Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

Lorenzo of
Medicis.
A.D, 1488-
1499

original could not be removed, a faithful copy was transcribed
and transmitted for his use. The Vatican, the old repository
for bulls and legends, for superstition and forgery, was daily
replenished with more precious furniture ; and such was the
industry of Nicholas that in a reign of eight years he formed a
library of five thousand volumes. To his munificence the Latin
world was indebted for the versions of Xenophon, Diodorus,
Polybius, Thucydides, Herodotus, and Appian; of Strabo's Geo-
graphy, of the Iliad, of the most valuable works of Plato and
Aristotle, of Ptolemy and Theophrastus, and of the fathers of
the Greek church. The example of the Roman pontiff was pre-

ceded or imitated by a Florentine merchant, who governed the Cosmo and republic without arms and without a title. Cosmo of Medicis 115

was the father of a line of princes, whose name and age are almost
synonymous with the restoration of learning; his credit was
ennobled into fame ; his riches were dedicated to the service of
mankind; he corresponded at once with Cairo and London ; and
& cargo of Indian spices and Greek books was often imported
in the same vessel. The genius and education of his grandson
Lorenzo rendered him, not only a patron, but a judge and
candidate, in the literary race. In his palace, distress was
entitled to relief, and merit to reward ; his leisure hours were
delightfully spent in the Platonic academy; he encouraged the
emulation of Demetrius Chalcondyles and Angelo Politian; and
his active missionary, Janus Lascaris, returned from the East
with a treasure of two hundred manuscripts, fourscore of which
were as yet unknown in the libraries of Europe. 116

The rest of
Italy was animated by a similar spirit, and the progress of the
nation repaid the liberality of her princes. The Latins held the
exclusive property of their own literature ; and these disciples
of Greece were soon capable of transmitting and improving
the lessons which they had imbibed. After a short succession

[ocr errors][merged small]

116 See the literary history of Cosmo and Lorenzo of Medicis, in Tiraboschi (tom. vi. p. i. 1. i. c. 2), who bestows a due measure of praise on Alpbonso of Arragon, king of Naples, the dukes of Milan, Ferrara, Urbino, &c. The republic of Venice has deserved the least from the gratitude of scholars.

116 Tiraboschi (tom. vi. p. i. p. 104), from the preface of Janus Lascaris to the Greek Anthology, printed at Florence, 1494. Latebant (says Aldus in his preface to the Greek Orators, apud Hodium, p. 249) in Atho Thraciæ monte. Eaß Lascaris ... in Italiam reportavit. Miserat enim ipsum Laurentius ille Medices in Græciam ad inquirendos simul et quantovis emendos pretio bonos libros. It is remarkable enough that the research was facilitated by sultan Bajazet II.

[ocr errors]

of foreign teachers, the tide of emigration subsided; but the language of Constantinople was spread beyond the Alps ; and the natives of France, Germany, and England 117 imparted to their country the sacred fire which they had kindled in the schools of Florence and Rome.118 In the productions of the mind, as in those of the soil, the gifts of nature are excelled by industry and skill ; the Greek authors, forgotten on the banks of the Ilissus, have been illustrated on those of the Elbe and the Thames; and Bessarion or Gaza might have envied the superior science of the barbarians: the accuracy of Budæus, the taste of Erasmus, the copiousness of Stephens, the erudition of Scaliger, the discernment of Reiske or of Bentley. On the side of the Latins, the discovery of printing was a casual advantage; but this useful art has been applied by Aldus, and his innumerable successors, to perpetuate and multiply the works of antiquity.119 A single manuscript inported from Greece is revived in ten thousand copies ; and each copy is fairer than the original. In this form, Homer and Plato would peruse with more satisfaction their own writings ; and their scholiasts must resign the prize to the labours of our western editors.

Before the revival of classic literature, the barbarians in Use and Europe were immersed in ignorance; and their vulgar tongues ancient were marked with the rudeness and poverty of their manners. The students of the more perfect idioms of Rome and Greece were introduced to a new world of light and science ; to the society of the free and polished nations of antiquity; and to

abuse of

learning

117 The Greek language was introduced into the University of Oxford in the last years of the xyth century, by Grocyn, Linacer, and Latimer, who had all studied at Florence under Demetrius Chaloondyles. See Dr. Knight's curious Life of Erasmus. Although a stout academical patriot, he is forced to acknowledge that Erasmus learned Greek at Oxford and taught it at Cambridge.

118 The jealous Italians were desirous of keeping a monopoly of Greek learning. When Aldus was about to publish the Greek scholiasts on Sophocles and Euripides, Cave (say they), cave hoc facias, ne Barbari istis adjuti domi maneant, et pauciores in Italian ventitent (Dr. Knight, in his Life of Erasmus, p. 365, from Beatus Rhenanus).

119 The press of Aldus Manutius, a Roman, was established at Venice about the year 1494. He printed above sixty considerable works of Greek literature, almost all for the first time ; several containing different treatises and authors, and of several authors two, three, or four editions (Fabric. Bibliot. Græo. tom. xiii. p. 605, &c.). Yet his glory must not tempt us to forget that the first Greek book, the Grammar of Constantine Lascaris, was printed at Milan in 1476 ; and that the Florence Homer of 1488 displays all the luxury of the typographical art. See the Annales Typographici of Mattaire and the Bibliographie Instructive of De Bure, a knowing bookseller of Paris. [A. F. Didot, Alde Manuce et l'hellénisme à Venise,

a familiar converse with those immortal men who spoke the sublime language of eloquence and reason. (Such an intercourse must tend to refine the taste, and to elevate the genius, of the moderns; and yet, from the first experiments, it might appear that the study of the ancients had given fetters, rather than wings, to the human mind. However laudable, the spirit of imitation is of a servile cast; and the first disciples of the Greeks and Romans were a colony of strangers in the midst of their age and country. The minute and laborious diligence which explored the antiquities of remote times might have improved or adorned the present state of society : the critic and metaphysician were the slaves of Aristotle ; the poets, historians, and orators were proud to repeat the thoughts and words of the Augustan age; the works of nature were observed with the eyes of Pliny and Theophrastus; and some pagan votaries professed a secret devotion to the gods of Homer and Plato. 20 The Italians were oppressed by the strength and number of their ancient auxiliaries: the century after the deaths of Petrarch and Boccace was filled with a crowd of Latin imitators, who decently repose on our shelves; but in that æra of learning it will not be easy to discern a real discovery of science, a work of invention or eloquence, in the popular language of the country.121 But, as soon as it had been deeply saturated with the celestial dew, the soil was quickened into vegetation and life; the modern idioms were refined; the classics of Athens and Rome inspired a pure taste and a generous emulation; and in Italy, as afterwards in France and England, the pleasing reign of poetry and fiction was succeeded by the light of speculative and experimental philosophy. Genius may anti

120 I will select three singular examples of this classic enthusiasm. 1. At the synod of Florence, Gemistus Pletho said in familiar conversation to George of Trebizond, that in a short time mankind would unanimously renounce the Gospel and the Koran for a religion similar to that of the Gentiles (Leo Allatius, apud Fabricium, tom. X. p. 751). 2. Paul II. persecuted the Roman Academy which had been founded by Pomponius Lætus ; and the principal members were accused of heresy, impiety, and paganism (Tiraboschi, tom. vi. p. i. p. 81, 82). [Cp. Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien, ii. 252.] 3. In the next century, some scholars and poets in France celebrated the success of Jodelle's tragedy of Cleopatra by a festival of Bacchus; and, it is said, by the sacrifice of a goat (Bayle, Dictionnaire, JODELLE ; Fontenelle, tom. iii. p. 56-61). Yet the spirit of bigotry might often discern a serious impiety in the sportive play of fancy and learning.

121 The survivor of Boccace died in the year 1375; and we cannot place before 1480 the composition of the Morgante Maggiore of Pulci, and the Orlando Inamorato of Boyardo (Tiraboschi, tom. vi. p. ii. p. 174-177).

cipate the season of maturity; but in the education of a people, as in that of an individual, memory must be exercised, before the powers of reason and fancy can be expanded; nor may the artist hope to equal or surpass, till he has learned to imitate, the works of his predecessors.

CHAPTER LXVII

Schism of the Greeks and Latins-Reign and Character of

Amurath the Second-Crusade of Ladislaus, King of
HungaryHis Defeat and Death-John Huniades-
Scanderbeg-Constantine Palæologus, last Emperor of
the East

CompariBon of Rome and ConstantiDoplo

T

1

HE respective merits of Rome and Constantinople are

compared and celebrated by an eloquent Greek, the

father of the Italian schools. The view of the ancient capital, the seat of his ancestors, surpassed the most sanguine expectations of Emanuel Chrysoloras; and he no longer blamed the exclamation of an old sophist, that Rome was the habitation, not of men, but of gods. Those gods and those men had long since vanished; but, to the eye of liberal enthusiasm, the majesty of ruin restored the image of her ancient prosperity. The monuments of the consuls and Cæsars, of the martyrs and apostles, engaged on all sides the curiosity of the philosopher and the Christian; and he confessed that in every age the arms and religion of Rome were destined to reign over the earth. While Chrysoloras admired the venerable beauties of the mother, he was not forgetful of his native country, her fairest daughter, her Imperial colony ; and the Byzantine patriot expatiates with zeal and truth on the eternal advantages of nature and the more transitory glories of art and dominion, which adorned, or had adorned, the city of Constantine. Yet the perfection of the copy still redounds (as he modestly observes) to the honour of the original; and parents are delighted to be renewed, and

i The epistle of Emanuel Chrysoloras to the emperor John Palæologus will not offend the eye or ear of a classical student (ad calcem Codini de Antiquitatibus C. P. p. 107-126). The superscription suggests chronological remark that John Palæologus II. was associated in the empire before the year 1414, the date of Chrysoloras's death. A still earlier date, at least 1408, is deduced from the age of his youngest sons Demetrius and Thomas, who were both Porphyrogeniti (Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 244, 247).

« ForrigeFortsett »