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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Allston in Italy
By Charles Sumner (1811–1874)
 
TURNING his back upon Paris and the greatness of the Empire, he directed his steps to Italy, the enchanted ground of literature, of history, and of art; strown with richest memorials of the past, filled with scenes memorable in the story of the progress of man, teaching by the pages of philosophers and historians, vocal with the melody of poets, ringing with the music which St. Cecilia protects, glowing with the living marble and canvas, beneath a sky of heavenly purity and brightness, with the sunsets which Claude has painted, parted by the Apennines,—early witnesses of the unrecorded Etruscan civilization,—surrounded by the snow-capped Alps, and the blue classic waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The deluge of war which submerged Europe had here subsided; and our artist took up his peaceful abode in Rome, the modern home of art. Strange change of condition! Rome, sole surviving city of antiquity, who once disdained all that could be wrought by the cunning hand of sculpture,—
  “Excudent alii spirantia mollius æra,
Credo equidem; vivos ducent de marmore vultus,”— 1
who has commanded the world by her arms, by her jurisprudence, by her church,—now sways it further by her arts. Pilgrims from afar, where neither her eagles, her prætors, nor her interdicts ever reached, become the willing subjects of this new empire; and the Vatican stored with the precious remains of antiquity, and the touching creations of a Christian pencil, has succeeded to the Vatican whose thunders intermingled with the strifes of modern Europe.
  1
  At Rome he was happy in the friendship of Coleridge, and in long walks in his instructive company. We can well imagine that the author of ‘Genevieve’ and the ‘Ancient Mariner’ would find especial sympathies with Allston. We behold these two natures, tremblingly alive to beauty of all kinds, looking together upon those majestic ruins, upon the manifold accumulations of art, upon the marble which almost spoke, and upon the warmer canvas; listening together to the flow of the perpetual fountains fed by ancient aqueducts; musing together in the Forum on the mighty footprints of History; and entering together, with sympathetic awe, that grand Christian church whose dome rises a majestic symbol of the comprehensive Christianity which shall embrace the whole earth. “Never judge of a work of art by its defects,” was one of the lessons of Coleridge to his companion; which, when extended by natural expansion to the other things of life, is a sentiment of justice and charity, of higher value than a statue of Praxiteles, or a picture of Raphael.  2
 
Note 1.
  “Others will mold more deftly the breathing bronze, I concede it,
Or from the block of marble the living features may summon.”    [back]
 
 
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