The metal pig


In the city of Florence, not far from the Piazza del Granduca, runs a little street called Porta Rosa. In this street, just in front of the market-place where vegetables are sold, stands a pig, made of brass and curiously formed. The bright color has been changed by age to dark green; but clear, fresh water pours from the snout, which shines as if it had been polished, and so indeed it has, for hundreds of poor people and children seize it in their hands as they place their mouths close to the mouth of the animal, to drink. It is quite a picture to see a half-naked boy clasping the well-formed creature by the head, as he presses his rosy lips against its jaws.
Every one who visits Florence can very quickly find the place; he has only to ask the first beggar he meets for the Metal Pig, and he will be told where it is.
It was late on a winter evening; the mountains were covered with snow, but the moon shone brightly, and moonlight in Italy is like a dull winter's day in the north; indeed it is better, for clear air seems to raise us above the earth, while in the north a cold, gray, leaden sky appears to press us down to earth, even as the cold damp earth shall one day press on us in the grave. In the garden of the grand duke's palace, under the roof of one of the wings, where a thousand roses bloom in winter, a little ragged boy had been sitting the whole day long; a boy, who might serve as a type of Italy, lovely and smiling, and yet still suffering. He was hungry and thirsty, yet no one gave him anything; and when it became dark, and they were about to close the gardens, the porter turned him out. He stood a long time musing on the bridge which crosses the Arno, and looking at the glittering stars, reflected in the water which flowed between him and the elegant marble bridge Della Trinita.
He then walked away towards the Metal Pig, half knelt down, clasped it with his arms, and then put his mouth to the shining snout and drank deep draughts of the fresh water. Close by, lay a few salad-leaves and two chestnuts, which were to serve for his supper. No one was in the street but himself; it belonged only to him, so he boldly seated himself on the pig's back, leaned forward so that his curly head could rest on the head of the animal, and, before he was aware, he fell asleep.
It was midnight. The Metal Pig raised himself gently, and the boy heard him say quite distinctly, "Hold tight, little boy, for I am going to run;" and away he started for a most wonderful ride. First, they arrived at the Piazza del Granduca, and the metal horse which bears the duke's statue, neighed aloud. The painted coats-of-arms on the old council-house shone like transparent pictures, and Michael Angelo's David tossed his sling; it was as if everything had life. The metallic groups of figures, among which were Perseus and the Rape of the Sabines, looked like living persons, and cries of terror sounded from them all across the noble square.
By the Palazzo degli Uffizi, in the arcade, where the nobility assemble for the carnival, the Metal Pig stopped.
"Hold fast," said the animal; "hold fast, for I am going up stairs." The little boy said not a word; he was half pleased and half afraid.
They entered a long gallery, where the boy had been before. The walls were resplendent with paintings; here stood statues and busts, all in a clear light as if it were day. But the grandest appeared when the door of a side room opened; the little boy could remember what beautiful things he had seen there, but to-night everything shone in its brightest colors.
Here stood the figure of a beautiful woman, as beautifully sculptured as possible by one of the great masters. Her graceful limbs appeared to move; dolphins sprang at her feet, and immortality shone from her eyes. The world called her the Venus de Medici. By her side were statues, in which the spirit of life breathed in stone; figures of men, one of whom whetted his sword, and was named the Grinder; wrestling gladiators formed another group, the sword had been sharpened for them, and they strove for the goddess of beauty.
The boy was dazzled by so much glitter; for the walls were gleaming with bright colors, all appeared living reality.
As they passed from hall to hall, beauty everywhere showed itself; and as the Metal Pig went step by step from one picture to the other, the little boy could see it all plainly. One glory eclipsed another; yet there was one picture that fixed itself on the little boy's memory, more especially because of the happy children it represented, for these the little boy had seen in daylight.
Many pass this picture by with indifference, and yet it contains a treasure of poetic feeling; it represents Christ descending into Hades. They are not the lost whom the spectator sees, but the heathen of olden times. The Florentine, Angiolo Bronzino, painted this picture; most beautiful is the expression on the face of the two children, who appear to have full confidence that they shall reach heaven at last. They are embracing each other, and one little one stretches out his hand towards another who stands below him, and points to himself, as if he were saying, "I am going to heaven." The older people stand as if uncertain, yet hopeful, and they bow in humble adoration to the Lord Jesus.
On this picture the boy's eyes rested longer than on any other: the Metal Pig stood still before it. A low sigh was heard. Did it come from the picture or from the animal? The boy raised his hands towards the smiling children, and then the Pig ran off with him through the open vestibule.
"Thank you, thank you, you beautiful animal," said the little boy, caressing the Metal Pig as it ran down the steps.
"Thanks to yourself also," replied the Metal Pig; "I have helped you and you have helped me, for it is only when I have an innocent child on my back that I receive the power to run. Yes; as you see, I can even venture under the rays of the lamp, in front of the picture of the Madonna, but I may not enter the church; still from without, and while you are upon my back, I may look in through the open door. Do not get down yet, for if you do, then I shall be lifeless, as you have seen me in the Porta Rosa."
"I will stay with you, my dear creature," said the little boy. So then they went on at a rapid pace through the streets of Florence, till they came to the square before the church of Santa Croce.
The folding-doors flew open, and light streamed from the altar through the church into the deserted square.
A wonderful blaze of light streamed from one of the monuments in the left-side aisle, and a thousand moving stars seemed to form a glory round it; even the coat-of-arms on the tomb-stone shone, and a red ladder on a blue field gleamed like fire. It was the grave of Galileo. The monument is unadorned, but the red ladder is an emblem of art, signifying that the way to glory leads up a shining ladder, on which the prophets of mind rise to heaven, like Elias of old.
In the right aisle of the church every statue on the richly carved sarcophagi seemed endowed with life. Here stood Michael Angelo; there Dante, with the laurel wreath round his brow; Alfieri and Machiavelli; for here side by side rest the great men– the pride of Italy. The church itself is very beautiful, even more beautiful than the marble cathedral at Florence, though not so large.
It seemed as if the carved vestments stirred, and as if the marble figures they covered raised their heads higher, to gaze upon the brightly colored glowing altar where the white-robed boys swung the golden censers, amid music and song, while the strong fragrance of incense filled the church, and streamed forth into the square.
The boy stretched forth his hands towards the light, and at the same moment the Metal Pig started again so rapidly that he was obliged to cling tightly to him. The wind whistled in his ears, he heard the church door creak on its hinges as it closed, and it seemed to him as if he had lost his senses– then a cold shudder passed over him, and he awoke.
It was morning; the Metal Pig stood in its old place on the Porta Rosa, and the boy found he had slipped nearly off its back.
Fear and trembling came upon him as he thought of his mother; she had sent him out the day before to get some money, he had not done so, and now he was hungry and thirsty. Once more he clasped the neck of his metal horse, kissed its nose, and nodded farewell to it. Then he wandered away into one of the narrowest streets, where there was scarcely room for a loaded donkey to pass. A great iron-bound door stood ajar; he passed through, and climbed up a brick staircase, with dirty walls and a rope for a balustrade, till he came to an open gallery hung with rags. From here a flight of steps led down to a court, where from a well water was drawn up by iron rollers to the different stories of the house, and where the water-buckets hung side by side. Sometimes the roller and the bucket danced in the air, splashing the water all over the court. Another broken-down staircase led from the gallery, and two Russian sailors running down it almost upset the poor boy. They were coming from their nightly carousal. A woman not very young, with an unpleasant face and a quantity of black hair, followed them. "What have you brought home?" she asked, when she saw the boy.
"Don't be angry," he pleaded; "I received nothing, I have nothing at all;" and he seized his mother's dress and would have kissed it. Then they went into a little room. I need not describe it, but only say that there stood in it an earthen pot with handles, made for holding fire, which in Italy is called a marito. This pot she took in her lap, warmed her fingers, and pushed the boy with her elbow. "Certainly you must have some money," she said.
The boy began to cry, and then she struck him with her foot till he cried out louder. "Will you be quiet? or I'll break your screaming head;" and she swung about the fire-pot which she held in her hand, while the boy crouched to the earth and screamed. Then a neighbor came in, and she had also a marito under her arm. "Felicita," she said, "what are you doing to the child?"
"The child is mine," she answered; "I can murder him if I like, and you too, Giannina." And then she swung about the fire-pot. The other woman lifted up hers to defend herself, and the two pots clashed together so violently that they were dashed to pieces, and fire and ashes flew about the room. The boy rushed out at the sight, sped across the courtyard, and fled from the house. The poor child ran till he was quite out of breath; at last he stopped at the church, the doors of which were opened to him the night before, and went in. Here everything was bright, and the boy knelt down by the first tomb on his right, the grave of Michael Angelo, and sobbed as if his heart would break. People came and went, mass was performed, but no one noticed the boy, excepting an elderly citizen, who stood still and looked at him for a moment, and then went away like the rest.
Hunger and thirst overpowered the child, and he became quite faint and ill. At last he crept into a corner behind the marble monuments, and went to sleep. Towards evening he was awakened by a pull at his sleeve; he started up, and the same old citizen stood before him.
"Are you ill? where do you live? have you been here all day?" were some of the questions asked by the old man. After hearing his answers, the old man took him home to a small house close by, in a back street. They entered a glovemaker's shop, where a woman sat sewing busily. A little white poodle, so closely shaven that his pink skin could plainly be seen, frisked about the room, and gambolled upon the boy.
"Innocent souls are soon intimate," said the woman, as she caressed both the boy and the dog. These good people gave the child food and drink, and said he should stay with them all night, and that the next day the old man, who was called Giuseppe, would go and speak to his mother. A little homely bed was prepared for him, but to him who had so often slept on the hard stones it was a royal couch, and he slept sweetly and dreamed of the splendid pictures and of the Metal Pig.
Giuseppe went out the next morning, and the poor child was not glad to see him go, for he knew that the old man was gone to his mother, and that, perhaps, he would have to go back. He wept at the thought, and then he played with the little, lively dog, and kissed it, while the old woman looked kindly at him to encourage him.
And what news did Giuseppe bring back? At first the boy could not hear, for he talked a great deal to his wife, and she nodded and stroked the boy's cheek. Then she said, "He is a good lad, he shall stay with us, he may become a clever glovemaker, like you. Look what delicate fingers he has got; Madonna intended him for a glovemaker."
So the boy stayed with them, and the woman herself taught him to sew; and he ate well, and slept well, and became very merry. But at last he began to tease Bellissima, as the little dog was called. This made the woman angry, and she scolded him and threatened him, which made him very unhappy, and he went and sat in his own room full of sad thoughts. This chamber looked upon the street, in which hung skins to dry, and there were thick iron bars across his window. That night he lay awake, thinking of the Metal Pig; indeed, it was always in his thoughts. Suddenly he fancied he heard feet outside going pit-a-pat. He sprung out of bed and went to the window. Could it be the Metal Pig? But there was nothing to be seen; whatever he had heard had passed already. Next morning, their neighbor, the artist, passed by, carrying a paint-box and a large roll of canvas.
"Help the gentleman to carry his box of colors," said the woman to the boy; and he obeyed instantly, took the box, and followed the painter. They walked on till they reached the picture gallery, and mounted the same staircase up which he had ridden that night on the Metal Pig. He remembered all the statues and pictures, the beautiful marble Venus, and again he looked at the Madonna with the Saviour and St. John.
They stopped before the picture by Bronzino, in which Christ is represented as standing in the lower world, with the children smiling before Him, in the sweet expectation of entering heaven; and the poor boy smiled, too, for here was his heaven.
"You may go home now," said the painter, while the boy stood watching him, till he had set up his easel.
"May I see you paint?" asked the boy; "may I see you put the picture on this white canvas?"
"I am not going to paint yet," replied the artist; then he brought out a piece of chalk. His hand moved quickly, and his eye measured the great picture; and though nothing appeared but a faint line, the figure of the Saviour was as clearly visible as in the colored picture.
"Why don't you go?" said the painter. Then the boy wandered home silently, and seated himself on the table, and learned to sew gloves.
But all day long his thoughts were in the picture gallery; and so he pricked his fingers and was awkward. But he did not tease Bellissima. When evening came, and the house door stood open, he slipped out. It was a bright, beautiful, starlight evening, but rather cold. Away he went through the already-deserted streets, and soon came to the Metal Pig; he stooped down and kissed its shining nose, and then seated himself on its back. "You happy creature," he said; "how I have longed for you! we must take a ride to-night."
But the Metal Pig lay motionless, while the fresh stream gushed forth from its mouth. The little boy still sat astride on its back, when he felt something pulling at his clothes. He looked down, and there was Bellissima, little smooth-shaven Bellissima, barking as if she would have said, "Here I am too; why are you sitting there?" A fiery dragon could not have frightened the little boy so much as did the little dog in this place. "Bellissima in the street, and not dressed!" as the old lady called it; "what would be the end of this?" The dog never went out in winter, unless she was attired in a little lambskin coat which had been made for her; it was fastened round the little dog's neck and body with red ribbons, and was decorated with rosettes and little bells. The dog looked almost like a little kid when she was allowed to go out in winter, and trot after her mistress. And now here she was in the cold, and not dressed. Oh, how would it end? All his fancies were quickly put to flight; yet he kissed the Metal Pig once more, and then took Bellissima in his arms. The poor little thing trembled so with cold, that the boy ran homeward as fast as he could.
"What are you running away with there?" asked two of the police whom he met, and at whom the dog barked. "Where have you stolen that pretty dog?" they asked; and they took it away from him.
"Oh, I have not stolen it; do give it to me back again," cried the boy, despairingly.
"If you have not stolen it, you may say at home that they can send to the watch-house for the dog." Then they told him where the watch-house was, and went away with Bellissima.
Here was a dreadful trouble. The boy did not know whether he had better jump into the Arno, or go home and confess everything. They would certainly kill him, he thought. "Well, I would gladly be killed," he reasoned; "for then I shall die, and go to heaven:" and so he went home, almost hoping for death.
The door was locked, and he could not reach the knocker. No one was in the street; so he took up a stone, and with it made a tremendous noise at the door. "Who is there?" asked somebody from within.
"It is I," said he. "Bellissima is gone. Open the door, and then kill me."
Then indeed there was a great panic. Madame was so very fond of Bellissima. She immediately looked at the wall where the dog's dress usually hung; and there was the little lambskin.
"Bellissima in the watch-house!" she cried. "You bad boy! how did you entice her out? Poor little delicate thing, with those rough policemen! and she'll be frozen with cold."
Giuseppe went off at once, while his wife lamented, and the boy wept. Several of the neighbors came in, and amongst them the painter. He took the boy between his knees, and questioned him; and, in broken sentences, he soon heard the whole story, and also about the Metal Pig, and the wonderful ride to the picture-gallery, which was certainly rather incomprehensible. The painter, however, consoled the little fellow, and tried to soften the lady's anger; but she would not be pacified till her husband returned with Bellissima, who had been with the police. Then there was great rejoicing, and the painter caressed the boy, and gave him a number of pictures.
Oh, what beautiful pictures these were!– figures with funny heads; and, above all, the Metal Pig was there too. Oh, nothing could be more delightful. By means of a few strokes, it was made to appear on the paper; and even the house that stood behind it had been sketched in.
Oh, if he could only draw and paint! He who could do this could conjure all the world before him.
The first leisure moment during the next day, the boy got a pencil, and on the back of one of the other drawings he attempted to copy the drawing of the Metal Pig, and he succeeded. Certainly it was rather crooked, rather up and down, one leg thick, and another thin; still it was like the copy, and he was overjoyed at what he had done. The pencil would not go quite as it ought,– he had found that out; but the next day he tried again. A second pig was drawn by the side of the first, and this looked a hundred times better; and the third attempt was so good, that everybody might know what it was meant to represent.
And now the glovemaking went on but slowly. The orders given by the shops in the town were not finished quickly; for the Metal Pig had taught the boy that all objects may be drawn upon paper; and Florence is a picture-book in itself for any one who chooses to turn over its pages. On the Piazza della Trinità stands a slender pillar, and upon it is the goddess of Justice, blindfolded, with her scales in her hand. She was soon represented on paper, and it was the glovemaker's boy who placed her there. His collection of pictures increased; but as yet they were only copies of lifeless objects, when one day Bellissima came gambolling before him: "Stand still," cried he, "and I will draw you beautifully, to put amongst my collection." But Bellissima would not stand still, so she must be bound fast in one position. He tied her head and tail; but she barked and jumped, and so pulled and tightened the string, that she was nearly strangled; and just then her mistress walked in.
"You wicked boy! the poor little creature!" was all she could utter. She pushed the boy from her, thrust him away with her foot, called him a most ungrateful, good-for-nothing, wicked boy, and forbade him to enter the house again. Then she wept, and kissed her little half-strangled Bellissima.
At this moment the painter entered the room.
In the year 1834 there was an exhibition in the Academy of Arts at Florence. Two pictures, placed side by side, attracted a large number of spectators. The smaller of the two represented a little boy sitting at a table, drawing; before him was a little white poodle, curiously shaven; but as the animal would not stand still, it had been fastened with a string to its head and tail, to keep it in one position. The truthfulness and life in this picture interested every one. The painter was said to be a young Florentine, who had been found in the streets, when a child, by an old glovemaker, who had brought him up. The boy had taught himself to draw: it was also said that a young artist, now famous, had discovered talent in the child just as he was about to be sent away for having tied up madame's favorite little dog, and using it as a model.
The glovemaker's boy had also become a great painter, as the picture proved; but the larger picture by its side was a still greater proof of his talent. It represented a handsome boy, clothed in rags, lying asleep, and leaning against the Metal Pig in the street of the Porta Rosa. All the spectators knew the spot well. The child's arms were round the neck of the Pig, and he was in a deep sleep. The lamp before the picture of the Madonna threw a strong, effective light on the pale, delicate face of the child. It was a beautiful picture. A large gilt frame surrounded it, and on one corner of the frame a laurel wreath had been hung; but a black band, twined unseen among the green leaves, and a streamer of crape, hung down from it; for within the last few days the young artist had– died.
I byen Firenze, ikke langt fra piazza del granduca løber en lille tværgade, jeg tror den kaldes porta rossa; i denne, foran en slags basar, hvor der sælges grønt, ligger et kunstigt vel udarbejdet metalsvin; det friske, klare vand risler ud af munden på dyret, der af ælde er ganske sortgrønt, kun trynen skinner, som om den var poleret blank, og det er den også af de mange hundrede børn og fattige folk, der tager fat på den med hænderne og sætter deres mund til dyrets, for at drikke. Det er et helt billede, at se det velformede dyr blive omfavnet af en smuk, halvnøgen dreng, der sætter sin friske mund til dets tryne.
Enhver, som kommer til Firenze, finder nok stedet, han behøver kun at spørge den første tigger, han ser, om metalsvinet, og han vil finde det.
Det var en sildig vinteraften, bjergene lå med sne, men det var måneskin, og måneskin i Italien giver en belysning, der er lige så god som en mørk vinterdag i Norden, ja den er bedre, thi luften skinner, luften opløfter, mens i Norden det kolde, grå blytag trykker os til jorden, den kolde, våde jord, der engang skal trykke vor kiste.
Henne i hertugens slotshave, under pinjens tag, hvor tusinde roser blomstrer ved vintertid, havde en lille, pjaltet dreng siddet den hele dag, en dreng, der kunne være billedet på Italien, så smuk, så leende og dog så lidende; han var sulten og tørstig, ingen gav ham en skilling, og da det blev mørkt og haven skulle lukkes, jog portneren ham bort. Længe stod han drømmende på broen over floden Arno og så på stjernerne, der blinkede i vandet mellem ham og den prægtige marmorbro.
Han tog vejen hen til metalsvinet, knælede halv ned, slog sine arme om dets hals, satte sin lille mund til dets skinnende tryne og drak i store drag det friske vand. Tæt ved lå nogle salatblade og et par kastanjer, det blev hans aftensmad. Der var ikke et menneske på gaden; han var ganske ene, han satte sig på metalsvinets ryg, lænede sig forover, så hans lille, lokkede hoved hvilte på dyrets, og før han selv vidste det, sov han ind.
Det var midnat, metalsvinet rørte sig, han hørte, at det sagde ganske tydeligt: "Du lille dreng, hold dig fast, thi nu løber jeg!" og så løb det med ham; det var et løjerligt ridt. - Først kom de på piazza del granduca; og metalhesten, som bar hertugens statue, vrinskede højt; de brogede våben på det gamle rådhus skinnede som transparente billeder, og Michelangelos David svingede sin slynge; det var et sælsomt liv, som rørte sig! Metalgrupperne med Perseus og med Sabinerindernes Rov stod kun alt for levende; et dødsskrig fra dem gik over den prægtige, ensomme plads.
Ved palazzo degli Uffizi, i buegangen, hvor adelen samles til karnevalsglæde, standsede metalsvinet.
"Hold dig fast!" sagde dyret, "hold dig fast, thi nu går det op ad trappen!" Den lille sagde ikke endnu et ord, halv skælvede han, halv var han lyksalig.
De trådte ind i et langt galleri, han kendte det godt, han havde været her før; væggene prangede med malerier, her stod statuer og buster, alle i det skønneste lys, ligesom om det var dag, men prægtigst var det, da døren til et af sideværelserne gik op; ja denne herlighed her huskede den lille; dog i denne nat var alt i sin skønneste glans.
Her stod en nøgen, dejlig kvinde, så smuk, som kun naturen og marmorets største mester kunne forme hende; hun bevægede de smukke lemmer, delfiner sprang ved hendes fod, udødelighed lyste ud af hendes øje. Verden kalder hende Den Mediceiske Venus. På hver side af hende prangede marmorstatuer, dejlige mænd; den ene hvæssede sværdet, Sliberen kaldes han; De Brydende Gladiatorer udgjorde den anden gruppe; sværdet hvæssedes, kæmperne brødes for skønhedsgudinden.
Drengen var som blændet af al den glans; væggene strålede i farver, og alt var liv og bevægelse der. Fordoblet viste sig billedet af Venus, den jordiske Venus, så svulmende og ildfuld, som Titian havde set hende. To dejlige kvinders billeder; de skønne, ubeslørede lemmer strakte sig på de bløde hynder, brystet hævede sig og hovedet bevægede sig, så at de rige lokker faldt ned om de runde skuldre, medens de mørke øjne udtalte glødende tanker; men ingen af alle billederne vovede dog at træde helt ud af rammen. Skønhedsgudinden selv, gladiatorerne og sliberen blev på deres plads, thi glorien, som strålede fra Madonna, Jesus og Johannes, bandt dem. De hellige billeder var ikke billeder længere, de var de hellige selv.
Hvilken glans og hvilken skønhed fra sal til sal! og den lille så dem alle; metalsvinet gik jo skridt for skridt gennem al den pragt og herlighed. Det ene skue fortrængte det andet, kun ét billede fæstede sig ret i tanken, og mest ved de glade, lykkelige børn, som var derpå, den lille havde engang i dagslys nikket til dem.
Mange vandrer vist dette billede let forbi, og dog omslutter det en skat af poesi: Det er Kristus, som stiger ned i underverdenen, men det er ej de pinte, man ser om ham, nej, det er hedningerne; florentineren Angiolo Bronzino har malet dette billede; mest herligt er udtrykket af børnenes vished om, at de skal i Himmelen; to små omfavner allerede hinanden, én lille rækker hånden til en anden nedenfor og peger på sig selv, som om han sagde: "Jeg skal i Himmelen!" alle ældre står uvisse, håbende, eller bøjer sig ydmygt bedende for den Herre Jesus.
På dette billede så drengen længere end på noget andet; metalsvinet hvilte stille foran det; et sagte suk blev hørt; kom det fra billedet eller fra dyrets bryst? Drengen løftede hånden ud mod de smilende børn; - da jog dyret af sted med ham, af sted gennem den åbne forsal.
"Tak og velsignelse, du dejlige dyr!" sagde den lille dreng og klappede metalsvinet, der bums, bums! sprang ned ad trappen med ham.
"Tak og velsignelse selv!" sagde metalsvinet, "jeg har hjulpet dig og du har hjulpet mig, thi kun med et uskyldigt barn på min ryg får jeg kræfter til at løbe! ja ser du, jeg tør endogså gå ind under strålen af lampen foran Madonnabilledet. Jeg kan bære dig hen overalt, kun ikke ind i kirken! men uden for den, når du er hos mig, kan jeg se ind ad den åbne dør! stig ikke ned af min ryg, gør du det, da ligger jeg død, som du ser mig om dagen være det i gaden porta rossa!"
"Jeg bliver hos dig, mit velsignede dyr!" sagde den lille, og så gik det i susende flugt gennem Firenzes gader, ud til pladsen foran kirken Santa Croce.
Den store fløjdør sprang op, lysene strålede fra alteret, gennem kirken, ud på den ensomme plads.
En sælsom lysglans strømmede ud fra et gravmonument i den venstre sidegang, tusinde bevægelige stjerner dannede ligesom en glorie om det. Et våbenmærke prangede på graven, en rød stige i blå grund, den syntes at gløde som ild. Det var Galileis grav, det er et simpelt monument, men den røde stige i den blå grund er et betydningsfuldt våbenmærke, det er som det var kunstens eget, thi her går altid vejen opad på en gloende stige, men til Himmelen. Alle åndens profeter går til Himmelen som profeten Elias.
I kirkens gang til højre syntes hver billedstøtte på de rige sarkofager at have fået liv. Her stod Michelangelo, der Dante med laurbærkrans om panden; Alfieri, Machiavelli, side ved side hviler her disse stormænd, Italiens stolthed. Det er en prægtig kirke, langt skønnere, om ikke så stor, som Firenzes marmor-domkirke.
Det var som om marmorklæderne rørte sig, som om de store skikkelser end mere hævede deres hoved og skuede i natten, under sang og toner, op mod det brogede, strålende alter, hvor hvidklædte drenge svingede gyldne røgelseskar; den stærke duft strømmede fra kirken ud på den åbne plads.
Drengen strakte sin hånd ud mod lysglansen, og i samme nu fór metalsvinet af sted; han måtte knuge sig fast til det, vinden susede om hans øren, han hørte kirkeporten knage på hængslerne, idet den lukkedes, men i det samme syntes bevidstheden at forlade ham, han følte en isnende kulde - og slog øjnene op.
Det var morgen, han sad, halv gledet ned af metalsvinet, der stod, hvor det altid plejede at stå, i gaden porta rossa.
Frygt og angst opfyldte drengen ved tanken om hende, han kaldte moder, hun, som havde i går sendt ham ud og sagt, at han skulle skaffe penge, ingen havde han; sulten og tørstig var han; endnu engang tog han metalsvinet om halsen, kyssede det på trynen, nikkede til det og vandrede så af sted, til en af de snævreste gader, kun bred nok for et velpakket æsel. En stor, jernbeslået dør stod halv på klem, her gik han op ad en muret trappe med skidne mure og en glat snor til rækværk, og kom til et åbent galleri, behængt med pjalter; en trappe førte herfra til gården, hvor fra brønden store jerntråde var trukket til alle husets etager, og den ene vandspand svævede ved siden af den anden, medens trissen peb og spanden dansede i luften, så vandet klaskede ned i gården. Atter gik det op ad en forfalden, muret trappe; - to matroser, det var russere, sprang lystigt ned og havde nær stødt den stakkels dreng omkuld. De kom fra deres natlige lystighed. En ikke ung, men stærkbygget kvindeskikkelse, med et kraftigt, sort hår, fulgte. "Hvad har du hjem?" sagde hun til drengen.
"Vær ikke vred!" bad han, "jeg fik intet, slet intet!" - og han greb i moderens kjole, som om han ville kysse på den; de trådte ind i kamret: Det vil vi ikke beskrive; kun så meget skal siges, at der stod en hankekrukke med kul-ild, marito, som den kaldes, denne tog hun på sin arm, varmede fingrene, og puffede drengen med albuen. "Jo vist har du penge!" sagde hun. -
Barnet græd, hun stødte til ham med foden, han jamrede højt; - "vil du tie, eller jeg slår dit skrålende hoved itu!" sagde hun og svang ildpotten, som hun holdt i hånden, drengen dukkede ned til jorden med et skrig. Da trådte nabokonen ind ad døren, også hun havde sin marito på armen. "Felicita! Hvad gør du ved barnet?"
"Barnet er mit!" svarede Felicita. "Jeg kan myrde det om jeg vil, og dig med, Gianina!" og hun svingede sin ildpotte; den anden hævede sin parerende i vejret, og begge potterne fór imod hinanden, så skårene, ilden og asken fløj omkring i værelset; - - men drengen var i samme nu ude af døren, over gården og ude af huset. Det arme barn løb, så han til sidst ej kunne drage ånde; han standsede ved kirken Santa Croce, kirken, hvis store dør sidste nat havde åbnet sig for ham, og han gik derind. Alt strålede; han knælede ved den første grav til højre, det var Michelangelos, og snart hulkede han højt. Folk kom og gik, messen blev læst, ingen brød sig om drengen; kun en gammelagtig borger standsede, så på ham og gik så bort ligesom de andre.
Sult og tørst plagede den lille, han var ganske afmægtig og syg; han krøb hen i krogen mellem væggen og marmormonumentet og faldt i søvn. Det var hen imod aften, da han vågnede igen ved at én ruskede i ham, han fór op, og den samme gamle borger stod foran ham.
"Er du syg? Hvor hører du hjemme? Har du været her den hele dag?" var et par af de mange spørgsmål, den gamle gjorde ham; de blev besvaret, og den gamle mand tog ham med sig til et lille hus tæt ved i en af sidegaderne; det var et handskemagerværksted, de trådte ind i; konen sad nok så flittig og syede, da de kom; en lille, hvid bologneser, klippet så tæt, at man kunne se den rosenrøde hud, hoppede på bordet, og sprang for den lille dreng.
"De uskyldige sjæle kender hinanden," sagde konen og klappede hunden og drengen. Denne fik at spise og at drikke hos de gode folk, og de sagde, han skulle have lov til at blive der natten over; næste dag ville fader Giuseppe tale med hans moder. Han fik en lille, fattig seng; men den var kongelig prægtig for ham, der tit måtte sove på det hårde stengulv; han sov så godt og drømte om de rige billeder og om metalsvinet.
Fader Giuseppe gik ud næste morgen, og det arme barn var ikke så glad derved, thi han vidste, at denne gåen ud var for at bringe ham til hans moder, og han græd og kyssede den lille, vævre hund, og konen nikkede til dem begge to. -
Og hvad besked bragte fader Giuseppe; han talte meget med sin kone, og hun nikkede og klappede drengen. "Det er et dejligt barn!" sagde hun. "Hvor han kan blive en køn handskemager, ligesom du var! og fingre har han, så fine og bøjelige. Madonna har bestemt ham til at være handskemager!"
Og drengen blev der i huset, og konen lærte ham selv at sy; han spiste godt, han sov godt, han blev munter og han begyndte at drille Bellissima, det hed den lille hund; konen truede med fingrene, skændte og var vred, og det gik drengen til hjerte; tankefuld sad han i sit lille kammer, det vendte ud til gaden, der blev tørret skind derinde; tykke jernstænger var for vinduerne, han kunne ikke sove, metalsvinet var i hans tanke, og pludselig hørte han udenfor: "Klask, klask!" jo, det var bestemt det! han sprang hen til vinduet, men der var intet at se, det var alt forbi.
"Hjælp Signore at bære hans farvekasse!" sagde madammen om morgnen til drengen, idet den unge nabo, maleren, kom selv slæbende med denne og et stort, sammenrullet lærred; barnet tog kassen, fulgte efter maleren, og de tog vej til galleriet, gik op ad den samme trappe, han kendte godt fra hin nat, han red på metalsvinet; han kendte statuer og billeder, den dejlige Marmorvenus og de, som levede i farver; han genså Guds Moder, Jesus og Johannes.
Nu stod de stille foran maleriet af Bronzino, hvor Kristus stiger ned i underverdenen og børnene rundt om smiler i sød forvisning om Himmelen; det fattige barn smilte også, thi han var her i sin himmel.
"Ja gå nu hjem!" sagde maleren til ham, da han allerede havde stået så længe, at denne havde rejst sit staffeli.
"Må jeg se jer male?" sagde drengen. "Må jeg se, hvorledes I får billedet herover på det hvide stykke?" -
"Nu maler jeg ikke!" svarede manden og tog sit sortkridt frem, hurtigt bevægede hånden sig, øjet målte det store billede, og uagtet det kun var en tynd streg, der kom, stod Kristus dog svævende, som på det farvede billede.
"Men så gå dog!" sagde maleren, og drengen vandrede stille hjemad, satte sig op på bordet og - lærte at sy handsker.
Men den hele dag var tankerne i billedsalen, og derfor stak han sig i fingrene, bar sig kejtet ad, men drillede heller ikke Bellissima. Da det blev aften og gadedøren just stod åben, listede han sig udenfor; det var koldt men stjernelyst, så smukt og klart; han vandrede af sted gennem gaderne hvor der allerede var stille, og snart stod han foran metalsvinet; han bøjede sig ned over det, kyssede dets blanke tryne, og satte sig på dets ryg; "du velsignede dyr," sagde han, "hvor jeg har længtes efter dig! vi må i nat ride en tur."
Metalsvinet lå ubevægeligt, og det friske væld sprudlede fra munden. Den lille sad som rytter, da trak nogen ham i klæderne; han så til siden, Bellissima, den lille, nøgenklippede Bellissima var det. Hunden var smuttet med ud af huset og havde fulgt den lille, uden at denne mærkede det. Bellissima bjæffede, som om den ville sige, ser du jeg er med, hvorfor sætter du dig her? Ingen gloende drage kunne have forfærdet drengen mere, end den lille hund på dette sted. Bellissima på gaden og det uden at være klædt på, som den gamle moder kaldte det; hvad ville der blive af. Hunden kom aldrig ud ved vintertid, uden at den iførtes et lille fåreskind, der var klippet og syet til den. Skindet kunne bindes med et rødt bånd fast om halsen, der var sløjfe og bjælde ved, og ligeledes bandtes det under bugen. Hunden så næsten ud som et lille kid, når den ved vintertid i denne habit fik lov at trippe ud med Signora. Bellissima var med og ikke klædt på; hvad ville der blive af. Alle fantasier var forsvundet, dog kyssede drengen metalsvinet, tog Bellissima på armen, dyret rystede af kulde, og derfor løb drengen, alt hvad han kunne.
"Hvad løber du der med!" råbte to gendarmer, han mødte, og Bellissima gøede. "Hvor har du stjålet den smukke hund?" spurgte de og tog den fra ham.
"Oh giv mig den igen!" jamrede drengen.
"Har du ikke stjålet den, da kan du sige hjemme, at hunden kan hentes på vagten," og de nævnte stedet og gik med Bellissima.
Det var en nød og jammer. Han vidste ikke, om han skulle springe i Arno, eller gå hjem og tilstå alt. De ville vist slå ham ihjel, tænkte han. "Men jeg vil gerne slås ihjel; jeg vil dø, så kommer jeg til Jesus og Madonna!" og han gik hjem, mest for at blive slået ihjel.
Døren var lukket, han kunne ikke nå hammeren, der var ingen på gaden, men en sten lå løs, og med den dundrede han på; "hvem er det!" råbte de indenfor. -
"Det er mig!" sagde han, "Bellissima er borte! luk mig op og slå mig så ihjel!"
Der blev en forskrækkelse, især hos madammen, for den arme Bellissima; hun så straks til væggen, hvor hundens draperi skulle hænge, det lille fåreskind hang der.
"Bellissima på vagten!" råbte hun ganske højt; "du onde barn! Hvor har du fået ham ud! Han fryser ihjel! Det fine dyr hos de grove soldater!"
Og fatter måtte straks af sted! Konen jamrede og drengen græd; alle folk i huset kom sammen, maleren med; han tog drengen mellem sine knæ, spurgte ham ud, og i stumper og stykker fik han den hele historie om metalsvinet og om galleriet; det var ikke godt at forstå, maleren trøstede den lille, talte godt for den gamle, men hun blev ikke tilfreds før fatter kom med Bellissima, der havde været mellem soldater; der var en glæde, og maleren klappede den stakkels dreng, og gav ham en håndfuld billeder.
Oh det var prægtige stykker, komiske hoveder! men frem for alt, det var lyslevende metalsvinet selv. Oh, intet kunne være herligere! ved et par streger stod det på papiret og selv huset bagved var antydet.
"Hvem der dog kunne tegne og male! så kunne man få den hele verden til sig!"
Næste dag, i det første ensomme øjeblik, greb den lille blyanten, og på den hvide side af et af billederne forsøgte han at gengive tegningen af metalsvinet, og det lykkedes! lidt skævt, lidt op og ned, ét ben tykt, et andet tyndt, men det var dog til at forstå, selv jublede han derover! Blyanten ville kun ikke ret gå så lige, som den skulle, mærkede han nok; men næste dag stod der et metalsvin ved siden af det andet, og det var hundrede gange bedre; det tredje var så godt, at enhver kunne kende det.
Men det gik dårligt med handskesyningen, det gik langsomt med byærinderne; thi metalsvinet havde nu lært ham, at alle billeder måtte kunne overføres på papiret, og staden Firenze er en hel billedbog, når man vil blade op i den. Der står på piazza della Trinità en slank søjle og øverst på denne står Retfærdighedens Gudinde med tilbundne øjne og vægtskål; snart stod hun på papiret, og det var handskemagerens lille dreng, som havde sat hende der. Billedsamlingen voksede, men alt i den var endnu døde ting; da hoppede en dag Bellissima foran ham; "stå stille!" sagde han, "så skal du blive dejlig, og komme med i mine billeder!" men Bellissima ville ikke stå stille, så måtte han bindes; hoved og hale blev bunden, den bjæffede og gjorde spring, snoren måtte strammes; da kom Signora.
"Du ugudelige dreng! det arme dyr!" var alt, hvad hun fik sagt, og hun stødte drengen til side, sparkede ham med sin fod, viste ham ud af sit hus; han, der var det utaknemmeligste skarn, det ugudeligste barn; og grædende kyssede hun sin lille, halvkvalte Bellissima.
Maleren kom i det samme op ad trappen og - - her er vendepunktet i historien.
1834 var i Academia delle arte en udstilling i Firenze; to malerier opstillet ved siden af hinanden samlede en mængde tilskuere. På det mindste maleri var fremstillet en lille lystig dreng, der sad og tegnede; til model havde han en lille hvid, tæt klippet mops, men dyret ville ikke stå stille og var derfor bundet med sejlgarn og det både ved hoved og ved hale; der var et liv og en sandhed deri, som måtte tiltale enhver. Maleren var, fortalte man, en ung florentiner, der skulle være fundet på gaden som lille barn, opdraget af en gammel handskemager, han havde selv lært sig at tegne; en nu berømt maler havde opdaget dette talent, da drengen engang skulle jages bort, fordi han havde bundet madammens yndling, den lille mops, og gjort denne til model.
Handskemagerdrengen var blevet en stor maler, det viste dette billede, det viste især det større ved siden; her var kun én eneste figur, en pjaltet, dejlig dreng, der sad og sov på gaden, han hældede sig op til metalsvinet i gaden porta rossa. Alle beskuerne kendte stedet. Barnets arme hvilede på svinets hoved; den lille sov så trygt, lampen ved Madonnabilledet kastede et stærkt lys på barnets blege, herlige ansigt. Det var et prægtigt maleri; en stor forgyldt ramme omgav det, og på hjørnet af rammen var hængt en laurbærkrans, men mellem de grønne blade snoede sig et sort bånd, et langt sørgeflor hang ned derfra. -
Den unge kunstner var i disse dage - død!