Herbert Colborne Oakley   (1869 - 1944)
Traveling In France & Italy

Written at: Florence Italy, in the 1920s

as reported in: "The Southern Daily Echo" (with spelling unchanged)


Evening by the Arno.

Mr. Herbert C. Oakley, the local artist, writing to a Southampton friend from Florence, gives the following description of an evening by the Arno:—

Yesterday evening was a moment of splendid sumptuosity of colour that made the world look like a pastel-wrought illusion.  Westwards the mountains melted into gold and the vale of the Arno, meandering past Florence and its domes and spires, seemed like the fine dust of gold suffused with rose.  Was the landscape of this exquisite transitional minute to be put in the melting pot and made anew ?  After being steeped in gold ?  And a nameless alchemy to follow ?  Then, looking Eastward, olives, softly grey in the near fields, - shadowed reticence of colour - here and there fair home and villa, some in shadowed secrecy, some in the sin's warm glow.


From a small pine-wood, full of aromatic delight, I saw vale after vale, hill after hill, and I could discern the Arno winding along, lost to view sometimes, and then discoverable as its waters wandered where they listed, far away, nameless in tints of amethystine colour and fading gold and faintest lavender; high mountains, clear cut against a dusky green and purpling sky; far away the vale of lovely Vallombrosa, blue, blue and palest lavender, from which more mountains rose snow-crowned - about their proud heads the splendid confusion of attendant clouds.


And so the scene melted into the sky as some of our best thoughts, born on earth, wing their way to the confines of heaven.  Many a weary peasant was taking his oxen home, and the only sound in the great stillness and perfect hush was his coaxing voice as they wended their way in narrow paths, or completed their last furrow for their long day of toil in the sun - the only sounds save the call of the distant bells, or the faintest breezes; bells as beautiful to the ear as this vanishing moment was to the sight.  Nor must I leave out of the landscape the cypress spires, pointing skyward and giving vigor of contrast to delicacy of harmony that the solemn symphony of this short spell, and the passing pageant should be, as I, indeed, found it - complete.

Returning homewards, with gentle slopes to Settignano, the gold of the melting West had gone, and the deep shadows and the sobriety of a transcient afterglow, with lamp-lit villas on ghostly olive slopes, giving beautiful, if less ecstatic, effects of evening repose.

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