Gryll Grange, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter 24

Progress of Sympathy — Love’s Injunctions — Orlando Innamorato

(Greek passage)


See, youth, the nymph who charms your eyes;

Watch, lest you lose the willing prize.

As queen of flowers the rose you own,

And her of maids the rose alone.

While light, fire, mirth, and music were enlivening the party within the close-drawn curtains, without were moonless night and thickly-falling snow; and the morning opened on one vast expanse of white, mantling alike the lawns and the trees, and weighing down the wide-spreading branches. Lord Curryfin, determined not to be baulked of his skating, sallied forth immediately after breakfast, collected a body of labourers, and swept clear an ample surface of ice, a path to it from the house, and a promenade on the bank. Here he and Miss Niphet amused themselves in the afternoon, in company with a small number of the party, and in the presence of about the usual number of spectators. Mr. Falconer was there, and contented himself with looking on.

Lord Curryfin proposed a reel, Miss Niphet acquiesced, but it was long before they found a third. At length one young gentleman, of the plump and rotund order, volunteered to supply the deficiency, and was soon deposited on the ice, where his partners in the ice-dance would have tumbled over him if they had not anticipated the result, and given him a wide berth. One or two others followed, exhibiting several varieties in the art of falling ungracefully. At last the lord and the lady skated away on as large a circuit as the cleared ice permitted, and as they went he said to her —

‘If you were the prize of skating, as Atalanta was of running, I should have good hope to carry you off against all competitors but yourself.’

She answered, ‘Do not disturb my thoughts, or I shall slip.’

He said no more, but the words left their impression. They gave him as much encouragement as, under their peculiar circumstances, he could dare to wish for, or she could venture to intimate.

Mr. Falconer admired their ‘poetry of motion’ as much as all the others had done. It suggested a remark which he would have liked to address to Miss Gryll, but he looked round for her in vain. He returned to the house in the hope that he might find her alone, and take the opportunity of making his peace.

He found her alone, but it seemed that he had no peace to make. She received him with a smile, and held out her hand to him, which he grasped fervently. He fancied that it trembled, but her features were composed. He then sat down at the table, on which the old edition of Bojardo was lying open as before. He said, ‘You have not been down to the lake to see that wonderful skating.’ She answered, ‘I have seen it every day but this. The snow deters me today. But it is wonderful. Grace and skill can scarcely go beyond it.’

He wanted to apologise for the mode and duration of his departure and absence, but did not know how to begin. She gave him the occasion. She said, ‘You have been longer absent than usual — from our rehearsals. But we are all tolerably perfect in our parts. But your absence was remarked — by some of the party. You seemed to be especially missed by Lord Curryfin. He asked the reverend doctor every morning if he thought you would return that day.’

Algernon. And what said the doctor?

Morgana. He usually said, ‘I hope so.’ But one morning he said something more specific.

Algernon. What was it?

Morgana. I do not know that I ought to tell you.

Algernon. Oh, pray do.

Morgana. He said, ‘The chances are against it.’ ‘What are the odds?’ said Lord Curryfin. ‘Seven to one,’ said the doctor. ‘It ought not to be so,’ said Lord Curryfin, ‘for here is a whole Greek chorus against seven vestals.’ The doctor said, ‘I do not estimate the chances by the mere balance of numbers.’

Algernon. He might have said more as to the balance of numbers.

Morgana. He might have said more, that the seven outweighed the one.

Algernon. He could not have said that

Morgana. It would be much for the one to say that the balance was even.

Algernon. But how if the absentee himself had been weighed against another in that one’s own balance?

Morgana. One to one promises at least more even weight

Algernon. I would not have it so. Pray, forgive me.

Morgana. Forgive you? For what?

Algernon. I wish to say, and I do not well know how, without seeming to assume what I have no right to assume, and then I must have double cause to ask your forgiveness.

Morgana. Shall I imagine what you wish to say, and say it for you?

Algernon. You would relieve me infinitely, if you imagine justly.

Morgana. You may begin by saying with Achilles,

My mind is troubled, like a fountain stirred;

And I myself see not the bottom of it.1

Algernon. I think I do see it more clearly.

Morgana. You may next say, I live an enchanted life. I have been in danger of breaking the spell; it has once more bound me with sevenfold force; I was in danger of yielding to another attraction; I went a step too far in all but declaring it; I do not know how to make a decent retreat.

Algernon. Oh! no, no; nothing like that.

Morgana. Then there is a third thing you may say; but before I say that for you, you must promise to make no reply, not even a monosyllable; and not to revert to the subject for four times seven days. You hesitate.

Algernon. It seems as if my fate were trembling in the balance.

Morgana, You must give me the promise I have asked for.

Algernon. I do give it.

Morgana. Repeat it then, word for word.

Algernon. To listen to you in silence; not to say a syllable in reply; not to return to the subject for four times seven days.

Morgana. Then you may say, I have fallen in love; very irrationally —(he was about to exclaim, but she placed her finger on her lips)— very irrationally; but I cannot help it. I fear I must yield to my destiny. I will try to free myself from all obstacles; I will, if I can, offer my hand where I have given my heart. And this I will do, if I ever do, at the end of four times seven days: if not then, never.

She placed her finger on her lips again, and immediately left the room, having first pointed to a passage in the open pages of Orlando Innamorato. She was gone before he was aware that she was going; but he turned to the book, and read the indicated passage. It was a part of the continuation of Orlando’s adventure in the enchanted garden, when, himself pursued and scourged by La Penitenza, he was pursuing the Fata Morgana over rugged rocks and through briery thickets.

Cosi diceva. Con molta rovina

Sempre seguia Morgana il cavalliero:

Fiacca ogni bronco ed ogni mala spina,

Lasciando dietro a se largo il sentiero:

Ed a la Fata molto s’ avicina

E già d’ averla presa è il suo pensiero:

Ma quel pensiero è ben fallace e vano,

Pera che presa anchor scappa di mano.

O quante volte gli dette di piglio,

Hora ne’ panni ed hor nella persona:

Ma il vestimento, ch è bianco e vermiglio,

Ne la speranza presto 1’ abbandona:

Pur una fiata rivoltando il ciglio,

Come Dio volse e la ventura buona,

Volgendo il viso quella Fata al Conte

El ben la prese al zuffo ne la fronte.

Allor cangiosse il tempo, e l’ aria scura

Divenne chiara, e il ciel tutto sereno,

E aspro monte si fece pianura;

E dove prima fa di spine pteno,

Se coperse de fiori e de verdura:

E Uagedar dell’ altra veni

La qual, con miglior viio che non mole,

Verso del Conte usava tel parole.

Attend, cavalliero, a quella ctitama. . . . 2

He was recalled to himself by sinking up to his shoulders of a hollow.

‘She must have anticipated my coming,’ said the young gentleman to himself. ‘She had opened the book at this passage, and has left it to say to me for her — Choose between love and repentance. Four times seven days! That is to ensure calm for the Christmas holidays. The term will pass over Twelfth Night. The lovers of old romance were subjected to a probation of seven years:—

Seven long years I served thee, fair one,

Seven long years my fee was scorn.

‘But here, perhaps, the case is reversed. She may have feared a probation of seven years for herself; and not without reason. And what have I to expect if I let the four times seven days pass by? Why, then, I can read in her looks — and they are interpreted in the verses before me — I am assigned to repentance, without the hope of a third opportunity. She is not without a leaning towards Lord Curryfin.

Veggio l’ Italia tutta a fiamma e a foco,

Per questi Galli, che con gran furore

Vengon per disertar non so che loco.

Perô vi lascio in questo vano amore

Di Fiordespina ardente a poco a poco:

Un’ altra fiata, se mi fia concesso,

Racconterovi il tutto per espresso.

Even while I sing, ah me, redeeming Heaven!

I see all Italy in fire and flame,

Raised by these Gauls, who, by great fury driven,

Come with destruction for their end and aim.

The maiden’s heart, by vainest passion riven,

Not now the rudely-broken song may claim;

Some future day, if Fate auspicious prove,

Shall end the tale of Fiordespina’s love.

The Milanese edition of 1539 was a reprint of that of 1513, in which year the French, under Louis XII., had reconquered Milan. The Milanese editions read valore for furore.

It was no doubt in deference to the conquerors that the printer of 1513 made this substitution; but it utterly perverts the whole force of the passage. The French, under Charles VIII., invaded Italy in September 1494, and the horror with which their devastations inspired Bojardo not only stopped the progress of his poem, but brought his life prematurely to a close. He died in December 1494. The alteration of this single word changes almost into a compliment an expression of cordial detestation.

She thinks he is passing from her, and on the twenty-ninth day, or perhaps in the meantime, she will try to regain him. Of course she will succeed. What rivalry could stand against her? If her power over him is lessened, it is that she has not chosen to exert it She has but to will it, and he is again her slave. Twenty-eight days! twenty-eight days of doubt and distraction.’ And starting up, he walked out into the park, not choosing the swept path, but wading knee-deep in snow where it lay thickest in the glades. He was recalled to himself by sinking up to his shoulders in a hollow. He emerged with some difficulty, and retraced his steps to the house, thinking that, even in the midst of love’s most dire perplexities, dry clothes and a good fire are better than a hole in the snow.

1 Troilus and Cressida, Act iii. Sc. 3.

2 Bojardo, Orlando Innamarato, L ii. c. 9. Ed. di Vinegia; 1544.

So spake Repentance. With the speed of fire

Orlando followed where the enchantress fled,

Rending and scattering tree and bush and brier,

And leaving wide the vestige of his tread.

Nearer he drew, with feet that could not tire,

And strong in hope to seise her as she sped.

How vain the hope! Her form he seemed to clasp,

But soon as seized, she vanished from his grasp.

How many times he laid his eager hand

On her bright form, or on her vesture fair;

But her white robes, and their vermilion band,

Deceived his touch, and passed away like air.

But once, as with a half-turned glance she scanned

Her foe — Heaven’s will and happy chance were there —

No breath for pausing might the time allow —

He seized the golden forelock of her brow.

Then passed the gloom and tempest from the sky;

The air at once grew calm and all serene;

And where rude thorns had clothed the mountain high,

Was spread a plain, all flowers and vernal green.

Repentance ceased her scourge. Still standing nigh,

With placid looks, in her but rarely seen,

She said: ‘Beware how yet the prize you lose;

The key of fortune few can wisely use.’

In the last stanza of the preceding translation, the seventh line is the essence of the stanza immediately following; the eighth is from a passage several stanzas forward, after Orlando has obtained the key, which was the object of his search:

Che mal se trova alcun sotto la Luna,

Ch’ adopri ben la chiave di Fortuna.

The first two books of Bojardo’s poem were published in 1486. The first complete edition was published in 1495.

The Venetian edition of 1544, from which I have cited this passage, and the preceding one in chapter xx., is the fifteenth and last complete Italian edition. The original work was superseded by the Rifacciamenti of Berni and Domenichi. Mr. Panizzi has rendered a great service to literature in reprinting the original. He collated all accessible editions. Verum opere in longo fas est obrepere somnum. He took for his standard, . . . as I think unfortunately, the Milanese edition of 1539. With all the care he bestowed on his task, he overlooked one fearful perversion in the concluding stanza, which in all editions but the Milanese reads thus: Mentre ch’ io canto, ahimè Dio redentore . . .

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59