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sleep, and in which the mother of Venusia (who had perished at the birth of her daughter) appeared with an infant at her bosom, and directed that her daughter should within three days flee to Milan, adding that love would supply a secret guard. Venusia herself is soon after indulged with a vision which confirms her aunt's narration. She therefore makes her own heart her interpreter; and departs in the evening with her destined lover, who fortunately has a friendly priest, a native of Milan, then staying at his house. This priest joins their hands; and next morning the happy pair, having first written a joint letter to supplicate forgiveness from the stern Donado, set off in the disguise of pilgrims for Milan, in company with Theodore the priest, Marcella an amiable widowed sister of Lucilio, and Marcellina her young daughter. The place which they choose for concealment is a cottage in the vicinity of Milan, near to a convent,, the prior of which is allied to Theodore. Here they reside screened from all notice; not even venturing out, except when early in the morning they go to pour forth their grateful devotions on the organ in the convent choir.-Meantime the inexorable father hires two bravos, Lucio and Basil, to assassinate Lucilio, and fetch Venusia back. These ruffians soon trace the lovers to their retirement; and, finding that they are in the habit of spending some time in the chapel every morning to indulge their love of sacred music, they fix on this as the fittest place and time to perpetrate their nefarious scheme. The scene that follows, as it gives to the poem its title and is a prominent feature in the story, shall be laid before the reader in the poet's own words.
'It chanc'd one morn, a morn of awful note!
The hymn, that spoke his confidence in God.-
The trembling Basil, for a moment mute,
"We were assassins; but abjure the guilt:
But mark! how Heaven defeats the subtlest plan
And fondly smiling on his lovely guard,
Whose wond'rous force still prest her prisoner hard;
A larger recompence, than guilt could win!"
Shed a new lustre o'er his manly face:
With looks, that show'd the fondness of her soul,
And pressing his dear hand, with speechless pride,
Their converts lead, and reach her rural home.'
A new at
Thus the ruffians are converted and reclaimed. tempt is now made, through Marcella, to move Donado; but in vain. To secure the lovers, therefore, still further from his fury, Theodore proposes their removal to a mansion of a friend of his, the good Manfredi: who lives so utterly secluded from the world, that, excepting Theodore and a brother, he refuses to see any visitors; yet, being a man of bene volence, upon hearing from Theodore the danger of his friends, he kindly invites them to take shelter under his roof, on condition that no intercourse between himself and them is to take place unless by letter. The cause of Manfredi's seclusion
is a vow which, it seems, he had taken some years ago, in consequence of having accidentally destroyed his own child, a boy of seven years of age, at a feast in celebration of his birth-day. The mother of this boy, then just recovering from child-bed, had soon followed her son; and, to fill up the measure of the widower's miseries, his infant daughter, being placed out under the care of a hired nurse, had fallen into a decline, and expired not long after its mother. Many fruitless attempts are made by the new guests to comfort their drooping host, and lead him from his self-tormenting gloom back to cheerfulness and society. But he persists in refusing to remit his penance for the slighted daughter and the slaughtered son.' Yet in written courtesies he loves to discourse with his friendly inmates; and to Venusia in particular he imparts a hope that at some distant period, when the time allotted to his penance should expire, he may fold her in his parental arms. Meantime they enjoy the pleasures of sacred music in a small tem ple dedicated to Pity, where an organ is erected, and where Manfredi in an adjoining room hears and is heard without being seen. Here also a sort of album is kept; in which are transcribed many sonnets and hymns by Manfredi and his guests, expressive of their respective feelings, but all of a devout and melancholy cast.
During all this, Donado, finding no means of gratifying his revenge, resigns himself to coarser passions, takes into his house a low-born but artful woman as kept-mistress, and is honoured by having two bantlings of hers fathered upon him,—
Tho', truth to tell (a truth to others clear)
By a singular concurrence of circumstances, which we must here omit, his life is soon afterwards saved by that very Lucio, now reformed, whom he had engaged to murder Lucilio. But in Donado no reformation follows, other than that by the discovery of the falsehood of his mistress Bianca, he is induced to dismiss her and her children. Sick of Venice, he retires at length to Milan, still ignorant of the retreat of his fugitive daughter; who has in the mean time blest her husband with a little Venusia, and is with him yet ardent in
the kind employ
To lure the lov'd recluse to social joy.' P. 121.
But he, wrapt in morbid melancholy, obstinately abides by the rash though well-meant vow which he had taken,
For many a year (the term now almost o'er)
Unless he hurried to a sudden strife
In hope to rescue some endanger'd life.' P. 138.
Venusia invites him to visit her child at the breast. He accedes so far as to permit the infant to be brought to him by his own female servant. But the sight, instead of cheering him, deepens his depression by recalling to his memory the darlings he had lost.
At length the secret of the lovers' retreat is betrayed to Donado; who, disguising himself as a Turk, and armed with poison and a dagger, scales the wall of Manfredi's villa by moonlight, and conceals himself in the little shrine whither Lucilio with his wife and sister usually resorted to pour forth their early devotions. It happens that this morning, Lucilio being called away to visit the sick shepherd of the lawn,' his wife and Marcellina arrive first at the temple to perform their orisons. Venusia, having sung a hymn there, the purport of which is to implore the restoration of her father's lost affection,
She paus'd; while Marcellina sued for more,
Strike but his daughter! I shall die content."
Donado said, scarce able now to stand:
This, this, indeed is heaven's apparent hand;
Mark but a penitent at last sincere!
But see the power of heaven's o'er-ruling will!
She died by substitute;-a child of mine,
For my repented crimes, and long injustice past!" P. 140.
The scene which follows may be left to the reader's imagination. Manfredi fondly embraces his daughter that was lost and is found.' Venusia generously forgives the penitent Donado. Lucilio returns and ratifies his pardon with a sonnet and a hymn. Theodore and Marcella, the former of whom had sent Manfredi notice of the approach of a suspicious stranger, now join the party. The hospitable recluse, at last reconciled to society, invites all parties to his house; and the poem concludes with Venusia's variations on Lucilio's verse,' a hymn on the all-sufficient support of divine providence.
With respect to the order in which the incidents of the story are told, there is much judgment displayed. Supernatural interference is called in only where it is absolutely necessary; namely, to justify Venusia's abrupt departure from her reputed father's house in the company of her lover. The circumstance of representing the shade of Venusia's supposed mother carrying an infant in her arms, is admirably well thrown in. It awakens amazement and doubt, and yet suggests nothing by which the reader can anticipate the final discovery. The particulars also which had occasioned Manfredi's misery are, judiciously enough, not related in detail, till within a short time of the recognition of his real daughter.
It is observable, however, that the regret of Lucilio at the beginning of the poem for the loss of his wife and daughter, is so nearly akin to that of Manfredi, that it produces a sameness in the lyric lamentations of the two widowers; insomuch that many of the sonnets and hymns in Venusia's volume which are composed by Manfredi, might with equal propriety have been assigned to Lucilio in the first canto, and vice versa. But this is perhaps to be imputed to the author's domestic losses; which, as he informs us in the preface, dictated most of the shorter pieces inserted in both those places.
The same melancholy cause accounts for the multitude of Manfredi's effusions; which, though not devoid of pensive