From: At Home and Abroad, or Things and Thoughts in Europe (1856)
Author: Margaret Fuller Ossoli
Published: and Company 1856 Boston
MY DEAR RICHARD,—With my window open, looking out upon St. Peter’s, and the glorious Italian sun pouring in, I was just thinking of you; I was just thinking how I wished you were here, that we might walk forth and talk together under the influence of these magnificent objects. I was thinking of the proclamation of the Constitutional Assembly here, a measure carried by courageous youth in the face of age, sustained by the prejudices of many years, the ignorance of the people, and all the wealth of the country; yet courageous youth faces not only these, but the most threatening aspect of foreign powers, and dares a future of blood and exile to achieve privileges which are our American common birthright, I thought of the great interests which may in our country be sustained without obstacle by every able man,—interests of humanity, interests of God.
I thought of the new prospects of wealth opened to our countrymen by the acquisition of New Mexico and California,—the vast prospects of our country every way, so that it is itself a vast blessing to be born an American; and I thought how impossible it is that one like you, of so strong and generous a nature, should, if he can but patiently persevere, be defrauded of a rich, manifold, powerful life.
This has been a most beautiful day, and I have taken a long walk out of town. How much I should like sometimes to walk with you again! I went to the church of St. Lorenzo, one of the most ancient in Rome, rich in early mosaics, also with spoils from the temples, marbles, ancient sarcophagi with fine bassirilievi, and magnificent columns. There is a little of everything, but the medley is harmonized by the action of time, and the sensation induced is that of repose. It has the public cemetery, and there lie the bones of many poor; the rich and noble lie in lead coffins in the church vaults of Rome, but St. Lorenzo loved the poor. Even his tormentors insisted on knowing where lie had hid his riches,—“There,” he said, pointing to the crowd of wretches who hovered near his bed, compelled to see the tyrants of the earth hew down the tree that had nourished and sheltered them.
Amid the crowd of inexpressive epitaphs, one touched me, erected by a son to his father. “He was,” says the son, “an angel of prosperity, seeking our good in distant countries with unremitting toil and pain. We owe him all. For his death it is my only consolation that in life I never left his side.”
Returning, I passed the Pretorian Camp, the Campus Salisetus, where vestals that had broken their vows were buried alive in the city whose founder was born from a similar event. Such are the usual, the frightful inconsistencies of mankind.
From my windows I see the Barberini palace; in its chambers arc the pictures of the Cenci, and the Galatea, so beautifully described by Goethe; in the gardens are the remains of the tomb of Servius Tullius.
Yesterday as I went forth I saw the house where Keats lived in Rome, and where he died; I saw the Casino of Raphael. Returning, I passed the villa where Goethe lived when in Rome: afterward, the houses of Claude and Poussin.
Ah what human companionship here! how everything speaks! I live myself in the apartment ascribed in Andersen’s “Improvvisatore,” which get you, and read a scene of the childhood of Antonio. I have the room, I suppose, indicated as being occupied by the Danish sculptor.
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