Complete Memoirs of Casanova HTML version
My Stay in Vienna--Joseph II--My Departure for Venice
Arrived, for the first time, in the capital of Austria, at the age of eight-and-twenty, well
provided with clothes, but rather short of money--a circumstance which made it
necessary for me to curtail my expenses until the arrival of the proceeds of a letter of
exchange which I had drawn upon M. de Bragadin. The only letter of recommendation I
had was from the poet Migliavacca, of Dresden, addressed to the illustrious Abbe
Metastasio, whom I wished ardently to know. I delivered the letter the day after my
arrival, and in one hour of conversation I found him more learned than I should have
supposed from his works. Besides, Metastasio was so modest that at first I did not think
that modesty natural, but it was not long before I discovered that it was genuine, for when
he recited something of his own composition, he was the first to call the attention of his
hearers to the important parts or to the fine passages with as much simplicity as he would
remark the weak ones. I spoke to him of his tutor Gravina, and as we were on that subject
he recited to me five or six stanzas which he had written on his death, and which had not
been printed. Moved by the remembrance of his friend, and by the sad beauty of his own
poetry, his eyes were filled with tears, and when he had done reciting the stanzas he said,
in a tone of touching simplicity,'Ditemi il vero, si puo air meglio'?
I answered that he alone had the right to believe it impossible. I then asked him whether
he had to work a great deal to compose his beautiful poetry; he shewed me four or five
pages which he had covered with erasures and words crossed and scratched out only
because he had wished to bring fourteen lines to perfection, and he assured me that he
had never been able to compose more than that number in one day. He confirmed my
knowledge of a truth which I had found out before, namely, that the very lines which
most readers believe to have flowed easily from the poet's pen are generally those which
he has had the greatest difficulty in composing.
"Which of your operas," I enquired, "do you like best?"
"'Attilio Regolo; ma questo non vuol gia dire che sia il megliore'."
"All your works have been translated in Paris into French prose, but the publisher was
ruined, for it is not possible to read them, and it proves the elevation and the power of
"Several years ago, another foolish publisher ruined himself by a translation into French
prose of the splendid poetry of Ariosto. I laugh at those who maintain that poetry can be
translated into prose."
"I am of your opinion."