Attila: A Romance. Vol. I.

Produced by Transcribed by Charles Bowen from page scans
provided by Google Books (Harvard College Library)

Transcriber’s Notes:
1. Page scan source: Vol. I from Harvard College Library
https://books.google.com/books?id=NxQ0LzIgW1UC
2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].
3. Table of Contents provided by the Transcriber.

A T T I L A.

A ROMANCE.

BY THE AUTHOR OF

“THE GIPSY,” “ONE IN A THOUSAND,” &c, &c.

IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.

NEW YORK:
HARPER & BROTHERS, 82 CLIFF-STREET.
1838.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER 
ADVERTISEMENT.
I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.
VIII.
IX.
X.
XI.
XII.
XIII.
XIV.
XV.
XVI.
XVII.
XVIII.
XIX.
XX.
XXI.
XXII.
XXIII.

TO

WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, ESQ.,

THIS BOOK,

AS A FEEBLE TESTIMONY OF STRONG PERSONAL REGARD
AND SINCERE ADMIRATION,
IS DEDICATED, BY HIS FRIEND,

G. P. R. JAMES.

ADVERTISEMENT.

In giving this book to the public I have but little to explain. The reader who takes it up may expect to find something respecting the Princess Honoria. He will, however, find nothing. All that we know of her history is uninteresting, except to those who love to dwell upon the pruriencies of a degraded state of society: all that we know of her character is disgusting to such as love purity and dignity of mind. It would be tedious to the reader to explain why the author has thought fit to alter several names of the persons acting prominent parts in the story of Attila. In so doing he has consulted principally his own ear; and in a few other deviations which he has made from the course of that great monarch’s history, he has consulted his own convenience. In regard, however, to the change which he has represented as taking place in the demeanour of Attila, his abandonment of the simple habits which at first distinguished him, and his dereliction from the calm equanimity which he displayed in his early intercourse with the Romans, the author believes that he is justified by the records of history as well as the course of nature. He is inclined to think, also, that if, in regard to the facts of Attila’s death, we could display the chameleon truth, in the broad light of day, without any of the shades and hues with which time and circumstances have surrounded her, we should find her colour such as he has represented it; but this, of course, must ever remain in doubt.

A T T I L A.

CHAPTER I.

A LANDSCAPE IN DALMATIA.

Music was in the air, and loveliness was spread out over the earth as a mantle.

There was a voice of many waters–the bland musical tone of mountain streams singing as they wend their way over the smooth round pebbles of their hilly bed towards the sea. And the song of life, too, was heard from every field, and every glade, and every valley; the trilling of innumerable birds, the hum of insect myriads, the lowing of distant cattle, winding down from the uplands to pen or fold, the plaintive, subdued bleating of the patient sheep, the merry voice of the light-hearted herd as he led home his flock from the hills, after a long warm southern day in the maturity of spring. Manifold sweet sounds–all blended into one happy harmony, softened by distance, rendered more melodious to the heart by associations felt but not defined, and made more touching by the soft evening hour–filled the whole air, and spread a calm, bright, contemplative charm over the listening senses.

The eye, too, could find the same delight as the ear, equal in depth, similar in character; for though sweet April had sunk in the warm arms of May, still, even in that land of the bright south, the reign of summer had not yet begun: not a leaf, not a flower, not a blade of grass had lost a hue under the beams of the sun, and many a balmy and refreshing shower, during a long and humid spring, had nourished the verdure and enlivened the bloom.

From the high round knoll upon the left, crowned with the five tall cypresses which perhaps flourished as seedlings on that spot in the young and palmy days of Greece, might be seen that unrivalled view which has never yet found eye to gaze on it uncharmed–that view which, of all prospects in the world, has greatest power, when suddenly beheld, to make the heart beat fast, and the breath come thick with mingled feelings of wonder and delight. On one side, at about a mile’s distance, where the ground sloped gently down towards the sea, rose the palace of Diocletian, vast and extensive, massy without being heavy, and equally sublime from its beauty and its dimensions. Clear, upon the bright back-ground of the evening sky, cut the graceful lines of the architecture; and, though a sudden break in the outline of the frieze, with the massy form of a fallen capital rolled forward before the steps of the magnificent portico which fronted the sea, told that the busy, unceasing, unsparing hand of man’s great enemy had already laid upon that splendid building the crumbling touch of ruin; yet, as, it then stood, with the setting sun behind it, and the deep blue shadows of the evening involving all the minute parts of the side that met the eye, the effects of decay even added to the beauty of the object, by making the straight lines of the architecture at once contrast and harmonize with the graceful irregularities of nature whereby it was surrounded. Several groups of old and stately trees, too, still more diversified the prospect on that side; and through the pillars of the portico might be caught the glistening line of the bright sea where it met and mingled with the sky.

Behind, and to the right hand, stretching far away to the north, rose mountain upon mountain, in all the fanciful forms and positions into which those earth-born giants cast themselves in Greece, and over them all was thrown that lustrous purple which in those lands well deserves the name of the “magic light of evening.”

Between the knoll of cypresses, however, and those far hills robed in their golden splendour, lay a wide tract of country, gently sloping upward in a thousand sweeping lines, with here and there an abrupt rock or insulated mound suddenly towering above the rest, while scattered clumps of tall old trees, rich rounded masses of forest, villas, farms, vineyards, and olive grounds, filled up the intervening space; and had all been as it seemed–had all those farms been tenanted, had none of those villas been in ruins–would have presented a scene of prosperity such as the world has never known but once.

Still decay had made no very great progress; still the land was richly cultivated; still the population, though not dense, was sufficient; and as the eye ran along the innumerable little promontories and headlands of the bay, might be seen, rising up above some slight irregularities of the ground, a part of the buildings of the small but prosperous town of Salona. Close by the side of that knoll of cypresses, breaking impetuously from a bank above, dashed on the bright and sparkling Hyader; now fretting and foaming with the large rocks amid which a part of its course was bound; now prattling playfully with the motley pebbles which in other parts strewed its bed; now dashing like a fierce steed all in foam where it leaped over the crag into the sunshine; and then, where its clear blue waters spread out uninterrupted under the cool shadow of a hill, seeming–like time to a young and happy heart–to stand still in calm and peaceful enjoyment, even while it was flowing away as quickly as ever.

The eye that followed the Hyader down its course–and there was an eye that did so–rested on the bright and glowing west, and on the fairest, the most entrancing object of all that magic scene; for there, stretched out beneath the setting sun, lay the gleaming waters of the Adriatic, studded all along its shores with a thousand purple islands which rose out of that golden sea like gems.

The air was calm and tranquil; the sky, the unrivalled deep blue sky, which hangs over that most lovely sea, was without a cloud, varying with one soft and equable declension from the intense purple zenith to the warm rosy hues that glowed in the far west. The sea, also, was smooth and peaceful, and would have seemed unbroken by a wave, had not here and there a sudden bending line of light darted over the bosom of the waters, and told that they were moved in the evening light by the breath of the breeze.

Thus appeared the whole scene, when, from the opposite side of the bay, a white sail was seen to glide forward, as if coming from Salona towards the palace of Diocletian, or the little village of Aspalathus. Slowly and peacefully it moved along, giving one more image of calm and tranquil enjoyment; and while it steered upon its way, four sweet voices, sometimes joined in chorus by several deeper tones, broke forth from the mound of cypresses, singing:–

A HYMN TO THE SETTING SUN.

I.

“Slow, slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,

Thy course of beneficence done;

As glorious go down to thy Thetis’ warm breast

As when thy bright race was begun.

For all thou hast done

Since thy rising, oh sun!

May thou and thy Maker be bless’d!

Thou hast scatter’d the night from thy broad golden way,

Thou hast given us thy light through a long happy day,

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