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From "The Italian Novelists" translated from the originals with Critical and Biographical Notices by Thomas Roscoe; Frederick Warne and Co.; London; [undated edition, c. 1900; first published, c. 1824]; pp. 505-515.


Scipione Bargagli.






NEXT in order of our novelists appears the name of the above writer, who ranks among the most distinguished of the sixteenth century for sound learning and eloquence. A few of his novels are esteemed exceedingly beautiful by native writer, though scarcely of a character to conciliate foreign regard, admitting only of a single specimen which could be found at once altogether unexceptionable and pleasing. Yet, solitary as it is, it will be found to possess higher claims to the notice of the English reader than some others of a more voluminous character, from the circumstance of its having given rise to more than one beautiful imitation, at the head of which may be mentioned a very powerful and touching poetical effusion form the pen of Barry Cornwall, while other portions would appear to have been held in view by the genius of the late lamented poet, Keats.

Bargagli was a native of Sienna, and from one of his dialogues, entitled “Il Turamino,” published at that city in 1602, he would appear to have assumed the rank of Cavaliero; but upon what grounds he has not stated. In this dialogue he betrays some instances of Siennese provincialisms, though it manifests at the same time his extensive learning and research into the lingua volgare, its origin, history, and successive modifications. In addition to this he wrote his novels and several fine orations, one of which was pronounced in praise of the Italian academies, and a curious little work upon mottoes and devices, which he dedicated to the Emperor Rodolph II. He had the honour of presenting one of these works to Ferdinand I., Grand Duke of Tuscany, in which is represented the queen bee surrounded by the swarm, with the motto Majestate tantum: an ideas so flattering to the Prince as to cause him to have it stamped as a reverse to his own head on some of his most valuable coin. Bargagli was one of the most eminent members of the Academy degl’ Intronati at Sienna, and flourished towards the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century.

In regard to the origin of his novels, he feigns their production during a period of war, when several fortresses in the Siennese territories, and in particular that of Montalcino, being strongly beleaguered by the troops of Don Garzia di Toledo in 1553, the city of Sienna itself was in danger of falling. Reduced to the extremity of famine, he describes the sufferings of the besieged and their heroic constancy in language which, for eloquence and truth of delineation, yields to that of none of 508 his contemporaries. With this appalling description he introduces his stories, dividing the work into three parts, containing six novels; all of which, if we are to give credit to the author’s advertisement prefixed to the third part, were composed during his early years; an assertion that, with writers of fiction, ought always to be received with some grains of allowance.


*  Author of the novels entitled, “Trattenimenti,” or Pastimes, printed by the Giunti, 1587, 8vo.



AMONG other families, gentle ladies, that in times gone by are known to have ornamented our native city, one of the most noble, perhaps, was the Saracini, a house which still preserves unsullied its ancient worth and splendour. In the long list of names that constituted its different branches we find mention of one Ippolito, the sole surviving heir of a distinguished cavalier. At the period we are about to refer to, he numbered no more than eighteen years, was extremely graceful and handsome in his person, of elevated mind and intellect, and much esteemed by his friends and fellow-citizens for the vivacity and courtesy of his manners. Now it fell out, as is most frequently the case with youths of a fine temperament, that he became deeply enamoured of one of the most beautiful and attractive girls in all the city, whose surpassing charms and accomplishments were celebrated wherever she had been seen. Her name was Gangenova, the youngest of three daughters left to the care of a widowed mother, the relict of Messer Reame Salimbeni, whose family ranked among the first in Sienna for numerous services rendered to the republic in periods of the greatest peril, though now, along with its arms and palaces, become altogether extinct, nothing of its past grandeur remaining but the name. The delight of all her relations, as well as of the society in which she moved, it was no wonder, then, that the fair Gangenova should so far have enthralled the soul of young Ippolito, that, by frequent contemplation of her beauties and accomplishments, he resolved to run all hazards in order to win her love. Nor had he, in the few opportunities permitted him of conversing with her, any reason for despair, since he rightly interpreted the tones and looks with which she occasionally addressed him. But in consequence of the very strict superintendence of her mother, which was exercised with greater severity over Gangenova than over her elder sisters, the interviews of the lovers were very rare; a system of intolerance so little in accordance with the open and ardent character of Ippolito, that, despising the very particular forms and ceremonies which it exacted, he was apt to grow impatient for the enjoyment of a more unconstrained society with the object he adored. With this view he made known his wishes to the young lady’s mother, leaving the terms of their future union, in the most liberal manner, wholly to her, and beseeching her only to grant him a little more of the society of her he loved. What was his surprise to receive a direct refusal, on the ground that it was the lady’s duty as a mother to attend first to the disposal of her two elder sisters! an answer that threw the young lover into a paroxysm of mingled rage and despair. The grief of Gangenova was little less than his own, 509 and her affection, gathering strength by opposition, was indulged with double freedom upon receiving the sanction of such an offer. Aware at the same time that her lover’s conduct in attempting to obtain an interview added only to the jealous caution of her mother, she was at a loss in what way to proceed, being so closely watched as scarcely to be allowed to breathe the air, much less to partake of the innocent sports and amusements to which young persons of her age are attached. It was impossible, however, to preserve so strict a watch as to deprive them of all kind of mutual intelligence, and Ippolito became acquainted with her unhappy situation. She even entreated of him, in pity to her, that he would discontinue his assiduous attentions, and either absent himself, or feign absence, during a short period from the city, as she grew fearful of the extremities to which her friends in their anger might proceed. At the same time, she besought him to consider this as a proof of regard, not of coldness or indifference, as she would ever endeavour to show herself grateful, and worthy of the high opinion that he had so kindly and nobly avowed for her. These tidings served at once to increase the passion that Ippolito already entertained, and the unhappiness he felt in being the unwilling cause of the least portion of suffering to her he loved, when he felt as if he could gladly have sacrificed his life to her happiness and repose. Still he exulted in the idea that she returned his affection, and he tried to flatter himself with the prospect of brighter days to come. And in order to convince her of the purity and disinterestedness of his attachment, he resolved, however difficult the task, to obey her wishes, and to leave for awhile his native place, giving out that he was gone upon a pilgrimage to the shrine of San Jacomo of Galicia. He was, moreover, desirous of thus proving the sincerity of the affection of her he loved, and of ascertaining whether her regard was likely to increase or diminish by distance; and with this view, having arranged his affairs and bid adieu to all his friends, as if on the eve of a long voyage, he assumed his pilgrim’s dress, and, to the surprise and grief of all his acquaintance, left the city. When the unhappy maiden heard of his departure, she shed many tears, regretting that she had ever proposed so harsh and trying an alternative, and upbraided herself as the sole cause of every sinister event that might chance to follow, never having imagined it possible that he would venture upon so painful and hazardous a journey. And in this she reasoned well, for when Ippolito had pursued his way until about sunset, he abandoned the great road, and, striking into one of the thickest woods near at hand, he there deposited his pilgrim’s mantle, cowl and staff, then retracing his steps in another dress, he entered, about the hour when the gates were closed, without observation into Sienna. Proceeding direct to the abode of an old nurse, the only person whom he admitted into his secret counsel, he there provided himself with everything requisite for his purpose.

Now, near the Church of San Lorenzo was a little country-seat, with a small orchard attached, belonging to Ippolito, both of which he had presented to his aged nurse, who, on her side, had always felt the same affection for him as for an only child. Next to this little tenement lay a spacious and beautiful garden, the property of the mother 510 of the fair Gangenova, Ippolito’s beloved mistress; and here with her daughter she was often accustomed to take the air and enjoy the fragrance of the new-blown flowers. “Surely,” thought the gentle and enamoured boy, “here at lest we shall hardly be suspected; nobody will believe me bold enough to seek her under her mother’s very wing; let us only find an opportunity of conversing with each other, and I cannot fail to discover some means of bringing our difficulties to a happy termination.” And solely for this object did he keep himself concealed, like a bird that shuns the eye of day, within the bounds of his little cottage ground, never venturing forth except late in the evening, when, scaling a lofty wall, he descended into the garden of his beloved Gangenova, and approached close under her chamber windows. Up the side of these there chanced to flourish a lofty and lovely mulberry tree, one of whose spacious branches overshadowed the apartment in which she lay, and where her mother kept her, as being the youngest of her charges, constant company by night. Under its shade likewise Ippolito was wont to take his evening station, eager to avail himself of any opportunity of beholding or discovering himself to the object of his attachment, In this way he was soon convinced that the sole chance he had of profiting by his situation was about the hour of sunrise, when he observed the fair girl appear on the balcony overlooking the garden, on which were placed a number of beautiful plants, interspersed with lilies and violets, from which she would cull some of the sweetest to deck her lovely breast and hair. There, too, he observed her amuse herself with a pretty linnet which had nested itself in the noble tree, and which, won by her sweet encouragement, would hop into the window and nestle in her bosom; and it was then his delight to watch her thousand gentle looks and motions, and to imagine how delicious it would be to appropriate to himself the whole of those kisses and caresses. Often had he been on the point of accosting her, however great the risk, when her mother, her sisters, or some one in attendance, suddenly appearing, would dash all his hopes, and compel him to be doubly cautious, lest a discovery should be the cause of fresh restraints over his beloved. He next resolved to avail himself of the assistance of his kind old nurse, who, under a variety of pretences, obtained admission into the mother’s house, of which she took advantage to gain the ear of the young lady, and inform her of all that her lover had done for her sake; of his passionate attachment and devotion, so well worthy a return, and his extreme desire of beholding her once more. Finding her equally delighted and surprised with what she had already heard, the nurse ventured to reveal to Gangenova the place of her Ippolito’s concealment: and the pleasure she experienced on finding that he was so near became almost too much for her to support. “Has he not, indeed, deserted me then? is he not really journeying far away, over seas, and in a foreign land, on my account? Oh, dear nurse! tell him that his image is engraven on my soul; that I am too blest, too happy, and never more will give him reason to complain!” Upon hearing these words, the good old dame, thinking that she had happily succeeded in her mission, returned as fast as she could, in order not to forget the least portion of the message, which she well knew would carry such joy to the soul of the young lover.


Ippolito preserved the utmost caution in his proceedings, and it was not long before Fortune seemed to favour his wishes; for keeping watch one evening very assiduously, he saw the arrival of a messenger bearing tidings that the wife of one of the old lady’s brothers was taken suddenly ill, and entreated to see the mother of Gangenova without a moment’s delay. She was thus compelled to set out and leave her precious charge for one night, at least, to her own discretion; and Ippolito believed that he had at length an opportunity of convincing himself of the reality of his beloved girl’s affection for him, by inducing her to embrace the long-wished occasion, and to secure their happiness by flying together and uniting their fate in one. Fired with the hope, he hastened to his usual station underneath the mulberry tree that overspread her chamber windows, and in order better to attract her attention, he shook some of its boughs, imagining that her beloved bird is nestling there would fly to her, and by its little cries and flutterings lead her to appear on the balcony. Not succeeding, however, in this, he hastily ascended the tree, when soon the affrighted bird, flying with timid cries into some neighbouring shrubs, uttered such loud and sorrowful tones as to startle the gentle girl out of her slumber, who, fearing some sad accident had befallen it, hastily ran to the window. With a simple veil thrown over her neck and bosom, and her fine bright tresses carelessly yet gracefully arranged, she appeared in the eyes of her enchanted lover rather like a vision than a creature of mortal beauty, while a mingled look of anxiety and tenderness was impressed upon her countenance. Solicitous for the fate of her little companion, she cast her eyes eagerly on all sides, when, instead of her pretty linnet, the accents of Ippolito, eager to dissipate her alarm, met her ears. The next moment she beheld him nearly at her side, and he succeeded almost in reaching her chamber window, while he attempted to prevent her crying out by addressing her in the lowest and sweetest tone: “Fear not, my gentle Gangenova; it is your Ippolito who speaks; fear not, either for yourself or your little favourite, for soon he will resume his blithesome notes, secure and happy as before. But mine, alas! how different a fate, though far more fond, a thousand times more passionately devoted to you, serving you so long and faithfully! Had you the heart, then, my sweetest, to think I was now taking my woful pilgrimage far from thee, through remote and strange parts, perhaps gone upon my everlasting journey? Oh, no, no! I knew you had not, and I have been near you day and night ever since the period when I left my friends to go upon my feigned pilgrimage. For, alas! when I cannot turn my thoughts from you for a moment, how could I wilfully bend my steps another way? how could I find a moment’s repose till I had laid my wearied limbs and my burdened heart as near you as I could possibly venture without quite breaking upon your hallowed rest? Hath not our poor nurse told you all I have done and suffered for your sake; my lonely days and sorrowing yet delicious nights, passed amidst the scenes you have loved, among the very trees, and fruits, and flowers, where you have wandered; nay, in these lofty and verdant branches that so richly and beauteously overshadow the sanctuary of my love? Often have I 512 seen you at the glimpse of dawn gathering flowers or caressing your bird, yet venturing not to intrude, afraid of calling down still further anger from your jealous guardians upon your innocent head. But my fond and unceasing vows have wearied Heaven at last: your mother is gone, and the hour arrived that is to repay us for a world of anxiety and dread, the fear of losing thee, and all that promised to make life sweet to me. Yet our time is precious, and I came to gather from thine own lips that thou dost indeed honour me with thy love; that thou wilt deign to receive my plighted vow and loyalty unto death. And this I would entreat in the name of all my anguish, all my fears for thee, by the horror of a rival’s arms, and by thine own surpassing beauties, that amidst all our city’s charms have alone succeeded in riveting my enchanted sight. Yet I know how all unworthy I am; how much better and longer thou deservest to be sought ere won. Still thou knowest my whole life and bearing, though thou canst not form an idea of the sighs and tears I have poured for thee. Pity me, then; and with pity let love and reason, let all the heavenly gifts you possess, plead in my favour, and induce you to receive me as your favoured and honoured lord.” Here he ceased, waiting with eager and trembling looks for a reply: while the beautiful Gangenova, overpowered on her side by a thousand wild and sweet emotions, was almost unable to articulate a word, Having descended into the balcony, on her sudden alarm, to recover her favourite bird, she had attempted on first hearing Ippolito’s voice to fly; yet surprise and terror chained her to the spot; for having read the fabled metamorphoses of plants into mortals, and human beings into plants, on hearing a voice from the mulberry tree, her blood began to run cold, and her attempt to call out died away ere it passed her lips. Yet there was something in the tone that convinced her she need not fear, and gradually recovering her confidence, her heart seemed actually to swim in a tide of rapture before her noble lover had concluded his passionate appeal. “Dear Ippolito,” she at length replied, “it grieves me that we are so situated that it would be dangerous to tell all I have thought and felt since last we met, and parted, much less the delight I have at finding you safe and near me once more. But, alas! this is no place for you; speed away, I beseech you, and think me neither hasty nor unkind, as indeed I esteem all your love and goodness to me as tenderly as I ought. But I fear for you, my kind Ippolito, and I entreat you to bid me one adieu, and let me see you safely depart.” At this moment, hearing a noise in the antechamber, and fearful lest her sisters should approach, Gangenova hastily drew back, while Ippolito, imagining that it proceeded from her room, and hearing a rustling noise continue for some time, was seized with sudden suspicions of some rival being harboured there, either by her sisters or the fair Gangenova herself. Maddened by this idea, he no longer remained master of himself, and in his attempt to reach her window from the tree so as to obtain a view of what was passing, such was the hurry of his spirits, that, missing his footing, he fell to the ground.

Startled at the terrific sound, the fair girl rushed forward, bending as far as possible over the balcony, and calling on the name 513 of Ippolito in a subdued and gentle tone; but no longer did the sound reach his enraptured ear where he lay deprived of sense upon the cold earth. Suspense and terror seized upon the heart of the tender girl when she received no answer; love urged her to afford him her immediate assistance, while fear of discovery restrained her steps. Unable, however, longer to control her fears of his safety, she hastily descended into the garden by a back staircase rarely made use of, having remained from ancient times as a retreat in seasons of trouble, and having its outlet at the extreme part of the garden. And there, alas! she found him stretched under the mulberry tree, lying cold and pallid, apparently deprived not only of sense but of life itself.

Almost as insensible as he, she threw herself at his side, Upon recovering her consciousness, showers of tears expressed the intensity of her sufferings; her cries would have moved rocks and beasts of prey to pity, such were the piteous tones in which these words were uttered: “Sweet Heavens! what dreadful thing hath happened? What malignant star hath struck with death one of the best and noblest hearts that ever beat? Oh, where is the soul that but now shone in thy face? Wretch that I am, shall I never behold it more? Art thou fled, for ever fled, sweet guardian of my honour, my love, and peace? But what will betide them now when every tongue will be busy with my fame? Whither shall I turn for help, reduced to such sad extremities as I now am?” And while abandoned to her woe, the hapless girl thus poured her lamentations to the night, she never ceased her endeavours to restore the object of them by every means in her power, rubbing his heart and temples, joining his hands and lips to her own, and trying to breathe her soul into his. Finding that he yet gave no signs of life, she sweetly folded him in her arms and bathed his inanimate features with her tears. Ippolito’s soul, just on the point of taking wing, seemed to welcome so much bliss; and suddenly recovering his suspended powers, he heard the sweet words she uttered, and found himself alive in her arms. It was then he felt himself amply repaid for all the trials he had undergone, the sweetness and ecstasy of the reward far surpassing all he had been able to conceive, in breathing his vows thus closely into her ear. The moment before, she was about to transfix her breast with her lover’s sword in a paroxysm of despair; the next she found herself pressed to his breathing bosom, receiving, as it were, the gift of two lives restored to her at once. For some time they both remained doubtful whether to believe that all was real, and gazed upon each other as if in a dream, until the fresh spirit of their joy being somewhat abated, they sat down by each other, side by side, with that serene and ineffable pleasure which the imagined certainty of their bliss inspired. But it was destined, alas! to be of short duration; a voice was heard calling upon the name of Gangenova, gradually approaching nearer and nearer, so that they were compelled to part almost without bidding each other adieu. The poor girl hastened, trembling, by the same path that she had left the house: she fancied in the disorder of her spirits that she suddenly heard the terrific howlings of wild bests, accompanied by the most dismal screams and cries; and such was the impression they made upon her 514 imagination, just after having taken leave of Ippolito, as to deprive her of the power of motion. It was long before she recovered even strength enough to regain her apartment, and with panting breast and dishevelled hair she threw herself upon the couch, still unable to banish the terrific ideas that haunted her imagination.

In the meanwhile, the sisters of Gangenova, being likewise freed from the superintendence of their mother, had been innocently enjoying themselves in their chamber, frequently calling the fair girl by her name to come and join in their diversion. Paying little heed to her silence, they continued for some time to amuse themselves with their games, until one of them, by way of adding a little novelty to the scene, crept forward in the dark intending to surprise her in her own room. Still receiving no reply, she ran for a light, and on returning found her sister stretched upon the bed, resembling rather a lifeless statue than a breathing human form. Calling her second sister in great alarm, they made eager inquiries into the cause of her agitation, feeling assured that something extraordinary must have happened. The poor girl was equally unwilling and unable to reply, and her sisters, in some anxiety, despatched a messenger for their mother, who lost no time in returning to resume her maternal charge. With a little more authority, she insisted upon knowing the cause of her alarm, and upbraided her sisters severely for not keeping a more vigilant watch. Gangenova declared herself quite unable to account for the manner in which she had been affected, and the others professed equal ignorance as to the cause of her indisposition. In this dilemma her mother had recourse to the advice of the most expert physicians the city had to boast, which brought no alleviation, however, to her daughter’s alarming symptoms, not one of them being able to discover that her illness was owing to some sudden surprise, while she, far more jealous of her fair fame than of her life, concealed from every one the real cause of her sufferings. Growing rapidly worse, she became extremely anxious to behold once more her beloved Ippolito, and recollecting the old nurse, she instantly sent for her, entreating that she would as soon as possible acquaint him with her situation, and find some means by which they might at least meet to take an eternal farewell. Upon receiving these sad tidings, Ippolito grew deadly pale and trembled, though at the same moment he hastened to comply with her wishes. He assumed the dress of a poor traveller, with a false beard, so as to render it almost impossible to recognise him, and set out to beg alms at several houses adjacent to that of his beloved, As he approached the latter, the lady of the mansion herself made her appearance, half wild and distracted at the situation of her loveliest daughter. Informed of the occasion of her grief, the wily pilgrim, availing himself of the circumstance, bade her not despair, as the power of the Lord was infinite, and His goodness equal to His power. Moreover, with His aid, he had himself become skilled in all the virtues of almost all the plants under the sun, and had devoted his knowledge of herbs and juices to the relief of his unhappy fellow-creatures, besides possessing secrets adapted to every species of disease. The poor credulous old lady raised her hands to heaven in gratitude upon hearing such 515 consolatory words, vowed that he had been peculiarly sent by Providence, and insisted that he should be instantly introduced to her unhappy girl. The moment Ippolito beheld her, he perceived that the tidings he had received were indeed too true. So much was he shocked, that he could with difficulty support his character; more particularly when he saw, from the brightening features of his beloved, that she instantly recognised him. Taking, then, the hand of the suffering girl within his own, as if to feel how fast her life-blood ebbed, he begged her attendants to stand apart while he proceeded to try his secret prayers and charms in his own way. Ippolito was thus enabled to learn the real source of her illness from her own lips. Beholding him with a mixture of tenderness and pity that added momentary lustre to her dying charms, she attempted, in those low soft tones he so much loved, to infuse balm into his wounded spirit. Painfully sensible of the extent of his loss, Ippolito from very grief was unable to utter a word, much less to ask the needful questions of his beloved. Wildly pressing his hand, she besought him never to forget the tender love he had borne her, and which she had seldom been happy enough to tell him how warmly and deeply she returned. “For joyful, oh! very joyful, my Ippolito,” she continued, “would my departure have been to me before now, had not solicitude for your fate detained me. As it is, I die content, nay, grateful, for two unexpected benefits: the one to have seen you thus, to hear you , and feel your hand in mind; and the other, to know that I lived and that I died beloved by my most noble and faithful-hearted Ippolito!” It was now that the latter attempted to console and encourage her, declaring it would be his only pride to fulfil her wishes in the minutest point; but here his voice failing him through his fast-coming tears and sobs, he laid his aching head down by the side of his beloved’s, and there remaining for a short time as he breathed forth a soul-distracting adieu, he raised it again painfully, passed his hand over his eyes, and looking his last look, left the apartment. He then joined her weeping mother, and so far from holding out any hope, he said that pity for the sad and dying state in which he had found the poor patient had drawn scalding tears from his eyes, And he had not long been gone before the gentle spirit of his love, as if unable to continue longer without him, prepared to take wing, and in a few hours actually fled, as if to prepare in some happier scene a mansion of rest for their divided loves. For the wretched Ippolito, though able to bear up long enough to behold her beloved relics consigned to earth, had no sooner witnessed all the virtues and charms he had so fondly esteemed and loved for ever entombed in the vault of the Salimbeni, than, just as the ceremony was about to close, he fell dead at the foot of her marble monument. So strange and sudden an event threw the surrounding company, by whom it was regarded as little less than a miracle, into the utmost surprise and confusion, all of them believing that Ippolito Saracini was then on his way to the shrine of St. Giacomo of Galicia. His unhappy parents, hearing of this his untimely end, hastened to join their tears with those of the mother of the beauteous Gangenova, by whose side the faithful Ippolito was laid.


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