ST. ONOFRIO AND TASSO

With a mind richly stored, notwithstanding his youthful age, with classic lore, and quickened and made sensitive by a varied and sorrowful career, Torquato Tasso came to Rome. The first occasion of seeing the imperial city must have been exciting and awakening in a high degree to such a boy. He was leaving behind the passive simplicity of the child, and had already a keen interest in the things ennobled by history and cared for by grown-up men. This dawn of a higher consciousness found a congenial sphere in the city of the soul. With what absorbing eagerness his young mind would be drawn to the study of the immortal deeds, which were the inheritance of his race, on the very spot where they were done. He would behold with his eyes the glorious things of which he had heard. There would be much that would shock and disappoint him when he came to be familiar with it. Many of the ancient monuments had been destroyed; and many of the ancient sites, especially the Forum and the Palatine, were deserted wastes which had not yet yielded up their buried treasures of art to the pick and spade of the antiquarian. The ravages inflicted by the ferocious hordes of the Constable Bourbon in 1527 had not yet been obliterated by the restorations and repairs undertaken by Pope Paul III. The city had lost much of its ancient glory, and had not yet exchanged its gloomy medieval aspect for that of modern civilisation. But, in spite of every drawback, he could not sufficiently admire the buildings and the sites which bore witness of all that was grandest in human history. Along with a young relative, Christopher Tasso, he pursued his classical studies in the midst of all these stimulating associations under the tutorship of Maurizio Cattaneo, the most learned master in Italy. The companionship of a youth of his own age did him a great deal of good. It satisfied his affections, it saved him from the loneliness to which his father's ill-health at the time would otherwise have consigned him, and it spurred him on to a healthful exercise of his mental powers. For a short time he led a comparatively happy life in Rome. His father's prospects had somewhat improved. Cardinal Caraffa, who was a personal friend of his, ascended the pontifical throne under the name of Paul IV.; and as they were on the same political side, he hoped that his fortunes would now be retrieved. But this gleam of prosperity speedily vanished. The imperial enmity, which had been the cause of all his previous misfortunes, continued to pursue him like a relentless fate. Philip II. of Spain and the Pope having quarrelled, the formidable Duke of Alba, the new Viceroy of Naples, invaded the Papal States, took Ostia and Tivoli, and threatened Rome itself. With extreme difficulty Bernardo Tasso managed to make his escape to Ravenna, with nothing left him but the manuscript of his Amadigi. In the meantime his son was taken to his relatives at Bergamo. In this city, under the shadow of the Alps, Torquato remained for a year in the home of his Roman schoolfellow. The inhabitants have ever since cherished with pride the connection of the Tassos with their town, and have erected a splendid monument to Torquato in the market-place. The exquisite scenery in the neighbourhood had a wonderful effect upon the mind of the youthful poet. It put the finishing touch to his varied education. The snows of the North and the fires of the South, the wild grandeur of the mountains and the soft beauty of the sea, the solitudes of Nature where only the effects of storm and sunshine are chronicled, and the crowded scenes of the most inspiring events in human history, had their share in moulding his temperament and colouring his poetry.