Sunday, April 29, 2007

Catching up with Emerson in Florence

More from Emerson's Journals. It is 1833, he is 29 years old, on his travels in Italy.
And so I left, on the twenty-third of April [1833], the city built on seven hills, the Palatine, the Capitoline, Crelian, Aventine, Quirinal, Viminal, and Esquiline.

April 26.

Passignano. Here sit I this cold eve by the fire in the Locanda of this little town on the margin of the lake of Thrasimene, and remember Hannibal and Rome. Pleases me well the clear pleasant air which savors more of New England than of Italy. To-day we came from Spoleto to Perugia on the top of how high a hill with mighty walls and towers far within the gates of the town. Old cathedral, and all around architectural ornaments of the Middle Ages. But were I a proprietor in Perugia, I would sell all and go and live upon the plain. How prepos terous too it is to live in Trevi, where the streets must make with the horizon an angle of 45 degrees. Yet here in Umbria every height shows a wide prospect of well-cultivated coun try.

April 27.

Passed a peaceful night close by the dreadful field of Hannibal and Flaminius. This morning we crossed the Sanguinetto and left the pontifi cal state. We passed by Cortona, the venerable Etruscan town, then by Arezzo, the birthplace of Petrarch, and stopped at night at Levane.

Next morn (April 28) through the beautiful Val d'Arno we came to Figline, to Incisa, and in the afternoon to fair Florence.

April 29

And how do you like Florence? Why, well. It is pleasant to see how affectionately all the artists who have resided here a little while speak of getting home to Florence. And I found at once that we live here with much more comfort than in Rome or Naples. Good streets, industrious population, spacious, well-furnished lodgings, elegant and cheap caffies. The Cathedral and the Campanile, the splendid galleries and no beggars, make this city the favorite of strangers.

How like an archangel's tent is this great Cathedral of many-coloured marble set down in the midst of the city, and by its side its won drous Campanile! I took a hasty glance at the gates of the Baptistery which Angelo said ought to be the gates of Paradise, "digne chiudere il Paradiso" and then at his own David, and hasted to the Tribune and to the Pitti Palace. I saw the statue that enchants the world. And truly the Venus deserves to be visited from far. It is not adequately represented by the plaster casts, as the Apollo and the Laocoon are. I must go again and see this statue. Then I went round this cabinet and gallery and galleries till I was i well-nigh "dazzled and drunk with beauty." I think no man has an idea of the powers of painting until he has come hither. Why should painters study at Rome ? Here, here.

I have been this day to Santa Croce, which is to Florence what Westminster Abbey is to England. I passed with consideration the tomb of Nicholas Machiavelli, but stopped long be fore that of Galileus Galileo, for I love and honor that man, except in the recantation, with my whole heart. But when I came to Michael Angelo Buonaroti my flesh crept as I read the inscription. I had strange emotions. I suppose because Italy is so full of his fame. I have lately continually heard of his name and works and opinions ; I see his face in every shop window, and now I stood over his dust.

Then I came to the empty tomb of Dante, who lies buried at Ravenna. Then to that of Alfieri.

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