Evening in Tuscany        

 
You saw Lord Byron at Ravenna? Not

Riding at Classe in the pine woods? What

Mournful looks when out of view! To meet

You might have pleased him. Yet, they say, the sight

Of countrymen is painful to each other

In a foreign land. But did you gather

If he is writing still? Poor tragic man,

He seems to think that God intends to damn

Him when he dies, and so must live the part.

‘Princess,’ he said one day, ‘I have no heart.’

He meant to shock me, so, of course, I laughed.

But see, while I talk on, your cup is half

Empty. Ottavio, la cioccolata!

Yes, you must drink it all. It comes from Prato.

My sister, the Grand Duchess, sent it for

A peace offering. We had quarrelled. ‘Ma chère,’

I said, ‘you think just like Lord Byron. He

Too has fears of mercy.’ But, you see,

I know he is too short to go to Hell.

It made him angry when he heard me tell

Him so. Because he does not dare to hope.

But you are only sipping at that cup.

Yes, charming. From the Queen of Naples. But

I have not finished with Lord Byron. Not

Only is he handsome, he is lame;

And worse, he has the burden of a name.

That, as I know, can be a cross to bear.

Were I ‘Signora’, would you still be here?

And then - you will forgive me? - he is Scotch,

And so believes, or misbelieves, a hotch

Potch (Do you say?) of what is true and false.

You know, he wrote a piece against the waltz.

And why? A cripple cannot dance.

Ah, yes, it took me just one single glance

To see that he had suffered too. Well, then,

Does God not look into the hearts of men?

Much is forgiven those who have to live

Against the world, which is too cruel to give

Quarter to those, like him, brought up in pain.

Ottavio must fill your cup again.

But I insist. These nights are growing cold.

Myself? I am indifferent, being old.

No, it is true. You need not flatter. I

See things more clearly now, and that is why

I tried to help Lord Byron to the truth.

Perhaps I pitied him his weight of youth.

He went and studied with the monks, you know.

Of course, to learn the modern Greek. But so?

Might he not learn some other things, as well?

For instance, not to want to go to Hell?

I think I shock you too. These easy ways!

We see religion in a different guise

In Italy, as happy, not as hated,

For man, to us, is someone free, unfated,

Who chooses as he wills. And I believe,

As do we all who cross ourselves, in love.

Ah, so, Signor Macaulay. You must leave?