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his verses, and Boccaccio was appointed to this patriotic employ. ment. The example was imitated by Bologna and Pisa, and the commentators, if they performed but little service to literature, augmented the veneration which bebeld a sacred or moral allegory in all the images of his mystic muse. His birth and his infancy were discovered to have been distinguished above those of ordinary men : the author of the Decameron, his earliest biographer, relates that his mother was warned in a dream of the importance of her pregnancy; and it was found, by others, that at ten years of age he had manifested his precocious passion for that wisdom or theology, which, under the name of Beatrice, had been mistaken for a substantial mistress. When the Divine Comedy had been recognised as a mere mortal production, and at the distance of two centuries, when criticism and competition had sobered the judgment of Italians, Dante was seriously declared superior to Homer, and though the preference appeared to some casuists “ an heretical blasphemy worthy of the flames,” the contest was vigorously maintained for nearly fifty years. In later times it was made a question which of the Lords of Verona could boast of having patronised him,t and the jealous skepticism of one writer would not allow Ravenna the undoubted possession of his bones Even the critical Tiraboschi was inclined to believe that the poet had foreseen and foretold one of the discoveries of Galileo. Like the great originals of other nations, his popularity has not always maintained the same level The last age seemed inclined to undervalue him as a model and a study; and Bettinelli one day rebuked his pupil Monti, for poring over the harsh and obsolete extravagances of the Commedia The present generation, having recovered from the Gallic idolatries of Cesarotti, has returned to the ancient worship, and the Danteggiare of the northern Italians is thought even indiscreet by the more moderate Tuscans.
There is still much curious information relative to the life and writings of this great poet which has not as yet been collected even
Italians; but the celebrated Ugo Foscolo meditates to supply this defect, and it is not to be regretted that this national work has been reserved for one so devoted to his country and the cause of truth.
* By Varchi jn his Ercolano. The controversy continued from 1570 to 1616. See Storia, &c. tom. vii. lib. ii. par. iii. p. 1 280.
† Gio. Jacopo Dionisi canonico di Verona Serie di Aneddoti, n. 2. See Storia, &e. tom. v. lib. i. par. i. p. 24.
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore ;
Stanza lvii. lines 2, 3, and 4. The elder Scipio Africanus had a tomb, if he was not buried at Literpum, whither he had retired to voluntary banishment. This tomb was near the sea-shore, and the story of an inscription upon it, Ingrata Patria, having given a name to a modern tower, is, if not true, an agreeable fiction. If he was not buried, he certainly lived there.
In cosi angusta e solitaria villa
Perchè prima col ferro al vivo aprilla.t Ingratitude is generally supposed the vice peculiar to republics; and it seems to be forgotten that for one instance of popular incon stancy, we have a hundred examples of the fall of courtly favourites. Besides, a people have often repented-a monarch seldom or never. Leaving apart many familiar proofs of this fact, a short story may show the difference between even an aristocracy and the multitude.
Vettor Pisani, having been defeated in 1354 at Portolongo, and many years afterwards in the more decisive action of Pola, by the Genoese, was recalled by the Venetian government, and thrown into chains. The Avvogadori proposed to behead him, but the supreme tribunal was content with the sentence of imprisonment. Whilst Pisani was suffering this unmerited disgrace, Chioza, in the vicinity of the capital, f was, by the assistance of the Signor of Padua, delivered into the hands of Pietro Doria. At the intelligence of that disaster, the great bell of St. Mark's tower tolled to arms, and the people and the soldiery of the galleys were summoned 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 bim to forget the indigoities he had endured in her
* Vitam Literni egit sine desiderio urbis. See T. Liv. Hist. lib. Xxxviii. Livy reports that some said he was buried at Liternum, others at Rome. Ib. cap. LV.
+ Trionfo della Castità. | See note 8, page 280.
Livy reports the desiderio urbis. So
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." Pisapi was appointed generalissimo, and by his exertions, in conjunction with those of Carlo Zedo, 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 lans which an ancient Greek writer* considered the great distinctive mark between his countrymen and the barbarians, the mutual rights of fellor-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 Rovere proposed the question, " which was preferable, the republic or the principalitythe perfect and not durable, or the less perfect and not so liable to
nge," 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 : stone " This was thought, and called, a magnificent answer, down to the last days of Italian servitude. †
* The Greek boasted that he was iscríp.os. See-the last chapter of the first book of Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
† " E intorno alla magnifica risposta," se. Serassi Vita del Tasso, lib iji. pag. 149. tom ij. edit 2 Bergamo.
And the crown
Stanza lvii. lipes 6, 7, and 8. 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 entreat the laureate 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.
Boccaccio to his parent earth bequeathed
Stanza lviii. lines 1 and 2. Boccaceio 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 his ashes have been secure, if not of honour, at least 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,
* * Accipgiti innoltre, se ci è lecito ancor l'esortarti, a compire l'immortal tua Africa .... Se ti avviene d'incontrare nel nostro stile cosa che ti dispiaccia, ciò debb' essere un altro motivo ad esaudire i desiderj della tua patria." Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. par. i. lib. i. pag. 76.
the excuse, of this ejectment was the making of a new floor for the church; but the fact is, that the tombstone was taken up and throws 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 aecompanied 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 ber best ancestors had dispensed upon all cotemporary merit. The Marchioness Lenzoni rescued the tombstone of Boccaccio from the neglect in which it had sometime lain, and found for it an honourable elevation in her own mansion She has done more : the bouse 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 II. affixed an inscription. Tbis 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 ;-w bo 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 is more, 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 core sideration 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 travel
* Classical Tour, cap ix. vol. ji. p. 355. edit. 3d. "Or 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 bunder respecting the burial-place of Aretine, 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