Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
Status Quo
By Gabriele Rossetti (1783–1854)
Translated by William Michael Rossetti

IN 1 that same realm of rabid Belzebub,
  Who fits to every crime its punishment,
  Over a sink of unimagined scent
Lies Mauro Cappellari, visage sub.
And he, who was in life a moveless tub,        5
  Moveless immovable he there is pent:
  And aye for aye the Church’s President
Sucks in an odour—not the one they dub
“Of sanctity.”—“Another pain, and worse,”
  He one day said, “provide me: I can bear        10
No more the stink of all the universe.”
But Belzebub to him replied, “No, no!
  Thou shalt remain to everlasting there!
This is the penalty of the status quo.”
Note 1. This sonnet relates to Pope Gregory XVI., who, it will be remembered, was highly obnoxious to the progressive party in Italy, as being a stolid upholder of the old regime, or, as Rossetti here calls it, the Status Quo. Mr. William Michael Rossetti, in forwarding me the translation, observes—“The sonnet has a point of oddity, or comicality, in its form which cannot be exhibited (though it is literally reproduced) in the English translation. While Italian sonnets usually have eleven syllables in each line ending with a dissyllabic rhyme, this by my father has only ten, like an English sonnet, so that every line ends with a strong accentuated emphasis. This is what Italians call ‘versi tronchi,’ and would not be used unless with a grotesque intention.”
  Gabriele Rossetti, the illustrious father of an illustrious family, was born in 1783, at Vasto, a small Italian town situated in the hilly district of the Abruzzi. The principal piazza of this little place already bears his name, and a statue to his memory is, we believe, to be erected therein. He was a poet of considerable reputation in his own country, and he was also a patriot, and the unfortunate result of his endeavouring, with other patriotic Neapolitans, to obtain a satisfactory constitution from King Ferdinand, was, that he had to escape from his native land in order to save his life. Lady Moore, the wife of the Admiral in command of the English fleet stationed in the Bay of Naples, being an admirer of the poems and character of Rossetti, persuaded her husband and another officer to go ashore and rescue the poet, whom they succeeded in carrying off in disguise, and conveyed to Malta. After four years’ residence in that island, Rossetti came to live in London, where he married Frances Polidori, sister to Dr. Polidori who travelled with Lord Byron, and daughter of Signor Polidori, secretary to Alfieri. He died in the year 1854. [back]

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