop in her conch--fifty gazers do not abash,
Tho' all that she wears is some weeds round her waist in a
sort of sash.
All the year long at the villa, nothing to see though you
Except yon cypress that points like death's lean lifted forefinger.
Some think fireflies pretty, when they mix i' the corn and
Or thrid the stinking hemp till the stalks of it seem a-tingle.
Late August or early September, the stunning cicala is shrill,
And the bees keep their tiresome whine round the resinous
firs on the hill.
Enough of the seasons,--I spare you the months of the fever
Ere you open your eyes in the city, the blessed church-bells
No sooner the bells leave off than the diligence rattles in:
You get the pick of the news, and it costs you never a pin.
By and by there's the travelling doctor gives pills, lets
blood, draws teeth;
Or the Pulcinello°-trumpet breaks up the market beneath.
At the post-office such a scene-picture--the new play, piping
And a notice how, only this morning, three liberal thieves
Above it, behold the Archbishop's most fatherly of rebukes,
And beneath, with his crown and his lion, some little new
law of the Duke's!
Or a sonnet with flowery marge, to the Reverend Don So-and-so,
Who is Dante,° Boccaccio,° Petrarca,° St. Jerome°
and Cicero,° °
"And moreover" (the sonnet goes rhyming), "the
skirts of St. Paul has
Having preached us those six Lent-lectures more unctuous than
Noon strikes,--here sweeps the procession! our Lady° borne
smiling and smart.
With a pink gauze gown all spangles, and seven swords°
stuck in her heart! °
_Bang-whang-whang_ goes the drum, _tootle-te-tootle_ the fife;
No keeping one's haunches still: it's the greatest pleasure
But bless you, it's dear--it's dear! fowls, wine, at double
They have clapped a new tax upon salt, and what oil pays passing
It's a horror to think of. And so, the villa for me, not the
Beggars can scarcely be choosers: but still--ah, the pity,
Look, two and two go the priests, then the monks with cowls
And the penitents dressed in white shirts, a-holding the yellow
One, he carries a flag up straight, and another a cross with
And the Duke's guard brings up the rear, for the better prevention
_Bang-whang-whang_ goes the drum, _tootle-te-tootle_ the fife.
Oh, a day in the city square, there is no such pleasure in