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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIV - MARKET-DAY IN PERUGIA
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The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIV - MARKET-DAY IN PERUGIA Post by :aarolove Category :Long Stories Author :Nathaniel Hawthorne Date :April 2011 Read :1048

Click below to download : The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIV - MARKET-DAY IN PERUGIA (Format : PDF)

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIV - MARKET-DAY IN PERUGIA

Perugia, on its lofty hilltop, was reached by the two travellers
before the sun had quite kissed away the early freshness of the
morning. Since midnight, there had been a heavy, rain, bringing
infinite refreshment to the scene of verdure and fertility amid which
this ancient civilization stands; insomuch that Kenyon loitered, when
they came to the gray city wall, and was loath to give up the prospect
of the sunny wilderness that lay below. It was as green as England,
and bright as Italy alone. There was all the wide valley, sweeping
down and spreading away on all sides from the weed grown ramparts, and
bounded afar by mountains, which lay asleep in the sun, with thin
mists and silvery clouds floating about their heads by way of morning

"It lacks still two hours of noon," said the sculptor to his friend,
as they stood under the arch of the gateway, waiting for their
passports to be examined; "will you come with me to see some admirable
frescos by Perugino? There is a hall in the Exchange, of no great
magnitude, but covered with what must have been--at the time it was
painted--such magnificence and beauty as the world had not elsewhere
to show."

"It depresses me to look at old frescos," responded the Count; "it is
a pain, yet not enough of a pain to answer as a penance."

"Will you look at some pictures by Fra Angelico in the Church of San
Domenico?" asked Kenyon; "they are full of religious sincerity, When
one studies them faithfully, it is like holding a conversation about
heavenly things with a tender and devout-minded man."

"You have shown me some of Fra Angelico's pictures, I remember,"
answered Donatello; "his angels look as if they had never taken a
flight out of heaven; and his saints seem to have been born saints,
and always to have lived so. Young maidens, and all innocent persons,
I doubt not, may find great delight and profit in looking at such holy
pictures. But they are not for me."

"Your criticism, I fancy, has great moral depth," replied Kenyon; "and
I see in it the reason why Hilda so highly appreciates Fra Angelico's
pictures. Well; we will let all such matters pass for to-day, and
stroll about this fine old city till noon."

They wandered to and fro, accordingly, and lost themselves among the
strange, precipitate passages, which, in Perugia, are called streets,
Some of them are like caverns, being arched all over, and plunging
down abruptly towards an unknown darkness; which, when you have
fathomed its depths, admits you to a daylight that you scarcely hoped
to behold again. Here they met shabby men, and the careworn wives and
mothers of the people, some of whom guided children in leading strings
through those dim and antique thoroughfares, where a hundred
generations had passed before the little feet of to-day began to tread
them. Thence they climbed upward again, and came to the level plateau,
on the summit of the hill, where are situated the grand piazza and
the principal public edifices.

It happened to be market day in Perugia. The great square, therefore,
presented a far more vivacious spectacle than would have been
witnessed in it at any other time of the week, though not so lively as
to overcome the gray solemnity of the architectural portion of the
scene. In the shadow of the cathedral and other old Gothic
structures--seeking shelter from the sunshine that fell across the
rest of the piazza--was a crowd of people, engaged as buyers or
sellers in the petty traffic of a country fair. Dealers had erected
booths and stalls on the pavement, and overspread them with scanty
awnings, beneath which they stood, vociferously crying their
merchandise; such as shoes, hats and caps, yarn stockings, cheap
jewelry and cutlery, books, chiefly little volumes of a religious
Character, and a few French novels; toys, tinware, old iron, cloth,
rosaries of beads, crucifixes, cakes, biscuits, sugar-plums, and
innumerable little odds and ends, which we see no object in
advertising. Baskets of grapes, figs, and pears stood on the ground.
Donkeys, bearing panniers stuffed out with kitchen vegetables, and
requiring an ample roadway, roughly shouldered aside the throng.

Crowded as the square was, a juggler found room to spread out a white
cloth upon the pavement, and cover it with cups, plates, balls, cards,
w the whole material of his magic, in short,--wherewith he proceeded
to work miracles under the noonday sun. An organ grinder at one point,
and a clarion and a flute at another, accomplished what their could
towards filling the wide space with tuneful noise, Their small uproar,
however, was nearly drowned by the multitudinous voices of the people,
bargaining, quarrelling, laughing, and babbling copiously at random;.
for the briskness of the mountain atmosphere, or some other cause,
made everybody so loquacious, that more words were wasted in Perugia
on this one market day, than the noisiest piazza of Rome would utter
in a month.

Through all this petty tumult, which kept beguiling one's eyes and
upper strata of thought, it was delightful to catch glimpses of the
grand old architecture that stood around the square. The life of the
flitting moment, existing in the antique shell of an age gone by, has
a fascination which we do not find in either the past or present,
taken by themselves. It might seem irreverent to make the gray
cathedral and the tall, time-worn palaces echo back the exuberant
vociferation of the market; but they did so, and caused the sound to
assume a kind of poetic rhythm, and themselves looked only the more
majestic for their condescension.

On one side, there was an immense edifice devoted to public purposes,
with an antique gallery, and a range of arched and stone-mullioned
windows, running along its front; and by way of entrance it had a
central Gothic arch, elaborately wreathed around with sculptured
semicircles, within which the spectator was aware of a stately and
impressive gloom. Though merely the municipal council-house and
exchange of a decayed country town, this structure was worthy to have
held in one portion of it the parliament hall of a nation, and in the
other, the state apartments of its ruler. On another side of the
square rose the mediaeval front of the cathedral, where the
imagination of a Gothic architect had long ago flowered out
indestructibly, in the first place, a grand design, and then covering
it with such abundant detail of ornament, that the magnitude of the
work seemed less a miracle than its minuteness. You would suppose
that he must have softened the stone into wax, until his most delicate
fancies were modelled in the pliant material, and then had hardened it
into stone again. The whole was a vast, black-letter page of the
richest and quaintest poetry. In fit keeping with all this old
magnificence was a great marble fountain, where again the Gothic
imagination showed its overflow and gratuity of device in the manifold
sculptures which it lavished as freely as the water did its shifting

Besides the two venerable structures which we have described, there
were lofty palaces, perhaps of as old a date, rising story above Story,
and adorned with balconies, whence, hundreds of years ago, the
princely occupants had been accustomed to gaze down at the sports,
business, and popular assemblages of the piazza. And, beyond all
question, they thus witnessed the erection of a bronze statue, which,
three centuries since, was placed on the pedestal that it still

"I never come to Perugia, said Kenyon, "without spending as much time
as I can spare in studying yonder statue of Pope Julius the Third.
Those sculptors of the Middle Age have fitter lessons for the
professors of my art than we can find in the Grecian masterpieces.
They belong to our Christian civilization; and, being earnest works,
they always express something which we do not get from the antique.
Will you look at it?"

"Willingly," replied the Count, "for I see, even so far off, that the
statue is bestowing a benediction, and there is a feeling in my heart
that I may be permitted to share it."

Remembering the similar idea which Miriam a short time before had
expressed, the sculptor smiled hopefully at the coincidence. They
made their way through the throng of the market place, and approached
close to the iron railing that protected the pedestal of the statue.

It was the figure of a pope, arrayed in his pontifical robes, and
crowned with the tiara. He sat in a bronze chair, elevated high above
the pavement, and seemed to take kindly yet authoritative cognizance
of the busy scene which was at that moment passing before his eye.
His right hand was raised and spread abroad, as if in the act of
shedding forth a benediction, which every man--so broad, so wise, and
so serenely affectionate was the bronze pope's regard--might hope to
feel quietly descending upon the need, or the distress, that he had
closest at his heart. The statue had life and observation in it, as
well as patriarchal majesty. An imaginative spectator could not but
be impressed with the idea that this benignly awful representative of
divine and human authority might rise from his brazen chair, should
any great public exigency demand his interposition, and encourage or
restrain the people by his gesture, or even by prophetic utterances
worthy of so grand a presence.

And in the long, calm intervals, amid the quiet lapse of ages, the
pontiff watched the daily turmoil around his seat, listening with
majestic patience to the market cries, and all the petty uproar that
awoke the echoes of the stately old piazza. He was the enduring
friend of these men, and of their forefathers and children, the
familiar face of generations.

"The pope's blessing, methinks, has fallen upon you," observed the
sculptor, looking at his friend.

In truth, Donatello's countenance indicated a healthier spirit than
while he was brooding in his melancholy tower. The change of scene,
the breaking up of custom, the fresh flow of incidents, the sense of
being homeless, and therefore free, had done something for our poor
Faun; these circumstances had at least promoted a reaction, which
might else have been slower in its progress. Then, no doubt, the
bright day, the gay spectacle of the market place, and the sympathetic
exhilaration of so many people's cheerfulness, had each their suitable
effect on a temper naturally prone to be glad. Perhaps, too, he was
magnetically conscious of a presence that formerly sufficed to make
him happy. Be the cause what it might, Donatello's eyes shone with a
serene and hopeful expression while looking upward at the bronze pope,
to whose widely diffused blessing, it may be, he attributed all this
good influence.

"Yes, my dear friend," said he, in reply to the sculptor's remark," I
feel the blessing upon my spirit."

"It is wonderful," said Kenyon, with a smile, "wonderful and
delightful to think how long a good man's beneficence may be potent,
even after his death. How great, then, must have been the efficacy of
this excellent pontiff's blessing while he was alive!"

"I have heard," remarked the Count, "that there was a brazen image set
up in the wilderness, the sight of which healed the Israelites of
their poisonous and rankling wounds. If it be the Blessed Virgin's
pleasure, why should not this holy image before us do me equal good?
A wound has long been rankling in my soul, and filling it with poison."

"I did wrong to smile," answered Kenyon. "It is not for me to limit
Providence in its operations on man's spirit."

While they stood talking, the clock in the neighboring cathedral told
the hour, with twelve reverberating strokes, which it flung down upon
the crowded market place, as if warning one and all to take advantage
of the bronze pontiff's benediction, or of Heaven's blessing, however
proffered, before the opportunity were lost.

"High noon," said the sculptor. "It is Miriam's hour!"

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When the last of the twelve strokes had fallen from the cathedralclock, Kenyon threw his eyes over the busy scene of the market place,expecting to discern Miriam somewhere in the 'crowd. He looked nexttowards the cathedral itself it was reasonable to imagine thatshe might have taken shelter, while awaiting her appointed time.Seeing no trace of her in either direction, his eyes came back fromtheir quest somewhat disappointed, and rested on a figure which wasleaning, like Donatello and himself, on the iron balustrade thatsurrounded the statue. Only a moment before, they two had been alone.It was the figure of

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIII - PICTURED WINDOWS The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIII - PICTURED WINDOWS

The Marble Faun - Volume II - Chapter XXXIII - PICTURED WINDOWS
After wide wanderings through the valley, the two travellers directedtheir course towards its boundary of hills. Here, the natural sceneryand men's modifications of it immediately took a different aspect fromthat of the fertile and smiling plain. Not unfrequently there was aconvent on the hillside; or, on some insulated promontory, a minedcastle, once the den of a robber chieftain, who was accustomed to dashdown from his commanding height upon the road that wound below. Forages back, the old fortress had been flinging down its crumblingramparts, stone by stone, towards the grimy village at its foot.Their road wound onward among