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to the repulse of the approaching enemy; but they protested they would not move a step, unless Pisani were liberated, and placed at their head. The great council was instantly assembled: the prisoner was called before them, and the Doge, Andrea Contarini, informed him of the demands of the people and the necessities of the state, whose only hope of safety was reposed on his efforts, and who implored him to forget the indignities he had'endured in her service. “ I have submitted,” replied the magnanimous republican, “ I have submitted to your deliberations without complaint; I have supported patiently the pains of imprisonment, for they were inflicted at your command: this is no time to inquire whether I deserved them—the good of the republic may have seemed to require it, and that which the republic resolves is always resolved wisely. Behold me ready to lay down my life for the preservation of my country.” Pisani was appointed generalissimo, and, by his exertions, in conjunction with those of Carlo Zeno, the Venetians soon recovered the ascendancy over their maritime rivals.
The Italian communities were no less unjust to their citizens than the Greek republics. Liberty, both with the one and the other, seems to have been a national, not an individual object: and, notwithstanding the boasted equality before the laws, which an ancient Greek writer * considered the great distinctive mark beiween his countrymen and the barbarians, the mutual rights of fellow-citizens seem never to have been the principal scope of the old democracies. The world may have not yet seen an essay by the author of the Italian Republics, in which the distinction between the liberty of former states, and the signification attached to that word by the happier constitution of England, is ingeniously developed. The Italians, however, when they had ceased to be free, still looked back with a sigh upon those times of turbulence, when every citizen might rise to a share of sovereign power, and have never been taught fully to appreciate the repose of a monarchy. Sperone Speroni, when Francis Maria II. Duke of Rovero, proposed the question, “ which was preferable, the republic or the principality—the perfect and not durable, or the less perfect and not so liable to change,” replied, “that our happiness is to be measured by its quality, not by its duration; and that he preferred to live for one day like a man, than for a hundred years like a brute, a stock, or a stone.” This was thought, and called a magnificent answer, down to the last days of Italian servitude. +
Note 32. Stanza Ivïi.
and the crown
Upon a far and foreign soil had grown, The Florentines did not take the opportunity of Petrarch's short visit to their city, in 1350, to revoke the decree which confiscated the property of his father, who had been banished shortly after the exile of Dante. His crown did not dazzle them; but when, in the next year, they were in want of his assistance in the formation of their university, they repented of their injustice, and Boccaccio was sent to Padua to intreat the laureat to conclude his wanderings in the bosom of his native country, where he might finish his immortal Africa, and enjoy, with his recovered possessions, the esteem of all classes of his fellow-citizens. They gave him the option of the book and the science he might condescend to expound: they called him the glory of his country, who was dear, and would be dearer to them; and they added, that if there was any thing unpleasing in their letter, he ought to return amongst them, were it only to correct their style. # Petrarch seemed at first to listen to the flattery and to the entreaties of his friend, but he did not return to Florence, and preferred a pilgrimage to the tomb of Laura and the shades of Vaucluse.
* The Greek boasted that he was loovopos. See the last chapter of the first book of Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
+ “E intorno alla magnifica risposta,” &c. Serassi, Vita del Tasso, lib. iij. pag. 149, tom. ii. edit. 2. Bergamo.
1 “ Accingiti innoltre, se ci e lecito l'esortarti, compire l' immortal tua Africa. .. Se ti avviene d'incontrare nel nostro stile cosa che ti dispiaccia, cio debb' essere un altro motivo ad esaudire i desidery delia tua patria.” Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. par. i. lib. i. p. 76.
Note 33. Stanza lviii.
His du.. Boccaccio was buried in the church of St. Michael and St. James, at Certaldo, a small town in the Valdelsa, which was by some supposed the place of his birth. There he passed the latter part of his life in a course of laborious study, which shortened his existence; and there might bis ashes have been secure, if not of honour, at last of repose. But the “hyæna bigots” of Certaldo tore up the tombstone of Boccaccio, and ejected it from the holy precincts of St. Michael and St. James. The occasion, and, it may be hoped, the excuse of this ejectment, was the making of a new floor for the church: but the fact is, that the tomb-stone was taken up and thrown aside at the bottom of the building. Ignorance may share the sin with bigotry. It would be painful to relate such an exception to the devotion of the Italians for their great names, could it not be accompanied by a trait more honourably conformable to the general character of the nation. The principal person of the district, the last branch of the house of Medicis, afforded that protection to the memory of the insulted dead which her best ancestors had dispensed upon all contemporary merit. The Marchioness Lenzoni rescued the tomb-stone of Boccaccio from the neglect in which it had some time lain, and found for it an honourable elevation in her own mansion. She has done more : the house in which the poet lived has been as little respected as his tomb, and is falling to ruin over the head of one indifferent to the name of its former tenant. It consists of two or three little chambers, and a low tower, on which Cosmo IS. affixed an inscription. This house she has taken measures to purchase, and proposes to devote to it that care and consideration which are attached to the cradle and to the roof of genius.
This is not the place to undertake the defence of Boccaccio; but the man who exhausted his little patrimony in the acquirement of learning, who was amongst the first, if not the first, to allure the science and the poetry of Greece to the bosom of Italy ;—who not only invented a new style, but founded, or certainly fixed, a new language; who, besides the esteem of every polite court of Europe, was thought worthy of employment by the predominant republic of his own country, and, what
of the friendship of Petrarch, who lived the life of a philosopher and a freeman, and who died in the pursuit of knowledge,-such a man might have found more consideration than he has met with from the priest of Certaldo, and from a late English traveller, who strikes off his portrait as an odious, contemptible, licentious writer, whose impure remains should be suffered to rot without a record.* That English traveller, unfortunately for those who have to deplore the loss of a very amiable person, is beyond all criticism; but the mortality which did not protect Boccaccio from Mr. Eustace, must not defend Mr. Eustace from the impartial judgment of his successors. Death may canonize his virtues, not his errors; and it may be modestly pronounced that he transgressed, not only as an author, but as a man, when he evoked the shade of Boccaccio in company with that of Aretino, amidst the sepulchres of Santa Croce, merely to dismiss it with indignity. As far as respects
Il flagello de' Principi,
Il divin Pietro Aretino, it is of little import what censure is passed upon a coxcomb, who owes his present existence to the above burlesque character given to himn by the poet, whose amber has preserved many other grubs and worms: but to classify Boccaccio with such a person, and to excommunicate his very ashes, must of itself make us doubt of the
. Classical Tour, chap. ix. vol. ii. p. 355. edit. 3d. “ Of Boccaccio, the modern Petronius, we say nothing ; the abuse of genius is more odious and more contemptible than its absence, and it imports little where the impure remains of a licentious author are consigned to their kindred dust. For the same reason the traveller may pass unnoticed the tomb of the malignant Aretino."
This dubious phrase is hardly enough to save the tourist from the suspicion of another blunder respecting the burial-place of Aretino, whose tomb was in the church of St. Luke at Venice, and gave rise to the famous controversy of which some notice is taken in Bayle. Now the words of Mr. Eustace would lead us to think the tomb was at Florence, or at least was to be somewhere recognized. Whether the inscription so much disputed was ever written on the tomb cannot now be decided, for all memorial of this author has disappeared from the church of St. Luke, which is now changed into a lampwarehouse.
qualification of the classical tourist for writing upon Italian, or, indeed, upon any other literature; for ignorance upon one point may incapacitate an author merely for that particular topic, but subjection to a professional prejudice must render him an unsafe director on all occasions. Any perversion and injustice may be made what is vulgarly called “a case of conscience," and this poor excuse is all that can be afforded for the priest of Certaldo, or the author of the Classical Tour. It would have answered the purpose to confine the censure to the novels of Boccaccio; and gratitude to that source which supplied the use of Dryden with her last and most harmonious numbers, might perhaps have restricted that censure to the ob. jectionable qualities of the hundred tales. At any rate, the repentance of Boccaccio might have arrested his exhumation; and it should have been recollected and told, that in his old age he wrote a letter intreating his friend to discourage the reading of the Decameron, for the sake of modesty, and for the sake of the author; who would not have an apologist always at hand to state in his excuse that he wrote it when young and at the command of his superiors.* It is neither the licentiousness of the writer, nor the evil propensities of the reader, which has given to the Decameron alone, of all the works of Boccaccio, a perpetual popularity. The establishment of a new and delightful dialect conferred an immortality on the works in which it was first fixed. The sonnets of Petrarch were, for the same reason, fated to survive his self-admired Africa, the “favourite of kings.” The invariable traits of nature and feeling with which the novels, as well as the verses, abound, have, doubtless, been the chief source of the foreign celebrity of both anthurs; but Boccaccio, as a man, is no more to be estimated by that work, than Petrarch is to be regarded in no other light than as the lover of Laura. Even, however, had the father of the Tuscan prose been known only as the author of the Decameron, a considerate writer would have been cautious to pronounce a sentence irreconcilable with the unerring voice of many ages and nations. An irrevocable value has never been stamped upon any work solely recommended by impurity.
The true source of the outcry against Boccaccio, which began at a very early period, was the choice of his scandalous personages in the cloisters as well as the courts; but the princes only laughed at the gallant adventures so unjustly charged upon Queen Theodelinda, whilst the priesthood cried shame upon the debauches drawn from the convent and the hermitage; and, most probably, for the opposite reason, namely, that the picture was faithful to the life. Two of the novels are allowed to be facts, usefully turned into tales, to deride the canonization of rogues and Jaymen. Ser Ciappelletto and Marcellinus are cited with applause even by the decent Muratori. † The great Arnaud, as he is quoted in Bayle, states, that a new edition of the novels was proposed, of which the expurgation consisted in omitting the words “monk” and “nun,” and tacking the immoralities to other names.
The literary history of Italy particularizes no such edition; but it was not long before the whole of Europe had but one opinion of the Decameron; and the absolution of the author seems to have been a point settled at least a hundred years ago : “On se ferait siffer si l'on prétendait convaincre Boccace de n'avoir pas été honnête homme, puisqu'il a fait le Décameron." So said one of the best men, and perhaps the best critic, that ever lived the very martyr to impartiality. # But as this information, that in the beginning the last century one would have been hooted at for pretending that Boccaccio was not a good man, may seem to come from one of those enemies who are to be suspected, even when they make us a present of truth, a more acceptable contrast with the proscription of the body, soul, and muse of Boccaccio may be found in a few words from the virtuous, the patriotic contem
who thought one of the tales of this impure writer worthy a Latin version from his own pen.
“ I have remarked elsewhere,” says Petrarch, writing to Boccaccio, “ that the book itself has been worried by certain dogs, but stoutly defended by your staff and voice. Nor was 1 astonished, for I have had proof
*“Non enim ubique est, qui in excusationem meam consurgens dicat, juvenis scripsit, et majoris coactus imperio." The letter was addressed to Maghinard of Cavalcanti, marshal of the kingdom of Sicily. Tiraboschi, Storia, &c. tom. v. par. ij. lib. ill. p. 525. ed. Ven. 1795. + Dissertazioni sopra le antichità Italiane. Diss. Iviii, p 253. tom. lii. edit. Milan, 1751.
Eclaircissement, &c. &c., p. 638, edit. Basle, 1741, in the Supplement to Bayle's Dictionary.
of the vigour of your mind, and I know you have fallen on that unaccommodating incapable race of mortals who, whatever they either like not, or know not, or cannot do, are sure to reprehend in others, and on those occasions only put on a show of learning and eloquence, but otherwise are entirely dumb."
It is satisfactory to find that all the priesthood do not resemble those of Certaldo, and that one of them, who did not possess the bones of Boccaccio, would not lose the opportunity of raising a cenotaph to his memory. Bevius, canon of Padua, at the beginning of the 16th century, erected at Arquà, opposite to the tomb of the laureat, a tablet, in which he associated Boccaccio to the equal honours of Dante and of Petrarch.
Note 34. Stanza lx.
What is her pyramid of precious stones? Our veneration for the Medici begins with Cosmo, and expires with his grandson; that stream is pure only at the source; and it is in search of some memorial of the virtuous republicans of the family that we visit the church of St. Lorenzo at Flo
The tawdry, glaring, unfinished chapel in that church, designed for the mausoleum of the Dukes of Tuscany, set round with crowns and coffins, gives birth to no emotions but those of contempt for the lavish vanity of a race of despots, whilst the pavement slab, simply inscribed to the Father of his Country, reconciles us to the name of Medici.t It was very natural for Corinna $ to suppose that the statue raised to the Duke of Urbino in the capella de' depositi was intended for his great namesake; but the magnificent Lorenzo is only the sharer of a coffin half hidden in a niche of the sacristy. The decay of Tuscany dates from the sovereignty of the Medici. Of the sepulchral peace which succeeded to the establishment of the reigning families in Italy, our own Sidney has given us a glowing, but a faithful picture. “Notwithstanding all the seditions of Florence, and other cities of Tuscany, the horrid factions of Guelphs and Ghibelins, Neri and Bianchi, nobles and commons, they continued populous, strong, and exceeding rich; but in the space of less than a hundred and fifty years, the peaceable reign of the Medices is thought to have destroyed nine parts in ten of the people of that province. Amongst other things it is remarkable, that when Philip the Second of Spain gave Sienna to the Duke of Florence, his ambassador then at Rome sent him word, that he had given away more than 650,000 subjects; and it is not believed there are now 20,000 souls inhabiting that city and territory. Pisa, Pistoia, Arezzo, Cortona, and other towns, that were then good and populous, are in the like proportion diminished, and Florence more than any. When that city had been long troubled with seditions, tumults, and wars, for the most part unprosperous, they still retained such strength, that when Charles VIII. of France, being admitted as a friend with his whole army, which soon after conquered the kingdom of Naples, thought to master them, the people taking arms struck such a terror into him, that he was glad to depart upon such conditions as they thought fit to impose. Machiavel reports, that, in that time Florence alone, with the Val d'Arno, a small territory belonging to that city, could, in a few hours, by the sound of a bell, bring together 135,000 well-armed men; whereas now that city, with all the others in that province, are brought to such despicable weakness, emptiness, poverty, and baseness, that they can neither resist the oppressions of their own prince, nor defend him or themselves if they were assaulted by a foreign enemy. The people are dispersed or destroyed, and the best families sent to seek habitations in Venice, Genoa, Rome, Naples, and Lucca. This is not the effect of war or pestilence; they enjoy a perfect peace, and suffer no other plague than the government they are under.” S From the usurper Cosmo down to the imbecile
*"Animadverti alicubi librum ipsum canum dentibus lacessitum, tuo tamen baculo egregie tuaque voce defensum. Nec miratus sum : nam et vires ingenii tui novi, et scio expertus esses hominum genus in. solens et ignavum, qui, quicquid ipsi vel nolunt, vel nesciunt, vel non possunt, in aliis reprehendunt; ad hoc unum docui et arguti, sed elingues ad reliqua." Epist. Joan. Boccatio, Opp. tom.!i. p. 540, edit. Basil.
+ Cosmus Medices, Decreto Publico, Pater Patriæ. 1 Corinne; liv. xviii. chap. iii. vol. iii, page 248.
On Government, chap. ii. sect. xxvi. page 208, edit. 1751, Sidney is, together with Locke and Hoadley, one of Mr. Hume's " despicable" writers.
Gaston, we look in vain for any of those unmixed qualities which should raise a patriot to the command of his fellow-citizens. The Grand Dukes, and particularly the third Cosmo, had operated so entire a change in the Tuscan character, that the candid Florentines, in excuse for some imperfections in the philanthropic system of Leopold, are obliged to confess that the sovereign was the only liberal man in his dominions. Yet that excellent prince himself had no other notion of a national assembly, than of a body to represent the wants and wishes, not the will of the people.
Note 35. Stanza lxiii.
An earthquake reel'd unheededly away. “ And such was their mutual animosity, so intent were they upon the battle, that the earthquake, which overthrew in great part many of the cities of Italy, which turned the course of rapid streams, poured back the sea upon the rivers, and tore down the rery mountains, was not felt by one of the combatants.” * Such is the description of Livy. It may be doubted whether modern tactics would admit of such an abstraction.
The site of the battle of Thrasimene is not to be mistaken. The traveller from the village under Cortona to Casa di Piano, the next stage on the way to Rome, has, for the first two or three miles, around him, but more particularly to the right, that flat land which Hannibal laid waste in order to induce the Consul Flaminius to move from Arezzo. On his left, and in front of him, is a ridge of hills, bending down towards the lake of Thrasimene, called by Livy “montes Cortonenses,” and now named the Gualandra. These hills he approaches at Ossaja, a village which the itineraries pretend to have been so denominated from the bones found there: but there have been no bones found there, and the battle was fought on the other side of the hill. From Ossaja the road begins to rise a little, but does not pass into the roots of the mountains until the sixty-seventh mile-stone from Florence. The ascent thence is not steep but perpetual, and continues for twenty minutes. The lake is soon seen below on the right, with Borghetto, a round tower close upon the water; and the undulating bills partially covered with wood amongst which the road winds, sink by degrees into the marshes near to this tower. Lower than the road, down to the right amidst these woody hillocks, Hannibal placed his horse, t in the jaws of or rather above the pass, which was between the lake and the present road, and most probably close to Borghetto, just under the lowest of the “ tumuli.” + On a summit to the left, above the road, is an old circular ruin, which the peasants call “the Tower of Hannibal the Carthaginian.” Arrived at the highest point of the road, the traveller has a partial view of the fatal plain, which opens fully upon him as he descends the Gualandra. He soon finds himself in a vale inclosed to the left and in front and behind him by the Gualandra hills, bending round in a segment larger than a seinicircle, and running down at each end to the lake, which obliques to the right, and forms the chord of this mountain arc. The position cannot be gnessed at from the plains of Cortona, nor appears to be so completely enclosed unless to one who is fairly within the hills. It then, indeed, appears “ a place made as it were on purpose for a snare,
.“ locus insidiis natus.?? Borghetto is then found to stand in a narrow marshy pass close to the hill and to the lake, whilst there is no other outlet at the opposite turn of the mountains than through the little town of Pasignano, which is pushed into the water by the foot of a high rocky acclivity. $ There is a woody eminence branching down from the mountains into the upper end of the plain nearer to the side of Passignano, and on this stands a white village called Torre. Polybius seems to allude to this eminence as the one on which Hannibal encamped, and
*“Tantusque fuit ardor animorum, adeo intentus pugnæ animus, ut eum terræ motum qui multarum
“Ubi maxime montes Cortonenses Thrasimenus. subit.Ibid.