By William Lyon Phelps


Americans should not leave Florence without spending some reflective hours in the so-called Protestant cemetery. The grave of Elizabeth Barrett Browning is adorned with a beautiful marble tomb designed by the famous artist Leighton, and the only inscription thereupon is "E. B. B. Ob. 1861."


Not far away lies the famous poet, Walter Savage Landor, who died in 1864 at the age of eighty-nine. His grave is covered with a flat stone. Here is a poem he wrote about it:


Twenty years hence, though it may hap

That I be called to take a nap

In a cool cell where thunder clap

Was never heard,

There breathe but o'er my arch of grass,

A not too sadly sigh'd "Alas!"

And I shall catch ere you can pass,

That winged word.


The last time I was in Florence I bent over his grave and with deliberate emphasis I whispered "Alas!" I do not know whether he heard me or not.


Robert and Elizabeth Browning made the poet's later years as happy as was possible for one of his temperament; they secured a villa for him, furnished it, hired servants and did what they could. He was wildly irascible, and if he did not like a meal that was served, he grabbed the tablecloth, and twitched all the food and dishes on to the floor. All his life he was a fighting man, which makes the beautiful Farewell he

wrote somewhat incongruous.


I strove with none; for none was worth my strife.

Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;

I warmed both hands before the fire of life.

It sinks and I am ready to depart.

In order to fit my own feelings, I should have to make some slight changes in his poem, so that the amended version would read as follows:

I strove with none. I always hated strife.

Nature I loved, and God and Man and Art.

I warmed both hands before the fire of life;

It sinks-yet I'm not ready to depart.

Landor was sometimes in a more jovial mood, as in his invitation to Tennyson

I entreat you, Alfred Tennyson,

Come and share my haunch of venison.

I have too a bin of claret,

Good, but better when you share it.

Tho' 'tis only a small bin,

There's a stock of it within.

And as sure as I'm a rhymer,

Half a butt of Rudesheimer.

Come; among the sons of men is one

Welcomer than Alfred Tennyson?

Along the path leading to Mrs. Browning's tomb is the grave of the English poet, Arthur Hugh Clough (pronounced Cluff), who crossed the ocean with Thackeray and James Russell Lowell and whose most famous poem is
Say Not the Struggle Nought Availeth. He died in 1861 the same year as Mrs. Browning, at the early age of 42. He was a distinguished scholar of Balliol college, Oxford. He expressed in his poems the

doubts and struggles that have afflicted so many honest and candid minds.

Where lies the land to which the ship would go?

Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.

And where the land she travels from? Away,

Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

On sunny noons upon the deck's smooth face,

Linked arm in arm, how pleasant here to pace;

Or, o'er the stern reclining, watch below

The foaming wake far widening as we go.

On stormy nights when wild northwesters rave,

How proud a thing to fight with wind and wave!

The dripping sailor on the reeling mast,

Exults to bear, and scorns to wish it past.


Where lies the land to which the ship would go?

Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.

And where the land she travels from? Away.

Far, far behind, is all that they can say.

In addition to the three great English poets who are buried in this cemetery, two famous Americans lie there, Richard Hildreth and Theodore Parker. When I was an undergraduate, I asked Prof. W. G. Sumner what was the best History of the United States that had ever been written; he answered gruffly and without a word of qualification, "Hildreth's!" Accordingly, I read every word of the six volumes. Many years later I had the unique pleasure of telling Sumner something he had not known; I told him I had done homage at Hildreth's grave in Florence, and he was surprised to learn that the historian was buried there. If any one believes that the contemporary custom of "debunking" historical characters is new, he should read Hildreth's Preface to his History.

"Of centennial sermons and Fourth of July orations, whether professedly such or in the guise of history, there are more than enough. It is due to our fathers and ourselves, it is due to truth and phi-losophy, to present for once, on the historic stage, the founders of our American nation unbedaubed with patriotic rouge, wrapped up in no fine-spun cloaks of excuses and apology, without stilts, buskins, tinsel, or edizenment, in their own proper persons."