Caesara- (pages 21-22)
menu Letters Testimonies Critiques Biography Home Bibliography

"I feel the marrow of my bones becoming clay, my blood frozen and thin like water, my eyes hardly mirroring the world I live in. I am dying out. There’s nothing left but an earthen pitcher that held the light of a rich life. I will sit under the waterfall of a stream; creepers and water flowers shall wrap my body in their vegetable growth and my hair and beard into a issue of fine threads; in the palms of my hands opening to the sun, the eternal source of life, the wasps shall build their honeycombs, their waxed citadels. The ever-flowing fresh waters of the river shall dissolve my body, assimilating me to the whole of nature and keep me from rotting. Thus, my dead body will dwell for years under the rushing stream, like an old monarch of fairy tales, in an age-long sleep, on a magic island."

Hyeronimo looked at the walls scenes of love, saw old books and plenty of written sheets on the shelves of a cupboard leaning against the wall; he sniffed at the water in the pitcher and as it was foul and evil-smelling he concluded that the old man had died. So he, the natural heir of this peaceful refuge of the garden, sheltered like a room, rummaged through the books, all choice ones, promising deep and long enjoyment; the old man’s writings, each thought being a cypher of that profound and happy brain, each phrase having such resonance as to determine a whole train of thoughts and analogies in the young man’s head. He soon became familiar with his small empire; it was like home, he tended the garden and the honeycombs, walking like a wild doe among the bushes and grasses of the island.On warm nights, he often lay naked on the shore of the lake, only lightly covered. The whole of nature, the singing white wells of water, the roar of the sea, the splendor of the night then plunged him into a deep and happy sleep, wherein he lived like a plant, with no sorrow, no dream, no desire.


On the day of Caesara’s wedding to Castelmare, her father, marquis Bianchi died of an apoplectic stroke in the midst of wine glasses and of his table companions. When she saw him stretched out on the bed, eyelids yet half-open over glassy eyes, his mouth full of foam, she leaned against the wall in the recess of the window; she looked in disgust upon that corpse that had lived solely for its own sake and who, to assuage certain passions that were bound to come to such an end, was ready to sell her, the very picture of a Madonna, to the one man she most hated in the world.

Coming up to her, Castelmare began to comfort her:

'My lady,' he said, 'your father is dead and you’re left with no protection whatsoever in the world, except myself, your future husband.'

'Nay, without as much,' she said, 'for you are no longer my future husband, my year of mourning has at least postponed that happy perspective. You may knock again on my door when the mourning year is over.'

Castelmare went away displeased, giving her a last look of unmitigated hate. Francesco advised her to leave town where she was in danger to be followed by her cruel admirer and to retire to a nunnery a few hours away.

She actually went there after her father’s funeral.She had grown thin with worry, poor child. She had not heard anything from Hyeronimo, except that Francesco’s boat, in which he had sailed out to sea, had been found smashed on the shore, so that she considered him drowned, long since dead.

Within the peaceful walls of the monastery, she became her old self again. Her cell looked out on the garden and the sea. Quite often, having bolted the door to prevent anyone entering and disturbing her, she would gaze for hours on the permanent surge of waves vanishing into the far-away horizon; on the garden, lovely and grown wild, bushes and trees sloping down to the seashore; at times, walking the shady paths, she would weed the grass growing on the path or would hide in some bush near the shore, sitting there for hours, lost in her hopeless longing.

On warm days, she would undress and leaving her clothes in the bush, she would walk down to the sea. A wonderful shape, a snowy apparition, blending the sweet softness of childhood with the noble, ripe, pleasant well-marked beauty of a woman. The blue veins were almost visible through the general transparency of a smooth skin; as her foot touched the sea, as she felt the waves bathing her body; her smile turned nervous and indomitable as her childhood had been. Fighting the old ocean she felt rejuvenated, smiling, her mouth tightly clenched with energy; she gave way to the ocean’s tumultuous embrace, her white arms occasionally cleaving the blue waves; swimming on her side or back, voluptuously sprawling on the bed of waves.

Night was falling. Again did she give way to her passion for the waves, smiling with intense and sweet well-being; she laid bare her snow-white neck, she let her hair loose around her shoulders and breasts grown full with a longing for love; finally naked and beautiful like an ancient statue, possessing, moreover, the advantage of like, that warm, soft, smooth skin showing imprints if touched. She jumped into the sea and began to swim, fixing as her goal a few rocks that she could see at a quarter of an hour from the shore.

UThe quiet waves floated her and she soon reached the rocks in the sea. She gently proceeded along them touching the rocky walls with her hands, reached a cave out of which a divided, luminous stream was flowing, went inside following the course of the stream, when suddenly a celestial panorama stood before her eyes. «Good God, what a heavenly place!» she thought, «I’ll stay here a while.» She walked on across the grass which, warm and sweet-smelling, tickled her body; she threw herself into the lake, as clear as tears, the waters of which nearly sent her to sleep; she would then have a run across the orange grove, butterflies and bees chasing her. She was quite crazy, like a child astray in an enchanted fairy tale garden. Finally, seeing that the sun was sinking, she turned the way she had come, but great was her terror as she could see no way out.

What was she to do? Thinking that she had gone astray, she looked around once more. No way out.

to pages 23_24back to pages 19_20
<<(Back to Literary Work)