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quality were clear in every act and word and gesture. | She was
so much Nature's immediate heiress, that she could do nothing except large-heartedly. As I looked at her in society and compared her with others, she seemed a creature born in some earlier and more heroic world, before failings reputed womanly, affectation, vanity, caprice, timidity, had any being. Many men, even a judge penetrating as Thackeray for instance, have held these qualities (when perhaps subtly modified) graceful and attractive. But in Désirée I thanked God often that I knew one from any taint of littleness absolutely free, yet for this very reason more perfect yet in the charms of the most winning and gracious girlishness. When through the larger intercourse of these years my knowledge of her mind was deepened and I learned to look on Désirée not as in the hour of thoughtless boyhood, that great change was wrought on me which Wordsworth by process of the seasons experienced in his communion with Nature.
Her presence, inspiring hitherto a pure delightful passion, disturbed me now with the joy of elevated thoughts’; with a sense of a Divinity interfused in that fair child; something that
os was before the elements, and owing no homage to the sun'. Like Dante when his regained Beatrice led him up to the beatific vision, alone with Darling I was translated into a loftier heaven, where desire to human aspiration added the angel wings of hope, and the purple glow of passion whitened to a more intense and celestial ardency : a region where every hour was a portion of eternity, trust in her was implicit faith, and reverence for her pure religion ; where I adored • Madonna' without idolatry, and loved God in loving Désirée.
X Nor had He, again, left this crowning grace, this so much his own privilege of nobleness unaccompanied by
gifts scarcely separable from it; high truth, ingenuous confidence : man's love of justice with woman's sympathy for the injured : a frankness innocent of disguise, and an innocence which needed no disguisal. Even if not realized and embodied in one dear from childhood, these qualities would have rendered her presence delightful; and with how many other, what contrasting charms, they were united! As, during these years, by accidentally prolonged residence in London I was with Désirée often in the familiar house, whilst the roar of the great city throbbed around and in upon us at every pause, or during the autumnal visit which had now superseded my foreign wanderings, for days with her in her parents' summer-dwelling in sweet seaside places,—if deepening sympathy for one did not, by a happy law of nature, enlarge the general power of sympathy,—surely the comparison of what she was with almost
any others would have rendered me morosely unfit for common society, weary even amongst friends the most dearly valued. But, far from this, friends never seemed so brilliant as when I met them with Désirée. At the farewell, I felt as one who has walked with angels ; like Michelangelo Buonarroti when he left his highly honoured Vittoria, my thoughts appeared to have been born within her heart, my words created by her intelligence'. Although smiling at my own folly, Wordsworth's fatal line
the dreary intercourse of daily life', (fatal, because to so many these discouraging words must have gone home with the irresistible force of a revelation) often expressed only too well my feelings, when the ride ended, or the boat touched land, or the final summons for parting banished me from the high and plenteous wit and invention, the affectionate all-confidingness, the lavish laughter and lucid smiles of this most replenished sweet work of nature' to a world
where, in the great exile's phrase, the bread tasted salt, and the beloved I had left was prized “più caramente'. But then by plenitude of passion almost more present with Désirée when absent, this desideration led me only to anticipate the day when next, like the poet, I should come forth and revisit the starry circles of my paradise ... one unbroken ascent by her guidance to the Empyrean, to the
vita intera d'amore e di pace '- So I triumphed ; and my Ravenna was lying hidden beyond, and the dark downward pilgrimage, and the grave away from Beatrice.
XI The features hitherto noticed in this fair soul are traceable mainly to that eminent nobleness which was, I suppose, what with the profoundest charm and most fondly bound me to Désirée. In the words of a great master, maestro di color che sanno', this gift adorns all excellences, and all excellences accompany it. Thus my portrait is but half sketched. In truth, however comprehensive, no single word can ever resume character ; simple perhaps in itself, a character becomes complex in manifestation; and graces flowing from one source, thrown into opposing lights through circumstance, by contrast are made more graceful. My surprise that I did not see her uniformly by all comprehended was irrational. • We are apt to judge extra
ordinary men by our own standard', a great thinker (delineating himself with Désirée in the words italicized) remarks, that is to say, we often suppose them to possess, in an extraordinary degree, the qualities we are conscious of in ourselves or others. This is the easiest
way ceiving their characters, but not the truest. They differ in kind rather than in degree. Even to understand them “truly seems to require a power analogous to their own. • Their natures are more subtle and yet more simple, than we readily imagine. We marvel how such various traits of
character come together in the same individual'. I, of course, can claim no such analogous power'; and yet if I had failed to read Désirée's mind truly it would have been a more than common blindness. It is possible that from that dear and fatal prerogative of intimacy, from the long watchfulness of affection, I knew her better than myself. Not only had she, almost since I could hold myself capable of memory, laid her thoughts before me with fearless and sisterly affection, but from the same unreserve of intercourse, I had seen her tried, seen her triumphant in almost every ordeal to which (within unromantic limits indeed, yet inclusive of trials beyond most romance) an English maiden could be subjected :—to blame, flattery, pleasure, wealth, bereavement: danger, bodily and mental ; to perplexing choice, to the necessity for independent action in hours of peril and temptation. I had seen her disarm censure by frank confession: flatterers, by the security of self-forgetfulness : pleasure, by healthy acceptance and temperate refusal : wealth, by valuing it as aid to others, and indifference the most absolute as regarded herself: bereavement, by bravery of heart, and purity of faith, and devotedness of affection. Désirée confronted danger with a smile, and defeated it; her courage gained a charm almost ineffably pathetic from union with tender and girlish grace,— from that perfect unconsciousness which, when blithe and laughing where her companions (I have felt it) trembled for her in every limb, made her call herself a coward.
With this exquisite sincerity Désirée was in fact equal to all things: at home with high or low, dull or brilliant, friend or stranger, eager alike for mirth and study: good for philosophy and for household ways, “for service', as Aristotle observes of the large-hearted, or for command',
for wildness and for method : so prettily engaging and simple-souled with children that one wished oneself a child, or again so bright and so weighty in judgment that she seemed greatest always with the great, and met on even terms the wittiest and the wisest : never too grave for gaiety, and her smiles at no time far from seriousness. And this great gift was hers also, that by individual right she preserved through every phase a unity unimpaired, not only with herself as at the moment she might be, but with herself as I remember her through twenty years : the glory of her infancy undiminished, and the records of the sweet face at one with its promises : :- never childish, yet never not a child, the broad seal of heaven on her brows, and God always with his Darling.
XII What I have here noted together, using many words and saying little, was in fact of gradual discovery : felt only as a source of blind organic sympathy during childhood; hardly perhaps recognized in fulness before my own portion was in outer darkness. But when enjoying almost daily the privilege πλάσιον άδυ φωνείσας υπακούειν και γελαίσας ιμερόεν,I became aware of her Worthihood, henceforth I stood towards Désirée in a double relation of subtle sweetness; a union of Fear with Triumph. When in any game or society she chose me her companion, accepted my gifts, promised some treasure of her own hands' work, and when seemingly forgotten, gave it ; when she bade me share her own thoughtful plans for good, aided me with counsel, or, dearer still, in doubt or anxiety, asked mine ; in all from her pure truthfulness, with no further looking intention, or any thought beyond the favour of the moment, I triumphed in the force of Faith ; I was as one having nothing, and yet possessing all . things. If they appeared symbolical of the larger issues of