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George Garrett, "A Wreath for Garibaldi" The Kenyon Review, 23: 3 (Summer, 1961), 484-489.

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There had been signs and portents like the regular toppling over and defacing of the bust of Lauro Di Bosis near the Villa Lante and in the Gianicolo .

Something was happening all right , slowly it is true , but you could feel it . The Italians felt it . Little things . An Italian poet had noticed plainclothes policemen lounging around the area of Quirinal Palace , the first time since the war . At least they hadn't stepped up and asked to see papers in the hated , flat , dialect mispronunciation of Mussolini's home district -- Dogumenti , per favore . But , who knew , that might be coming one of these days . There were other Italians who still bore scars they had earned in police station basements , resisting . They laughed and , true to national form and manners , never talked long or solemnly on any subject at all , but some of them worried out loud about short memories and ghosts .

We saw Giuseppe Berto at a party once in a while , tall , lean , nervous and handsome , and , in our opinion , the best novelist of them all except Pavese , and Pavese is dead . Berto's The Sky Is Red had been a small masterpiece and in its special way the best book to come out of the war . Now he was married to a beautiful girl , had a small son , and lived in an expensive apartment and worked for the movies . On his desk was a slowly accumulating treatment and script of The Count Of Monte Cristo . On his bookshelves were some of the latest American novels , including Bellow's Seize The Day , but he hadn't read them ( they were sent by American publishers ) and wasn't especially interested in what the American writers were up to . He was interested in Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities . So were a lot of other people . He was interested in Italo Svevo . He was thinking his way into a new novel , a big one , one that people had been waiting for . It was going to be hard going all the way because he hadn't written seriously for a while , except for a few stories , was tired of the old method of realismo he had so successfully used in The Sky Is Red . This one was going to be different . He had bought a little piece of property down along the coast of the hard country of Calabria that he knew so well . He was going to do one or two more films for cash and then chuck it all , leave Rome and its intellectual cliques and money-fed life , go back to Calabria .

Berto seemed worried , too . He knew all about it and had put it down in journal form in The War In A Black Shirt , a wonderful book not , for some strange reason , published in the U.S. . He knew all about the appeal of a black shirt and jackboots to a poor , southern , peasant boy . He knew all about the infection and the fever , and , too , the moment of realization when he saw for himself , threw up his hands and quit , ended the war as a prisoner in Texas . Berto knew all about Fascism . So did his friend , the young novelist Rimanelli . Rimanelli is tough and square-built and adventurous , says what he thinks . He had put it down in a war novel , The Day Of The Lion . These people were not talking much about it , but you , a foreigner , sensed their apprehension and disappointment .

So there we were talking around and about it . The English lady said she had to go to Vienna for a while . It was a pity because she had planned to lay a wreath at the foot of the Garibaldi statue , towering over Rome in spectacular benediction from the highpoint of the Gianicolo . Around that statue in the green park where children play and lovers walk in twos and there is a glowing view of the whole city , in that park are the rows of marble busts of Garibaldi's fallen men , the ones who one day rushed out of the Porta San Pancrazio and , under fire all the way , up the long , straight narrow lane to take , then lose the high ground of the Villa Doria Pamphili . When they lost it , the French artillery moved in , and that was the end for Garibaldi that time , on 30 April 1849 . Once out of the gate they had charged straight up the narrow lane . We had walked it many times and shivered , figuring what a fish barrel it had been for the French . Now the park is filled with marble busts and all the streets in the immediate area have the full and proper names of the men who fell .

We were at a party once and heard an idealistic young European call that awful charge glorious . Our companion was a huge , plain-spoken American sculptor who had been a sixteen-year-old rifleman all across France in 1944 . He said it was stupid butchery to order men to make a charge like that , no matter who gave the order and what for .

`` Oh , it would be butchery all right '' , the European said . `` We would see it that way , but it was glorious then . It was the last time in history anybody could do something gloriously like that '' .

I thought : Who is older now ? ? Old world and new world .

The sculptor looked at him , bugeyed and amazed , angry . He had made an assault once with 180 men . It was a picked assault company . They went up against an SS unit of comparable size , over a little rise of ground , over an open field . Object -- a village crossroads . They made it , killed every last one of the Krauts , took the village on schedule . When it was over , eight of his company were still alive and all eight were wounded . The whole thing , from the moment when they jumped heavily off the trucks , spread out and moved into position just behind the cover of that slight rise of ground and then jumped off , took maybe between twenty and thirty minutes . The sculptor looked at him , let the color drain out of his face , grinned , and looked down into his drink , a bad Martini made with raw Italian gin .

`` Bullshit '' , he said softly .

`` Excuse me '' , the European said . `` I am not familiar with the expression '' .

The apartment where we were talking that afternoon in March faced onto the street Garibaldi's men had charged up and along . Across the way from the apartment building is a ruined house , shot to hell that day in 1849 , and left that way as a memorial . There is a bronze wreath on the wall . Like everything else in Rome , ruins and monuments alike , that house is lived in . I have seen diapers strung across the ruined roof .

The English lady really wanted to put a wreath on the Garibaldi monument on the 30th of April . She had her reasons for this . For one thing , there wasn't going to be any ceremony at all this year . There were a few reasons for that , too : Garibaldi had been taken up and exploited by the Communists nowadays . Therefore the government wanted no part of him . ( It is sort of as if our government should decide to disown Washington or Lincoln for the same reason . ) And then there were ecclesiastical matters , the matter of Garibaldi's anti-clericalism . There was a new Pope and the Vatican was making itself heard and felt these days . As it happens the English lady is a good Catholic herself , but of more liberal political persuasion . Nothing was going to be done this year to celebrate Garibaldi's bold and unsuccessful defense of Rome . All that the English lady wanted to do was to walk up to the monument and lay a wreath at its base . This would show that somebody , even a foreigner living in Rome , cared . And then there were other things . Some of the marble busts in the park are of young Englishmen who fought and died for Garibaldi . She also mentioned leaving a little bunch of flowers at the bust of Lauro Di Bosis .

It is hard for me to know how I feel about Lauro Di Bosis . I suffer from mixed feelings . He was a well-to-do , handsome , and sensitive young poet . His bust shows an intense , mustached , fine-featured face . He flew over Rome one day during the early days of Mussolini and scattered leaflets over the city , denouncing the Fascists . He was never heard of again . He is thought either to have been killed by the Fascists as soon as he landed or to have killed himself by flying out to sea and crashing his plane . He was , thus , an early and spectacular victim . And there is something so wonderfully romantic about it all . He really didn't know how to fly . He had crashed on takeoff once before . Gossip had it ( for gossip is the soul of Rome ) that a famous American dancer of the time had paid for both the planes . It was absurd and dramatic . It is remembered and has been commemorated by a bust in a park and a square in the city which was renamed Piazzo Lauro Di Bosis after the war . Most Romans , even some postmen , know it by the old name .

Faced with a gesture like Di Bosis' , I find usually that my sentiments are closer to those of my sculptor friend . The things that happened in police station basements were dirty , grubby , and most often anonymous . No poetry , no airplanes , no dancers . That is how the real routine of resistance goes on , and its strength is directly proportionate to the number of insignificant people who can let themselves be taken to pieces , piece by piece , without quitting . It is an ugly business and there are few , if any , wreaths for them . I keep thinking of a young woman I knew during the Occupation in Austria . She was from Prague . She had been picked up by the Russians , questioned in connection with some pamphlets , sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage . She escaped , crawled through the usual mine fields , under barbed wire , was shot at , swam a river , and we finally picked her up in Linz . She showed us what had happened to her . No airplanes , no Nathan Hale statements . Just no spot , not even a dimesize spot , on her whole body that wasn't bruised , bruise on top of bruise , from beatings . I understand very well about Lauro Di Bosis and how his action is symbolic . The trouble is that like many symbols it doesn't seem a very realistic one .

The English lady wanted to pay tribute to Garibaldi and to Lauro Di Bosis , but she wasn't going to be here to do it . Were any of us interested enough in the idea to do it for her , by proxy so to speak ? ? There was a pretty thorough silence at that point . My spoon stirring coffee , banging against the side of the cup , sounded as loud as a bell . I thought : What the hell ? ? Why not ? ? I said I would do it for her .

I had some reasons , too . I admire the English lady . I hate embarrassing silences and have been known to make a fool out of myself just to prevent one . I also had and have feelings about Garibaldi . Like every Southerner I can't escape the romantic tradition of brave defeats , forlorn lost causes . Though Garibaldi's fight was small shakes compared to Pickett's Charge -- which , like all Southerners , I view in almost Miltonic terms , fallen angels , etc. -- I associated the two . And to top it all I am often sentimental on purpose , trying to prove to myself that I am not afraid of sentiment . So much for all that .

The English lady was pleased and enthusiastic . She gave me the names of some people who would surely help pay for the flowers and might even march up to the monument with me . The idea of the march pleased her . Maybe twenty , thirty , fifty . Maybe I could call Rimanelli at the magazine Rottosei where he worked .