Изображения страниц

Theatine convent. Pius V., under his gorgeous vestments, wore day and night the hair shirt of a simple friar; walked barefoot in the streets at the head of processions; found, even in the midst of his most pressing avocations, time for private prayer; often regretted that the public duties of his station were unfavorable to growth in holiness; and edified his flock by innumerable instances of humility, charity, and forgiveness of personal injuries; while, at the same time, he upheld the authority of his See, and the unadulterated doctrines of his Church with all the vehemence of Hildebrand. Gregory XIII. exerted himself to imitate Pius in the severe virtues of his sacred profession.

It is delightful to turn to the opulent and enlightened States of Italy-to the vast and magnificent cities, the ports, the arsenals, the villas, the museums, the libraries, the marts filled with every article` of comfort and luxury, the manufactories swarming with artisans, the Appenines covered with rich cultivation up to their very summits, the Po wafting the harvests of Lombardy to the granaries of Venice, and carrying back the silks of Bengal and the furs of Siberia to the palaces of Milan. With peculiar pleasure, every cultivated mind must repose on the fair, the

happy, the glorious Florence, on the halls which rung with the mirth of Pulci, the cell where twinkled the midnight lamp of Politian, the statues on which the young eye of Michael Angelo glared with the frenzy of a kindred inspiration. LORD MACAULAY,

Critical and Miscellaneous Essays.



To the Englishman one of the chief interests of the study of Italian literature is derived from the fact that between England and Italy an almost uninterrupted current of intellectual intercourse had been maintained throughout the last five centuries. Italy has formed the dreamland of the English fancy, inspiring poets with their most delightful thoughts, supplying them with subjects, and implanting in their minds that sentiment of Southern beauty which, engrafted on our less passionately imaginative Northern nature, has borne rich fruit in the works of Chaucer, Spencer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, and the poets of this century.

It is not strange that Italy should thus in matters of culture have been the guide and mistress of England. Italy, of all the European nations, was the first to produce high art and 'literature in the dawn of modern civilization. Italy was the first to display refinement in domestic life, polish of manners, civilities of intercourse. In Italy the

commerce of courts first developed a society of men and women educated by the same traditions of humanistic culture. In Italy the principles of government were first discussed and reduced to theory. In Italy the zeal for the classics took its origin; and scholarship, to which we owe our mental training, was at first the possession of none almost but Italians. It therefore followed that during the age of Renaissance any man of taste or genius who desired to share the newly discovered privileges of learning had to seek Italy. Every one who wished to be initiated into the secrets of science or philosophy had to converse with Italians in person or through their books. Every one who was eager to polish his native language, and to render it the proper vehicle of poetic thought, had to consult the masterpieces of Italian literature. To Italians the courtier, the diplomatist, the artist, the student of state-craft and military tactics, the political theorist, the merchant, the man of laws, the man of arms, and the churchman turned for precedents and precepts. The nations of the North, still torpid and somnolent in their semi-barbarism, needed the magnetic touch of Italy before they could awake to intellectual life. Nor was this all. Long before the thirst for culture possessed the English mind, Italy had appropriated

and assimilated all that Latin literature contained of strong or splendid to arouse the thought and fancy of the modern world; Greek, too, was rapidly becoming the possession of the scholars of Florence and Rome; so that English men of letters found the spirit of the ancients infused into a modern literature; models of correct and elegant composition existed for them in a language easy, harmonious, and not dissimilar in usage to their


The importance of this service, rendered by Italians to the rest of Europe, can not be exaggerated. By exploring, digesting, and reproducing the classics, Italy made the labor of scholarship comparatively light for the Northern nations, and extended to us the privilege of culture without the peril of losing originality in the enthusiasm for erudition. Then, in addition to this benefit of instruction, Italy gave to England a gift of pure beauty, the influence of which, in refining our national taste, harmonizing the roughness of our manners and our language, and stimulating our imagination, has been incalculable. It was not an unfrequent custom for young men of ability to study at the Italian universities, or at least to undertake a journey to the principal Italian cities. From their sojourn in that land of loveliness and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »