« PreviousContinue »
post to post repulsing new assaults. At last the ramparts glittered with hostile lances, the enemy pushed bravely through the breach; some entered the gateway, already dashed to atoms; others hung from the battlements, or strode the walls, aiding their comrades, or dropped, arms and all, into the devoted town. Terror spread wildly and universally; the people disperse; they fly to the towers and temples; women and children cling trembling to the altars, or clasp the sacred cross, or fling themselves shuddering on the pavement; the clergy issue forth with the holy symbols of their faith, and trusting in the God of all, implore the compassion of their conquerors: sobs, screams and wailings, fill the air, and Mercy! mercy!' is wildly shrieked and wildly answered. Universal carnage was about to begin, when the consul was suddenly beheld standing among the prostrate multitude, the sight calmed him; humanity conquered; and stifling all anger he allayed their terror by the promise of universal pardon. It was doing much to overcome passion in the heat of battle; more to control a fierce exasperated soldiery in the moment of victory: both of them are honourable to the general, the military discipline, and the manners of an age which we are, perhaps, too ready to believe, was exclusively barbarous."pp. 165, 166.
Bold against their standing, and gentle to their fallen, foes, the Florentines advanced towards the summit of their power, notwithstanding the temporary check, which they received in the fatal defeat of Monte Aperto. We shall, however, leave for a moment the current of public affairs to take a short glance at the progress of those arts which were as much the glory of Florence as her
"In taking leave of this century," observes Captain Napier, "we are reminded that at certain epochs in the world's progress, there is sometimes a majestic race of spirits that suddenly cross our view, and carrying every thing they touch to perfection, they then gradually disappear, and leave their fame for future ages to admire and fully appreciate. The fourteenth century, and part of the thirteenth, was one of these glorious periods in Florentine history; and the mind is struck with wonder to behold from one small city, in one single century, shine out so bright an assemblage of fresh and lofty intellects. In law, in physic; in theology, philosophy, and rhetoric; in prose and poetry, in history, ethics, epistolary writing, sculpture, architecture, and painting; it produced, not one, but several of the highest order of genius, men of no doubtful fame; some of whom feared the point of Dante's poetical aphorism scarcely more than the bard himself.
"The four Accorsi, the two Del Garbos, Alderotti, Torregiano, Cassini, Bardi, Dino di Mujello, Barberino, Bonifazio Uberti, Francesco Cieco, Giotto, Orcagna, Cavalcante, Boccaccio, Petrarca, Dante, Zenobi, Giovanni Andrea, the Prince of Canonists,' the three Vellani, Dino Compagni, Coluccio Salutati, Sacchetti, Pandolfino; and other noted,
though inferior, minds, such as Paulo and Bonatti, in mathematics and astronomy, present altogether a constellation of such intellect as dazzles the understanding, and makes us marvel how one small community could produce so much so quickly.”—Vol. ii. pp. 664, 665.
The causes which led to this great burst of genius are thus developed by Captain Napier :
"As in private society, when decency is discarded, the range of humour is extended, so in that of nations we sometimes see that where honesty is trampled upon human energy is in more vigorous, though pernicious, activity; no wonder then that this age was bold, daring, and energetic. Ambition and rapacity were the ruling powers, but the former was local, dispersed, broken into a thousand fragments; each predominant spirit was great within the narrow limits of its country; yet few filled all Italy with their fame, and scarcely any had a general European reputation. A multitude of fierce and brilliant fires were burning, both for good and evil, the common illumination was splendid and equalized; Europe gazed at it from afar with admiration, perhaps respect, but only knew it as a whole. In this state literature alone became the object of general interest; it spread with a universal light, it belonged to all countries and no faction; tyrants, kings, and republics equally honoured it, and the fame of its leaders overspread the earth. The conjuncture favoured it, for the Italian language was yet in its infancy, Latin corrupted, and it became an object to separate the child from a vitiated parent, and reform the latter. A host of intellect burst upon the world, and, led by Dante, permanently stamped its character on the fourteenth century." -Vol. ii. p. 650.
"In this way," continues Captain Napier, "Petrarca became the property not only of Italy but of Europe. In an humble and retired cottage at Vaucluse, attended only by his rustic old man and woman, he received on the same day letters from the Roman senator and the chancellor of the Parisian university, calling upon him, as in rivalry, to receive the laurel crown, one at Rome, the other at Paris. able name of Rome, her antique glory, and his own reverence for the Eternal city, finally prevailed, and in his six-and-thirtieth year Naples received him with honour on his way to the Capitol. There a new triumph awaited him, for Robert, the most learned monarch, and one of the most learned men of the day, after some severe examinations, added his testimony to the general voice, and entreated that Naples might be the scene of his coronation. But Rome still prevailed, and on the twentythird of August, 1340, Petrarca received the laurel crown."
We cannot linger as we should like on this chapter, one of the most interesting in the whole work, from the retrospect which it takes of the arts and sciences, the manners and customs of the fourteenth century. For stirring events and mighty changes are coming, and the final struggle with Pisa demands our attention. Our readers will recollect how, through the instrumentality of a
lapdog, the Florentines and Pisans had changed from warm friends to determined enemies.
A long course of rivalry and hostility had more and more embittered the enmity between Florence and Pisa. The conduct of the Pisans in uniting with the Visconti, and actually submitting to their sway, from hatred to the Florentines, still further exasperated the latter people; and no sooner had the death of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and the sub-division of his dominions, taken place, than they determined, at every risk and at every expense, to make themselves masters of their ancient enemy. Though basely deserted by the pope and the rest of the allies, who had leagued with them against the Milanese, they still fought on; and at length a conjuncture of affairs favoured their project.
"The acquisition of Pisa was a serious affair at Florence, and great efforts were made to secure it; a mere licence to undertake this conquest had already cost much, and as yet (A.D. 1406) no more ground was cleared for active operations; the remaining obstacles were Ladislaus, King of Naples, a young, warlike, and ambitious monarch on the one hand, and Ottobuon Terzo, an able, unemployed Condottiere, in possession of Parma, on the other. Ladislaus, then aiming at the subjugation of Rome, at that moment almost in anarchy from civil war, was quieted by a promise not to be thwarted in his enterprise; and Ottobuon Terzo was similarly paralysed by a large subsidy. These points settled, it was determined to invest Pisa so closely by sea and land, that every hope of provisions or succour should be vain. The Florentine camp was accordingly pitched at San Piero in Grado, on the river side, a little below the town, under the Florentine commissioner, Maso degli Albizzi, but more especially Gino Capponi, whose commentaries furnish all the particulars of this memorable siege. There were Florentines who would willingly have relinquished the enterprise, but strong temptation and the majority prevailed; it was popular as a commercial, a political, and a personal object; for Pisa had ever been a secure position for all the enemies of Florence; it was the great portal of her foreign trade, and the object of a bitter, long-enduring, and hereditary hatred. The Pisans' first care was to reconcile internal factions, and to concentrate all the various flashes of party spirit into one bright flame of patriotic indignation against a common foe: the Raspanti were then in power, many of the Bergolini, with their leaders of the Gambacorti family, in exile; all were recalled, and ancient quarrels lulled into present repose by the mere threatening of the storm; peace was sworn to by adverse chiefs upon the sacramental bread, and made more solemn, if not more binding, by a mixture of their blood with the consecrated wine. But Giovanni Gambacorta returned as full of vengeance as before, and, in contempt of every oath, after being elected captain of the people, put Giovanni Agnello to death, imprisoned Riniere de' Sacchi, and many others, all chiefs of the rival faction, and afterwards secretly drowned most of them in the sea."-Vol. iii. pp. 11, 12.
VOL. XI.-NO. XXI.-MARCH, 1849.
The most fearless daring was shown by the besiegers, the most desperate courage by the besieged; and many traits of individual heroism have been recorded. Examples, too, of the ferocious cruelty, then commonly practised, were not wanting on the part of the invaders; whilst, day by day, the hopes of the Pisans grew fainter and fainter, their provisions more and more scanty, and the tyranny of Gambacorta more oppressive. At length, that miscreant, finding that every chance of rescue was gone, made overtures to the enemy. He offered to surrender the city, provided that all the personal enemies of his family, with all their living children, should be declared and treated as public rebels. "He was, moreover, to have 50,000 florins, the government of Bagno, the citizenship of Florence, exemption for himself and family from all tolls and taxes, to be under that state's protection, besides several other advantages; and his brother was to be made Bishop of Florence, or that failing to have a pension instead. These and other private aggrandisements formed nearly all the articles of capitulation, those regarding the public comprising only a general amnesty, except for Gambacorta's enemies, and exemption from blood, plunder, fire, and devastation, both for the city and contado."
A military council was immediately summoned by the Florentine commander; first, to reconcile two officers of distinction who had quarrelled; and secondly, to settle the mode of taking possession of Pisa.
"In this, the two rival captains differed, and each being well supported there was much confusion, until Gino Capponi (the commanderin-chief) impatiently rose and thus shortly but sternly addressed them :
"You have often declared that you would conquer Pisa by your personal valour, and now when it is in our power to open whichever of her gates we please, do you still hesitate, you vile and worthless gentry, for fear of assassination? Are you terrified at a besieged and starving people? No more of this trifling: it is our pleasure that you enter by the gate of St. Mark, and each of you will give strict command and formal warning to your soldiers that no tumult will be suffered; and all of you are now commanded, on pain of death, to conduct yourselves as if marching through the streets of Florence; you will, moreover, be held personally answerable for the behaviour of your troops and servants; therefore issue such orders as will ensure prompt obedience to our commands.'
"To this Franceschino della Mirandola replied :—
"You give us rough and rigid orders! But if the Pisans chance to turn on us, how are we then to act? If this happen, will you not then suffer us to repel them by every means? by fire and by plunder?'
"Gino, whose impatience would hardly suffer him to wait until this
officer had finished, turned sharply towards him, and with an angry countenance, replied:
"Franceschino, Franceschino, we will permit no robbery in any form; and if the people turn on us or other accident occur, why we ourselves will be there as well as thou, and will command thee and all the rest as to what may be expedient at the moment; wherefore thou mayest spare thy labour, for what we have commanded shall surely be obeyed.'
"After this resolute conduct Gino repaired to Florence and explained all to the seignory; he informed them that Pisa might be had with or without a capitulation, for it could not hold out much longer. If by capitulation, he said, they would save an unhappy people from the multiplied horrors of a storm; they would receive an uninjured town; they would acquire merit with God and man, and they would perpetuate their fame amongst distant nations. A council was immediately assembled, and out of forty-seven secret votes, there were forty-six black beans in favour of capitulation. Discontented at this slight want of unanimity, the question was again called for by acclamation, and a second ballot gave an unmodified decision for the more humane course of policy."-Vol. iii, pp. 15-17.
"Gino, having returned with full powers, Gambacorta, afraid of the consequences should his treason transpire, wished the city to be taken possession of by night. The Florentines, however, only occupied a single gate until dawn of day, when the whole army moved steadily forward with colours flying, and at sunrise appeared before the gate of St. Mark, where Gambacorta awaited them, and presented Capponi with a verrettone' or light dart, in token of surrender—and the troops immediately occupied the market-place, whence they quietly paraded the streets in military array, at that time a very common mode of taking possession, while the whole population gazed in fear and wonder from their windows, few being aware of what had occurred, so well concealed was the whole transaction. Nor did the soldiers marvel less at the pale emaciated faces that, fearful and doubting, gazed with famished looks upon their bravery: some more considerate soldiers had brought with them a few loaves which they threw to little children at the windows.
Gino ordered abundance of provisions to be supplied, and crowds of every rank rushed madly to the banquet; many killed themselves by sudden repletion; the priors and Gambacorta himself had long lived on linseed cakes; there was no more grain or flour, only a little sugar and cassia, and three famished cows in the public stores; all else was eaten, even the very grass of the now desolated streets, was dried and pulverized and kneaded into something resembling bread."-Vol. iii. p. 18.
Capponi then formally commenced Florentine rule; but so mild was it and so unusual in those times, during the first moments of conquest, when horrors alone were expected, that the people still