Imagini ale paginilor

of all those his pet vagrants, when he complained of their decay in the metropolis.

The mail was forced to have an escort of twenty men, when travelling this road last week: the diligence was attacked, and all the passengers were obliged to dismount, and render up their goods and chattels. Not one piece of finery,-not one piece of merchandize did the thieves spare: they even despoiled the ladies of their ear-rings, and, it is said, with a very gentle hand; for in Italy, even the brigands have a certain politeness of manner, and rob you in a gentlemanly style.

One girl sat apart from the rest; she did not join in the clamour of her companions for mercy and forbearance; but she wept bitterly. The chief approached her, and, in answer to his interrogatories, she said, "It is for my mother's picture I shed these tears! I have left her,-perhaps I may never see her again; and you have taken her picture from me."

The robber, moved at her artless distress, promised to return her treasure for a kiss, which, said our narrator, she right joyfully and heartily bestowed,— so heartily, that the chief, not to be outdone in generosity, returned to her all her property!

We traversed the grass-grown streets of Ferrara, and visited the tomb of Ariosto in the public library. When his remains were transferred from the Benedictine church hither, they found in his coffin a likeness of the poet, and a medal struck in his honour. The likeness is a mere daub, but more correct, it is said, than any other portrait extant of the poet. On the reverse of the medal, is a hand depriving a serpent of its sting. Ariosto wrote satires as well as poems.

The Ferrarese religiously preserve the MS. the chair, and the inkstand of their Homer. Surely there is something holy in talent, for it consecrates every thing, even every meaner thing with which it comes in contact; and love omnipotent could bow down such a soul as this!

Bettinelli assures us, that Ariosto's lady insisted on his writing a canto of his poem every month; and if he disappointed her, she threatened to shut her doors against him. This then was the power by which he was animated; his days of thought, his nights of sleepless excitement, were caused by a softer feeling than love of fame;—and to the magic influence of a woman's smile, we owe the poetry of the Scott of the south! But he never reveals the name of his mistress. The cover of his inkstand is surmounted by a little cupid, whose finger is on his lip, counselling secrecy. Love was with Ariosto, as with all who have deep feelings and refined taste,—a hidden treasure, an Egeria, not to be shown forth to the world, but to be turned to as a hidden source of sweetness and consolation, when the world without should sting, and wound, and betray.

Changed is the aspect of Ferrara now, silent and deserted its ruined halls and palaces; but we could not tread its haunted precincts without recalling the days of old.

De Berville gives us a long description of a combat held at Ferrara between two noble cavaliers, one of the last lingering remains of gothic barbarity. The Duke de Nemours came to visit the Duke and Duchess of Ferrara, and among other amusements, was regaled with a sight of mortal combat between two Spanish gentlemen, St. Croix and Azevèdo. The

[ocr errors]

duel was fought under the very walls of the Duke's palace. Each combatant appeared, attended by a hundred cavaliers. The seconds of the one presented to the other swords and two poniards, for his choice; then felt the dresses, to ascertain that the duellists had no concealed armour beneath them: they knelt, too, down to pray, for victory. Strange superstition, to fancy that such prayer could be acceptable to a God of love! The field was cleared, the herald imposed silence, and the fight began. St. Croix first fell, but even when cast down to the ground, sat up and dealt furious blows, while Azevedo vainly called on him to surrender. St. Croix made an useless attempt to rise, and fell forward on his face; then Azevedo raised his sword on high, but suspended the blow for a moment, for the Duchess Anne, terrified, was praying with tears the Duke de Nemours to separate them. But Nemours answered, "I cannot; justice awards the conquered to the conqueror." Then the prior of Messina accosted Azevedo, and said, "Sir, I know the heart of St. Croix,-he will die rather than yield. I therefore, as his second, surrender for him." Then the surgeons were called to staunch the wounds of St. Croix he was carried off on a litter, and again Azevedo knelt; this time it was to return thanks for victory. One consequence of his success was, that the arms of St. Croix were to belong to the conqueror. Azevedo sent to demand them, but his demand was refused. Wherefore he complained to the Duke of Ferrara, whose sentence was to this effect: that he should send once again to make his rightful demand, and if again refused, that St. Croix should be brought back, ill or well, to the field; that his wound should

be unsewn, and himself abandoned to the pleasure of the victor.

Can any thing be more barbarous than such a sentence, and indeed, than such a state of society? and yet these were the glorious days of Ferrara. This duke was Alfonso the First, Titian's friend and patron, the father of Hercules II. and Ippolito Cardinal d'Este, a second Mæcenas. These were the days of Ariosto and Tasso, though true it is, that they met with but little encouragement. It is pleasant to turn from contemplating Alfonso's stately court, and Ippolito's literary prodigality, to a softer and fairer picture.

Renée, the virtuous and accomplished daughter of Louis XII. of France, who, in the year 1527, married Hercules II., Duke of Ferrara, brought hither the pure faith and strict practice of the reformed church, which she had learned from good and holy men in the court of Margaret, Queen of Navarre. Hither came, in the train of Renée, Madame de Soubise, Jean and Anne de Parthenai, her children, and Antoine de Pons Count de Marennes, who afterwards married Anne. Hither came for refuge, Clement Marot, persecuted in France by Diana de Poitiers, who had loved and left him. He was appointed secretary to Renée. Hither came John Calvin, and here he sojourned for many months, under the name of Charles Heppeville. We need not be told that the combat, whereof we just now spoke, was the last that disgraced Ferrara's palace. We are sure that the gentle Renée would not endure them. The profligate flatterers of Alfonso's court made way for men of different mould, and Renée, instead of the half barbarous, half magnificent

shows in which her predecessors, Anne Sforza and Lucretia Borgia, had delighted, occupied herself in the education of her children, and in the reformation of manners throughout her little duchy. Although not beautiful herself, she was the mother of that Leonora of whom Tasso sung, and all her children were distinguished for talent and grace. We staid long in the library, looking again and again at some scraps of letters, written, we were told, by the fair hand of Olympia Morata, and also at some prayers, indited for her use by the first martyr of Ferrara,—Fannio of Faenza, who was imprisoned for two years, and constantly visited, in spite of the Duke's commands, by Olympia and her friend Lavinia de Rovere ; then we turned for one more look at Ariosto's scribbled and interlined MS., until good Sir Mark's patience oozed out, and he exclaimed somewhat impatiently, “Come away, come away! dinner must be ready. I cannot imagine what pleasure you can take in looking at those musty old papers."

"Can you not?" inquired Harry, with a curl of the lip strongly indicative of pity; "then we will depart." And we did depart, but in the evening Musica took out a scrap of paper, and she said, "Here is one of the musty papers, Sir Mark, or at least a copy of one of them, which I took this morning when they were talking about all those grand things in the library, which I did not understand;" and without farther preamble, she began to sing Renée's sweet song, composed for her by Clement Marot, when, at the command of her husband, she was forced to dismiss all her French friends from France.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »