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"The life of Canova was fertile and generous as his native soil. Sincere and simple as a true mountaineer, he loved always with a tender predilection the village and poor dwelling where he was born. He had it embellished very modestly, and came there in autumn to rest from the labors of the year. He took pleasure at these times in drawing the Herculean forms of the men, and the truly Grecian heads of the young girls. The inhabitants of Possagno say with pride, that the principal models of the rich collection of Canova's works came from their valley. In fact you need only pass through it, to meet at each step the type of that cold beauty which characterizes the statuary of the empire. The principal charm of these peasant women is precisely one which marble could not reproduce, the freshness of coloring and transparence of the skin. To them might without exaggeration be applied the eternal metaphor of lilies and roses. Their liquid eyes have an uncertain tint, at once green and blue, like the stone called Aqua-marine. Canova delighted in the morbidezza of their heavy and abundant locks of fair hair. He used to comb them himself, before copying them, and to arrange their tresses, after the various styles of the Greek marbles.
"These girls generally possess that expression of sweetness and naïveté which, reproduced in fairer lineaments and more delicate forms, inspired Canova with his delightful head of Psyche. The men have a colossal head, prominent forehead, thick fair hair, eyes large, animated, and bold, and short square face. Without anything profound or delicate in their physiognomy, there is an expression of frankness and courage which reminds us of an ancient hunter.
"The temple of Canova is an exact copy of the Pantheon at Rome. The material is a beautiful marble, of a white ground, streaked with red,-but rather soft, and already marked by the frost.
"Canova caused the erection of this church with the benevolent object of presenting an attraction to strangers to visit Possagno, and thus giving a little commerce and prosperity to the poor inhabitants of the Mountain. It was his intention to make it a sort of museum for his works. Here were to be deposited the sacred subjects from his hand, and the upper galleries would have contained some of the profane subjects. He died, leaving his plan unfinished, and bequeathed a considerable sum for this object. But although his own brother, the Bishop of Canova, had it in charge to oversee the works, a sordid economy or signal bad faith presided over the execution of the last will of the Sculptor. With the exception of the marble vaisseau, which it was too late to speculate about, the necessary furnishings are all of the meanest kind. Instead of the twelve
colossal marble statues, which were to have occupied the twelve niches of the cupola, you see twelve grotesque giants, executed by a painter, who, they say, knew well enough how to do better, but travestied his work to avenge himself for the sordid shifts of his employers. But few specimens of Canova's work adorn the interior of the monument; a few bas-reliefs of small size, but of pure and elegant design, are incrusted in the walls of the chapels. There are copies also in the Academy of the Fine Arts at Venice, with one of which I was particularly struck. In the same place is the group of Christ at the Tomb, which is certainly the coldest invention of Canova-the bronze cast of this group is in the temple at Possagno, as well as the tomb which encloses the remains of the Sculptor. It is a Grecian Sarcophagus,-very simple and beautiful, executed after his designs.
"Another group, of Christ at the threshold, painted in oil, decorates the chief altar. Canova, the most modest of Sculptors, had the ambition to be a painter also. He retouched this picture from time to time during several years, happily the only offspring of his old age, which affection for his virtues and regard for his fame ought to induce his heirs to keep concealed from every eye."
To this purpose he devoted the riches he had earned by his works. That he should, even with his celebrity and at the end of so laborious a life, possess a fortune adequate to so vast an enterprise was, and is, a matter of wonder, and only to be explained by the severe simplicity of his habits. With deep regret we learn that he died too soon to ensure the fulfilment of his plan. A wish so pure deserved that he should find a worthy executor.
To sum up decisively, if not fully, Canova shines before us in an unblemished purity of morals, tenderness and fidelity toward friends, generosity to rivals, gentleness to all men, a wise and modest estimate of himself, an unfailing adequacy to the occasion, adorned by fineness of breeding in all his acts and words. He is no life-renewing fountain, but we will think of him with a well assured pleasure, as a green island of pure waters, and graceful trees in the midst of a dark and turbulent stream.
"Nor has he ceased his charming song, but still that lyre,
Simonides' Epigram on Anacreon.
WE lately met with an old volume from a London bookshop, containing the Greek Minor Poets, and it was a pleasure to read once more only the words,-Orpheus, Linus, — Musaus those faint poetic sounds and echoes of a name, dying away on the ears of us modern men; and those hardly more substantial sounds, Mimnermus- Ibycus Alcæus Stesichorus - Menander. They lived not in vain. We can converse with these bodiless fames, without reserve or personality.
We know of no studies so composing as those of the classical scholar. When we have sat down to them, life seems as still and serene as if it were very far off, and we believe it is not habitually seen from any common platform so truly and unexaggerated as in the light of literature. In serene hours we contemplate the tour of the Greek and Latin authors with more pleasure than the traveller does the fairest scenery of Greece or Italy. Where shall we find a more refined society? That highway down from Homer and Hesiod to Horace and Juvenal is more attractive than the Appian. Reading the classics, or conversing with those old Greeks and Latins in their surviving works, is like walking amid the stars and constellations, a high and by-way serene to travel. Indeed, the true scholar will be not a little of an astronomer in his habits. Distracting cares will not be allowed to obstruct the field of his vision, for the higher regions of literature, like astronomy, are above storm and darkness.
But passing by these rumors of bards, we have chosen to pause for a moment at Anacreon, the Teian poet, and present some specimens of him to our readers.*
The following, with the odes to the Cicada and to Spring, in the ninth number of the Dial, pp. 23, 24, are, in the opinion of the translator, the best that have come down to us.
There is something strangely modern about him. He is very easily turned into English. Is it that our lyric poets have resounded only that lyre, which would sound only light subjects, and which Simonides tells us does not sleep in Hades? His odes are like gems of pure ivory. They possess an etherial and evanescent beauty like summer evenings, ὅ χρή σε νοεῖν νόου ἄνθει, which you must understand with the flower of the mind, and show how slight a beauty could be expressed. You have to consider them, as the stars of lesser magnitude, with the side of the eye, and look aside from them to behold them. They charm us by the r serenity and freedom from exaggeration and passion, and by a certain flower-like beauty, which does not propose itself, but must be approached and studied like a natural object. But, perhaps, their chief merit consists in the lightness and yet security of their tread ;
"The young and tender stalk
Ne'er bends when they do walk."
True, our nerves are never strung by them; it is too constantly the sound of the lyre, and never the note of the trumpet; but they are not gross, as has been presumed, but always elevated above the sensual.
ON HIS LYRE.
I WISH to sing the Atridæ,
Only love with its chords.
Lately I changed the strings
And I began to sing the labors
Farewell, henceforth, for me,
TO A SWALLOW.
THOU indeed, dear swallow,
ON A SILVER CUP.
TURNING the silver,
But a hollow cup,
As deep as thou canst.
And make for me in it
Neither stars, nor wagons,
What are the Pleiades to me?
What the shining Bootes?
And clusters of grapes in it,
With the fair Lyæus
THOU sing'st the affairs of Thebes,