“Why do you leap upon the foaming beach,
Waves in which no wind has carved furrows?
Why do you stir your steaming foam
In light swirls?
Why do you swing your foreheads that the dawn dries,
Forests, that rumble before the hour of waking?
Why from your branches you scatter like rain
Those silent tears with which they bathed you at night?
Why do you raise, oh flowers, your full chalices,
like a bowed brow that love lifts?
Why in the damp shade exhale these first ones
Perfumes that the day breathes?”
Alphonse de Lamartine (1790–1869), French writer, historian and politician, author of Poetic Meditations, among other things, had cousins in Livorno and came to visit them. Once again it is Pietro Vigo who brings us his words.
“I lived near Livorno in the Palmieri villa on the Montenero road; to the left I saw the wooded peaks of the Monti di Limone, to the right the sea, facing Montenero. On the summit of this cape, leaning against the rock and green oaks, a church rises like a Greek temple with a view of the sea, and it is a pilgrimage for the castaways who escaped the storms by vows raised to the star of the sea. I liked this place so much that I often ascended there. On the road is the once splendid, then deserted villa where Lord Byron stayed one or two summers some time before my abode at Leghorn.
I used to stop with my horse in front of his garden door, as if to look for the absent figure of the great poet who in a certain way consecrated that solitude. A little further on I left the road leading the horses towards the Montenero inn to venture alone into the woods where I glimpsed the sea. There I spent whole days in the company of my thoughts, with a book in my hand, in the margin of which, I was writing the poems inspired by the sky and the sea. The bushes at the foot of the verdant oaks of Montenero preserved for some time the pages torn from books and albums, where I tried to notice some songs, often interrupted by sleep, by caprice, and by the sunset, and which I left in pieces on the grass or on the sand mocked by the wind ».
Vigo states that three of the compositions of the “Poetic and religious harmonies” were written in these woods. It seems that a gust of north wind made the notes of the Hymn fly away in the morning, to the point that the poet had now given them up for lost. The next morning, however, a barefoot girl, daughter of a smith, gave them back to him soaked in sea water. It seems that the father fished them out and had them read to the Capuchin friars who advised him to bring them back to the French author. As a reward, Lamartine offered the man as many scudi as there were pages and bought the girl a new dress.