Sunday, January 25, 2009

when this hand that writes is as cold as the hearts which have stung me

From the Journals of Lord Byron
January 26. 1821.

Fine day — a few mares' tails portending change, but the sky clear, upon the whole. Rode — fired pistols — good shooting. Coming back, met an old man. Charity — purchased a shilling's worth of salvation. If that was to be bought, I have given more to my fellow-creatures in this life — sometimes for vice, but, if not more often, at least more considerably, for virtue — than I now possess. I never in my life gave a mistress so much as I have sometimes given a poor man in honest distress; but no matter. The scoundrels who have all along persecuted me (with the help of * * who has crowned their efforts) will triumph; — and, when justice is done to me, it will be when this hand that writes is as cold as the hearts which have stung me.

Returning, on the bridge near the mill, met an old woman. I asked her age — she said 'Trecroci.' I asked my groom (though myself a decent Italian) what the devil her three crosses meant. He said, ninety years, and that she had five years more to boot!! I repeated the same three times, not to mistake — ninety-five years!!! — and she was yet rather active — heard my question, for she answered it — saw me, for she advanced towards me; and did not appear at all decrepit, though certainly touched with years. Told her to come to-morrow, and will examine her myself. I love phenomena. If she is ninety-five years old, she must recollect the Cardinal Alberoni, who was legate here.

On dismounting, found Lieutenant E. just arrived from Faenza. Invited him to dine with me to-morrow. Did not invite him for to-day, because there was a small turbot, (Friday, fast regularly and religiously,) which I wanted to eat all myself. Ate it.

"Went out — found T. as usual — music. The gentlemen, who make revolutions and are gone on a shooting, are not yet returned. They don't return till Sunday — that is to say, they have been out for five days, buffooning, while the interests of a whole country are at stake, and even they themselves compromised.

It is a difficult part to play amongst such a set of assassins and blockheads — but, when the scum is skimmed off, or has boiled over, good may come of it. If this country could but be freed, what would be too great for the accomplishment of that desire? for the extinction of that Sigh of Ages? Let us hope. They have hoped these thousand years. The very revolvement of the chances may bring it — it is upon the dice.

If the Neapolitans have but a single Massaniello amongst them, they will beat the bloody butchers of the crown and sabre. Holland, in worse circumstances, beat the Spains and Philips; America beat the English; Greece beat Xerxes; and France beat Europe, till she took a tyrant; South America beats her old vultures out of their nest; and, if these men are but firm in themselves, there is nothing to shake them from without.

Notes on the text:

mares' tails -
{Mmares' tails from}

with the help of * * - Unidentified.

on the bridge near the mill - Ravenna is nearly surrounded by the Rivers Ronco and Montone, so Byron was pretty likely to have crossed a bridge no matter which direction he took. See maps below. The bridge near the mill has not been identified.

Trecroci - Italian for three crosses. 'Probably, said Signor Sabastiani Fusconi (himself exiled with the Gambas in 1821) to Mr. Richard Edgcumbe, 'the old woman replied, Tre tre croci, i.e. ninety years. Byron gave her a pension during the rest of her life. - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

Friday, fast regularly and religiously - "Byron," says Medwin (The Angler in Wales, vol. i. p. 118), " who was a 'virtuous man' in Falstaff's sense of the word, had great "faith in abstinence, for on Friday he would not touch beccaficas." Beccaficas are birds, smaller than sparrows, but very fat, and they are generally eaten half raw. (Travels through France and Italy, by Tobias Smollett - Chapter 18). - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

Alberoni - The Cardinal is famous for erecting the Porto Alberoni in Ravenna.

{A portrait of Giulio Alberoni from}

{The Porta Alberoni from Delle mura e delle porte di Ravenna}

"Alberoni (1664-1752), the son of a gardener of Placentia, through the Duke of Parma and his niece, Elizabeth Farnese, Queen of Spain, rose to be the ruler of Spain from 1715 to 1719,under Philip V. Afier his downfall he returned to Italy, his native country, suffered, at the hands of Pope Innocent III., a sort of imprisonment which lasted four years, was restored to his rights as cardinal in 1723, and made legate to the Romagna (1734-39). As legate, in 1739, be endeavoured to unite the republic of San Marino to the Papal dominions, representing to Clement XII. that it was a second Geneva. The attempt failed, and in 1740 Alberoni was removed by Benedict XIV. from the Romagna to Bologna. The story is told in Lady Morgan's Italy (vol. iii. pp. 236, 237), where it was possibly read by Byron." - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

Lieutenant E. - Not identified.

Faenza - See map below.

found T. as usual - T. is his mistress Teresa of course.

gentlemen, who make revolutions - The Carbonari, whose lackadaisical attitude infuriated Byron.

Sigh of Ages - The perennial quest for Italian unification.

The very revolvement of the chances - Revolvement means the act of revolvling, or in this case, as the context indicates rolling, as in the roll of the dice.

the bloody butchers of the crown and sabre - Byron refers to the Austrian army of course.

Massaniello - Tommaso Aniello (1623-1647), a fisherman of Amalfi, headed a rising of the Neapolitans in 1647, and compelled the Spanish Viceroy, Arcos, to abolish unpopular taxes, and to proclaim an amnesty. But his cruelty alienated his followers, and, after being master of Naples for seven days, he was assassinated by order of the viceroy. - source: Works By George Gordon Byron Byron

{Old map of Ravenna and surrounding region as if viewed from the southeast. (It is oriented so that the top of the map faces northwest.) Source:}

{Detail showing Ravenna's two rivers, Ronco and Montone. They flow from northwest to southeast, passing the city on the north/northeast and west, respectively, and they join together as they thereafter flow to the Adriatic Sea.}

{This map shows the rivers a bit more clearly. Source:}

View Larger Map

Some sources:

Life of Lord Byron, With His Letters And Journals, Vol. 5

Lord Byron's Life in Italy

As well as the ones cited above.

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