« AnteriorContinuar »
over the hard-fought field, at the head of a thousand horse, a shot from a harquebuss reached his heart. There is something peculiarly touching in the fate of this young chieftain. He had scarcely attained the age of manhood, and was already regarded as the flower of the French chivalry. Glowing with the enthusiastic though mistaken zeal of the period, he had just led his soldiers to a victory eminently fitted to increase the fame of his arms. After a season of suspense, which must have appeared an age to his impatient spirit, he had met the opposing forces on the open field. Long, desperate, and dubious was the contest; but at length his gladdened eye saw, through the smoke of battle, the retreating ranks of the enemy; his enraptured ear caught, above the din of war, the victorious shouts of his soldiers. What visions of glory must have gleamed before his imagination, as he spurred his charger over the conquered field! How sweet must have been the gratulations of his country, heard in exultant fancy! The lasting trophies of valorous renown were already won, and he was but in the morning of life. The wreath of chivalric honor which his early ambition had pictured as a far-off boon, was already his. Yet in that moment of triumphant emotion, when he felt the wreath of victory pressing his flushed brow, and heard, perhaps, the greeting of her whose smile would be the sweetest flower in his garland of renown, the fatal ball entered his breast, and the gorgeous visions of gratified ambition were suddenly obscured by the mists of death! He fell, not at the fearful onset, when despair of success might have reconciled him to such a fate; nor in the midst of the struggle, when the influence of his example, or the desire of revenge, might have urged on his followers to yet fiercer effort; but at the close of the fight, when the day was won, at the instant when the clouds of doubt broke asunder, and the joyful beams of success blessed his sight. At such a moment, fell the young and valiant Guy De Foix.
In the academy at Ravenna, there is the statue of a warrior carved in white marble. The name of the sculptor is not well authenticated; but the work seemed to me remarkably well calculated to deepen the associations which environ the memory of the French knight. The figure is completely encased in armor, and sketched in the solemn repose of death. The visor of the helmet is raised, and the face presents that rigid expression, which we cannot look upon without awe. The very eyelids are cut with such a lifeless distinctness, as to be eloquent of death. Thus, thought I, fell the veil of dissolution over the young soldier, whose bravery was here displayed. How affecting, with the story of his valorous energy fresh in the memory, to gaze upon such an image, and to feel that thus he became in the very hour of his triumph! Erroneous as were then the ends of youthful ambition, yet is there enough of nobleness in the associations of that epoch, to hallow its ornaments to our imagination. Comparing them with the selfish and narrow ideas which too often mark the manner and demean the characters of our day, we must sometimes lament, that if the ignorance and barbarism of more warlike times have departed, so has also much of their high and almost universal spirit of honor, gallantry, and disinterestedness.
Like most secondary Italian cities, Ravenna wears the semblance of desertion. At noonday, the stranger may often walk through streets deficient neither in spaciousness nor noble dwellings, and yet encounter no being, nor hear a sound indicative of life, far less of active prosperity. This was the case, to a remarkable degree, on the day of my visit, as it occurred during the month of October, when, according to the Italian custom, most of the nobility were at their villas ; and the sanitary restrictions, established on account of the cholera then raging in some parts of the country, had greatly diminished the usual number of passing travellers. In the piazza, at some hours of the day, there is a little life-like appearance, from the assemblage of buyers and sellers, and, at early evening, the principal café exhibits the usual motley company collected to smoke, talk scandal, or to pore over the few journals which the jealousy of the government permits to find their way into the country. These restricted vehicles of communication consist of little else than an epitome, from the French journals, of the most important political and other passing events, collected and arranged with as little reference to order and connection, as can well be imagined. It is owing to the garbled and confused notions derived from these paltry gazettes, to which many even of the better class of Italians confine their reading, that there prevails in this country such profound ignorance of the most familiar places and facts. Some of the ideas existing in regard to the United States, afford good illustration of this remark. A retired merchant, who was travelling in very genteel style, once asked me if Joseph Bonaparte was still king of America. A monk of Genoa, who was my companion in a voiture in Lombardy, opened his eyes with astonishment when informed that it was more than half a century since we had ceased to be an English colony; and another friar, whose ideas of geography were in rather a confused state, observed that he considered mine a very aristocratic country, judging from what he had read of our president, Santa Anna. A young Tuscan, of respectable standing, inquired if one could go from Italy to America, without passing through Madagascar; and a signora of some pretensions begged, in a very pathetic voice, to know if we were much annoyed with tigers!
Life, for the most part, in these reduced towns, accords with the limited scope of the prevailing ideas. The morning is lounged away in listlessness; the ride after dinner, and the conversazione in the evening, being the only ostensible occupation, except during the carnival, when some theatrical or other public entertainment is generally provided. Those of the resident nobility, who can afford it, usually travel half the year, and economize the remainder. And if, among the better class, there are those whose range of knowledge is more extensive, or whose views are nobler, the greater part soon reconcile themselves to a series of trifling pursuits, or idle dissipation, as the appropriate offsets to their hopeless destiny. Sometimes, indeed, a rare spirit is encountered, superior to the mass, and incapable of compromising either principle or opinions, however objectless it may seem to cherish them; and there are few more interesting characters than are such men, in the view of the thoughtful philanthropist; beings superior to their associates, and worthy of a better fate; men who, amid degrading political and social circumstances, have the strength and elevation of mind to think and feel nobly, and seek by commu
nion with the immortal spirits of the past, or by ennobling anticipations, consolation for the weariness and gloom of the present. Occasionally, too, in such decayed cities, the stranger meets with those who, cut off from political advantages, and possessed of wealth, have devoted themselves to the pursuits of taste, and their palaces and gardens amply repay a visit. Such is the case with the eccentric Rusprici, one of the Ravenese nobility, whose gallery contains many valuable and interesting productions of art.
At an angle of one of the by-streets of Ravenna, is a small building by no means striking, either as regards its architecture or decorations. It is fronted by a gate of open iron-work, surmounted by a cardinal's hat — indicating that the structure was raised or renovated by some church dignitary, a class who appear invariably scrupulous to memorialize, by inscriptions and emblems, whatever public work they see fit to promote. A stranger might pass this little edifice unheeded, standing as it does at a lonely corner, and wearing an aspect of neglect; but as the eye glances through the railing of the portal, it instinctively rests upon a small and time-stained bas relief, fixed in the opposite wall, representing that sad, stern, and emaciated countenance, which, in the form of busts, engravings, frescos, and portraits, haunts the traveller in every part of Italy. It is a face so strongly marked with the sorrow of a noble and ideal mind, that there is no need of the laurel wreath upon the head, to assure us that we look upon the lineaments of a poet. And who could fail to stay his feet, and still the current of his wandering thoughts to a deeper flow, when he reads upon the entablature of the little temple, "Sepulchrum Dantis Poetæ ? It is not necessary that one should have solved the mysteries of the Divina Commedia, in order to feel the solemn interest which attaches to the spot where the bones of its author repose. It is enough to know that we are standing by the tomb of a man who, in early boyhood, loved ; and cherished the deep affection then born, after its object was removed from the world, through a life of the greatest vicissitude, danger, and grief, making it a fountain of poetic inspiration, and a golden link which bound him to the world of spirits ; a quenchless sentiment, whose intensity vivified and hallowed existence, It is sufficient to remember, that we are near the ashes of a man who proved himself a patriot, and when made the victim of political faction, and banished from his home, wrapped himself in the mantle of silent endurance, and suffered with a dignified heroism, that challenges universal sympathy and respect. It is sufficient to reflect, that they who had persecuted the gifted Florentine when living, have long vainly petitioned those among whom he died, for the privilege of transporting his revered remains to the rich monument prepared for them; and that a permanent professorship to elucidate his immortal poem is founded by the very city from which he was ignobly spurned. It is enough, that we see before us the sepulchre of a man who had the intellect and courage to think beyond and above his age; who revived into pristine beauty a splendid but desecrated language ; who fully vindicated his title to the character of a statesman, a soldier, and a poet; and in a warlike and violent age, had the magnanimity to conceive, and the genius to create, an imperishable monument of intellectual revenge.
H. T. T. VOL. XIII.
TO THE CHARTER-OAK,' NEAR HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT.
A BRIEF MEMOIR, WITH HIS LAST LITERARY PRODUCTION, AND VARIOUS PASSAGES FROM HIS
PRIVATE JOURNAL AND CORRESPONDENCE.
In the December number of this Magazine, we announced the death of one of its contributors, John W. Gould, Esq., (son of the late JUDGE GOULD, of Litchfield, Connecticut,) and promised to renew a notice, the brevity of which prevented any thing like justice to the memory of the lamented deceased. Probably no reader of the KNICKERBOCKER has failed to derive high enjoyment from the stirring sea-sketches of Jack GARNET,' which have from time to time adorned these pages. With a mind cultivated and fertile; great force of imagination, and originality of invention; a style remarkable as well for its conciseness and felicity of expression, as for vigor and picturesqueness in description, he imparted to all his literary efforts a character which would reflect honor upon riper years, and more practised pens. We would invite the reader, who has preserved the past volumes of this periodical, to test the justice of these encomiums, by turning back to the numbers which contain · The Mutiny,' 'My First and Last Flogging,' • The Cruise of a Guineaman,' . The Pirate of the South Pacific, etc. He will find all of these dashed off with a rich brush, and in each, scenes, or portions of scenes, that having once read, he will find it impossible ever to forget.
Before proceeding to extract a few passages from the journal, kept
during the long and painful voyage to Rio, to which allusion was had in our December number, we would solicit the reader's attention to the following spirited sketch, which was written for the KNICKERBOCKER, and found among the manuscripts of the deceased.
MAN OVER BOARD.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE MUTINY,' 'MY FIRST AND LAST PLOGGING,' ETC.
• Meet her, quartermaster!' hailed the officer of the deck; “hold on, every body!'
Tom from my grasp upon the capstan by a mountain wave which swept us in its power, I was borne over the lee-bulwarks; and a rope which l grasped in my passage, not being belayed, unrove in my hands, and I was buried in the sea.
•Man overboard !' rang along the decks. “Cut away the lifebuoy!'
Stunned and strangling, I rose to the surface, and instinctively struck out for the ship; while, clear above the roar of the storm, and the dash of the cold, terrible sea, the loud thunder of the trumpet came full on my ear :
* Man the weather main and maintop-sail braces; slack the lee ones; round in; stand by to lower away the lee-quarter boat!'
My first plunge for the ship, whose dim outline I could scarcely perceive, in the almost pitchy darkness of the night, most fortunately brought me within reach of the life-buoy grating. Climbing upon this, I used the faithless rope, still in my hand, to lash myself fast; and, thus freed from the fear of immediate drowning, I could more quietly watch and wait for rescue.
The ship was now hidden from my sight; but, being to leeward, I could with considerable distinctness make out her whereabout, and judge of the motions on board. Directly, a signal-lantern glanced at her peak; and oh! how brightly shone that solitary beam on my straining eye!—for, though rescued from immediate peril, what other succor could I look for, in that fearful swell, on which no boat could live a moment? What could I expect, save a lingering, horrid death?
Within a cable's length, lay my floating home, where ten minutes before not a lighter heart than mine was enclosed by her frowning bulwarks; and though so near that I could hear the rattling of her cordage, and the rustling thunder of her canvass, I could also hear those orders from her trumpet which extinguished hope.
• Belay all with that boat !' said a voice that I knew right well; she can't live a minute !'
My heart died within me, and I closed my eyes in despair. Next fell upon my ear the rapid notes of the drum beating to quarters, with all the clash, and tramp, and roar of a night alarm; while I could also faintly hear the mustering of the divisions, which was done to ascertain who was missing. Then came the hissing of a rocket, which, bright and clear, soared to heaven; and again falling, its momentary glare was quenched in the waves.