Italy : 28. An Interview

Pleasure, that comes unlooked-for, is thrice-welcome;
And, if it stir the heart, if aught be there,
That may hereafter in a thoughtful hour
Wake but a sigh, 'tis treasured up among
The things most precious; and the day it came
Is noted as a white day in our lives.
The sun was wheeling westward, and the cliffs
And nodding woods, that everlastingly
(Such the dominion of thy mighty voice,
Thy voice, Velino, uttered in the mist)
Hear thee and answer thee, were left at length
For others still as noon; and on we strayed
From wild to wilder, nothing hospitable
Seen up or down, or bush or green or dry,
That ancient symbol at the cottage-door,
Offering refreshment -- when Luigi cried,
'Well, of a thousand tracks we chose the best!'
And, turning round an oak, oracular once,
Now, lightning-struck, a cave, a thorough-fare
For all that came, each entrance a broad arch,
Whence many a deer, rustling his velvet coat,
Had issued, many a gipsy and her brood
Peered forth, then housed again -- the floor yet grey
With ashes, and the sides, where roughest, hung
Loosely with locks of hair -- I looked and saw
What, seen in such an hour by Sancho Panza,
Had given his honest countenance a breadth,
His cheeks a flush of pleasure and surprise
Unknown before, had chained him to the spot,
And thou, Sir Knight, hadst traversed the hill and dale,
Squire-less. Below and winding far away,
A narrow glade unfolded, such as Spring
Broiders with flowers, and, when the moon is high,
The hare delights to race in, scattering round
The silvery dews. Cedar and cypress threw
Singly their depth of shadow, chequering
The greensward, and, what grew in frequent tufts,
An underwood of myrtle, that by fits
Sent p a gale of fragrance. Through the midst,
Reflecting, as it ran, purple and gold,
A rain-bow's splendour (somewhere in the east
Rain-drops were falling fast) a rivulet
Sported as loth to go; and on the bank
Stood (in the eyes of one, if not of both,
Worth all the rest and more) a sumpter-mule
Well-laden, while two menials as in haste
Drew from his ample panniers, ranging round
Viands and fruits on many a shining salver,
And plunging in the cool translucent wave
Flasks of delicious wine.----Anon a horn
Blew, through the champain bidding to the feast,
Its jocund note to other ears addressed,
Not ours; and, slowly coming by a path,
That, ere it issued from an ilex-grove,
Was seen far inward, though along the glade
Distinguished only by a fresher verdure,
Peasants approached, one leading in a leash
Beagles yet panting, one with various game,
In rich confusion slung, before, behind,
Leveret and quail and pheasant. All announced
The chase as over; and ere long appeared,
Their horses full of fire, champing the curb,
For the white foam was dry upon the flank,
Two in close converse, each in each delighting,
Their plumage waving as instinct with life;
A Lady young and graceful, and a Youth,
Yet younger, bearing on a falconer's glove,
As in the golden, the romantic time,
His falcon hooded. Like some spirit of air,
Or fairy-vision, such as feigned of old,
The Lady, while her courser pawed the ground,
Alighted; and her beauty, as she trod
The enamelled bank, bruising nor herb nor flower,
That place illumined. Ah, who should she be,
And with her brother, as when last we met,
(When the first lark had sung ere half was said,
And as she stood, bidding adieu, her voice,
So sweet it was, recalled me like a spell)
Who but Angelica? ---- That day we gave
To pleasure, and, unconscious of their flight,
Another and another! hers a home
Dropt from the sky amid the wild and rude,
Loretto-like; where all was as a dream,
A dream spun out of some Arabian tale
Read or related in a roseate bower,
Some balmy eve. The rising moon we hailed,
Duly, devoutly, from a vestibule
Of many an arch, o'er-wrought and lavishly
With many a labyrinth of sylphs and flowers,
When Raphael and his school from Florence came,
Filling the land with splendour -- nor less oft
Watched her, declining, from a silent dell,
Not silent once, what time in rivalry
Tasso, Guarini, waved their wizard-wands,
Peopling the groves from Arcady, and lo,
Fair forms appeared, murmuring melodious verse,
-- Then, in their day, a sylvan theatre,
Mossy the seats, the stage a verduous floor,
The scenery rock and shrub-wood, Nature's own;
Nature the Architect.