Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"O bella libertà, O bella!" beneath Casa Guidi windows, near dusk, but I hear only scooter horns, no child

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On the south bank of the Arno, just across from the Pitti Palace, is a curious corner that is Casa Guidi. The longtime home of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. I don't know now if one could here a little child singing, what with the noise of scooter horns and all, but the site is still lovely, especially in the evening, which is when I stopped by.
I heard last night a little child go singing
     'Neath Casa Guidi windows, by the church,
    O bella libertà, O bella! – stringing
      The same words still on notes he went in search
    So high for, you concluded the upspringing
      Of such a nimble bird to sky from perch
    Must leave the whole bush in a tremble green,
      And that the heart of Italy must beat,
    While such a voice had leave to rise serene
     'Twixt church and palace of a Florence street;
    A little child, too, who not long had been
      By mother's finger steadied on his feet,
    And still O bella libertà he sang.

Casa Guidi Windows, A Poem (1851), by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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More on Casa Guidi:
Palazzo Guidi was originally two 15th-century structures. The corner house was built by the Ridolfi family, who wanted a residence near the Pitti. In 1618, Count Camillo Guidi, Secretary of State for the Medici, bought this building from Lorenzo Ridolfi. In 1650, the adjoining house was given to Admiral Camillo Guidi, nephew of Count Guidi, by the Commenda of the Military Order of St. Stephen. The two houses were combined and refurbished in the late 18th century. In the early 1840's, the Guidi family sub-divided the grand state rooms on the piano nobile into two apartments.
Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning leased one of these apartments in 1847, less than a year after their marriage. It became their home for the remaining 14 years of their married life. Soon after the birth of their son, Pen, Elizabeth started calling the apartment Casa Guidi, thereby changing "a mere palace into a home."
From "Casa Guidi" from the Browning Society. 
You might also find this article from The Guardian of interest: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Ode to Florence.

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