Book I. The Musician
Chi di diverso effeto hanno liquore!
"Ariosto, Orland. Fur." Canto 1.7.
(Two Founts That hold a draught of different effects.)
D' alta belta, ma sua belta non cura:
Di natura, d' amor, de' cieli amici
Le negligenze sue sono artifici.
"Gerusal. Lib.," canto ii. xiv.-xviii.
(She was a virgin of a glorious beauty, but regarded not her beauty...Negligence itself is
art in those favoured by Nature, by love, and by the heavens.)
At Naples, in the latter half of the last century, a worthy artist named Gaetano Pisani
lived and flourished. He was a musician of great genius, but not of popular reputation;
there was in all his compositions something capricious and fantastic which did not please
the taste of the Dilettanti of Naples. He was fond of unfamiliar subjects into which he
introduced airs and symphonies that excited a kind of terror in those who listened. The
names of his pieces will probably suggest their nature. I find, for instance, among his
MSS., these titles: "The Feast of the Harpies," "The Witches at Benevento," "The
Descent of Orpheus into Hades," "The Evil Eye," "The Eumenides," and many others that
evince a powerful imagination delighting in the fearful and supernatural, but often
relieved by an airy and delicate fancy with passages of exquisite grace and beauty. It is
true that in the selection of his subjects from ancient fable, Gaetano Pisani was much
more faithful than his contemporaries to the remote origin and the early genius of Italian
That descendant, however effeminate, of the ancient union between Song and Drama,
when, after long obscurity and dethronement, it regained a punier sceptre, though a
gaudier purple, by the banks of the Etrurian Arno, or amidst the lagunes of Venice, had
chosen all its primary inspirations from the unfamiliar and classic sources of heathen
legend; and Pisani's "Descent of Orpheus" was but a bolder, darker, and more scientific
repetition of the "Euridice" which Jacopi Peri set to music at the august nuptials of Henry