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The Florentine Ceppo 21/12/2011

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c. 1910

At Florence, as elsewhere, [Christmas] is the season when presents are made by persons of means to their servants, tradesmen, and dependants of every kind. These ‘boxes’, as we call them, are known in Tuscanyas ceppi or ‘logs’, and the name shows that the Yule-log is a reality here, far deeper and more ancient than the show of seasonable holly and mistletoe laid out for the foreigner on the Lung’ Arno would lead one to suspect. These greens are a display unknown till recent years, but the Ceppo is an ancient local usage which deserves consideration. The name of the Ceppo is derived, almost without change, from the Latin cippus, the tree-trunk, and the log was great indeed which used to burn on every Tuscan hearth as each 24 December came round. Boccaccio, condescending for a moment from mythology to describe the habits of his own country and people, tells what was done at Christmas inFlorence: how the house-father laid the great log on the Lari, as the fire-dogs of the hearth were called in his day; how the family gathered about it, while their head called for wine, drank, and poured a libation from his cup on the glowing wood, after which the others drank in turn as the cup went round. Later authorities enable us to complete the scene, telling how the log was beaten to make the sparks fly up the chimney, and that the Florentines liked it large, so that when kindled it might burn long, even for days, without going out. Here then are all the signs which show the antiquity of a rite. The house itself, without further consecration than the presence there of the family, is the temple; the hearth the altar, and the father the priest. The Lari, or fire-dogs, are the Dii Lares of Roman household religion. The ceppo itself is a true and huge tree-trunk; it must be so if, as we shall presently see, it is to burn continuously for twelve days. One thinks of it as set on end, reaching high in the chimney and sinking gradually to the hearth day by day as it burns away from the root. Thus, behind Roman religion, we find what preceded it. The Ceppo is a yearly return to the original life of the woods, when the hunter’s fire smouldered from day to day in the root of the standing tree, and when that hearth, blown betimes to a leaping flame, gathered about it all the mystery and comfort that might belong to forest nights in winter: their encompassing fear and its sure, if narrow remedy. What we know of how this primitive religion developed in the definite worship of the Lares shows that the libation of wine at Ceppo, still used atFlorence in the fourteenth century if no later, represents an offering .to the spirits of darkness and of the underworld; perhaps to those of the dead.

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Beans and the Befana 08/12/2011

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As we have seen, it has been the Florentine habit to prepare for the moment of danger by a special diet. A full meal is eaten, and children especially are encouraged to partake plentifully of beans against the coming of the Befana. This food, as is well known, has certain physical consequences, and the verse the full-fed children sing shows that these are counted on for the success of the matter in hand. Only the children whose bodies are ‘like drums’ are those who may hope to escape.

Slade, ‘Since this must be my final’ 25/10/2011

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Vernon Arnold Slade’s seventh poetical epistle: Florence, 10 March 1908

Since this must be my final ere we meet

In London on Good Friday, you shall come

And gaze your last on Florence from the hill

Where ‘David’s’ bronze replica, dominant,

Stares out intrepid on his unseen foes

Past tower, tree, and villa unabashed.

There’s surely no man born could frown him down,

Or move his calm and kingly arrogance

From its fell purpose.

Florence lies below

Like scattered shingle on a desert strand

Where waves have flung their pearl and amber down,

So bright the houses gleam below the hills.

If it’s a sunny day and clear, you’ll view

Fiesole perched high and looped about

With spiral roads that make the way seem long

So often do you turn and turn about

Before you reach the tall lean tower that tolls

The hours for labour and the church’s call.

Then further to your right there’s Ripoli;

A snowy-terraced mountain lies beyond

That tells of air too chilly for the vines;

And to your left tall Mount Morello tilts

A bare grey shoulder into the blue sky.

It’s only half a minute you’ll stay so

Before a tout comes wheedling with his wares.

You fly him like the pest he is, and leap

The steps alternate on the steep stone way

That slants through trees precipitously down

To Porta San Miniato where they tax

All dutiable produce passing through.

Keep on due north and soon you’ll cross a Bridge

Over the river romping to its bourne;

On the green edge gay petticoats a-gleam

Where Arno serves as wash-tub for the wives.

From a high window in a neighbouring palace

A grey-garbed signorina lures your eye

With such a growth of bronze hair in thick braids

Not needing ribbon to maintain it so

In all its wiry vigour freshly coiled,

And such a poise of figure as she leans

Her bare arms on a faded balcony.

Above, a half-obliterated bust

Struck from the stone to mark some ancient triumph,

Looks down on the plebeian multitude

Crowned with vain laurel garlands that acclaim

To all the world its futile arrogance.

I haunt this bridge at nightfall for the sake

Of serenaders with their mandolines

Who, with their trilling, snare light coins that

Fall from blazing hotel windows opened wide,

Along the Arno all the lamps a-row

Shoot down long spears of light into the stream.

The plaintive music swells and ebbs and dies;

Lights twinkle; and the water tremulous

Reflects the thousand lamps like truant stars

Drawn earthward from their chilly altitudes

By the long-wailing music’s amorous tone.

From the far bank the vesper chimes float down

To flout these chants of pagan minstrelsy,

From belfries where the priest-like cypress trees

Keep their eternal vigil night and day.

Here is an echo of a plaintive song,

Song in high tenor there a week ago

English dims its native colouring.

Lovely and strong, now man at his labour

Yearns for his bride.

One that waits for him only I am forsaken.

Now is the vintage come and the vintners

Work in the sun,

Red blood swift in its ferment

Feeding their sinews.

Singing they move in line, and the trellis

Yieldeth its fruit.

Young boys swift to the wine-press

Bear it in baskets.

Laden twixt arm and hip, they are moving

Downward the slope,

One arm wide and the other

Crooked to the burden.

Yonder the brook runs swift, and the cresses

Shake to its song.

Girls spread over the willows

Newly-rinsed linen.

White as the snow it gleams or the lilies

White in the fields;

White swan’s down is not whiter

Cast on the river.

Lovely and strong now man at his labour

Yearns for his bride,

One that waits for him only

I am forsaken.

Wandering last night among the gloomy bow’rs

That crest Mount Oliveto, 1 was moved

By a most gaunt old cypress tree that seemed

The spirit of my darker self that leant

His cheek to mine and whispered ‘All is ill.

The earth is grown too old and topples downward

Into that sunless chaos whence she rose

Because the elder gods are all forgot’.

His cone was a black finger on the sky

Where thunder muttered; and the scared wind smote

The pliant boughs into a hymn of praise

In honour of gods forgotten utterly.

The rain fell downward, hissing in my ears;

Frayed birds fled homeward; and I shut my

Eyes enchaining so the phantom images

Raised by the thunder’s riot; and I heard

Hard breathing and the hurried beat of hooves

From men and beasts, as in an earlier day,

Battling anew for mastery of the world

The cypress sang another song of old.

When grief was sin and strength was bom of joy,

All trees that flourished were as ministers

To hearten and console; their boughs conspired

In benediction round the homes of men.

Well, that’s my fancy. Here the thing’s worked out

Into a chant slow sung reproachfully

By hidden dryads to complaining boors

In times when these lacked trains and telephones,

Three posts a day and pensions from the state,

And yet perchance were happier. Who shall say?

Are things uncouth?

There shall be loveliness if you be kind.

Fear draws a veil o’er beauty,

Death’s own shadow.

Fear not your kin;

For if all men be watchers who shall toil!

Chill hearts among the sowers

Chill earth’s bosom.

O, soft and brave

Are men who earn our favour, maiming naught.

Mindful are they and cherish

Newt and fledgling;

And when these pass,

Or a frayed squirrel scampers up the bole,

Clap not their hands nor gather

Mirth from terror.

Who snare or slay

Snare their own spirit, clip the wings of joy;

Nor shall the earth for slayers

Yield her plenty.

All things that live

Share of their loveliness with them that love.

Our breath shall shape their nostrils,

Fan their pulses.

Farewell till Friday week, I’m loth to leave

My lair among the house-tops with its view

Of Giotto’s bell-tower leaping to the sky

Most like a froz’n cascade, all iridescent,

My uncompleted canvas, and my hosts

So prompt and sedulous to all my needs.

But other things a-tugging at my heart

Make call peremptory – my village home.

Green fields, trim hedgerows and my mother tongue

From voices that I love among the Downs.

Hail Clouds in Chianti 19/10/2011

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1900-1920

How often, in summers spent near Siena, I have heard, as the hail clouds darkened over the Chianti, church after church take up the flying peal, ringing to break the cloud and avert the danger! The direct, unmistakable claim of the church-bells themselves, the fulgura frango so often fused with them as a bell-inscription, shows that in no secondary sense as a call to prayer, but in itself, the sound of the bell is relied on as a true defence. Nor is any ritual consecration by the Church thought necessary to secure this effect. In the days of danger, between Christmas and Epiphany at the opening of the year, I have met in a Tuscan country town masked dancers in white, ringing bells at nightfall in the principal street. And these were precisely horse-bells which the maskers had hung about their necks, strap and all, just as they came from the harness. It would seem, in fact, that what brightness and colour are trusted to do by day is secured by night when the bells are heard; the baroccio and its driver travel safely in the darkness under cover of that cheerful chime.

Folk Tales in the Maremma 12/10/2011

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c. 1910

A story told to the writer by a charcoal burner in the great chestnut forest, which covers the lower slopes of Monte Amiata on the border of the Tuscan Maremma, has no doubt a Pagan derivation. In this forest far from railways the Barocciaio or carrier is an important person and the hero of many adventures. A barocciaio, travelling by night, came to a spot where his mules would go no further; looking around he saw an old man, who mounted the baroccio (country cart) and immediately the mules went forward. Presently they came to a church, when the old man said: ‘Go in and ring the church bells.’ The barocciaio answered: ‘Buon’ vecchio, the church tower will be shut at this hour.’ The old man answered: ‘Do as I say.’ So the barocciaio got off the cart and went to the church, and to his surprise the door of the tower was open, but in the doorway stood a great lady in a beautiful mantle with a child in her arms. She asked: ‘What do you want to do?’ and the barocciaio said: ‘Ring the bells’; and she asked: ‘Who told you to ring them’; he answered: ‘The old man’; and she answered: ‘If you had obeyed him, it would have rained fire upon the earth for three days.’ So he went back to the old man, who asked why he had not rung the bells. He told him what the lady had said, whereupon the old man cried ‘Maria! Maria! You are the stronger’ and disappeared.

Slade, ‘I’ve been to the Certosa’ 27/09/2011

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Vernon Arnold Slade’s sixth poetical epistle: Florence, 28 February 1908

I’ve been to the Certosa. On a mount

The Abbey perches amid cypress trees

Slim-shaped as needles set the wrong end up

To spear the cloud-wrack that goes drifting by.

A white-robed friar with a shining pate

Close-shaven, for a fee will pilot you,

And speak in slow French in your ear’s unused

To bear the torrent of Italian.

They’ve Brunelleschi cloisters, panels wrought

By Andrea della Robbia in his prime;

And one pale slab shows Michael’s prentice hand

At work upon the mitre of a priest

In death’s last sleep recumbent All around

The mountains rise like billows; and, from thence,

Far belfries peer like sunken masts at sea

And toll the hour to shepherds. The warm air

Has more of languor than your Scotch hills know

Besieged by dark battalions of tall pines

Whose vanguard’s lost in cloud like battlesmoke

About their hidden summits. Here the vines

And olives fledge the hillsides in long files

To the remotest vistas of the south;

And northward past Galuzzo where the line

Curves into Gelsomino – such a sight!

On this same highway you may pass to Rome

By gaunt Siena and a hundred hills

Still bearing on their breasts the unhealing scars

Of that inhuman tempest in whose broils

Proud Florence battened on her weaker peers

It was a grey day when I went. The wind

Snatched up the clouds and would not let them pause

To comfort the dry vales; in sudden puffs

It smote the roadway dust into a steam

Like water on red embers loth to die.

About the Abbey’s base there ran a brook

In merry ripples that the sun made dance

Thro’ slits in the grey cloud. A gipsy camp

With three rude shanties set on aching wheels

Was pitched beside it; and about the fire

Two boys, a monkey, and a shaggy mule

Tied by his fetlock to a stump of wood

A picture ready for the hand of Claude.

From Christian World to Pagan’s but a span

In that long bridge that links eternal time.

I’ve been to the museum where a store

Of shattered remnants from Etruria

Crowd the low rooms; above Egyptian runes

Press close on antique vases, urns, and rings,

And Greek and Roman bronzes turned to green;

Helmets and armour from the loot of Kings

Once crowned in cities now depopulate;

Rams’ heads with hollow eyes, and mouths agape;

A war-steed’s head and neck all creased to show

The bridle’s sudden tension in the mouth.

The stress upon the haunches, and the snort

That spread his eager nostrils gaping wide;

Blurred hand-mirrors that brightly once gave back

The proud glance of some beauty in her prime;

Snapped spears, cracked bucklers, all things that attest

Dead valour, futile beauty, fill the mind

With dust of chariots and the shout of men

Defiant on the far dim verge of time.

Well, well, I fall to ranting. To be brief

For all these marvels – for the owls, storks, bulls,

And long-horned antelopes that haunted once

The reedy waters of old Father Nile,

I care but little – more remote to me

Than the Chimera whose long tail becomes

A serpent self-devouring at the tip.

Two things I treasured; one, a weeping girl

And one, a scornful peasant gazing back.

I chose, in fancy, to connect the two

And call the girl abandoned, whence there came

The three-versed poem that I here append.

Sung to a reed-pipe when the world was younger.

O! lover passing in the night

Beneath my window, hear my cry!

I cannot see the lantern’s light

For bitter tears fast flowing by

O! help me, help me ere I die.

By day thou reapest in the field

My dear brown god amid the grain;

And I by night to thee would yield

This virgin body without stain.

Ah me! Ah me! the bitter pain!

Come to me ere the harvest goes,

Ere all the hot sun’s golden shine

Suck dry the full heart of the rose,

Ere all my sweetness turn to brine.

Ah! lover dear for whom I pine!

I’m well and working hard, but I can give

No details of my painting, for, alas!

I find my rhymed lament has filled the quire.

Birds and Easter 22/09/2011

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c. 1910

In the Val d’Arno birds certainly play their part in the great spring festival. On Easter Monday at Signa little children of two and three years old ride into Church on the asses that bear the Easter offerings of oil to the Pievano. A small finch is put into the last child’s hand, and presently flies free to escape by the Church door. Its flight is closely watched, for it is believed to carry the fortune of the season and year to the person or the house on which it first alights. At Florence on Easter Saturday, the messenger that travels along the wire out of the Cathedral door to the car is still called the colombia. Once it must have been shaped as a dove. Earlier still, as at Rome in 1493, a living pigeon was probably used; and even yet, as at Signa, this flight is auspicious, and is watched to read the fortune of the year.

A Leisured Life 17/09/2011

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c. 1910 recalling the 1860s

Thanks to the Maquays, with whom I ‘banked’, in my small way, I was at once cheaply provided with a couple of rooms, at number 14 Lung’ Arno Accaiuoli, on the right bank of the river, well in view of the picturesque Ponte Vecchio, and whence I could also look up at San Miniato and Michelangelo’s Bella Villanella. Breakfasting in my little sitting-room, facing the morning sun, I lunched anywhere or nowhere, and dined at the Casino (or Club) dei Nobili in the Via Tornabuoni, to which I was admitted as a member. Some twelve or fourteen of us used to dine there every day, at a table d’hôte provided at five lire a head. One of the fourteen was Mr. Henry Labouchere, who, with myself, was the only other Englishman. The regular diners were Florentines. I soon discovered there was a good deal of gambling in the club; but in this I never shared, my taste for card-playing being slight, and my dislike of playing for money insurmountable.

To the professed idler – perhaps the French word flaneur is more expressive of the thing, since commoner inFrance than it was among Englishmen, in those days at least – such conditions as I have here described were singularly favourable. But life has always seemed to me far too serious for mere pleasurable diversion. For balls I cared but little, andFlorence was a very dancing place. But I went to a certain number of these entertainments, mainly because of those I met there, and whose youth and comeliness always delight the eye and feed the imagination.

I hired a riding-horse, but gave it up at the end of a month, finding the Cascine monotonous, and the suburbs ofFlorencesingularly unfavourable to horse exercise. The galleries and churches of the Fair City are in winter chilly and damp; but youth is heedless of discomfort it scarcely feels, and I spent much time within them.Vieusseux’s Library had, and still has, a European reputation, and in it I found an ample supply of books and English papers.

The Giostre and the Etruscans 14/09/2011

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c. 1910

The giostre, still played by the peasants in remote villages of the Apennines, carry on the traditions of the ‘hister’ who brought the dramatic art to Rome and who we are told recited to the sound of a pipe. The giostra players declaim in a sort of Gregorian chant in a plaintive minor key, accompanied by a pipe or little fiddle. The subjects of these giostre are sometimes Bible stories, Joseph and his brethren or the story of David, but there are also some mythical legends that I have not been able to identify. They differ from the regular miracle plays, in that I could not hear that they ever represented the gospel narrative. The words would have to be taken down on the spot, as they have neither books nor MSS., and when asked say they learnt them in the winter evenings, from the old men and women, who all knew them. The public performances of these giostre have been for the most part discontinued, but I was present at the resuscitation of one after fifty years neglect, in the Pistoiese Apennines, where it was played out of doors, at the village festas of the region. It was entirely due to the enterprise of one old peasant, who had acted in his youth and drilled the new generation. When I asked him about the written text of the plays, he said he had never seen them nor anyone else in those parts, but that they were kept at Volterra, This traditional connection of Volterra, the Etruscan capital of the district, with the giostre seemed to me strange and perhaps significant.

A Visit to Three Monasteries 07/09/2011

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c. 1910 recalling the 1860s

It was when the magical change from Winter to Spring had stolen over Tuscany that I paid my first visit, with two companions, to Vallombrosa, Camaldoli, and La Vernia, then all of them convents or, as we say, monasteries. Trollope was too busy completing his History of the Commonwealth of Florence to be of the party; nor was it till two years later that I repeated the visit, with him for guide. But he already knew every inch of the journey, and put us in the way of making it with convenience and pleasure. The railway took us but a very short distance out of Florence. Then our road lay through Compiobbi and Pelago, driving in a country fagherino from the first to the second, and entrusting ourselves to Antonio, popularly surnamed ‘da Pelago’, who had been apprised by Trollope of the intended arrival of his friends. Punctually awaiting us was the said Antonio, with likely-looking mules, bridled and saddled for the excursion.

The road to Vallombrosa, even then, though stony and devious, was fairly good according to Italian standards; and when, about Ave Maria, we approached the Convent, the Prior and his monastic companions standing in the gateway gave the impression of refined monastic life. The hospitable tones in which we were welcomed, our plain but carefully served supper, and our sleep suggesting beds in clean simple cells, confirmed that first impression.

Nothing on the following morning disturbed or modified it; and the climate, when we were taken to see some of the timber of biggest girth in the surrounding woods, felt little less genial than we had left inFlorence. The thoughts and feelings I then experienced made me for a while a silent companion, after we had bidden our kindly monastic hosts farewell, and prayed them to accept a slight return for their gentle hospitality.

Our progress to the Convent of Camaldoli throughout the afternoon and early evening was of a rougher and wilder sort. Road, in the ordinary signification of the word, there was none. But Antonio knew every turn and winding of the way, walking by or behind us, quite unwearied, but sometimes, where the path was steepest and stoniest, availing himself of a grasp of the tail of one or other of the mules. Camaldoli lay secluded amid wilder and more picturesque surroundings than Vallombrosa, the white garb of its serious occupants lending it, however, a refined aspect. But we could see that there was still a covering of snow at no great elevation above it; and the air had in it what Shakespeare calls an eager and a nipping feeling.

Surmising in us more Capuan sensitiveness than they themselves suffered from, or at least were allowed to humour, our hosts at once made a goodly fire in the guests’ room of huge well-dried boughs, four or five feet in length, that served for a sort of fender-hassock, and which we pushed in from where they converged on the hearth. by which in a short time we were thoroughly well roasted. Small mountain river trout, faggioli, or beans, and a dish of admirably cooked macheroni composed a really luxurious supper.

The Prior, who sat by us while we thus regaled ourselves, plied us with questions about the world without, and was most anxious to know how fared their good friend, Trollope. We were equally curious about Camaldolese life, and listened with especial interest to his description of the Sacro Eremo, higher still and deeper in the forest than the Convent itself, and whither periodically a certain number of monks in rotation betook themselves for a more penitential period. There the snow lies thick most of the year; and they had to sweep a path for themselves in the middle of the night in order to reach the chapel firom their cells. Hearing of these nocturnal austerities, we were not wishful to partake of them at the Sacro Eremo, but in the Convent Church at three in the morning, at which hour, we were assured, Matins were recited. The Prior urged that it would break in rudely on our slumbers. But we were importunate, and a promise was given that we should be roused at the hour named. Awaking the next morning at about seven, we were disappointed at not having been disturbed, but the Prior said he had taken compassion on our lay and mundane habits. Inwardly we suspected that this fatherly compassion had been extended to the whole community.

After an ample supply of black coffee and black bread, we mounted our mules to ascend to the Sacro Eremo. Deeper and deeper got the snow, but, despite the admonishing voice of Antonio, we pushed on, and suddenly found our mules imbedded to the saddle girths. Then, for the first time, Antonio lost his head, betaking himself to those semi-blasphemous invocations to all the saints and devils that come so promptly to Italian lips in moments of exasperation. At last, as though nothing else was of any avail, he bent down, struck the snow with the back of his hand, exclaiming, ‘Corpo di Giuda!’ (‘Body of Judas’).

Watching the characteristic performance from the safe and comfortable elevation of my saddle, I meditated on the persistency of Pagan tradition in Italy, and bethought me of the line in Virgil: Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo. (‘Since Heaven will not listen to my prayers, I will appeal to nether Hell’). I need scarcely say that, encouraged by words and copious offers of assistance, Antonio succeeded in wheeling the mules round, and setting their noses downhill, advance to the Eremo being perforce abandoned. For a time he remained absolutely silent as we descended to the Convent. But at last he heaved a deep sigh, and exclaimed, ‘Ahime! Ho perduto tutta la mia devozione’. My companions wondered what he meant. My Roman Catholic training came to their assistance, and I explained to them that probably he had comped at Easter with the obligation of getting ‘absolved’ from his sins at that period, and had been in a satisfactory spiritual state ever since, but that, having now indulged in such shocking language, he had ‘perduto tutta la sua devozione’; in other words, had now forfeited the state of grace he was in, and would have to try to get it back all over again.

Noonsaw us on our way to La Vernia, the famous Franciscan Convent, familiar to the readers of Dante’s Divina Commedia. Our progress was up a gradual pathless ascent; but I believe Antonio could have traversed it in the dark without missing his way. After several hours of delightful zigzagging at a foot’s pace, we at length came in sight of the Monastery, impressed on the eye for life for any who has so approached it. Even Franciscan Convents vary in uncomeliness, those in the valley succumbing to civilizing influences more than those on the heights. La Vernia was in the latter category; and the severest laws of the saintly preacher of poverty were, we soon perceived, in full operation. That was just what we wanted. The only approach to comfort was the cordiality of the reception we met with; but in one’s young days what is material comfort in comparison with new and striking experiences?

Pious ignorance, and what some people would call gross superstition, were the dominant notes in the conversation of these brown-frocked, bare-footed Frati. They allowed that they often in severe Winter weather were hard pressed for food, but they had never experienced what once befell some of their predecessors, tanti anni fa, ever so many years ago, when the Brothers were menaced with absolute extinction by famine. Dragging themselves and each other into the chapel of the Convent, they prayed that Heaven might take compassion on them. Suddenly they heard the great bell at the gateway ring, and thither the least weak of the community tottered. All around, the snow lay thick as ever; but lo! at the gate was a huge basket of bread and food of other kinds. Need I add that the traditional tale ended with the statement, evidently made in perfect good faith, that the Madonna had interceded for them, and Gesu Chisto had sent this relief.

‘Now,’ I said to my companions, ‘is our chance of hearing Matins at three in the morning.’ The request that we might be roused at that hour was accepted as the most natural thing in the world; and, sure enough, when I was lapped deep in slumber on the hardest of beds, I felt a cold hand on my shoulder, shuffled on my clothes, and was shown, by the light of a dim hand-lamp of the old Etruscan pattern, into the long corridor. I found my travelling companions coming halfawake out of their cells, and the Franciscan monks and lay-brothers moving slowly, two by two, and chanting or droning a psalm, towards the underground chapel of which they had told me. Only one large tall candle lighted the way, but I could both see and feel that we were descending. Passing into the chapel having all the dimensions of a church, the Brothers prostrated themselves for a time before the high altar, in silence; then rising, and forming themselves again into processional order, they moved towards the closed doors at the other end facing the sanctuary. Then came the sound of the opening and pushing back of heavy doors on stiff hinges, and we were in the full moonlight, with the undulating line of theApennines clear in the distance.

Turning sharply to the right, we were again under cover till we reached the real underground chapel. I thought I could see a large Luca della Robbia over the Altar, which was verified by the next day’s daylight, as the finest one in the world, an almost life-size representation of the Crucifixion. After the intoning of the Miserere, the monks formed afresh, and led the way back to the corridor, where each of them silently entered his own cell. We did the same, enchanted, in the literal sense of the word, by what we had seen and heard, but soon plunged again into the refreshing slumbers of youth.