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comburatur sic quod moriatur. The pretext for this judgment was a proof of unfair barter, extortions, and illicit gains. Baracteriarum iniquarum, extorsionum, et illicitorum lucrorum,” and with such an accusation it is not strange that Dante should have always protested his innocence, and the injustice of his fellow-citizens. His appeal to Florence was accompanied by another to the emperor Henry; and the death of that sovereign in 1313 was the signal for a sentence of irrevocable banishment. He had before lingered near Tuscany with hopes of recall; then travelled into the north of Italy, where Verona had to boast of his longest residence; and he finally settled at Ravenna, which was his ordinary but not constant abode until his death. The refusal of the Venetians to grant him a public audience, on the part of Guido Novello da Polenta, his protector, is said to have been the principal cause of this event, which happened in 1321. He was buried (“in sacra minorum aede”) at Ravenna, in a handsome tomb, which was erected by Guido, restored by Bernardo Bembo in 1483, praetor for that republic which had refused to hear him, again restored by Cardinal Corsi in 1692, and replaced by a more magnificent sepulchre, constructed in 1780 at the expense of the Cardinal Luigi Valenti Gonzaga. The offence or misfortune of Dante was an attachment to a defeated party, and, as his least favourable biographers allege against him, too great a freedom of speech and haughtimess of manner. But the next age paid honours almost divine to the exile. The Florentines, having in vain and frequently attempted to recover his body, crowned his image in a church,f and his picture is still one of the idols of their cathedral. They struck medals, they raised statues to him. The cities of Italy, not being able to dispute about his own birth, contended for that of his great poem, and the Florentines thought it for their honour to prove that he had finished the seventh Canto, before they drove him from his native city. Fifty-one years after his death, they endowed a professorial chair for the expounding of his verses, and Boccaccio was appointed to this patriotie employment. The example was imitated by Bologna and Pisa, and the commentators, if they performed but little serviee to literature, augmented the veneration which beheld a sacred or moral allegory in all the images of his mystic muse. His birth and his infancy were discovered to have been distinguished above those of ordinary men: the author of the Decameron, his earliest biographer, relates that his mother was warned in a dream of the importance of her pregnancy; and it was found, by others, that at ten years of age he had manifested his precocious passion for that wisdom or theology, which, under the name of Beatrice, had been mistaken for a substantial mistress. When the Divine Comedy had been recognised as a mere mortal production, and at the distance of two centuries, when criticism and competition had sobered the judgment of the Italians, Dante
*Storia della Lett. Ital, tom. v. lib. iii. par. 2. p. 448. Tiraboschi is incorrect: the dates of the three decrees against Dante are A.D. 1302, 1314, and 1316.
f so relates Ficino, but some think his coronation only an allegory. See Storia, &c. ut sup. p. 453.
was seriously declared superior to Homer;* and though the preference appeared to some casuists “an heretical blasphemy worthy of the flames,” the contest was vigorously maintained for nearly fifty years. In later times it was made a question which of the Lords of Verona could boast of having patronised him, and the jealous scepticism of one writer would not allow Ravenna the undoubted possession of his bones. Even the critical Tiraboschi was inclined to believe that the poet had foreseen and foretold one of the discoveries of Galileo. Like the great originals of other nations, his popularity has not always maintained the same level. The last age seemed inclined to undervalue him as a model and a study; and Bettinelli one day rebuked his pupil Monti, for poring over the harsh and obsolete extravagances of the Commedia. The present generation, having recovered from the Gallic idolatries of Cesarotti, has returned to the ancient worship, and the Danteggiare of the northern Italians is thought even indiscreet by the more moderate Tuscans.
There is still much curious information relative to the life and writings of this great poet, which has not as yet been collected even by the Italians; but the celebrated Ugo Foscolo meditates to supply this defect, and it is not to be regretted that this national work has been reserved for one so devoted to his country and the cause of truth.
Like Scipio, buried by the upbraiding shore ;
The elder Scipio Africanus had a somb if he was not buried at Liternum, whither he had retired to voluntary banishment. This tomb was near the sea-shore, and the story of an inscription upon it, Ingrata Patria, having given a name to a modern tower, is, if not true, an agreeable fiction. If he was not buried, he certainly lived there.t In costiangusta e solitaria villa Era'l grand'uomo che d'Africas' appella Perche primacol ferro al vivo aprilla.; Ingratitude is generally supposed the vice peculiar to republics; and it seems to be forgotten that for one instance of popular inconstancy we have a hundred examples of the fall of courtly favourites. Besides, a people have often repented—a monarch seldom or never. Leaving apart many familiar proofs of this fact, a short story may show the difference between even an aristocracy and the multitude.
* Bywarchi, in his Ercolano. The controversy continued from 1570 to 1616. See Storia, &c. tom. vii. lib. iii. par. iii. p. 1280.
f Gio. Jacopo Dionisi Canonico di Verona. Serie di Aneddoti, n. 2. See Storia, &c. tom. v. lb. i. par. i. p. 24.
: Vitam Litermi egit sine desiderio urbis. See T. Liv. Hist.lib. xxxviii. Livy reports that some said he was buried at Liternum, others at Rome. Ib. cap. LW.
§ Trionfo della Castita.
Vettor Pisani, having been defeated in 1354 at Portolongo, and many years afterwards in the more decisive action of Pola, by the Genoese, was recalled by the Venetian government, and thrown into chains. The Avvogadori proposed to behead him, but the supreme tribunal was content with the sentence of imprisonment. Whilst Pisani was suffering this unmerited disgrace, Chioza, in the vicinity of the capital,” was, by the assistance of the Signor of Padua, delivered into the hands of Pietro Doria. At the intelligence of that disaster, the great bell of St. Mark’s tower tolled to arms, and the people and the soldiery of the galleys were summoned to the repulse of the approaching enemy; but they protested they would not move a step, unless Pisani were liberated and placed at their head. The great council was instantly assembled: the prisoner was called before them, and the Doge, Andrea Contarini, informed him of the demands of the people, and the necessities of the state, whose only hope of safety was reposed on his efforts, and who implored him to forget the indignities he had endured in her service. “I have submitted,” replied the magnanimous republican, “I have submitted to your deliberations without complaint; I have supported patiently the pains of imprisonment, for they were inflicted at your command: this is no time to inquire whether I deserve them—the good of the republic may have seemed to require it, and that which the republic resolves is always resolved wisely. Behold me ready to lay down my life for the preservation of my eountry.” Pisani was appointed generalissimo, and by his exertions, in conjunction with those of Carlo Zeno, the Venetians soon recovered the ascendancy over their maritime rivals.
The Italian communities were no less unjust to their citizens than the Greek republics. Liberty, both with the one and with the other, seems to have been a national, not an individual object: and, notwithstanding the boasted equality before the laws, which an ancient Greek writers considered the great distinctive mark between his countrymen and the barbarians, the mutual rights of fellow-citizens seem never to have been the principal scope of the old democracies. The world may have not yet seen an essay by the author of the Italian Republics, in which the distinction between the liberty of former states, and the signification attached to that word by the happier constitution of England, is ingeniously developed. The Italians, however, when they had ceased to be free, still looked back with a sigh upon those times of turbulence, when every citizen might rise to a share of sovereign power, and have never been taught fully to appreciate the repose of a monarchy. Sperone Speroni, when Francis Maria H. Duke of Rovere proposed the question, “which was preferable, the republic or the principality—the perfect and not durable, or the less perfect and not so liable to change,” replied, “that our happiness is to be measured by its quality, not by its duration; and that he preferred to live for one day like a man, than for a hundred years like a brute, a stock, or a stone.” This was thought,
* See note to Stanza xiii, page 250. ! f The Greek boasted that he was icovápos. See—the last chapter of the first book of Dionysius of Halicarnassus. t
and called, a magnificent answer, down to the last days of Italian serwitude.*
and the crown Which Petrarch’s laureate brow supremely wore Upon a far and foreign soil had grown,
The Florentines did not take the opportunity of Petrarch's short visit to their city in 1350 to revoke the decree which confiscated the property of his father, who had been banished shortly after the exile of Dante. His crown did not dazzle them; but when in the next year they were in want of his assistance in the formation of their university, they repented of their injustice, and Boccaccio was sent to Padua to entreat the laureate to conclude his wanderings on the bosom of his native country, where he might finish his immortal Africa, and enjoy, with his recovered possessions, the esteem of all elasses of his fellow-citizens. They gave him the option of the book and the science he might condeseend to expound: they called him the glory of his country, who was dear, and would be dearer to them; and they added, that if there was anything unpleasing in their letter, he ought to return amongst them, were it only to correct their style.f. Petrareh seemed at first to listen to the flattery and to the entreaties of his friend, but he did
not return to Florence, and preferred a pilgrimage to the tomb of Laura and the shades of Vaucluse.
Boccaccio was buried in the church of St. Michael and St. James, at Certaldo, a small town in the Valdelsa, which was by some supposed the place of his birth. There he passed the latter part of his life in a course of laborious study, which shortened his existence; and there might his ashes have been secure, if not of honour, at least of repose. But the “hyena bigots” of Certaldo tore up the tombstone of Boccaccio, and ejected it from the holy precincts of St. Michael and St. James. The occasion, and, it may be hoped, the excuse, of this ejectment was the making of a new floor for the church; but the fact is, that the tombstone was taken up and thrown aside at the bottom of the building. Ignorance may share the sin with bigotry. It would be painful to relate such an exception to the devotion of the Italians for their great names, could it not be accompanied by a trait more honourably conformable to the general character of the nation. The principal person of the district, the last branch of the house of Medicis, afforded that protection to the memory of the insulted dead which her best ancestors had
* “E intorno alia magnifica risposta,” &c. Serassi, Vita del Tasso, lib. iii. pag. 149, tom. ii. edit. 2. Bergamo.
f “Accingiti innoltre, se ci elecito ancor Pesortati, a compire l'immortal tua Africa . . . . Seti avviene d'incontrare nel nostro stile cosa che tidispiaccia, cio debb'essere un altro motivo adesaudire i desiderjdella tua patria.” Storia della Lett. Ital. tom. v. par. i. lib. i. pag. 76.
dispensed upon all contemporary merit. The Marchioness Lenzoni rescued the tombstone of Boccaccio from the neglect in which it had some time lain, and found for it an honourable elevation in her own mansion. She has done more: the house in which the poet lived has been as little respected as his tomb, and is falling to ruin over the head of one indifferent to the name of its former tenant. It consists of two or three little chambers, and a low tower, on which Cosmo II. affixed an inscription. This house she has taken measures to purchase, and proposes to devote to it that eare and consideration which are attached to the cradle and to the roof of genius.
This is not the place to undertake the defence of Boccaccio; but the man who exhausted his little patrimony in the acquirement of learning, who was amongst the first, if not the first, to allure the science and the poetry of Greece to the bosom of Italy;-who not only invented a new style, but founded, or certainly fixed, a new language; who, besides the esteem of every polite court of Europe, was thought worthy of employment by the predominant republic of his own country, and, what is more, of the friendship of Petrarch, who lived the life of a philosopher and a freeman, and who died in the pursuit of knowledge, such a man might have found more consideration than he has met with from the priest of Certaldo, and from a late English traveller, who strikes off his portrait as an odious, contemptible, licentious writer, whose impure remains should be suffered to rot without a record.* That English traveller, unfortunately for those who have to deplore the loss of a very amiable person, is beyond all criticism; but the mortality which did not protect Boceaccio from Mr. Eustace, must not defend Mr. Eustace from the impartial judgment of his successors.-Death may canonise his virtues, not his errors; and it may be modestly pronounced that he transgressed, not only as an author, but as a man, when he evoked the shade of Boccaccio in company with that of Aretine, amidst the sepulchres of Santa Croee, merely to dismiss it with indignity. As far as respects
“Il flagello de' Principi,
it is of little import what censure is passed upon a coxcomb who owes his present existence to the above burlesque character given to him by the poet, whose amber has preserved many other grubs and worms: but to classify Boccaccio with such a person, and to excommunicate his very ashes, must of itself make us doubt of the qualification of the classical tourist for writing upon Italian, or, indeed, upon any other literature; for ignorance on one
* Classical Tour, chap. ix, vol. ii. p 355, edit.3d. “Of Boccaccio, the modern Petronius, we say nothing; the abuse of genius is more odious and more contemptible than its absence; and it imports little where the impure remains of a licentious author are consigned to their kindred dust. For the same reason the traveller may pass unnoticed the tomb of the malignant Aretino.”
This dubious phrase is hardly enough to save the tourist from the suspicion of another blunder respecting the burial-place of Aretine, whose tomb was in the ehurch of St. Luke at Venice, and gave rise to the famous controversy of which some notice is taken in Bayle, Now the words of Mr. Eus. tace would lead us to think the tomb was at Florence, or at least was to be somewhere recognised. Whether the inscription so much disputed was ever written on the tomb cannot now be decided, for all memorial of this author has disappeared from the church of St. Luke.