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THE

ATLANTIC MONTHLY.

A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art,

and Politics.

VOL. XXVI. — JULY, 1870. — NO. CLIII.

THE ALARM-BELL OF ATRI.

Wadsweet nie
A
T Atri in Abruzzo, a small town

Of ancient Roman date, but scant renown,-
One of those little places that have run
Half up the hill, beneath a blazing sun,
And then sat down to rest, as if to say,
“I climb no farther upward, come what may" ;
The Re Giovanni, now unknown to fame,
So many monarchs since have borne the name,
Had a great bell hung in the market-place
Beneath a roof, projecting some small space,
By way of shelter from the sun and rain.
Then rode he through the streets with all his train,
And, with the blast of trumpets loud and long,
Made proclamation, that whenever wrong
Was done to any man, he should but ring
The great bell in the square, and he, the king,
Would cause the Syndic to decide thereon.
Such was the proclamation of King John.

How happily the days in Atri sped,
What wrongs were righted, need not here be said.
Suffice it that, as all things must decay,
The hempen rope at length was worn away,
Unravelled at the end, and, strand by strand,
Loosened and wasted in the ringer's hand,
Till one, who noted this in passing by,
Mended the rope with braids of briony,
So that the leaves and tendrils of the vine
Hung like a votive garland at a shrine.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by Fields, Osgood, & Co., in the Clerk's Office

of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts VOL. XXVI. —NO. 153.

I

By chance it happened that in Atri dwelt
A knight, with spur on heel and sword in belt,
Who loved to hunt the wild boar in the woods,
Who loved his falcons with their crimson hoods,
Who loved his hounds and horses, and all sports
And prodigalities of camps and courts ;
Loved, or had loved them; for at last, grown old,
His only passion was the love of gold.

He sold his horses, sold his hawks and hounds,
Rented his vineyards and his garden-grounds,
Kept but one steed, his favorite steed of all,
To starve and shiver in a naked stall,
And, day by day, sat brooding in his chair,
Devising plans how best to hoard and spare.

At length he said: “What is the use or need
To keep at my own cost this lazy steed,
Eating his head off in my stables here,
When rents are low and provender is dear ?
Let him go feed upon the public ways;
I want him only for the holidays.”
So the old steed was turned into the heat
Of the long, lonely, silent, shadowless street ;
And wandered in suburban lanes forlorn,
Barked at by dogs, and torn by brier and thorn.

One afternoon, as in that sultry clime
It is the custom in the summer-time,
With bolted doors, and window-shutters closed,
The inhabitants of Atri slept or dozed ;
When suddenly upon their senses fell
The loud alarum of the accusing bell !
The Syndic started from his sweet repose,
Turned on his couch, and listened, and then rose
And donned his robes, and with reluctant pace,
Went panting forth into the market-place,
Where the great bell upon its cross-beam swung,
Reiterating with persistent tongue,
In half-articulate jargon, the old song:
“Some one hath done a wrong, hath done a wrong !”

But ere he reached the belfry's light arcade,
He saw, or thought he saw, beneath its shade,
No shape of human form, of woman born,
But a poor steed dejected and forlorn,
Who with uplifted head and eager eye
Was tugging at the vines of briony.
“Domeneddio!” cried the Syndic straight,
“This is the Knight of Atri's steed of state !
He calls for justice, being sore distressed,
And pleads his cause as loudly as the best."

Meanwhile from street and lane a noisy crowd
Had rolled together, like a summer cloud,
And told the story of the wretched beast
In five-and-twenty different ways at least,
With much gesticulation and appeal
To heathen gods, in their excessive zeal.
The Knight was called and questioned ; in reply
Did not confess the fact, did not deny;
Treated the matter as a pleasant jest,
And set at naught the Syndic and the rest,
Maintaining, in an angry undertone,
That he should do what pleased him with his own.

And thereupon the Syndic gravely read
The proclamation of the King; then said :
“Pride goeth forth on horseback grand and gay,
But cometh back on foot, and begs its way;
Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds,
Of Aowers of chivalry and not of weeds !
These are familiar proverbs; but I fear
They never yet have reached your knightly ear.
What fair renown, what honor, what repute
Can come to you from starving this poor brute ?
He who serves well and speaks not merits more
Than they who clamor loudest at the door.
Therefore the law decrees, that as this steed
Served you in youth, henceforth you shall take heed
To comfort his old age, and to provide
Shelter in stall, and 'food and field beside."

The Knight withdrew abashed; the people all
Led home the steed in triumph to his stall.
The King heard and approved, and laughed in glee,
And cried aloud : “Right well it pleaseth me!
Church-bells at best but ring us to the door ;
But go not in to mass; my bell doth more:
It cometh into court and pleads the cause
Of creatures dumb and unknown to the laws;
And this shall make, in every Christian clime,
The Bell of Atri famous for all time."

Henry W. Longfellow.

A SHADOW. .

I

SHALL always remember one win- history, their fate, are all unknown.

ter evening, a little before Christ- But these two will always stand for me mas-time, when I took a long, solitary as disembodied types of humanity, the walk in the outskirts of the town. The Mother and the Child, they seem nearer cold sunset had left a trail of orange to me than my immediate neighbors, light along the horizon, the dry snow yet they are as ideal and impersonal as tinkled beneath my feet, and the early the goddesses of Greece or as Plato's stars had a keen, clear lustre that archetypal man. matched well with the sharp sound and I know not the parentage of that the frosty sensation. For some time child, whether black or white, native or I had walked toward the gleam of a foreign, rich or poor. It makes no difdistant window, and as I approached, ference. The presence of a baby equalthe light showed more and more clearly izes all social conditions. On the floor through the white curtains of a little of some Southern hut, scarcely so comcottage by the road.

I stopped, on fortable as a dog-kennel, I have seen reaching it, to enjoy the suggestion of a dusky woman look down upon her domestic cheerfulness in contrast with infant with such an expression of dethe dark outside. I could not see the light as painter never drew. No social inmates, nor they me; but something culture can make a mother's face more of human sympathy came from that than a mother's, as no wealth can make steadfast ray.

a nursery more than a place where chilAs I looked, a film of shade kept dren dwell. Lavish thousands of dolappearing and disappearing with rhyth- lars on your baby-clothes, and after all mic regularity in a corner of the win the child is prettiest when every gardow, as if some one might perhaps be ment is laid aside. That becoming sitting in a low rocking-chair beside nakedness, at least, may adorn the it. Presently the motion ceased, and chubby darling of the poorest home. suddenly across the curtain came the I know not what triumph or despair shadow of a woman. She raised in her may have come and gone through that arms the shadow of a baby, and kissed wayside house since then, what jubilant it; then both disappeared, and I walked guests may have entered, what lifeless

form passed out. What anguish or What are Raphael's Madonnas but what sin may have come between that the shadow of a mother's love, fixed in woman and that child ; through what permanent outline forever? Here the worlds they now wander, and whether group actually moved upon the canvas. separate or in each other's arms, - this The curtains which hid it revealed it. is all unknown. Fancy can picture The ecstasy of human love passed in other joys to which the first happiness brief, intangible panorama before me. was but the prelude, and, on the other It was something seen, yet unseen; hand, how easy to imagine some speairy, yet solid; a type, yet a reality; cial heritage of human woe and call it fugitive, yet destined to last in my theirs ! memory while I live. It said more to

“I thought of times when Pain might be thy guest, me than would any Madonna of Ra- Lord of thy house and hospitality : phael's, for his mother never kisses And Grief, uneasy lover, might not rest her child. I believe I have never

Save when he sat within the touch of thee." passed over that road since then, never Nay, the foretaste of that changed seen the house, never heard the names fortune may have been present, even in of its occupants. Their character, their the kiss. Who knows what absorbing

on.

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