« PreviousContinue »
Stanza liv. line 1. This name will recal the memory, not only of those whose tombs have raised the Santa Croce into the centre of pilgrimage, the Mecca of Italy, but of her whose eloquence was poured over the illustrious ashes, and whose voice is now as mute as those she sung. CORINNA is no more ; and with her should expire the fear, the flattery, and the envy, which threw too dazzling or too dark a cloud round the march of genius, and forbade the steady gaze of disinterested criticism. We have her picture embellished or distorted, as friendship or detraction has held the pencil: the impartial portrait was hardly to be expected from a cotemporary. The immediate voice of her survivors will, it is probable, be far from affording a just estimate of her single capacity The gallantry, the love of wonder, and the hope of associated fame, which blunted the edge of censure, must cease to exist. The dead have no sex ; they can surprise by no new miracles; they can confer no new privilege : Corinna has ceased to be a woman-she is only an author : and it may be foreseen that many will repay themselves for former complaisance, by a severity to which the extravagance of previous praises may perhap give the colour of truth. The latest posterity, for to the latest posterity they will assuredly descend, will have to pronounce upon her various productions; and the longer the vista through which they are seen, the more accurately minute will be the object, the more certain the justice of the decision. She will enter into that existence in which the great writers of all ages and nations are, as it were, associated in a world of their own, and, from that superior sphere, shed their eternal influence for the control and consolation of mankind. But the individual will gradually disappear as the author is more distinctly seen: some one, therefore, of all those whom the charms of involuntary wit, and of easy hospitality, attracted within the friendly circles of Coppet, should rescue from oblivion those virtues which, although they are said to love the shade, are, in fact, more frequently chilled than excited by the domestic cares of private life. Some one should be found to pourtray the unaffected graces with which she adorned those dearer relationships, the performance of whose duties is rather discovered amongst the interior secrets, than seen in the outward management, of family intercourse; and which, indeed, it requires the delicacy of genuin
affection to qualify for the eye of an indifferent spectator. Some one should be found, not to celebrate, but to describe, the amiable mistress of an open mansion, the centre of a society, ever varied, and always pleased, the creator of which, divested of the ambition and the arts of public rivalry, shone forth only to give fresh animation to those around her. The mother tenderly affectionate and tenderly beloved, the friend unboundedly generous, but still esteemed, the charitable patroness of all distress, cannot be forgotten by those whom she cherished, and protected, and fed. Her loss will be mourned the most where she was known best; and, to the sorrows of very many friends and more dependants, may be offered the disinterested regret of a stranger, who, amidst the sublimer scenes of the Leman lake, received his chief satisfaction from contemplating the engaging qualities of the incomparable Corinda.
Stanza liv. lines 6 and 7. Alfieri is the great name of this age. The Italians, without waiting for the bundred years, consider him as “ a poet good in law."--His memory is the more dear to them because he is the bard of freedom; and because, as such, bis tragedies can receive no countenance from any of their sovereigns. They are but very seldom, and but very few of them, allowed to be acted. It was observed by Cicero, that nowhere were the true opinions and feelings of the Romans so clearly shown as at the theatre*. In the autumn of 1816, a celebrated improvisatore exhibited his talents at the Opera house of Milan. The reading of the theses handed in for the subjeets of his poetry was received by a very numerous audience, for the most part in silence, or with laughter; but when the assistant, unfolding one of the papers, exclaimed, “ The Apotheosis of Victor Alfieri," the whole theatre burst into a shout, and the applause continued for some moments. The lot did not fall on Alfieri; and the Signor Sgricci had to pour forth his extemporary common-places on the bombardment of Algiers. The choice, indeed, is not left to accident quite so much as might be thought from a first view of the ceremony; and the police not only takes care to look at the papers beforehand, but, in case of any prudential after-thought, steps in to correct the blindness of chance. The proposal for deifying Alfieri was received with immediate enthusiasm, the rather because it was conjectured there would be no opportunity of carrying it into ef. fect.
* The free expression of their honest sentiments survived their liberties. Titus, the friend of Antony, presented them with games in the theatre of Pompey. They did not suffer the brilliancy of the spectacle to efface from their memory that the man who furnished them with the entertainment had murdered the son of Pompey; they drove him from the theatre with curses. The moral sense of a populace, spontaneously expressed, is never wrong. Even the sol diers of the triumvirs joined in the execration of the citizens, by shouting round the chariots of Lepidus and Plancus, who had proscribed their brothers, De Germanis non de Gallis duo triumphant Consules, a saying worth a record, were it nothing but a good pun. JC. Vell. Paterculi Hist. lib. ii. cap. lxxix. pag. 78. edit. Elzevir, 1639. Ibid. lib. ii. cap. lxxvii. ]
'Stanza liv. line 9. The affectation of simplicity in sepulchral inscriptions, which so often leaves us uncertain whether the structure before us is an actual depository, or a cenotaph, or a simple memorial not of death but life, has given to the tomb of Machiavelli no information as to the place or time of the birth or death, the age or parentage, of the historian.
TANTO NOMINI NVLLVM PAR ELOGIVM
There seems at least no reason why the name should not have been put above the sentence which alludes to it.
It will readily be imagined that the prejudices which have passed the name of Machiavelli into an epithet proverbial of iniquity, exist no longer at Florence. His memory was persecuted as bis life had been for an attachment to liberty, incompatible with the new system of despotism, which succeeded the fall of the free governments of Italy. He was put to the torture for being a " libertine," that is, for wishing to restore the republic of Florence; and such are the undying efforts of those who are interested in the perversion not only of the nature of actions, but the meaning of words, that what was once patriotism, has by degrees come to signify debauch. We have ourselves outlived the old meaning of liberality,' which is now another word for treason in one country, and for infatuation in all. It seems to have been a strange mistake to accuse
the author of the Prince, as being a pander to tyranny; and to think that the inquisition would condemn his work for such a delinquency. The fact is that Machiavelli, as is usual with those against whom do crime can be proved, was suspected of and charged with atheism; and the first and last most violent opposers of the Pu were both Jesuits, one of whom persuaded the Inquisition “ benchè fosse tardo," to prohibit the treatise, and the other qualified the secretary of the Florentine republic as no better than a fool. The father Possevin was proved never to have read the book, and the father Lucchesini not to have understood it. It is clear, however, that such critics must have objected not to the slavery of the doctrines, but to the supposed tendency of a lesson which shows how distinct are the interests of a monarch from the happiness of mankind. The Jesuits are re-established in Italy, and the last chapter of the Prince may again call forth a particular refutation, from those who are employed once more in moulding the minds of the rising generation, so as to receive the impressions of despotism. The chapter bears for title, “ Esortazione a liberare la Italia dai Barbari," and concludes with a libertine excitement to the future redemption of Italy. “Non si deve adunque lasciar passare questa occasione, acciocchè la Italia vegga dopo tanto tempo apparire un suo redentore Nè posso esprimere con qual amore ei fusse ricevuto in tutte quelle provincie, che hanno patito per queste illuvioni esterne, con qual sete di vendetta, con che ostinata fede, con che lacrime. Quali porte se li serrerebeno? Quali popoli li negberebbeno la obbedienza! Quale Italiano li negherebbe l'ossequio! AD OGNUNO PUZZA QUESTO BARBARO DOMINIO*."
Stanza Ivii. line 1. Dante was born in Florence in the year 1261. He fought in two battles, was fourteen times ambassador, and once prior of the republic. When the party of Charles of Anjou triumphed over the Bianchi, he was absent on an embassy to Pope Boniface VIII, and was condemned to two years banishment, and to a fine of 8000 lire; on the non-payment of which he was further punished by the sequestration of all his property. The republic, however, was not
# Il Principe di Niccolò Machiavelli, &c. con la prefazione e le note istoriche e politiche di Mr. Amelot de la Houssaye e l'esame e confutazione dell'opera .... Cosmopili, 1769.
content with this satisfaction, for ip 1772 was discovered in the archives at Florence a sentence in which Dante is the eleventh of a list of fifteen condemned in 1302 to be burnt alive; Talis perveniens igne comburatur sic quod moriatur. The pretext for this judgment was a proof of unfair barter, extortions, and illicit gains Baract riarum iniquarum, extorsionum, et illicitorum lucrorum®, and with such an accusation it is not strange that Dante sbould have always porotested his innocence, and the injustice of his fellow-citizens. His appeal to Florence was accompanied by another to the Emperor Henry, and the death of that sovereign in 1313 was the signal for a sentence of irrevocable banishment. He had before lingered near Tuscany with hopes of recal; then travelled into the north of Italy, where Verona had to boast of his longest residence, and he finally settled at Ravenna, which was his ordinary but not constant abode until his death. The refusal of the Venetians to grant him a public audience, on the part of Guido Novello da Polenta his protector, is said to have been the principal cause of this event, which happened in 1321. He was buried ( in sacra minoruin æde,'') at Ravenna, in a handsome tomb, which was erected by Guido, restored by Bernardo Bembo in 1483, pretor for that republic which had refused to hear him, again restored by Cardinal Corsi in 1692, and re. placed by a more magnificent sepulchre, constructed in 1780 at the expense of the Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga. The offence or misfortune of Dante was an attachment to a defeated party, and, as his least favourable biographers allege against him, too great a freedom of speech and haughtiness of manner. But the next age paid honours almost divine to the exile. The Florentines, having in vain and frequently attempted to recover his body, crowned his image in a churcht, and his picture is still one of the idols of their ca
dral. They struck medals, they raised statues to him. The cities of Italy, not being able to dispute about his own birth, contended for that of his great poem, and the Florentines thought it for their honour to prove that he had finished the seventh Canto, before they drove him from his native city. Fifty-one years after his death, they endowed a professorial chair for the expounding of
* Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. lib. iii. par. 2. p 448. Tirabos chi is incorrect: the dates of the three decrees against Daute are A, D. 1302, 1314, and 1316.
† So relates Ficino, but some think his coronation only an allego. ry: See Storia, &c, ut sup. p. 453.