« PreviousContinue »
landesfolge of Teutonic writers), in her romance of “ Corinna,” has seized with avidity on the incident.
Concerning this solemn incoronation, we have from the pen of an eye-witness, Guido d'Arezzo, details, told in style most quaint, and with sundry characteristic comments. In those days of primeval simplicity, in the absence of every other topic of excitement (for the crusades had well nigh worn themselves out of popular favour), the éclat attendant on this occurrence possessed a sort of European interest. The name of the “ Laureate” (now worn by the venerable dweller of the lakes, the patriarch Southey) was then first proclaimed, amid the shouts of applauding thousands, on the seven hills of the Eternal City, and echoed back with enthusiasm from the remotest corners of Christendom. In a subsequent age, when the same honour, with the same imposing ceremonial, was to be conferred on Tasso, I doubt whether the event would have enlisted to the same extent the sympathies of Europe, or the feelings eren of the Italian public. It were bootless, however, to dwell on the probabilities of the case; for Death interposed his veto, and stretched out his bony hand between the laurel wreath and the poor
maniac's brow, who, on the very eve of the day fixed for his ovation, expired on the Janiculum hill, in the romantic hermitage of St. Onufrio. Oft have I sat under that same cloister-wall, where he loved to bask in the mild ray of the setting sun, and there, with Rome's awful volume spread out before me, pondered on the frivolity of fame. The ever-enduring vine, with its mellow freight dependent from the antique pillars, clustered above my head; while at my feet lay the flagstone that once covered his remains ; and “Ossa TORQUATI Tassi,” deep carved on the marble floor, abundantly fed the meditative mind.
Petrarca’s grave I had previously visited in the mountain hamlet of Arquà during my rambles through Lombardy ; and while I silently recalled the inscription thereon, I breathed for both the prayer
that it contains
FRIGIDA FRANCISCI TEGIT HIC LAPIS OSSA PETRARCE:
* The Rev. Lawrence Sterne, in his very reputable work called But a truce to this inoralising train of thought, and turn we to the gay scene described by Guido d'Arezzo. Be it then understood, that on the morning of Easter Sunday, April 15, 1341, a period of the ecclesiastical year at which crowds of pilgrims visited the shrine of the apostles, and Rome was thronged with the representatives of every Christian land, after the performance of a solemn high mass in the old Basilica of St. Peter's (for religion in those days mixed itself up with every public act, and sanctified every undertaking), the decree of Robert, King of Naples, was duly read, setting forth how, after a diligent examination and trial in all the departments of poetry and all the accomplishments of elegant literature, in addition to a knowledge most extensive of theology and history, Francis Petrarca had evinced unparalleled proficiency in all the recognised acquirements of scholarship, and given undoubted proofs of ability and genius; wherefore, in his favour, it seemed fit and becoming that the proudest mark of distinction known among the ancient Romans should be conferred on him, and that all the honours of the classic triumph should be revived on the occasion. It will be seen, however, from the narrative of Guido, that some slight variations of costume and circumstance were introduced in the course of the exhibition, and that the getting up of the affair was not altogether in literal accordance with the rubrics which regulated such processions in the days of Paulus Æmilius, when captive kings and the milk-white bulls of Clytumnus adorned the pageantry“Romanos ad templa Deûm duxêre triumphos."
Georg. II. “ They put on his right foot (Guido loquitur) a sandal of red leather, cut in a queer shape, and fastened round the ankle with purple ligatures. This is the way tragic poets are shod. His left foot they then inserted into a kind of
" Tristram Shandy,” has the effrontery to translate the curse of Ernelphus, Ex autoritate Dei et Virginis Dei genetricis Mariæ, “By the authority of God and of the Virgin, mother and patroness of our Saviour !". thus distorting the original, to insinuate prejudice against a class of fellow-Christians. Objection may be felt to the predominance of the feeling in question,-but fair play, Yorick !-PROUT.
ouskin of violet colour, made fast to the leg with blue thongs. This is the emblem worn by writers in the comic line, and those who compose agreeable and pleasant matters. Violet is the proper colour of love.
“Over his tunic, which was of grey silk, they placed a mantle of velvet, lined with green satin, to show that it poet's ideas should always be fresh and new. Round his neck they hung a chain of diamonds, to signify that his thoughts should be brilliant and clear. There are many mysteries in poetry.
They then placed on his head a mitre of gold cloth, tapering upwards in a conical shape, that the wreaths and garlands might be more easily worn thereon. It had two tails, or skirts, falling behind on the shoulders like the mitre of a bishop. There hung by his side a lyre (which is the poet's instrument), suspended from a gold chain of interwoven figures of snakes, to give him to understand that his mind must figuratively change its skin, and constantly renew its envelope, like the serpent. When they had thus equipped him, they gave him a young maiden to hold up his train, her hair falling loose in ringlets, and her feet naked. She was dressed in the fur of a bear, and held a lighted torch. This is the emblem of folly, and is a constant attendant on poets !”
When “the business of day” was over, the modern fashion of winding up such displays was perfectly well understood even at that remote period, and a dinner was given to the lion of the hour in the still-sumptuous hall of the Palazzo Colonna. His “feeding-time being duly got through, poetry and music closed the eventful evening; and Petrarca delighted his noble host and the assembled rank and fashion of Rome by dancing a Moorish pas seul with surprising grace and agility.
Covered with honours, and flushed with the applause of his fellow-countrymen, the father of Italian song was not insensible to the fascinations of literary renown, nor deaf to the whisperings of glory; but love, the most exalted and refined, was still the guiding star of his path and the arbiter of his destiny. He has left us the avowal himself, in that beautiful record of his inmost feelings which he has entitled “Secretum Francisci Petrarchæ," where, in a fancied dialogue with the kindred soul of St. Augustin, he pours forth the fulness of his heart with all the sincerity of nature and of genius. No two clerical characters seem to have been endowed by nature with more exquisite sensibilities than the African bishop and the priest of Provence. In the midst of his triumph his thoughts wandered away to the fardistant object of his affection; and his mind was at Vaucluse while the giddy throng of his admirers showered garlands and burnt incense around his person. He fondly pictured to himself the secret pride which the ladye of his love would perhaps feel in hearing of his fame ; and the laurel was doubly dear to him, because it recalled her cherished name.
The utter hopelessness of his passion seemed to shed an undefinable hallowedness over the sensations of his heart; and it must have been in one of those moments of tender melancholy that he penned the following graceful, but mysterious narrative of a supposed or real apparition.
Verde m'apparve con duo corna d'oro
Fra due riviere all'ombra d'un alloro,
Ch' i' lasciai per seguirla ogni lavoro;
Come l'avaro che 'n cercar tesoro,
Scritto aveva di diamanti, e di topazj ;
Gli occhi miei stanchi di mirar, non sasi
The Vision of Petrarca.
Gold I belield and emerald on the collar that she wore ;
Still, the soul of Petrarca was at times accessible to sterner impressions. The call of patriotism never failed to find a responsive echo in the breast of Italy's most distinguished son; and when, at the death of Benedict XII., which occurred at this juncture, there arose a favourable chance of serving his country, by restoring the papal residence to the widowed city of Rome, he eagerly offered himself as one of the deputies to proceed to Avignon for the accomplishment of this wished-forconsummation. Whether a secret anxiety to revisit the scene of his early affections, and to enjoy once more the presence of his mistress, may have mixed itself up with the aspirations of patriotism, it would not be easy to decide; but he entered into the project with all the warmth of a devoted lover of Italy. His glorious dithyramb to that delightful, but conquered and divided land, so often quoted, translated, and admired, is sufficient evidence of his sentiments: but he has taken care to put the matter beyond doubt in his vie gorous pamphlet, * De Libertate capessendâ Exhortatio ad Nicolaum Laurentium.” This “ Nicholas” was no other than the famous tribune Cola Rienzi, who, mainly excited by the prose as well as the poetry of Petrarca, raised the standard of independence against the petty tyrants of the Eternal City in 1345, and for a briei space rescued it from thraldom.
Poetry is the nurse of freedom. From Tyrtæus to Béranger, the Muse has befriended through every age
the cause of liberty. The pulse of patriotism never beats with bolder throb than when the sound of martial song swells in the full chorus of manly voices; and it was in a great measure the rude energy
of the “Marseillaise” that won for the ragged and shoeless grenadiers of the Convention the victories of Valmy and Jemmappe. In our own country, Dibdin's