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To the Memory of
DEAR WAS HIS PRAISE, - AND PLEASANT 'T WERE TO ME,–
ON WHOSE FAR GRAVE TO-NIGHT THE DEEP SNOWS DRIFT. IT NEEDS NOT NOW; TOGETHER WE SHALL SEE
HOW HIGH CHRIST'S LILIES O’ER MAN'S LAURELS LIFT.
FEBRUARY 13, 1899.
The intention of the author was to illustrate how poetry, politics, and religion are the flowering of the same human spirit, and have their feeding roots in a common soil, “deep in the general heart of men."
What should there be in the glimmering lights of a poor fishing-village to fascinate me? Far below, a mile perhaps, I behold them in the darkness and the storm like some phosphorescence of the beach; I see the pale tossing of the surf beside them; I hear the continuous roar borne up and softened about these heights; and this is night at Taormina. There is a weirdness in the scene — the feeling without the reality of mystery; and at evening, I know not why, I cannot sleep without stepping upon the terrace or peering through the panes to see those lights. At morning the charm has flown from the shore to the further heights above me. I glance at the vast banks of southward-lying cloud that envelop Etna, like deep fog upon the ocean; and then, inevitably, my eyes seek the double summit of the Taorminian mountain, rising nigh at hand a thousand feet, almost sheer, less than half a mile westward: The nearer height, precipicefaced, towers full in front with its crowning ruined citadel, and discloses, just below the peak, on an arm of rock toward its right, a hermitage church among the heavily hanging mists. The other horn of the massive hill, somewhat more remote, behind and to the old castle's left, exposes on its slightly loftier crest the edge of a hamlet. It, too, is cloud-wreathed - the lonely crag of Mola. Over
these hilltops, I know, mists will drift and touch all day; and often they darken threateningly, and creep softly down the slopes, and fill the next-lying valley, and roll, and lift again, and reveal the flank of Monte d'Oro northward on the far-reaching range. As I was walking the other day, with one of these floating showers gently blowing in my face down this defile, I noticed, where the
Ι mists hung in fragments from the cloud out over the gulf, how like air-shattered arches they groined the profound ravine; and thinking how much of the romantic charm which delights lovers of the mountains and the sea springs from such Gothic moods of nature, I felt for a moment something of the pleasure of recognition in meeting with this northern and familiar element in the Sicilian landscape.
One who has grown to be at home with nature cannot be quite a stranger anywhere on earth. In new lands I find the poet's old domain. It is not only from the landside that these intimations of old acquaintance come. When my eyes leave, as they will, the near girdle of rainy mountain tops, and range home at last upon the sea, something familiar is there too, – that which I have always known, but marvelously transformed and
heightened in beauty and power. Such sudden glints of sunshine in the offing through unseen rents of heaven, as brilliant as in mid-ocean, I have beheld a thousand times,
a but here they remind me rather of cloud-lights on far western plains; and where have I seen those still tracts of changeful color, iridescent under the silvery vapors of noon; or, when the weather freshens and darkens, those whirlpools of pure emerald bright in the gray expanse of storm? They seem like memories of what has been, made fairer. One recurring scene has the same fas