Every language in the world has its own phrase, fresh for the stranger's fresh and alien sense of its signal significance; a phrase that is its own essential possession, and yet is dearer to the speaker of other tongues. Easily—shall I say cheaply?—spiritual, for example, was the nation that devised the name anima pellegrina, wherewith to crown a creature admired. "Pilgrim soul" is a phrase for any language, but "pilgrim soul!" addressed, singly and sweetly, to one who cannot be overpraised, "pilgrim-soul!" is a phrase of fondness, the high homage of a lover, of one watching, of one who has no more need of common flatteries, but has admired and gazed while the object of his praises visibly surpassed them—this is the facile Italian ecstasy, and it rises into an Italian heaven.
It was by chance, and in an old play, that I came upon this impetuous, sudden, and single sentence of admiration, as it were a sentence of life passed upon one charged with inestimable deeds; and the modern editor had thought it necessary to explain the exclamation by a note. It was, he said, poetical.
Anima pellegrina seems to be Italian of no later date than Pergolese's airs, and suits the time as the familiar phrase of the more modern love-song suited the day of Bellini. But it is only Italian, bygone Italian, and not a part of the sweet past of any other European nation, but only of this.