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superiors *. It is neither the licentiousness of the writer, nor 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 the same reason, fated to survive his self-admired Africa, the “farourite 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 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 canonisation of rogues and laymen. Ser Ciappelletto and Marcellinus are cited with applause even by the decent Muratorit. 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 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 at least a hundred years ago : “On se feroit siffler si l'on prétendoit convaincre Boccace de n'avoir pas été honnête homme, puis qu'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 I. 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 contemporary, who thought one of the tales of this worried by certain dogs, but stoutly defended by your staff and voice. Nor was
elsewhere," says Petrarch, writing to Boccaccio, “that the book itself has been
* 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. See Tiraboschi, Storia, &c. tom. v. par. ii. lib. iii. pag. 525. ed. Ven. 1795.
+ Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità Italiane. Diss. lviii. p. 233. tom. iii. edit. Milan, 1751. I Eclaircissement, &c. &c. p. 638. edit. Basle, 1741, in the Supplement to Bayle's Dictionary.
I astonished, for I have had proof of the vigour of your mind, and I know you hace 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.
STANZA LS. 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 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, simply inscribed to the Father of his Country, reconciles us to the name of Medicit. It was very natural for Corinna I 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 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 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
* Animadverti alicubi librum ipsum canum dentibus lacessitum, tuo tamen baculo egregiè tuảque voce defensum. 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 elingues ad reliqua."... Epist. Joan. Boccatio. Opp. tom. i. p. 540. edit. Basil.
('osinus Medices, Decreto Publico, Pater Patria. Corinne, Liv. xviii. chap. iii. vol. iii. page 248.
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 *." 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.
An earthquake reeld unheededly away. “ And such was their mutual animosity, so intent were they upon the battle, that the earthquake, which orerthrew in great part many of the cities of Italy, which turned the course of rapid streams, poured back the sea upon the rirers, and tore down the very mountains, was not felt by one of the combatants T." 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 milestone 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 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 *, in the jaws of or rather above the pass, which was between the lake
* On Government, chap. ii. sect. xxvi. page 208. edit. 1751. Sidney is, together with Locke and Iloadley, one of Mr. Hume's “despicable" writers.
† " Tantusque fuit ardor animorum, adeo intentus pugnæ animus, ut eum terræ motum qui multarum urbium Italiæ magnas partes prostravit, avertitque cursu rapido amnes, mare fluminibus invexit, montes lapsu ingenti proruit, nemo pugnantium senserit." ... Tit. Liv. lib. xxii. cap. vi.
lowest of the “tumuli 7.” 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 semicircle, 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 guessed at from the plains of Cortona, nor appears to be so completely inclosed 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 Passignano, which is pushed into the water by the foot of a high rocky acclivity I." 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 drew out his heavy-armed Africans and Spaniards in a conspicuous position ş. From this spot he despatched his Balearic and lightarmed troops round through the Gualandra heights to the right, so as to arrive unseen and form an ambush amongst the broken acclivities which the road now passes, and to be ready to act upon the left fank and above the enemy, whilst the horse shut up the pass behind. Flaminius came to the lake near Borghetto at sunset ; and, without sending any spies before him, marched through the pass the next morning before the day had quite broken, so that he perceived nothing of the horse and light troops above and about him, and saw only the heavy-armed Carthaginians in front on the hill of Torrell. The consul began to draw out his army in the flat, and in the mean time the horse in ambush occupied the pass behind him at Borghetto. Thus the Romans were completely inclosed, having the lake on the right, the main army on the hill of Torre in front, the Gualandra hills filled with the light-armed on their left flank, and being prevented from receding by the cavalry, who, the farther they advanced, stopped up all the outlets in the rear. A fog rising from the lake now spread itself over the army of the consul, but the high lands were in the sunshine, and all the different corps in ambush looked towards the hill of Torre for the order of attack. Hannibal gave the signal, and moved down from his post on the height. At the same moment all his troops on the eminences behind and in the flank of Flaminius, rushed forwards as it were with one accord into the plain. The Romans, who were forming their array in the mist, suddenly heard the shouts of the enemy amongst them, on every side, and before they could fall into their ranks, or draw their swords, or see by whom they were attacked, felt at once that they were surrounded and lost.
* “ Equites ad ipsas fauces saltus tumulis apte tegentibus locat." T. Livii, lib. xxii. cap. iv. + « Ubi maxime montes Cortonenses Thrasimenus subit." Ibid. # “ Inde colles assurgunt.” Ibid. και Τον μεν κατα πρόσωπον της πορείας λόφον αυτός κατελάβετο, και τους Λίβυας και τους "Ιβηρας xor er' avrov KATEO TPATOT ÉVEVOE. Bist. lib. iii. cap. 83. The account in Polybius is not so easily reconcilable with present appearances ay that in Livy: he talks of hills to the right and left of the nasa and valley; but when Flaminius entered he had the lake at the right of both.
" A tergo et super caput decepere insidiæ." T. Liv. &c.
There are two little rivulets which run from the Gualandra into the lake. The traveller crosses the first of these at about a mile after he comes into the plain, and this divides the Tuscan from the Papal territories. The second, about a quarter of a mile further on, is called “the bloody rivulet ;" and the peasants point out an open spot to the left between the “ Sanguinetto" and the hills, which, they say, was the principal scene of slaughter. The other part of the plain is covered with thick-set olive-trees in corn-grounds, and is nowhere quite level, except near the edge of the lake. It is, indeed, most probable, that the battle was fought near this end of the valley, for the six thousand Romans, who, at the beginning of the action, broke through the enemy, escaped to the summit of an eminence which must have been in this quarter, otherwise they would have had to traverse the whole plain, and to pierce through the main army of Hannibal.
The Romans fought desperately for three hours, but the death of Flaminius was the signal for a general dispersion. The Carthaginian horse then burst in upon the fugitives, and the lake, the marsh about Borghetto, but chiefly the plain of the Sanguinetto and the passes of the Gualandra, were strewed with dead. Near some old walls on a bleak ridge to the left above the rivulet many human bones have been repeatedly found, and this has confirmed the pretensions and the name of the “stream of blood.”
Every district of Italy has its hero. In the north some painter is the usual genius of the place, and the foreign Julio Romano more than divides Mantua with her native Virgil *. To the south we hear of Roman names. Near Thrasimene tradition is still faithful to the fame of an enemy, and Hannibal the Carthaginian is the only ancient name remembered on the banks of the Perugian lake. Flaminius is unknown; but the postilions on that road have been taught to show the very spot where il Console Romano was slain. Of all who fought and fell in the battle of Thrasimene, the historian himself has,
* About the middle of the XIlth century the coins of Mantua bore on one side the image and figure of Virgil. Zecca d'Italia, pl. xvii. i. 6... Voyage dans le Milanais, &c. par A. 2.. Millin, tom. ii. pag. 294. Paris, 1817.