Antonina HTML version
youth. Here, indulgent in spite of himself, he fixed his little household, and
permitted to his daughter her sole recreations of tending the flowers in the garden
and luxuriating in the loveliness of the distant view.
The night has advanced an hour since the occurrence mentioned in the preceding
chapter. The clear and brilliant moonlight of Italy now pervades every district of
the glorious city, and bathes in its pure effulgence the groves and palaces on the
Pincian Mount. From the garden of Numerian the irregular buildings of the great
suburbs of Rome, the rich undulating country beyond, and the long ranges of
mountains in the distance, are now all visible in the soft and luxurious light. Near
the spot which commands this view, not a living creature is to be seen on a first
examination; but on a more industrious and patient observation, you are
subsequently able to detect at one of the windows of Numerian's house, half
hidden by a curtain, the figure of a young girl.
Soon this solitary form approaches nearer to the eye. The moonbeams, that have
hitherto shone only upon the window, now illuminate other objects. First they
display a small, white arm; then a light, simple robe; then a fair, graceful neck;
and finally a bright, youthful, innocent face, directed steadfastly towards the wide
moon-brightened prospect of the distant mountains.
For some time the girl remains in contemplation at her window. Then she leaves
her post, and almost immediately reappears at a door leading into the garden. Her
figure, as she advances towards the lawn before her, is light and small--a natural
grace and propriety appear in her movements-- she holds pressed to her bosom
and half concealed by her robe, a gilt lute. When she reaches a turf bank
commanding the same view as the window, she arranges her instrument upon her
knees, and with something of restraint in her manner gently touches the chords.
Then, as if alarmed at the sound she has produced, she glances anxiously around
her, apparently fearful of being overheard. Her large, dark, lustrous eyes have in
them an expression of apprehension; her delicate lips are half parted; a sudden
flush rises in her soft, olive complexion as she examines every corner of the
garden. Having completed her survey without discovering any cause for the
suspicions she seems to entertain, she again employs herself over her instrument.
Once more she strikes the chords, and now with a bolder hand. The notes she
produces resolve themselves into a wild, plaintive, irregular melody, alternately
rising and sinking, as if swayed by the fickle influence of a summer wind. These
sounds are soon harmoniously augmented by the young minstrel's voice, which is
calm, still, and mellow, and adapts itself with exquisite ingenuity to every
arbitrary variation in the tone of the accompaniment. The song that she has chosen
is one of the fanciful odes of the day. Its chief merit to her lies in its alliance to the
strange Eastern air which she heard at her first interview with the senator who
presented her with the lute. Paraphrased in English, the words of the composition
would run thus:--
THE ORIGIN OF MUSIC
I. Spirit, whose dominion reigns Over Music's thrilling strains, Whence may be
thy distant birth? Say what tempted thee to earth?