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hours with that instrument. The Sicilian (lettered) poet Giovanni Meli has written some admirable arii, many of which have become popular songs.
We must not omit to say a word about a class of Sicilian songs which affords curious illustration of the universality of certain branches of folk-lore-we mean the nursery rhymes. One instance of this will serve for all. In Sicily the nurses play a sort of game on the babies' features, which consists in lightly touching nose, mouth, eyes, &c., giving a caressing slap to the chin, and repeating at the same time
Occhi di stiddi,
E te' ecà 'na timpulata!
Now this rhyme has not only its counterpart in the local dialect of every Italian province, but also in most European languages. In France they have it :
We find a similar doggerel in Germany, and in England, as most people know, there are at least two versions, one being—
Of more intrinsic interest than this ubiquitous old nurse's nonsense are the Sicilian cradle songs, in some of which there may also be traced a family likeness with the corresponding songs of other nations. As soon as the little Sicilian gets up in the morning he is made to say—
While I lay in my bed five saints stood by;
Three at the head, two at the foot-in the midst was Jesus Christ.
This brings to mind the beautiful English quatrain—
Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head,
One to bear my soul away.
But we have here a deeper vein of sentiment. The Greek-speaking peasants of Terra d'Otranto have a song somewhat after the same plan :
I lay me down to sleep in my little bed; I lay me down to sleep with my Mamma Mary the Mamma Mary goes hence and leaves me Christ to keep me company.
Very tender is the four-line Sicilian hushaby, in which the proud mother says
How beautiful my son is in his swaddling clothes; just think what he will be when he is big! Sleep, my babe, for the angel passes: he takes from thee heaviness, and he leaves thee slumber.
There is in Vigo's collection a lullaby so exquisite in its blended echoes from the cradle and the grave that it makes one wish for two great masters in the pathos of childish things, such as Blake and Schumann, to translate and set it to music. It is called "The Widow."
Sweet, my child, in slumber lie,
Thou for kisses dost not cry,
We are lonely, thou and I,
And with grief and fear I faint.
Why dost weep? No father nigh.
Sleep, my child, and lullaby.
Very scant information is to be had regarding the Sicilian folk-poets of the past; with one exception their names and personalities have almost wholly slipped out of the memory of the people, and that exception is full three parts a myth. If you ask a Sicilian popolano who was the chief and master of all rustic poets, he will promptly answer, "Pietro Fullone;" and he will tell you a string of stories about the poetic quarry-workman, dissolute in youth, dévot in old age, whose fame was as great as his fortune was small, and who addressed a troop of admiring strangers who had travelled to Palermo to visit him, and were surprised to find him in rags, in the following dignified strain :
Beneath these pilgrim weeds so coarse and worn
A heart may still be found of priceless worth.
The rose is ever coupled to the thorn.
The spotless lily springs from blackest earth.
Amidst the rugged rocks, uncouth and swarth.
Then wonder not though till the end I wear
Nought but this pilgrim raiment poor and bare.
Unfortunately nothing is more sure than that the real Pietro Fullone, who lived in the 17th century, and published some volumes of poetry,
mostly religious, had as little to do with this legendary Fullone as can well be imagined. It is credible that he may have begun life as a quarry workman and ignorant poet, as tradition reports; but it is neither credible that a tithe of the canzuni attributed to him are by the same author as the writer of the printed and distinctly lettered poems which bear his name, nor that the bulk of the anecdotes which profess to relate to him have any other foundation than that of popular fiction. But though we hear but little, and cannot trust the little we hear, of the folk-poet of times gone by, for us to become intimately acquainted with him, we have only to go to his representative, who lives and poetizes at the present moment. In this or that Sicilian hamlet there is a man known by the name of "the Poet," or perhaps "the Goldfinch." He is completely illiterate and belongs to the poorest class; he is a blacksmith, a fisherman, or a tiller of the soil. If he has the gift of improvisation, his fellow-villagers have the satisfaction of hearing him applauded by the Great Public-the dwellers in all the surrounding hamlets assembled at the fair on St. John's Eve. Or it may be he is of a meditative turn of mind, and makes his poetry leisurely as he lies full length under the lemon-trees taking his noontide rest. Should you pass by, it is unlikely he will give himself the trouble of lifting his eyes. He could not say the alphabet to save his life; but the beautiful earth and skies and sea which he has looked on every day since he was born have taught him some things not learnt in school. The little poem he has made in his head is indeed a humble sort of poetry, but it is not unworthy of the praise it gets from the neighbours who come dropping into his cottage door, uninvited, but sure of a friendly welcome next Sunday after mass; their errand being to find out if the rumour is true that "the Goldfinch" has invented a fresh canzuna?
Such is the peasant poet of to-day; such he was five hundred or a thousand years ago. He presents a not unlovely picture of a stage in civilisation which is not ours. To-morrow it will not be his either; he will learn to read and write; he will taste the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as it grows in our great centres of intellectual activity; he will begin to "look before and after." Still, he will do all this in his own way, not in our way, and so much of his childhood having clung to him in youth, it follows that his youth will not wholly depart from him in manhood. Through all the wonderfully mixed vicissitudes of his country the Sicilian has preserved an unique continuity of spiritual life; Christianity itself brought him to the brink of no moral cataclysm like that which engulfed the Norseman when he forsook Odin and Thor for the White Christ. It may therefore be anticipated that the new epoch he is entering upon will modify, not change his character. That he has remained outside of it so long, is due rather to the conditions under which he has lived than to the man; for the Sicilian grasps new ideas with an almost alarming rapidity when once he gets hold of them; of all quick Italians he is the quickest of apprehension. This
very intelligence of his, called into action by the lawlessness of his rulers and by ages of political tyranny and social oppression, has enabled him to accomplish that systemization of crime which at one time bred the Society of the Blessed Pauls, and now is manifested in the Mafia. It behoves the Sicilians of a near future to stamp out this plague spot on the face of their beautiful island, and thus allow it to garner the full harvest of prosperity lying in its mineral wealth and in the incomparable fertility of its soil. That it is only too probable that the people will lose their lyre in proportion as they learn their letters is a poor reason for us to bid them stand still while the world moves on; human progress is rarely achieved without some sacrifices-the one sacrifice we may not make, whatever be the apparent gain, is that of truth and the pursuit of it.
The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne.
LORENZO DE' MEDICI'S CARNIVAL SONG.
FAIR is youth and void of sorrow;
This is Bacchus and the bright
They, in flying time's despite,
Each with each find pleasure new;
These, their Nymphs, and all their crew
Youths and maids, enjoy to-day;
These blithe Satyrs, wanton-eyed,
Of the Nymphs are paramours:
They have snared them mid the flowers;
Now they dance and leap alway.-
These fair Nymphs, they are not loth