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Balthazar’s Daughter
by [?]

A curious preference for the artificial should be mentioned as characteristic of ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI’S poetry. For his century was anything but artless; the great commonplaces that form the main stock of human thought were no longer in their first flush, and he addressed a people no longer childish. . . . Unquestionably his fancies were fantastic, anti-natural, bordering on hallucination, and they betray a desire for impossible novelty; but it is allowable to prefer them to the sickly simplicity of those so-called poems that embroider with old faded wools upon the canvas of worn-out truisms, trite, trivial and idiotically sentimental patterns.

Let me have dames and damsels richly clad
To feed and tend my mirth,
Singing by day and night to make me glad;

Let me have fruitful gardens of great girth
Fill’d with the strife of birds,
With water-springs, and beasts that house i’ the earth.

Let me seem Solomon for lore of words,
Samson for strength, for beauty Absalom.

Knights as my serfs be given;
And as I will, let music go and come;
Till, when I will, I will to enter Heaven.

ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI.–Madrigal, from D. G. Rossetti’s version.

Graciosa was Balthazar’s youngest child, a white, slim girl with violet eyes and strange pale hair which had the color and glitter of stardust. “Some day at court,” her father often thought complacently, “she, too, will make a good match.” He was a necessitous lord, a smiling, supple man who had already marketed two daughters to his advantage. But Graciosa’s time was not yet mature in the year of grace 1533, for the girl was not quite sixteen. So Graciosa remained in Balthazar’s big cheerless house and was tutored in all needful accomplishments. She was proficient in the making of preserves and unguents, could play the harpsichord and the virginals acceptably, could embroider an altarcloth to admiration, and, in spite of a trivial lameness in walking, could dance a coranto or a saraband against any woman between two seas.

Now to the north of Balthazar’s home stood a tall forest, overhanging both the highway and the river whose windings the highway followed. Graciosa was very often to be encountered upon the outskirts of these woods. She loved the forest, whose tranquillity bred dreams, but was already a woman in so far that she found it more interesting to watch the highway. Sometimes it would be deserted save for small purple butterflies which fluttered about as if in continuous indecision, and rarely ascended more than a foot above the ground. But people passed at intervals–as now a page, who was a notably fine fellow, clothed in ash-colored gray, with slashed, puffed sleeves, and having a heron’s feather in his cap; or a Franciscan with his gown tucked up so that you saw how the veins on his naked feet stood out like the carvings on a vase; or a farmer leading a calf; or a gentleman in a mantle of squirrel’s fur riding beside a wonderful proud lady, whose tiny hat was embroidered with pearls. It was all very interesting to watch, it was like turning over the leaves of a book written in an unknown tongue and guessing what the pictures meant, because these people were intent upon their private avocations, in which you had no part, and you would never see them any more.

Then destiny took a hand in the affair and Guido came. He reined his gray horse at the sight of her sitting by the wayside and deferentially inquired how far it might be to the nearest inn. Graciosa told him. He thanked her and rode on. That was all, but the appraising glance of this sedate and handsome burgher obscurely troubled the girl afterward.