Imágenes de página

the evil propensities of the reader, which have 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 ihe 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 authors; 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 irreconciliable 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 debauchées 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 laymen. Ser Ciapelletto 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

dicat, juvenis scripsit, et majorís coactus imperio. » The letter was addressed to Maghinard of Cavalcanti, marshal of the kingdom of Sicily. See Tiraboschi, Storia, etc. tom. v. par. ii. lib. iii. p. 525. edit. Ven. 1795.

* Dissertazioni sopra le antichità Itatiane. Diss. lviii. p. 253. tom. iii. edit. Milan, 1751.'

Italy particularises 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 as least a hundred years ago : «On se feroit siffler si l'on prétendoit 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. t But as this information, that in the beginning of 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 cotemporary, who thought one of the tales of this impure writer worthy a Latin version from his own per, « 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 I astonished, for I have had proof 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 Laureate, a tablet, in which he associated Boccaccio to the equal honours of Dante and of Petrarch.

of Eclaircissement , etc. etc. p. 638. edit. Basle , 1741. in the Supplement to Bayle's Dictionary.

*« Animadverti alicubi librum ipsum canum dentibus lacestium ,' tuo tamen baculo egregiè tuảque voce defensam, Nec miratus sum : nam et vires ingenii tui novi , et scio expertus esses hominum genus insolens et ignavum, qui quicquid ipsi vel nolunt vel nesciunt, vel non possunt in aliis reprehendunt : ad hoc unum docti , et arguti , sed clingues ad reliqua.» Epist. Joan. Boccatio, opp. i. p. 540. edit. Basil.

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 family, that we visit the church of St. Lorenzo at Florence. 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 simplý inscribed to the Father of his Country, reconciles us to thie name of Medici. * It was very natural for Corinna t to suppose that the statue raised to the Duke of Urdino in the capella de depositi was intended for his great pamesake; 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 à 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 Florence, his embassador 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 inhabiling that city and territory. Pisa, Pistoria, 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

* Cosmus Medices, Decreto Publico. Pater Patriæ. of Corinne, Liv, xviii. cap. iii, vol. iii. page, 248,

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. * From the usurper Cosmo down to the imbecile 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.

Stanza LXIII. An earthquake reeted 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 very mountains , was not felt by one of the combatants. » * Such is the description of Livy.

* On Government, chap. ii,, sect. xxvi, pag. 208. edit. 1751. Sidney is , together with Locke and Hoadļey, one of Mr. Hume's I « despicable » writers.

* « Tantusque fuit ardor animorum, adeo intentus pugnæ animus ,

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 Cortonen es, » and now named the Gualandra. These hills he approaches aţ 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 sixtyseventh 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 hills partially covered 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 , * 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. » of 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

ut eum terræ motum qui multarum urbium Italiæ magnas partes prostravit, (avertitque cursurapido amnes mare fluminibus invexit, montes lapsu ingenti proruit, nemo pugnantium senserit. »... Tit. Liv. lib. xxii. cap. xii.

*«Equites ad ipsas fauces saltus tumulis apte tegentibus locat, » T. Livii, lib. xxii. cap. iv.

+ «Ubi maxime montes Cortonenses Thrasimenus subit. » Ibid,

« AnteriorContinuar »