Girolamo Detto Il Fiorentino Desponds and Abuses the World

“ Mi dici che sono famoso e che tutti mi lodono. Ah! caro amico mio, qual valore ha ciò che si chiama successo in questo mondo ? L'alto frutto che stentiamo tanto a cogliere, che ci lusinga tanto colla sua bella apparent spesso in bocca sembra insipido, immature, od aspro. E poi, la Fama viene troppo tarde ! Son vecehio e non mi fido più a belle parole. Grata sarebbe stata la lode del mondo quando era giovane, m'avrebbe consulate, rinforzato, spronato ad alte imprese, come lo squillo della tromba che eccita al conflitto, che promette vittoria. Ma ora le illusioni, le speranze sono fuggite ed il reverbero della Fama non mi pare che un rumore vano ed insulso. I cari son morti e non possono udirlo ; e per me poco me ne curo. Quel che ho fatto, ho fatto e lo conto per poco. Tutte le lusinghc del mondo non cambierebbero il mio giudizio. L'albero ha porta to il suo frutto, e buono o cattivo rimaue quello che è.”— Lettera inedita di Girolamo.

SUCCESS, ah yes, success, you say I’ve gained !
The world applauds, and yet I only sigh.
Its loud applause but feeds my vanity;
The jewel that I sought is not attained.
Something there was which once the future had —
A foolish hope, an idle dream, a light
That shone before me ever day and night —
That now is gone, and leaves me poor and sad.
’T was not to win the fickle world’s applause :
That followed after as effect, not cause;
And between that and this you call success
How vast a void! Something I dreamed to do,
The joy of which should light my being through
With a serene interior happiness.
So strove I with the toil of brain and
Saying, “Into the inner sphere of art
When I have pierced and made me master there,
The toil all over, I shall stand and bear
Sound fruit, sweet blossoms, like a healthy tree
That hath the winds of heaven for play-mates free,
A rest and refuge for the head of care.”
What now is come instead ? This glorious star
Turns out to be a common, vulgar lamp —
A false marsh-meteor dancing o'er the damp,
Low stretch of blasted life ; this godlike Lar
A brazen cheat; this fair Hesperian fruit
A Dead Sea apple ; and the siren’s lute
Strung to such discord it were better mute. Once by the shore I mused and saw afar
A dream-like bark, that o’er the morning sea,
Through veiled and violet distances of air,
With roseate sails went gliding silently;
Freighted with bliss, to some ideal land
Its happy peaceful way it seemed to wend.
And there I longed — oh, how I longed to be!
Now on its filthy deck at last I stand :
Oh, dismal disenchantment, bitter end!
Soiled are its sails, the sea is rough and high,
Foul are the odors, coarse the company;
And sick at stomach and at heart I lie,
And curse my fate and wish that I could
The world has cured me of my self-conceit;
Its cold rebuffs have brushed away like dust
My youth’s presumptuous faith and proud self-trust.
What do I care if they were all a cheat,
Those bright illusions of my early years?
While I believed that I was strong, I was;
Self-conscious, now, I look around and pause,
Hindered in all I do by doubts and fears.
Success! Yes, while you stinted me in praise
My pride upheld me; to myself I said,
“ Some time they ’ll praise me, after I am dead.
The work is good, although the world delays ;
I for the prize can wait.” But now you blow
The trumpet in my honor, I bend low,
And from my eyes my work’s best charm has fled.
Once I compared it with the world’s neglect,
And proudly said, " ’T is better than they see.”
Now I behold it tainted with defect
In the broad light of what it ought to be.
Fame seemed, when out of reach, how sweet and grand!
How worthless, now I grasp it in my hand !
The glory was the struggle, the affray;
Victory is only loss; at last I stand
Mourning amid dead hopes at close of day.
Give me the old enthusiasms back,
Give me the ardent longings that I lack, —
The glorious dreams that fooled me in my youth,
The sweet mirage that lured me on its
track, —
And take away the bitter, barren truth.
Ah, yes ! Success, I fear, has come too late !
Once it bad swelled my heart and filled my sails;
Now I am reefed, it only cries and wails
In my rent cordage like a blast of fate.
The lift is gone, the spring is strained and weak;
I scorn the praise yon idle praisers speak.
What matters now the lauding of your lips,
What matters now the laurel wreath you
For these bald brows, for these gray hairs?
It slips
Over my eyes and helps to hide my tears.
I am too old for joys — almost for fears.
Ye critics, pardon, that I dared to do
Not as you wished, but only as I chose.
You might have done far better, it is true,
And perfumed my camellia like a rose.
Oh, had you wrought my crippled works
They had been giants which are now but
elves !
Do we not feel as well our works’ defect
As you who circling round them hum and
Mosquito critics with a poisonous sting;
Or ye whose higher purpose ’t is to teach,
Who kindly patronize, suggest, direct,
And make our labors texts on which to
And show your own superior intellect?
Do we not know our work is mean and
poor ?
’T is only when the fire is in the brain,
And all alone we strive — the outward door
Of life closed up — and listen as to one
Speaking within us with a spirit’s tone,
That what we do seems not entirely vain.
Waking from that half-trance of inner
The voices gone, the real world returned,
We feel the thing that we have done is
nought —
A blackened brand with all the flame out-
A goblet cracked which all its wine hath
A cage in which the singing bird is dead.
This was my hope and trust, when I am
Dead, turned to dust, senseless to blame or
That somewhat out of all that I had sown
Of thought and feeling on the world’s high-
ways Might not be held as base and noxious weeds
For Time with hand unsparing to destroy,
But, falling on some kindly soil, the seeds
Might grow and bloom into a moment’s joy,
Or ripen into fruit of noble deeds.
This lent me life, and strung my throbbing strings
To music once. What joy ’t would be to feel
My song into some maiden’s heart might steal
And live amid her pure imaginings, —
That she should keep it in her memory
As handmaid to her love, and breathe it
And pour into it all the overflow
Of her young heart and say it with a sigh ;
Or that some student in despairing hour
Should from a word of mine renew his power,
Some toiling heart be strengthened in its aim,
Some faltering purpose trample down its
Some eye, long used to poring on the ground, Look up and feel the sky and beauty round,
Some sorrowing mourner get a glimpse of youth,
Some world-cased spirit feel the sting of truth.
Is this so now ? You say it is, and yet
It does not stir me now ; the fountain’s jet
But dribbles on the worn-out pipes, where
Its shattered showers of diamonds towering
Autumn has come ; the grass is dry and sere;
No spring-time flowers now grace the dying
The fruits are nearly culled; the harsh winds
The lingering leaves. I only linger here,
And the time comes for me to say goodnight.
Yes, I am sad — sad and dispirited,
And those I loved and labored for are dead.
The heart is hardened, once so sensitive,
Fame the world gives, but youth it cannot give;
Nor can it give me back the smiles of those
Whose praise had been the best reward on earth.
Success but makes me feel the dreadful dearth.
The gap of death that naught can ever close.
Midst all the voices one — the dearest one —
I miss to greet me now my work is done.
The hand that would so gladly on my brow
Have placed the laurel that you bring too late,
And kissed the lips below, — where is it now?
What do I care that now you call me great ;
Is this the triumph, this the happiness ?
Cry to the dead ones, “ He hath won success.”
Say, will their voices answerback to bless?
Yet courage ! this is hut an idle mood ;
To-morrow I shall feel within my blood
A new pulse beating, a new impulse start.
’T is but a cloud to-day comes o’er my heart,
A sickening sense of weakness, where desire
Hath only left the ashes of its fire.
Art still remains, and wheresoe’er I be
It draws me with a sweet necessity.
Though in a moment’s rage I storm and
And with a rude hand cast its altars down,
Or, disappointed and depressed with care,
Heed not the perfume of the incense there,
A better mood will come, when I again
Shall seek its temple, worship in its train,
Put on my coronal, and be its priest,
Glad to perform the duty that is least.
For what were life without its joys and
Its tumults, and its clash of smiles and tears ?
What could I do, forbade to enter in
Its happy courts, but sit without and weep?
No ! the old use will never let me sleep,
And, poor as all my service yet hath been,
While life continues in this breast to beat,
A space to struggle and a prize to win
Will still remain. Oh, not alone a name,
Though human praise to human ears is sweet,
Allures me. Something higher far I claim,
To shape out something that I shall not
To lay upon art’s shrine as offering meet;
Something in which the strength of age
shall be,
And youth’s high hope he made reality.
So ! still the same; these years have nothing taught;
Still the enthusiast! Even while I spoke
Elastic springs the hope I thought was broke.
I am a child still. Oh, thank Heaven ! not all,
Despite the world’s rebuffs and what you call
Success, not all is lost and turned to naught! Thank Heaven! there’s tinder yet which can be caught
When the chance sparks of feeling on it fall.
I have not stood a beggar on the ways
And held my hand out for the critic’s praise;
I have not flattered, fawned, nor coined my heart,
Degraded the high purposes of art,
Pandered to vulgar aims and groveling thought;
And if success has come, it comes unbought.
Art shall not drag her skirts along the mud
While I can help her; shall not beg and cringe,
Claim films for pity’s sake, her heaven-born
Ceasing with noble pride her cheeks to tinge.
I have not cast her alms, but on my knees
Been thankful for the crust she threw to me,
Me, her poor worshiper, most glad to be
Her humblest slave; glad if by slow degrees
I win one smile at last my life to bless,
And this alone for me would be success.
W. W. Story.