« IndietroContinua »
city's glorious past overcame him, and he burst, it is said, into tears of mingled joy and emotion. A crowd of associations rose before him ; the navy of Athens engulphed beneath those waters; the annihilation of her two splendid armies, with two illustrious commanders; the prolonged and
: fierce struggle with Carthage; the long roll of tyrants and sovereigns : in their foreground the prince whose memory was still green, the fame of his virtues and his prosperity second only to the splendour of his services to Rome.
In the last days of Pope Eugenius the Fourth, two of his servants, the learned Poggius and a friend, ascended the Capitoline hill; reposed themselves among the ruins of columns and temples, and viewed from that commanding spot the wide and various prospect of desolation. The place and object gave ample scope for moralizing on the vicissitudes of fortune, which spares neither man nor the proudest of his works, which buries empires and cities in a common grave; and it was agreed that, in proportion to her former greatness, the fall of Rome was the more awful and deplorable. Her primeval state, such as she might appear in a more remote age, when Evander entertained the stranger from Troy, has been delineated by the fancy of Virgil. This Tarpeian rock was then a savage and solitary thicket: in the time of the poets it was crowned with the golden roofs of a temple: the temple is overthrown, the gold has been pillaged, the wheel of fortune has accomplished her revolution, and the sacred ground is again disfigured with thorns and brambles.
The Emperor, to whom frequent accounts of these transactions were transmitted while he was still in Flanders, was sensible of his own imprudence and that of his ministers, in having despised too long the murmurs and remonstrances of the Castilians. He beheld with deep concern a kingdom the most valuable of any he possessed, and in which lay the strength and sinews of his power, just ready to disown 'his authority, and on the point of being plunged into all the miseries of civil war. But though his presence might have averted this calamity, he could not at that time visit Spain without endangering the imperial crown, and allowing the French king full leisure to execute his ambitious schemes. The only point now to be deliberated upon was, whether he should attempt to gain the malcontents by indulgence and concessions, or prepare directly to suppress them by force : and he resolved to make trial of the former, while at the same time, if that should fail of success, he prepared for the latter.
The town is most pleasantly seated; having a very good wall with round and square bulwarks, after the old manner of fortifications. We came thither in the night, and indeed were very much distressed by sore and tempestuous wind and rain. After a long march, we knew not well how to dispose of ourselves; but finding an old abbey in the suburbs, and some cabins and poor houses, we got into them, and had opportunity to send the garrison' a summons. They shot at my trumpet; and would not listen to him for an hour's space: but having some officers in our party whom they knew, I sent them, to let them know I was there with a good part of the army. We shot not a shot at them ; but they were very angry, and fired very earnestly upon us ; telling us it was not a time of night to send a summons. But yet in the end the governor was willing to send out two commissioners,—I think rather to see whether there was a force sufficient to force him, than to any other end. After almost a whole night spent in treaty, the town was delivered to me the next morning, upon terms which we usually call honourable; which I was the willinger to give, because I had little above two hundred foot, and neither ladders nor guns, nor any thing else to force them.
Looking back upon the troubles which ended in the outbreak of war, one sees the nations at first swaying backward and forward like a throng so vast as to be helpless, but afterwards falling slowly into warlike array. And when one begins to search for the man or the men whose volition was governing the crowd, the eye falls upon the towering form of the Emperor Nicholas. He was not single-minded, and therefore his will was unstable, but it had a huge force; and, since he was armed with the whole authority of his Empire, it seemed plain that it was this man and only he—who was bringing danger from the north. And at first, too, it seemed that within his range of action there was none who could be his equal : but in a little while the looks of men were turned to the Bosphorus, for thither his ancient adversary was slowly bending his way. To fit him for the encounter, the Englishman was clothed with little authority except what he could draw from the resources of his own mind and from the strength of his own wilful nature. Yet it was presently seen that those who were near him fell under his dominion, and did as he bid them, and that the circle of deference to his will was always increasing around him; and soon it appeared that, though he moved gently, he began to have mastery over a foe who was consuming his strength in mere anger. When he had conquered, he stood as it were with folded arms, and seemed willing to desist from strife.
With these discourses they went on heir
until they arrived at the very spot where they had been trampled upon by the bulls. Don Quixote knew it again, and said to Sancho, 'This is the meadow where we alighted on the gay shepherdesses and gallant shepherds, who intended to revive in it and imitate the pastoral Arcadia; in imitation of which, if you approve it, I could wish, O Sancho, we might turn shepherds, at least for the time I must live retired. I will buy sheep and all other materials necessary for the pastoral employment; we will range the mountains, the woods, and the meadows, singing here, and complaining there, drinking the liquid crystal of the fountains, of the limpid brooks, or of the mighty rivers. The oaks with a plentiful hand shall give their sweetest fruit; the trunks of the hardest cork-trees shall afford us seats; the willows shall furnish shade, and the roses scent; the spacious meadow shall yield us carpets of a thousand colours; the air, clear and pure, shall supply breath; the moon and stars afford
light, singing shall furnish pleasure, and complaining yield delight; Apollo shall provide verses and love-conceits ; with which we shall make ourselves famous and immortal, not only in the present but in future ages.'
Literature was a neutral ground on which he could approach his political enemy without too open discredit, and he courted eagerly the approval of a critic whose literary genius he esteemed as highly as his own. Men of genuine ability are rarely vain of what they can do really well. Cicero admired himself as a statesman with the most unbounded enthusiasm. He was proud of his verses, which were hopelessly commonplace. In the art in which he was without a rival he was modest and diffident. He sent his various writings for Caesar's judgment. “Like the traveller who has overslept himself,' he said, “yet by extraordinary exertions reaches his goal sooner than if he had been earlier on the road, I will follow your advice and court this man.
I have been asleep too long. I will correct my slowness with my speed; and as you say he approves my verses, I shall travel not with a common carriage, but with a fourin-hand of poetry.'
His success in this scheme for reducing the power
of the nobility, encouraged him to attempt a diminution of their possessions, which were no less exorbitant. During the contest and disorder inseparable from the feudal government, the nobles, ever attentive to their own interests, and taking