MEMORIALS OF A TOUR IN ITALY
Upon what evidence the belief rests that this stone was a
favourite seat of Dante, I do not know; but a man would little
consult his own interest as a traveller, if he should busy himself
with doubts as to the fact. The readiness with which traditions of
this character are received, and the fidelity with which they are
preserved from generation to generation, are an evidence of
feelings honourable to our nature. I remember how, during one of
my rambles in the course of a college vacation, I was pleased on
being shown a seat near a kind of rocky cell at the source of the
river, on which it was said that Congreve wrote his "Old
Bachelor." One can scarcely hit on any performance less in harmony
with the scene; but it was a local tribute paid to intellect by
those who had not troubled themselves to estimate the moral worth
of that author's comedies; and why should they? He was a man
distinguished in his day; and the sequestered neighbourhood in
which he often resided was perhaps as proud of him as Florence of
her Dante: it is the same feeling, though proceeding from persons
one cannot bring together in this way without offering some
apology to the Shade of the great Visionary.
UNDER the shadow of a stately Pile,
The dome of Florence, pensive and alone,
Nor giving heed to aught that passed the while,
I stood, and gazed upon a marble stone,
The laurelled Dante's favourite seat. A throne,
In just esteem, it rivals; though no style
Be there of decoration to beguile
The mind, depressed by thought of greatness flown.
As a true man, who long had served the lyre,
I gazed with earnestness, and dared no more.
But in his breast the mighty Poet bore
A Patriot's heart, warm with undying fire.
Bold with the thought, in reverence I sate down,
And, for a moment, filled that empty Throne.