Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

emotion or of pain. The other, who listened attentively, immediately began where the former left off, answering him in milder or more vehement notes, according as the purport of the strophe required. The sleepy canals, the lofty buildings, the splendour of the moon, the deep shadows of the few gondolas, that moved like spirits hither and thither, increased the striking peculiarity of the scene; and amidst all these circumstances it was easy to confess the character of this wonderful harmony.

“It suits perfectly well with an idle solitary mariner, lying at length in his vessel at rest on one of these canals, waiting for his company, or for a fare, the tiresomeness of which situation is somewhat alleviated by the songs and poetical stories he has in memory. He often raises his voice as loud as he can, which extends itself to a vast distance over the tranquil mirror, and as all is still around, he is, as it were, in a solitude in the midst of a large and populous town. Here is no rattling of carriages, no noise of foot passengers : a silent gondola glides now and then by him, of which the splashings of the oars are scarcely to be heard.

“At a distance he hears another, perhaps utterly unknown to him. Melody and verse immediately attach the two strangers ; he becomes the responsive echo to the former, and exerts himself to be heard as he had heard the other. By a tacit convention they alternate verse for verse; though the song should last the whole night through, they entertain themselves without fatigue : the hearers, who are passing between the two, take part in the amusement.

“This vocal performance sounds best at a great distance, and is then inexpressibly charming, as it only fulfils its design in the sentiment of remoteness. It is plaintive, but not dismal in its sound, and at times it is scarcely possible to refrain from tears. My companion, who otherwise was not a very delicately organised person, said quite unexpectedly: E singolare come quel canto intenerisce, e molto più quando lo cantano meglio.

“I was told that the women of Libo, the long row of islands that divides the Adriatic from the Lagoons*, particularly the women of the extreme districts of Malamocco and Palestrina, sing in like manner the works of Tasso to these and similar tunes.

“They have the custom, when their husbands are fishing out at sea, to sit along the shore in the evenings and vociferate these songs, and continue to do so with great violence, till each of them can distinguish the responses of her own husband at a distancet.”.

The love of music and of poetry distinguishes all classes of Venetians, even amongst the tuneful sons of Italy. The city itself can occasionally furnish respectable audiences for two and even three opera-houses at a time ; and there are few events in private life that do not call forth a printed and circulated sonnet. Does a physician or a lawyer take his degree, or a clergyman preach his maiden sermon, has a surgeon performed an operation, would a harlequin announce his departure or his benefit, are you to be congratulated on a marriage, or a birth, or a lawsuit, the Muses are invoked to furnish the same number of syllables, and the individual triumphs blaze abroad in virgin white or parti-coloured placards on half the corners of the capital. The last curtsey of a favourite “prima donna” brings down a shower of these poetical tributes from those upper regions, from which, in our theatres, nothing but cupids and snow-storms are accustomed to descend. There is a poetry in the very life of a Venetian, which, in its common course, is varied with those surprises and changes so recommendable in fiction, but so different from the sober monotony of northern existence; amusements are raised into duties, duties are softened into amusements, and every object being considered as equally making a part of the business of life, is announced and performed with the same earnest indifference and gay assiduity. The Venetian gazeite constantly closes its columns with the following triple advertisement :

* The writer meant Lido, which is not a long row of islands, but a long island : littus, the shore. + Curiosities of Literature. p. 140. 12th ed. 1841: and Appendix xxix. to Black's Life of Tasso.

CHARADE.

Exposition of the most Holy Sacrament in the church of St.

THKATRES.
St. Moses, opera.
St. Benedict, a comedy of Characters.

St. Luke, repose. When it is recollected what the Catholics believe their consecrated wafer to be, we may perhaps think it worthy of a more respectable niche than between poetry and the playhouse.

STANZA X.

Sparta hath many a worthier son than he. The answer of the mother of Brasidas, the Lacedæmonian general, to the strangers who praised the memory of her son.

STANZA XI.
St. Mark vet sees his lion where he stood

Stand, The Lion has lost nothing by his journey to the Invalides but the gospel which supported the paw that is now on a level with the other foot. The Horses also are returned to the ill-chosen spot whence they set out, and are, as before, half hidden under the porch window of St. Mark's church.

Their history, after a desperate struggle, has been satisfactorily explored. The decisions and doubts of Erizzo and Zanetti, and, lastly, of the Count Leopold Cicognara, would have given them a Roman extraction, and a pedigree not more ancient than the reign of Nero. But M. de Schlegel stepped in to teach the Venetians the value of their own treasures, and a Greek vindicated, at last and for ever, the pretension of his countrymen to this noble production*. M. Mustoxidi has not been left without a reply ; but, as yet, he has received no answer. It should seem that the horses are irrevocably Chian, and were transferred to Constantinople by Theodosius. Lapidary writing is a favourite

* Su i quattro cavalli della Basilica di S. Marco in Venezia. Lettera di Andrea Mustoxidi Cor cirese. Padua, per Bettoni e compag. ... 1816.

play of the Italians, and has conferred reputation on more than one of their literary characters. One of the best specimens of Bodoni's typography is a respectable volume of inscriptions, all written by his friend Pacciaudi. Several were prepared for the recovered horses. It is to be hoped the best was not selected, when the following words were ranged in gold letters above the cathedral porch.

[ocr errors]

Nothing shall be said of the Latin, but it may be permitted to observe, that the injustice of the Venetians in transporting the horses from Constantinople was at least equal to that of the French in carrying them to Paris, and that it would have been more prudent to have avoided all allusions to either robbery. An apostolic prince should, perhaps, have objected to affixing over the principal entrance of a metropolitan church an inscription having a reference to any other triumphs than those of religion. Nothing less than the pacification of the world can excuse such a solecism.

STANZA XII.
The Suabian sued, and now the Austrian reigns-

An emperor tramples where an emperor knelt. After many vain efforts on the part of the Italians entirely to throw off the yoke of Frederick Barbarossa, and as fruitless attempts of the Emperor to make himself absolute master throughout the whole of his Cisalpine dominions, the bloody struggles of four and twenty years were happily brought to a close in the city of Venice. The articles of a treaty had been previously agreed upon between Pope Alexander III. and Barbarossa, and the former having received a safe-conduct, had already arrived at Venice from Ferrara, in company with the ambassadors of the king of Sicily and the consuls of the Lombard league. There still remained, however, many points to adjust, and for several days the peace was believed to be impracticable. At this juncture it was suddenly reported that the Emperor had arrived at Chioza, a town fifteen miles from the capital. The Venetians rose tumultuously, and insisted upon immediately conducting him to the city. The Lombards took the alarm, and departed towards Treviso. The Pope himself was apprehensive of some disaster if Frederic should suddenly advance upon him, but was reassured by the prudence and address of Sebastian Ziani, the Doge. Several embassies passed between Chioza and the capital, until, at last, the Emperor relaxing somewhat of his pretensions, “laid aside his leonine ferocity, and put on the mildness of the lamb *."

On Saturday the 23rd of July, in the year 1177, six Venetian galleys transferred Frederic, in great pomp, from Chioza to the island of Lido, a mile from

* “Quibus auditis, imperator, operante eo, qui corda principum sicut vult et quando vult humiliter inclinat, leonina feritate deposita, ovinam mansuetudinem induit."-Romualdi Salernitani. Chronicon. apud Script. Rer. Ital. tom. vii. p. 229.

Venice. Early the next morning the Pope, accompanied by the Sicilian ambassadors, and by the envoys of Lombardy, whom he had recalled from the main land, together with a great concourse of people, repaired from the patriarchal palace to Saint Mark's church, and solemnly absolved the Emperor and his partisans from the excommunication pronounced against him. The Chancellor of the Empire, on the part of his master, renounced the anti-popes and their schismatic adherents. Immediately the Doge, with a great suite both of the clergy and laity, got on board the galleys, and waiting on Frederic, rowed him in mighty state from the Lido to the capital. The Emperor descended from the galley at the Quay of the Piazzetta. The Doge, the patriarch, his bishops and clergy, and the people of Venice with their crosses and their standards, marched in solemn procession before him to the church of Saint Mark. Alexander was seated before the vestibule of the basilica, attended by his bishops and cardinals, by the patriarch of Aquileja, by the archbishops and bishops of Lombardy, all of them in state, and clothed in their church robes. Frederic approached_“moved by the Holy Spirit, venerating the Almighty in the person of Alexander, laying aside his imperial dignity, and throwing off his mantle, he prostrated himself at full length at the feet of the Pope. Alexander, with tears in his eyes, raised him benignantly from the ground, kissed him, blessed him; and immediately the Germans of the train sang, with a loud voice, ‘We praise thee, O Lord.' The Emperor then taking the Pope by the right hand, led him to the church, and having received his benediction, returned to the ducal palace*. The ceremony of humiliation was repeated the next day. The Pope himself, at the request of Frederic, said mass at Saint Mark's. The Emperor again laid aside his imperial mantle, and, taking a wand in his hand, officiated as rerger, driving the laity from the choir, and preceding the pontiff to the altar. Alexander, after reciting the gospel, preached to the people. The Emperor put himself close to the pulpit in the attitude of listening; and the pontiff, touched by this mark of his attention, (for he knew that Frederic did not understand a word he said), commanded the patriarch of Aquileja to translate the Latin discourse into the German tongue. The creed was then chanted. Frederic made his oblation and kissed the Pope's feet, and, mass being over, led him by the hand to his white horse. He held the stirrup, and would have led the horse's rein to the water side, had not the Pope accepted of the inclination for the performance, and affectionately dismissed him with his benediction. Such is the substance of the account left by the archbishop of Salerno, who was present at the ceremony, and whose story is confirmed by every subsequent narration. It would be not worth so minute a record, were it not the triumph of liberty as well as of superstition. The states of Lombardy owed to it the confirmation of their privileges ; and Alexander had reason to thank the Almighty, who had enabled an infirm, unarmed old man to subdue a terrible and potent sovereignt.

* Ibid, page 231.

+ See the above-cited Romuald of Salerno. In a second serinon which Alexander prenched, on the first day of August, before the Emperor, he compared Frederic to the prodigal son, and himself to the forgiving father.

STANZA XIT.
Oh for one hour of blind old Dandolo!

The octogenarian chief, Byzantium's conquering foe. The reader will recollect the exclamation of the highlander, Oh for one hour of Dundee! Henry Dandolo, when elected Doge, in 1192, was eighty-five years of age. When he commanded the Venetians at the taking of Constantinople, he was consequently ninety-seven years old. At this age he annexed the fourth and a half of the whole empire of Romania *, for so the Roman empire was then called, to the title and to the territories of the Venetian Doge. The three-eighths of this empire were preserved in the diplomas until the dukedom of Giovanni Dolfino, who made use of the above designation in the year 13577.

Dandolo led the attack on Constantinople in person : two ships, the Paradise and the Pilgrim, were tied together, and a drawbridge or ladder let down from their higher yards to the walls. The Doge was one of the first to rush into the city. Then was completed, said the Venetians, the prophecy of the Erythræan sibyl. “A gathering together of the powerful shall be made amidst the waves of the Adriatic, under a blind leader; they shall beset the goatthey shall profane Byzantium—they shall blacken her buildings-her spoils shall be dispersed; a new goat shall bleat until they have measured out and run over fifty-four feet, nine inches, and a half I.”

Dandolo died on the first day of June, 1205, having reigned thirteen years, six months, and five days, and was buried in the church of St. Sophia, at Constantinople. Strangely enough it must sound, that the name of the rebel apothecary who received the Doge's sword, and annihilated the ancient government, in 1796-7, was Dandolo.

STANZA XIII.
But is not Doria's menace come to pass ?

Are they not bridled ?
After the loss of the battle of Pola, and the taking of Chioza on the 16th of
August, 1379, by the united armament of the Genoese and Francesco da
Carrara, Signor of Padua, the Venetians were reduced to the utmost despair.
An embassy was sent to the conquerors with a blank sheet of paper, praying

* Mr. Gibbon has omitted the important æ, and has written Romani instead of Romaniæ. Decline and Fall, cap. Ixi. note 9. But the title acquired by Dandolo runs thus in the Chronicle of his namesake, the Doge Andrew Dandolo. Ducali litulo addidit, Quartar partis et dimidine totines imperii Romania.'" And. Dand. Chronicon. cap. iii. pars. xxxvii. ap. Script. Rer. Ital. tom. xii. page 331. And the Romania is observed in the subsequent acts of the Doges. Indeed the continental possessions of the Greek empire in Europe were then generally known by the name of Romania, and that appellation is still seen in the maps of Turkey as applied to Thrace.

+ See the continuation of Dandolo's Chronicle, ibid. page 498. Mr. Gibbon appears not to include Dolfino, following Sanudo, who says, " il qual titolo si usó fin al Doge Giovanni Dolfino." See Vite de' Duchi di Venezia, ap. Script. Rer. Ital. tom. xxii. 530. 641.

I “ Fiet potentium in aquis Adriaticis congregatio, cæco præduce, Ilircum ambigent, Byzantium prophanabunt, aedificia denigrabunt ; spolia dispergentur, Hircus novus balabit usque dum Liv pedes et ex pollices, et semis præmensurati discurrant." Chronicon, ibid. pars xx.rir.

« ElőzőTovább »