A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
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VOL. VI.—OCTOBER, 1860.—NO. XXXVI.
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SOME OF THE HAUNTS OF BURNS.
BY A TOURIST WITHOUT IMAGINATION OR ENTHUSIASM.
We left Carlisle at a little past eleven, and within the half-hour were at Gretna Green. Thence we rushed onward into Scotland through a flat and dreary tract of country, consisting mainly of desert and bog, where probably the moss-troopers were accustomed to take refuge after their raids into England. Anon, however, the hills hove themselves up to view, occasionally attaining a height which might almost be called mountainous. In about two hours we reached Dumfries, and alighted at the station there.
Chill as the Scottish summer is reputed to be, we found it an awfully hot day, not a whit less so than the day before; but we sturdily adventured through the burning sunshine up into the town, inquiring our way to the residence of Burns. The street leading from the station is called Shakspeare Street; and at its farther extremity we read "Burns Street" on a corner house,—the avenue thus designated having been formerly known as "Mill Hole Brae." It is a vile lane, paved with small, hard stones from side to side, and bordered by cottages or mean houses of white-washed stone, joining one to another along the whole length of the street. With not a tree, of course, or a blade of grass between the paving-stones, the narrow lane was as hot as Tophet, and reeked with a genuine Scotch odor, being infested with unwashed children, and altogether in a state of chronic filth; although some women seemed to be hopelessly scrubbing the thresholds of their wretched dwellings. I never saw an outskirt of a town less fit for a poet's residence, or in which it would be more miserable for any man of cleanly predilections to spend his days.
We asked for Burns's dwelling; and a woman pointed across the street to a two-story house, built of stone, and white-washed, like its neighbors, but perhaps of a little more respectable aspect than most of them, though I hesitate in saying so. It was not a separate structure, but under the same continuous roof with the next. There was an inscription on the door, bearing no reference to Burns, but indicating that the house was now occupied by a ragged or industrial school. On knocking, we were instantly admitted by a servant-girl, who smiled intelligently when we told our errand, and showed us into a low and very plain parlor, not more than twelve or fifteen feet square.
A young woman, who seemed to be a teacher in the school, soon appeared, and told us that this had been Burns's usual sitting-room, and that he had written many of his songs here.
She then led us up a narrow staircase into a little bed-chamber over the parlor. Connecting with it, there is a very small room, or windowed closet, which Burns used as a study; and the bedchamber itself was the one where he slept in his latter life-time, and in which he died at last. Altogether, it is an exceedingly unsuitable place for a pastoral and rural poet to live or die in,—even more unsatisfactory than Shakspeare's house, which has a certain homely picturesqueness that contrasts favorably with the suburban sordidness of the abode before us. The narrow lane, the paving-stones, and the contiguity of wretched hovels are depressing to remember; and the steam of them (such is our human weakness) might almost make the poet's memory less fragrant.
As already observed, it was an intolerably hot day. After leaving the house, we found our way into the principal street of the town, which, it may be fair to say, is of very different aspect from the wretched outskirt above described. Entering a hotel, (in which, as a Dumfries guide-book assured us, Prince Charles Edward had once spent a night,) we rested and refreshed ourselves, and then set forth in quest of the mausoleum of Burns.
Coming to St. Michael's Church, we saw a man digging a grave; and, scrambling out of the hole, he let us into the churchyard, which was crowded full of monuments. Their general shape and construction are peculiar to Scotland, being a perpendicular tablet of marble or other stone, within a frame-work of the same material, somewhat resembling the frame of a looking-glass; and, all over the churchyard, these sepulchral memorials rise to the height of ten, fifteen, or twenty feet, forming quite an imposing collection of monuments, but inscribed with names of small general significance. It was easy, indeed, to ascertain the rank of those who slept below; for in Scotland it is the custom to put the occupation of the buried personage (as "Skinner," "Shoemaker," "Flesher") on his tombstone. As another peculiarity, wives are buried under their maiden names, instead of their husbands; thus giving a disagreeable impression that the married pair have bidden each other an eternal farewell on the edge of the grave.
There was a footpath through this crowded churchyard, sufficiently well-worn to guide us to the grave of Burns; but a woman followed behind us, who, it appeared, kept the key of the mausoleum, and was privileged to show it to strangers. The monument is a sort of Grecian temple, with pilasters and a dome, covering a space of about twenty feet square. It was formerly open to all the inclemencies of the Scotch atmosphere, but is now protected and shut in by large squares of rough glass, each pane being of the size of one whole side of the structure. The woman unlocked the door, and admitted us into the interior. Inlaid into the floor of the mausoleum is the gravestone of Burns,—the very same that was laid over his grave by Jean Armour, before this monument was built. Stuck against the surrounding wall is a marble statue of Burns at the plough, with the Genius of Caledonia summoning the ploughman to turn poet. Methought it was not a very successful piece of work; for the plough was better sculptured than the man, and the man, though heavy and cloddish, was more effective than the goddess. Our guide informed us that an old man of ninety, who knew Burns, certifies, this statue to be very like the original.
The bones of the poet, and of Jean Armour, and of some of their children, lie in the vault over which we stood. Our guide (who was intelligent, in her own plain way, and very agreeable to talk withal) said that the vault was opened about three weeks ago, on occasion of the burial of the eldest son of Burns. The poet's bones were disturbed, and the dry skull, once so brimming over with powerful thought and bright and tender fantasies, was taken away, and kept for several days by a Dumfries doctor. It has since been deposited in a new leaden coffin, and restored to the vault. We learned that there is a surviving daughter of Burns's eldest son, and daughters likewise of the two younger sons,—and, besides these, an illegitimate posterity by the eldest son, who appears to have been of disreputable life in his younger days. He inherited his father's failings, with some faint shadow, I have also understood, of the great qualities which have made the world tender of his father's vices and weaknesses.
We listened readily enough to this paltry gossip, but found that it robbed the poet's memory of some of the reverence that was its due. Indeed, this talk over his grave had very much the same tendency and effect as the home-scene of his life, which we had been visiting just previously. Beholding his poor, mean dwelling and its surroundings, and picturing his outward life and earthly manifestations from these, one does not so much wonder that the people of that day should have failed to recognize all that was admirable and immortal in a disreputable, drunken, shabbily clothed, and shabbily housed man, consorting with associates of damaged character, and, as his only ostensible occupation, gauging the whiskey which he too often tasted. Siding with Burns, as we needs must, in his plea against the world, let us try to do the world a little justice too. It is far easier to know and honor a poet when his fame has taken shape in the spotlessness of marble than when the actual man comes staggering before you, besmeared with the sordid stains of his daily life. For my part, I chiefly wonder that his recognition dawned so brightly while he was still living. There must have been something very grand in his immediate presence, some strangely impressive characteristic in his natural behavior, to have caused him to seem like a demigod so soon.
As we went back through the churchyard, we saw a spot where nearly four hundred inhabitants of Dumfries were buried during the cholera year; and also some curious old monuments, with raised letters, the inscriptions on which were not sufficiently legible to induce us to puzzle them out; but, I believe, they mark the resting-places of old Covenanters, some of whom were killed by Claverhouse and his fellow-ruffians.
St. Michael's Church is of red freestone, and was built about a hundred years ago, on an old Catholic foundation. Our guide admitted us into it, and showed us, in the porch, a very pretty little marble figure of a child asleep, with a drapery over the lower part, from beneath which appeared its two baby feet. It was truly a sweet little statue; and the woman told us that it represented a child of the sculptor, and that the baby (here still in its marble infancy) had died more than twenty-six years ago. "Many ladies," she said, "especially such as had ever lost a child, had shed tears over it." It was very pleasant to think of the sculptor bestowing the best of his genius and art to re-create his tender child in stone, and to make the representation as soft and sweet as the original; but the conclusion of the story has something that jars with our awakened sensibilities. A gentleman from London had seen the statue, and was so much delighted with it that he bought it of the father-artist, after it had lain above a quarter of a century in the church-porch. So this was not the real, tender image that came out of the father's heart; he had sold that truest one for a hundred guineas, and sculptured this mere copy to replace it. The first figure was entirely naked in its earthly and spiritual innocence. The copy, as I have said above, has a drapery over the lower limbs. But, after all, if we come to the truth of the matter, the sleeping baby may be as fitly reposited in the drawing-room of a connoisseur as in a cold and dreary church-porch.
We went into the church, and found it very plain and naked, without altar-decorations, and having its floor quite covered with unsightly wooden pews. The woman led us to a pew cornering on one of the side-aisles, and, telling us that it used to be Burns's family-pew, showed us his seat, which is in the corner by the aisle. It is so situated, that a sturdy pillar hid him from the pulpit, and from the minister's eye; "for Robin was no great friends with the ministers," said she. This touch—his seat behind the pillar, and Burns himself nodding in sermon-time, or keenly observant of profane things—brought him before us to the life. In the corner seat of the next pew, right before Burns, and not more than two feet off, sat the young lady on whom the poet saw that unmentionable parasite which he has immortalized in song. We were ungenerous enough to ask the lady's name, but the good woman could not tell it. This was the last thing which we saw in Dumfries worthy of record; and it ought to be noted that our guide refused some money which my companion offered her, because I had already paid her what she deemed sufficient.
At the railway-station we spent more than a weary hour, waiting for the train, which at last came up, and took us to Mauchline. We got into an omnibus, the only conveyance to be had, and drove about a mile to the village, where we established ourselves at the Loudoun Hotel, one of the veriest country-inns which we have found in Great Britain. The town of Mauchline, a place more redolent of Burns than almost any other, consists of a street or two of contiguous cottages, mostly white-washed, and with thatched roofs. It has nothing sylvan or rural in the immediate village, and is as ugly a place as mortal man could contrive to make, or to render uglier through a succession of untidy generations. The fashion of paving the village-street, and patching one shabby house on the gable-end of another, quite shuts out all verdure and pleasantness; but, I presume, we are not likely to see a more genuine old Scotch village, such as they used to be in Burns's time, and long before, than this of Mauchline. The church stands about midway up the street, and is built of red freestone, very simple in its architecture, with a square tower and pinnacles. In this sacred edifice, and its churchyard, was the scene of one of Burns's most characteristic productions,—"The Holy Fair."
Almost directly opposite its gate, across the village-street, stands Posie Nansie's inn, where the "Jolly Beggars" congregated. The latter is a two-story, redstone, thatched house, looking old, but by no means venerable, like a drunken patriarch. It has small, old-fashioned windows, and may well have stood for centuries,—though, seventy or eighty years ago, when Burns was conversant with it, I should fancy it might have been something better than a beggars' alehouse. The whole town of Mauchline looks rusty and time-worn,—even the newer houses, of which there are several, being shadowed and darkened by the general aspect of the place. When we arrived, all the wretched little dwellings seemed to have belched forth their inhabitants into the warm summer evening; everybody was chatting with everybody, on the most familiar terms; the bare-legged children gambolled or quarrelled uproariously, and came freely, moreover, and looked into the window of our parlor. When we ventured out, we were followed by the gaze of the whole town: people standing in their door-ways, old women popping their heads from the chamber-windows, and stalwart men—idle on Saturday at e'en, after their week's hard labor—clustering at the street-corners, merely to stare at our unpretending selves. Except in some remote little town of Italy, (where, besides, the inhabitants had the intelligible stimulus of beggary,) I have never been honored with nearly such an amount of public notice.
The next forenoon my companion put me to shame by attending church, after vainly exhorting me to do the like; and, it being Sacrament Sunday, and my poor friend being wedged into the farther end of a closely filled pew, he was forced to stay through the preaching of four several sermons, and came back perfectly exhausted and desperate. He was somewhat consoled, however, on finding that he had witnessed a spectacle of Scotch manners identical with that of Burns's "Holy Fair," on the very spot where the poet located that immortal description. By way of further conformance to the customs of the country, we ordered a sheep's head and the broth, and did penance accordingly; and at five o'clock we took a fly, and set out for Burns's farm of Moss Giel.
Moss Giel is not more than a mile from Mauchline, and the road extends over a high ridge of land, with a view of far hills and green slopes on either side. Just before we reached the farm, the driver stopped to point out a hawthorn, growing by the way-side, which he said was Burns's "Lousie Thorn"; and I devoutly plucked a branch, although I have really forgotten where or how this illustrious shrub has been celebrated. We then turned into a rude gateway, and almost immediately came to the farm-house of Moss Giel, standing some fifty yards removed from the high-road, behind a tall hedge of hawthorn, and considerably overshadowed by trees. The house is a whitewashed stone cottage, like thousands of others in England and Scotland, with a thatched roof, on which grass and weeds have intruded a picturesque, though alien growth. There is a door and one window in front, besides another little window that peeps out among the thatch. Close by the cottage, and extending back at right angles from it, so as to inclose the farm-yard, are two other buildings of the same size, shape, and general appearance as the house: any one of the three looks just as fit for a human habitation as the two others, and all three look still more suitable for donkey-stables and pig-sties. As we drove into the farm-yard, bounded on three sides by these three hovels, a large dog began to bark at us; and some women and children made their appearance, but seemed to demur about admitting us, because the master and mistress were very religious people, and had not yet come back from the Sacrament at Mauchline.
However, it would not do to be turned back from the very threshold of Robert Burns; and as the women seemed to be merely straggling visitors, and nobody, at all events, had a right to send us away, we went into the back-door, and, turning to the right, entered a kitchen. It showed a deplorable lack of housewifely neatness, and in it there were three or four children, one of whom, a girl eight or nine years old, held a baby in her arms. She proved to be the daughter of the people of the house, and gave us what leave she could to look about us. Thence we stepped across the narrow mid-passage of the cottage into the only other apartment below-stairs, a sitting-room, where we found a young man eating bread and cheese. He informed us that he did not live there, and had only called in to refresh himself on his way home from church. This room, like the kitchen, was a noticeably poor one, and, besides being all that the cottage had to show for a parlor, it was a sleeping-apartment, having two beds, which might be curtained off, on occasion. The young man allowed us liberty (so far as in him lay) to go upstairs. Up we crept, accordingly; and a few steps brought us to the top of the staircase, over the kitchen, where we found the wretchedest little sleeping-chamber in the world, with a sloping roof under the thatch, and two beds spread upon the bare floor. This, most probably, was Burns's chamber; or, perhaps, it may have been that of his mother's servant-maid; and, in either case, this rude floor, at one time or another, must have creaked beneath the poet's midnight tread. On the opposite side of the passage was the door of another attic-chamber, opening which, I saw a considerable number of cheeses on the floor.
The whole house was pervaded with a frowzy smell, and also a dunghill-odor, and it is not easy to understand how the atmosphere of such a dwelling can be any more agreeable or salubrious morally than it appeared to be physically. No virgin, surely, could keep a holy awe about her while stowed higgledy-piggledy with coarse-natured rustics into this narrowness and filth. Such a habitation is calculated to make beasts of men and women; and it indicates a degree of barbarism which I did not imagine to exist in Scotland, that a tiller of broad fields, like the farmer of Mauchline, should have his abode in a pig-sty. It is sad to think of anybody—not to say a poet, but any human being—sleeping, eating, thinking, praying, and spending all his home-life in this miserable hovel; but, methinks, I never in the least knew how to estimate the miracle of Burns's genius, nor his heroic merit for being no worse man, until I thus learned the squalid hindrances amid which he developed himself. Space, a free atmosphere, and cleanliness have a vast deal to do with the possibilities of human virtue.
The biographers talk of the farm of Moss Giel as being damp and unwholesome; but I do not see why, outside of the cottage-walls, it should possess so evil a reputation. It occupies a high, broad ridge, enjoying, surely, whatever benefit can come of a breezy site, and sloping far downward before any marshy soil is reached. The high hedge, and the trees that stand beside the cottage, give it a pleasant aspect enough to one who does not know the grimy secrets of the interior; and the summer afternoon was now so bright that I shall remember the scene with a great deal of sunshine over it.
Leaving the cottage, we drove through a field, which the driver told us was that in which Burns turned up the mouse's nest. It is the inclosure nearest to the cottage, and seems now to be a pasture, and a rather remarkably unfertile one. A little farther on, the ground was whitened with an immense number of daisies,—daisies, daisies, everywhere; and in answer to my inquiry, the driver said that this was the field where Burns ran his ploughshare over the daisy. If so, the soil seems to have been consecrated to daisies by the song which he bestowed on that first immortal one. I alighted, and plucked a whole handful of these "wee, modest, crimson-tipped flowers," which will be precious to many friends in our own country as coming from Burns's farm, and being of the same race and lineage as that daisy which he turned into an amaranthine flower while seeming to destroy it.
From Moss Giel we drove through a variety of pleasant scenes, some of which were familiar to us by their connection with Burns. We skirted, too, along a portion of the estate of Auchinleck, which still belongs to the Boswell family,—the present possessor being Sir James Boswell, [Sir James Boswell is now dead.] a grandson of Johnson's friend, and son of the Sir Alexander who was killed in a duel. Our driver spoke of Sir James as a kind, free-hearted man, but addicted to horse-races and similar pastimes, and a little too familiar with the wine-cup; so that poor Bozzy's booziness would appear to have become hereditary in his ancient line. There is no male heir to the estate of Auchinleck. The portion of the lands which we saw is covered with wood and much undermined with rabbit-warrens; nor, though the territory extends over a large number of acres, is the income very considerable.
By-and-by we came to the spot where Burns saw Miss Alexander, the Lass of Ballochmyle. It was on a bridge, which (or, more probably, a bridge that has succeeded to the old one, and is made of iron) crosses from bank to bank, high in air, over a deep gorge of the road; so that the young lady may have appeared to Burns like a creature between earth and sky, and compounded chiefly of celestial elements. But, in honest truth, the great charm of a woman, in Burns's eyes, was always her womanhood, and not the angelic mixture which other poets find in her.
Our driver pointed out the course taken by the Lass of Ballochmyle, through the shrubbery, to a rock on the banks of the Lugar, where it seems to be the tradition that Burns accosted her. The song implies no such interview. Lovers, of whatever condition, high or low, could desire no lovelier scene in which to breathe their vows: the river flowing over its pebbly bed, sometimes gleaming into the sunshine, sometimes hidden deep in verdure, and here and there eddying at the foot of high and precipitous cliffs. This beautiful estate of Ballochmyle is still held by the family of Alexanders, to whom Burns's song has given renown on cheaper terms than any other set of people ever attained it. How slight the tenure seems! A young lady happened to walk out, one summer afternoon, and crossed the path of a neighboring farmer, who celebrated the little incident in four or five warm, rude,—at least, not refined, though rather ambitious,—and somewhat ploughman-like verses. Burns has written hundreds of better things; but henceforth, for centuries, that maiden has free admittance into the dream-land of Beautiful Women, and she and all her race are famous! I should like to know the present head of the family, and ascertain what value, if any, they put upon the celebrity thus won.
We passed through Catrine, known hereabouts as "the clean village of Scotland." Certainly, as regards the point indicated, it has greatly the advantage of Mauchline, whither we now returned without seeing anything else worth writing about.
There was a rain-storm during the night, and, in the morning, the rusty, old, sloping street of Mauchline was glistening with wet, while frequent showers came spattering down. The intense heat of many days past was exchanged for a chilly atmosphere, much more suitable to a stranger's idea of what Scotch temperature ought to be. We found, after breakfast, that the first train northward had already gone by, and that we must wait till nearly two o'clock for the next. I merely ventured out once, during the forenoon, and took a brief walk through the village, in which I have left little to describe. Its chief business appears to be the manufacture of snuff-boxes. There are perhaps five or six shops, or more, including those licensed to sell only tea and tobacco; the best of them have the characteristics of village-stores in the United States, dealing in a small way with an extensive variety of articles. I peeped into the open gateway of the churchyard, and saw that the ground was absolutely stuffed with dead people, and the surface crowded with gravestones, both perpendicular and horizontal. All Burns's old Mauchline acquaintance are doubtless there, and the Armours among them, except Bonny Jean, who sleeps by her poet's side. The family is now extinct in Mauchline.
Arriving at the railway-station, we found a tall, elderly, comely gentleman walking to and fro and waiting for the train. He proved to be a Mr. Alexander,—it may fairly be presumed the Alexander of Ballochmyle, a blood-relation of the lovely lass. Wonderful efficacy of a poet's verse, that could shed a glory from Long Ago on this old gentleman's white hair! These Alexanders, by-the-by, are not an old family on the Ballochmyle estate; the father of the lass having made a fortune in trade, and established himself as the first landed proprietor of his name in these parts. The original family was named Whitefoord.
Our ride to Ayr presented nothing very remarkable; and, indeed, a cloudy and rainy day takes the varnish off the scenery, and causes a woful diminution in the beauty and impressiveness of everything we see. Much of our way lay along a flat, sandy level, in a southerly direction. We reached Ayr in the midst of hopeless rain, and drove to the King's Arms Hotel. In the intervals of showers I took peeps at the town, which appeared to have many modern or modern-fronted edifices; although there are likewise tall, gray, gabled, and quaint-looking houses in the by-streets, here and there, betokening an ancient place. The town lies on both sides of the Ayr, which is here broad and stately, and bordered with dwellings that look from their windows directly down into the passing tide.
I crossed the river by a modern and handsome stone bridge, and recrossed it, at no great distance, by a venerable structure of four gray arches, which must have bestridden the stream ever since the early days of Scottish history. These are the "Two Briggs of Ayr," whose midnight conversation was overheard by Burns, while other auditors were aware only of the rush and rumble of the wintry stream among the arches. The ancient bridge is steep and narrow, and paved like a street, and defended by a parapet of red freestone, except at the two ends, where some mean old shops allow scanty room for the pathway to creep between. Nothing else impressed me hereabouts, unless I mention, that, during the rain, the women and girls went about the streets of Ayr barefooted to save their shoes.
The next morning wore a lowering aspect, as if it felt itself destined to be one of many consecutive days of storm. After a good Scotch breakfast, however, of fresh herrings and eggs, we took a fly, and started at a little past ten for the banks of the Doon. On our way, at about two miles from Ayr, we drew up at a road-side cottage, on which was an inscription to the effect that Robert Burns was born within its walls. It is now a public-house; and, of course, we alighted and entered its little sitting-room, which, as we at present see it, is a neat apartment, with the modern improvement of a ceiling. The walls are much over-scribbled with names of visitors, and the wooden door of a cupboard in the wainscot, as well as all the other wood-work of the room, is cut and carved with initial letters. So, likewise, are two tables, which, having received a coat of varnish over the inscriptions, form really curious and interesting articles of furniture. I have never (though I do not personally adopt this mode of illustrating my humble name) felt inclined to ridicule the natural impulse of most people thus to record themselves at the shrines of poets and heroes.
On a panel, let into the wall in a corner of the room, is a portrait of Burns, copied from the original picture by Nasmyth. The floor of this apartment is of boards, which are probably a recent substitute for the ordinary flag-stones of a peasant's cottage. There is but one other room pertaining to the genuine birthplace of Robert Burns: it is the kitchen, into which we now went. It has a floor of flag-stones, even ruder than those of Shakspeare's house,—though, perhaps, not so strangely cracked and broken as the latter, over which the hoof of Satan himself might seem to have been trampling. A new window has been opened through the wall, towards the road; but on the opposite side is the little original window, of only four small panes, through which came the first daylight that shone upon the Scottish poet. At the side of the room, opposite the fireplace, is a recess, containing a bed, which can be hidden by curtains. In that humble nook, of all places in the world, Providence was pleased to deposit the germ of the richest human life which mankind then had within its circumference.
These two rooms, as I have said, make up the whole sum and substance of Burns's birthplace: for there were no chambers, nor even attics; and the thatched roof formed the only ceiling of kitchen and sitting-room, the height of which was that of the whole house. The cottage, however, is attached to another edifice of the same size and description, as these little habitations often are; and, moreover, a splendid addition has been made to it, since the poet's renown began to draw visitors to the way-side ale-house. The old woman of the house led us through an entry, and showed a vaulted hall, of no vast dimensions, to be sure, but marvellously large and splendid as compared with what might be anticipated from the outward aspect of the cottage. It contained a bust of Burns, and was hung round with pictures and engravings, principally illustrative of his life and poems. In this part of the house, too, there is a parlor, fragrant with tobacco-smoke; and, no doubt, many a noggin of whiskey is here quaffed to the memory of the bard, who professed to draw so much of his inspiration from that potent liquor.
We bought some engravings of Kirk Alloway, the Bridge of Doon, and the Monument, and gave the old woman a fee besides, and took our leave. A very short drive farther brought us within sight of the monument, and to the hotel, situated close by the entrance of the ornamental grounds within which the former is inclosed. We rang the bell at the gate of the inclosure, but were forced to wait a considerable time; because the old man, the regular superintendent of the spot, had gone to assist at the laying of the corner-stone of a new kirk. He appeared anon, and admitted us, but immediately hurried away to be present at the concluding ceremonies, leaving us locked up with Burns.
The inclosure around the monument is beautifully laid out as an ornamental garden, and abundantly provided with rare flowers and shrubbery, all tended with loving care. The monument stands on an elevated site, and consists of a massive basement-story, three-sided, above which rises a light and elegant Grecian temple,—a mere dome, supported on Corinthian pillars, and open to all the winds. The edifice is beautiful in itself; though I know not what peculiar appropriateness it may have, as the memorial of a Scottish rural poet.
The door of the basement-story stood open; and, entering, we saw a bust of Burns in a niche, looking keener, more refined, but not so warm and whole-souled as his pictures usually do. I think the likeness cannot be good. In the centre of the room stood a glass case, in which were reposited the two volumes of the little Pocket-Bible that Burns gave to Highland Mary, when they pledged their troth to one another. It is poorly printed, on coarse paper. A verse of Scripture, referring to the solemnity and awfulness of vows, is written within the cover of each volume, in the poet's own hand; and fastened to one of the covers is a lock of Highland Mary's golden hair. This Bible had been carried to America by one of her relatives, but was sent back to be fitly treasured here.
There is a staircase within the monument, by which we ascended to the top, and had a view of both Briggs of Doon; the scene of Tam O'Shanter's misadventure being close at hand. Descending, we wandered through the inclosed garden, and came to a little building in a corner, on entering which, we found the two statues of Tam and Sutor Wat,—ponderous stone-work enough, yet permeated in a remarkable degree with living warmth and jovial hilarity. From this part of the garden, too, we again beheld the old Brigg of Doon, over which Tam galloped in such imminent and awful peril. It is a beautiful object in the landscape, with one high, graceful arch, ivy-grown, and shadowed all over and around with foliage.
When we had waited a good while, the old gardener came, telling us that he had heard an excellent prayer at laying the corner-stone of the new kirk. He now gave us some roses and sweetbrier, and let us out from his pleasant garden. We immediately hastened to Kirk Alloway, which is within two or three minutes' walk of the monument. A few steps ascend from the road-side, through a gate, into the old graveyard, in the midst of which stands the kirk. The edifice is wholly roofless, but the side-walls and gable-ends are quite entire, though portions of them are evidently modern restorations. Never was there a plainer little church, or one with smaller architectural pretension; no New England meeting-house has more simplicity in its very self, though poetry and fun have clambered and clustered so wildly over Kirk Alloway that it is difficult to see it as it actually exists. By-the-by, I do not understand why Satan and an assembly of witches should hold their revels within a consecrated precinct; but the weird scene has so established itself in the world's imaginative faith that it must be accepted as an authentic incident, in spite of rule and reason to the contrary. Possibly, some carnal minister, some priest of pious aspect and hidden infidelity, had dispelled the consecration of the holy edifice by his pretence of prayer, and thus made it the resort of unhappy ghosts and sorcerers and devils.
The interior of the kirk, even now, is applied to quite as impertinent a purpose as when Satan and the witches used it as a dancing-hall; for it is divided in the midst by a wall of stone-masonry, and each compartment has been converted into a family burial-place. The name on one of the monuments is Crawfurd; the other bore no inscription. It is impossible not to feel that these good people, whoever they may be, had no business to thrust their prosaic bones into a spot that belongs to the world, and where their presence jars with the emotions, be they sad or gay, which the pilgrim brings thither. They shut us out from our own precincts, too,—from that inalienable possession which Burns bestowed in free gift upon mankind, by taking it from the actual earth and annexing it to the domain of imagination. And here these wretched squatters have lain down to their long sleep, after barring each of the two doorways of the kirk with an iron grate! May their rest be troubled, till they rise and let us in!
Kirk Alloway is inconceivably small, considering how large a space it fills in our imagination before we see it. I paced its length, outside of the wall, and found it only seventeen of my paces, and not more than ten of them in breadth. There seem to have been but very few windows, all of which, if I rightly remember, are now blocked up with mason-work of stone. One mullioned window, tall and narrow, in the eastern gable, might have been seen by Tam O'Shanter, blazing with devilish light, as he approached along the road from Ayr; and there is a small and square one, on the side nearest the road, into which he might have peered, as he sat on horseback. Indeed, I could easily have looked through it, standing on the ground, had not the opening been walled up. There is an odd kind of belfry at the peak of one of the gables, with the small bell still hanging in it. And this is all that I remember of Kirk Alloway, except that the stones of its material are gray and irregular.
The road from Ayr passes Alloway Kirk, and crosses the Doon by a modern bridge, without swerving much from a straight line. To reach the old bridge, it appears to have made a bend, shortly after passing the kirk, and then to have turned sharply towards the river. The new bridge is within a minute's walk of the monument; and we went thither, and leaned over its parapet to admire the beautiful Doon, flowing wildly and sweetly between its deep and wooded banks. I never saw a lovelier scene; although this might have been even lovelier, if a kindly sun had shone upon it. The ivy-grown, ancient bridge, with its high arch, through which we had a picture of the river and the green banks beyond, was absolutely the most picturesque object, in a quiet and gentle way, that ever blessed my eyes. Bonny Doon, with its wooded banks, and the boughs dipping into the water! The memory of them, at this moment, affects me like the song of birds, and Burns crooning some verses, simple and wild, in accordance with their native melody.
It was impossible to depart without crossing the very bridge of Tam's adventure; so we went thither, over a now disused portion of the road, and, standing on the centre of the arch, gathered some ivy-leaves from that sacred spot. This done, we returned as speedily as might be to Ayr, whence, taking the rail, we soon beheld Ailsa Craig rising like a pyramid out of the sea. Drawing nearer to Glasgow, Ben Lomond hove in sight, with a dome-like summit, supported by a shoulder on each side. But a man is better than a mountain; and we had been holding intercourse, if not with the reality, at least with the stalwart ghost of one, amid the scenes where he lived and sung. We shall appreciate him better as a poet, hereafter; for there is no writer whose life, as a man, has so much to do with his fame, and throws such a necessary light upon whatever he has produced. Henceforth, there will be a personal warmth for us in everything that he wrote; and, like his countrymen, we shall know him in a kind of personal way, as if we had shaken hands with him, and felt the thrill of his actual voice.
* * * * *
PASQUIN AND PASQUINADES.
At an angle of the palace which Pius VI., (Braschi,) with paternal liberality, built for the residence of his family, before the French Revolution put an end to such beneficence, stands the famous statue of Pasquin, giving its name to the square upon which it looks. It is little more now than a mere trunk of marble, bearing the marks of blows and long hard usage. But even in this mutilated condition it shows traces of excellent workmanship and of pristine beauty. The connoisseurs in sculpture praise it, and the antiquaries have embittered their ignorance in regard to it by discussions as to whether it was a statue of Hercules, of Alexander the Great, or of Menelaus bearing the body of Patroclus. Disabled and maimed as it is, it is thus only the more fitting type of the Roman people, of which it has been so long the acknowledged mouthpiece; and the epigrams and satires which have made its name famous have gained an additional point and a sharper sting from the patent resemblance in the condition of their professed author to that of those for whom he spoke.
It is said to have been about the beginning of the sixteenth century that the statue was discovered and dug up near the place where it now stands, and the earliest account of it seems to be that given by Castelvetro, in 1553, in his discourse upon a canzone by Annibal Caro. He says, that Antonio Tibaldeo of Ferrara, a venerable and lettered man, relates concerning this statue, that there used to be in Rome a tailor, very skilful in his trade, by the name of Pasquin, who had a shop which was much frequented by prelates, courtiers, and other people, so that he employed a great number of workmen, who, like worthless fellows, spent their time in speaking ill of one person or another, sparing no one, and finding opportunity for jests in observing those who came to the shop. This custom became so notorious that the very persons who were hit by these sharp speeches joined in the laugh at them, and felt no resentment; so that, if any one wished to say a hard thing of another, he did it under cover of the person of Master Pasquin, pretending that he had heard it said at his shop,—at which pretence every one laughed, and no one bore a grudge. But, Master Pasquin dying, it happened, that, in improving the street, this broken statue, which lay half imbedded in the ground, serving as a stepping-stone for passengers, was taken up and set at the side of the shop. Making use of this good chance, satirical people began to say that Master Pasquin had come back. The custom soon arose of attaching to the statue bits of writing; and as it had been allowed to the tailor to say everything, so by means of the statue any one might publish what he would not have ventured to speak.
Thus did Hercules or Alexander change his name for that of Pasquin, and soon became almost as well known throughout Europe under his new designation as under his old. If the statue were not dug up, as is said, until the sixteenth century, its fame spread rapidly; for, before Luther had made himself feared at Rome, Pasquin was already well known as the satirist of the vices of Pope and Cardinals, and as a bold enemy of the abuses of the Church.
But the history of Pasquin is not a mere story of Roman jests, nor is its interest such alone as may arise from an amusing, though neglected series of literary anecdotes. In the dearth of material for the popular history of modern Rome, it is of value as affording indications of the turn of feeling and the opinions of the Romans, and of the regard in which they held their rulers. The free speech, which was prohibited and dangerous to the living subjects of the temporal power of the Popes, was a privilege which, in spite of prohibition, Pasquin insisted upon exercising. Whatever precautions might be taken, whatever penalties imposed, means were always found, when occasion arose, to affix to the battered marble papers bearing stinging epigrams or satirical verses, which, once read, fastened themselves in the memory, and spread quickly by repetition. He could not be silenced. "Great sums," said he one day, in an epigram addressed to Paul III., who was Pope from 1534 to 1549, "great sums were formerly given to poets for singing: how much will you give me, O Paul, to be silent?"
"Ut canerent data multa olim sunt vatibus aera: Ut taceam, quantum tu mihi, Paule, dabis?"
In his life of Adrian VI., the successor of Leo X., Paulus Jovius, not indeed the most trustworthy of authorities, tells a story which, if not true, might well be so. He says, that the Pope, being vexed at the free speech of Pasquin, proposed to have him thrown into the Tiber, thinking thus to stop his tongue; but the Spanish legate dissuaded him, by suggesting, with grave Spanish wisdom, that all the frogs of the river, becoming infected with his spirit, would adopt his style of speech and croak only pasquinades. The contemptibleness of the assailant made him the more dreaded. Did not the very reeds tell the fatal secret about King Midas?
Pasquin was by no means the only figure in Rome who gave expression to thoughts and feelings which it would have been dangerous to the living subjects of the ecclesiastical rule to utter aloud. His most distinguished companion was Marforio, a colossal statue of an ocean or river god, which was discovered in the sixteenth century near the forum of Mars, from which he derived his name. Toward the end of the same century, he was placed in the lower court of the Palazzo de' Conservatori, on the Capitol, and here he has since remained. Dialogues were often carried on between him and his friend Pasquin, and a share in their conversation was sometimes taken by the Facchino, or so called Porter of the Palazzo Piombino. In his "Roma Nova," published in 1660, Sprenger says that Pasquin was assigned to the nobles, Marforio to the citizens, and the Facchino to the common people. But besides these there were the Abate Luigi of the Palazzo Valle,—Madama Lucrezia, who still sits behind the Venetian palace near the Church of St. Mark,—the Baboon, from which the Via Babbuino takes its name,—and the marble portrait of Scanderbeg, the great enemy of the Turks, on the facade of the house which he at one time occupied in Rome. Each of these personages now and then issued an epigram or took part in the satirical talk of his companions. Such a number of cold and secure censors is not surprising in a city like Rome, where the checks upon open speech are so many, and where priests and spies exercise so close a scrutiny over the thoughts and words of men. Oppression begets hypocrisy, and a tyrant adds to the faults of his subjects the vices of cowardice and secrecy. Caustic Forsyth, speaking of the Romans, begins with the bitter remark, that "the national character is the most ruined thing at Rome"; and in the same section he adds, "Their humor is naturally caustic; but they lampoon, as they stab, only in the dark. The danger attending open attacks forces them to confine their satire within epigram; and thus pasquinade is but the offspring of hypocrisy, the only resource of wits who are obliged to be grave on so many absurdities in religion, and respectful to so many upstarts in purple." Thus if the Romans lampoon only in the dark, the fault is to be charged against their rulers rather than themselves. The talent for sarcastic epigram is hereditary with the people. The pointed style of Martial was handed down through successive generations. The epigram in his hands was no longer a mere inscription, an idyl, or an elegy; it had lost its ancient grace, but it took on a new energy, and it set the model, which the later Romans knew well how to copy, of satire condensed into wit, in lines each of whose words had a sting.
The first true Pasquinades—that is, the first of the epigrams which were affixed to Pasquin, and hence derived their name—are perhaps those which belong to the reign of Leo X. We at least have found no earlier ones of undoubted genuineness; but satires similar to those of Pasquin, and possibly originating with him, as they now go under the general name of Pasquinades, were published against the Popes who preceded Leo. The infamous Alexander VI., the Pope who has made his name synonymous with the worst infamies that disgrace mankind, was not spared the attacks of the subjects whom he and his children, not unworthy of such a father, degraded and abused. Two lines could say much:—
"Sextus Tarquinius, Sextus Nero, Sextus et iste: Semper sub Sextis perdita Roma fuit."
"Sextus Tarquinius, Sextus Nero, this also a Sextus" (Alexander Sextus, that is, Alexander the Sixth): "always under the Sextuses has Rome been ruined." And as if this were not enough, another distich struck with more directness at the vices of the Pope:—
"Vendit Alexander claves, altaria, Christum: Emerat ille prius, vendere jure potest."
"Alexander sells the keys, the altars, Christ. He bought them first, and has good right to sell."
Alexander had gained his election by bribes which he did not pay, and promises which he did not keep; and Guicciardini tells in a few words what use he made of his holy office, declaring, that, "with his immoderate ambition and poisoned infidelity, together with all the horrible examples of cruelty, luxury and monstrous covetousness, selling without distinction both holy things and profane things, he infected the whole world."
In 1503, after a pontificate of eleven years, Alexander died. Rome rejoiced. Peace, which for a long time had been banished from her borders, returned, and she enjoyed for a few days unwonted freedom from alarm and trouble. Her happiness found expression in verse:—
"Dic unde, Alecto, pax haec effulsit, et unde Tam subito reticent proelia? Sextus obit."
"Say whence, Alecto, has this peace shone forth? wherefore so suddenly has the noise of battle ceased? Alexander is dead."
The rule of Borgia's successor, Pius III., lasting only twenty-seven days, afforded little opportunity to the play of indignant wit; but the nine years' reign of Julius II., which followed, was a period whose troubled history is recorded in the numerous epigrams and satires to which it gave birth. The impulsive and passionate vigor of the character of Julius, the various fortunes of his rash enterprises, the troubles which his stormy and rapacious career brought to the Papal city, are all more or less minutely told. The Pope began his reign with warlike enterprises, and as soon as he could gather sufficient force he set out to recover from the Venetians territory of which they had possession, and which he claimed as the property of the Papal state. It was said, that, in leading his troops out of Rome, he threw into the Tiber, with characteristic impetuosity, the keys of Peter, and, drawing his sword from its sheath, declared that henceforth he would trust to the sword of Paul. The story was too good to be lost, and it gave point to many epigrams, of which, perhaps, the one preserved by Bayle is the best:—
"Cum Petri nihil efficiant ad proelia claves, Auxilio Pauli forsitan ensis erit."
"Since the keys of Peter profit not for battle, perchance, with the aid of Paul, the sword will answer."
Julius was the first of the Popes of recent times to allow his beard to grow, and Raphael's noble portrait of him shows what dignity it gave to his strongly marked face. The beard was also regarded traditionally as having belonged to Saint Paul. "For me," the Pope was represented as saying, "for me the beard of Paul, the sword of Paul, all things of Paul: that key-bearer, Peter, is no way to my liking."
"Huc barbam Pauli, gladium Pauli, omnia Pauli: Claviger ille nihil ad mea vota Petrus."
But the most savage epigram against Julius was one that recalled the name of the great Roman, which the Pope was supposed to have adopted in emulation of that of Alexander, borne by his predecessor:—
"Julius est Romae. Quid abest? Date, numina, Brutum. Nam quoties Romae est Julius, illa perit."
"Julius is at Rome. What is wanting? Ye gods, give us a Brutus! For when Julius is at Rome, the city is lost."
Pasquin became a recognized institution, as we have said, under Leo X., and was taken under the protection of the Roman people. His popularity was such as to lead to consequences of which he himself complained. He was made the vehicle of the effusions of worthless versifiers, and he was forced to cry out, "Woe is me! even the copyist fixes his verses upon me, and every one bestows on me his silly trifles."
The application of these verses was alike appropriate to the life of the Pope, or to the reigns of Alexander VI., Julius II., and the one just beginning.
"Me miserum! Copista etiam mihi carmina figit; Et tribuit nugas jam mihi quisque suas."
He seems to have been successful in putting a stop to this injurious treatment; for not long after he declared, with a sarcasm directed against the prominent qualities of his fellow-citizens, "There is no better man at Rome than I. I seek nothing from any one. I am not wordy. I sit here and am silent."
"Non homo me melior Rome est. Ego nil peto ab ullo. Non sum verbosus. Hic sedeo et taceo."
It had become the custom, upon occasions of public festivity, to adorn Pasquin with suits of garments, and with paint, forcing him to assume from time to time different characters according to the fancy of his protectors. Sometimes he appeared as Neptune, sometimes as Chance or Fate, as Apollo or Bacchus. Thus, in the year 1515, he became Orpheus, and, while adorned with the plectrum and the lyre of the poet, Marforio addressed a distich to him in his new character, which hints at the popular appreciation of the Pope. The year 1515 was that of the descent of Francis I, into Italy, and of the bloody battle of Marignano. "In the midst of war and slaughter and the sound of trumpets," said Marforio, "you sing and strike your lyre: this is to understand the temper of your Lord."
"Inter bella, tubas, caedes, canis ipse, lyramque Percutis. Hoc sapere est ingenium Domini."
But the character of most of those pasquinades which belong to the pontificate of Leo is so coarse as to render them unfit for reproduction. A general licentiousness pervaded Rome, and the vices of the Pope and the higher clergy, veiled, but not hidden, under the displays of sensual magnificence and the pretended refinements of degraded art, were readily imitated by a people taught to follow and obey the teachings of their ecclesiastical rulers. Corruption of every sort was common. Virtue and vice, profane and sacred things, were alike for sale. The Pope made money by the sale of cardinalates and traffic in indulgences. "Give me gifts, ye spectators," begged Pasquin; "bring me not verses: divine Money alone rules the ethereal gods."
"Dona date, astantes; versus ne reddite: sola Imperat aethereis alma Moneta deis."
Leo's fondness for buffoons, with whom he mercilessly amused himself by tormenting them and exciting them to make themselves ridiculous, is recorded in a question put to Pasquin on one of his changes of figure. "Why have you not asked, O Pasquil, to be made a buffoon? for at Rome everything is now permitted to the buffoons."
"Cur non te fingi scurram, Pasquille, rogasti? Cum Romae scurris omnia jam liceant."
Leo died in 1521. His death was sudden, and not without suspicion of poison. It was said that the last offices of the Church were not performed for the dying man, and an epigram sharply embodied the report. "Do you ask why at his last hour Leo could not take the sacred things? He had sold them."
"Sacra sub extrema, si forte requiritis, hora Cur Leo non potuit sumere: Vendiderat."
The spirit of Luther had penetrated through the walls of Rome; and though all tongues but those of statues might be silenced, eyes were not blinded, nor could ears be made deaf. Nowhere was the need of reform so felt as at Rome, but nowhere was there so little hope for it; for the people stood in equal need of it with the Church, whose ministers had corrupted them, and whose rulers tyrannized over them. "Farewell, Rome!" said Pasquin.
"Roma, vale! Satis est vidisse. Revertar Quum leno, meretrix, scurra, cinaedus ero."
When Leo's short-lived successor, the gloomy Fleming, Adrian VI., who was the author of the proposal to destroy Pasquin, despatched his nuncio to the diet of Nuremberg to oppose the progress of Luther, he told him in his instructions to "avow frankly that God has permitted this schism and this persecution on account of the sins of men, and, above all, of those of the priests and the prelates of the Church." Pasquin could not have improved on these words. And when, twenty months after his elevation to the papacy, this hard old man died, the inscription—which he ordered to be put upon his tomb was in words fit to disarm the satirist:—"Here lies Adrian VI., who esteemed nothing in his life more unhappy than that he had been called to rule": "_Adrianus VI. hic situs est, qui nil sibi infelicius in vita quam quod imperaret duxit."
During the pontificate of Clement VII., Rome suffered under calamities too terrible and too depressing to admit of the frequent display of the humor or the satire of Pasquin. The siege and sack of the city by the army of the Constable de Bourbon wrought too much misery to be set in verse or to be sharpened in epigram. One shrewd jest of this time has, indeed, been preserved. Clement was for months a prisoner in the Castle of Sant' Angelo, unable to stir abroad. "Papa non potest errare" said Pasquin, or one of his friends, with a play on the double meaning of the last word, and a scoff at Papal pretension: "The Pope cannot err": he is too well guarded to stray. But when the Pope died in 1534, Pasquin did not spare his memory. He had lately changed his physician, and taken one named Matteo Curzio or Curtius; and when his death took place, not without suspicion of malpractice, the satisfaction of the people was expressed by the appearance of a portrait of this new doctor, with the inscription, in words borrowed from the Vulgate, "Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi!" "Curtius has killed Clement," said Pasquin. "Curtius, who has secured the public health, should be rewarded."
"Curtis occidit Clementem. Curtius auro Donandus, per quem publica parta salus."
Nor was this all. Pasquin declared, that, on occasion of Clement's death, a bitter strife arose between Pluto and Saint Peter as to which should receive the Pope:—
"Noluit hunc coelum, noluit hunc barathrum."
The Saint has no place for him, and the ruler of the lower regions fears the disturbance that he will make in hell. The quarrel is cut short by the arrival of Clement himself upon the spot, who, finding no entrance into heaven, declares that he will force himself into hell:—
"Tartara tentemus, facilis descensus Averni."
The fifteen years of the pontificate of Clement's successor, Paul III.,—years, for the most part, of quiet and prosperity at Rome,—afforded ample opportunities for the display of Pasquin's spirit. The personal character of the Pope, the exactions which he laid upon the Romans for the profit of his favorites and his family, and his unblushing nepotism were the subjects of frequent satire. The Farnese palace, built in great part with stone taken from the Colosseum, is a standing monument of the justice of Pasquin's rebukes, the sharpness of which is concentrated in a single telling epigram. "Let us pray for Pope Paul," said Pasquin, "for zeal for his house is consuming him":—
"Oremus pro Papa Paulo, quia zelus Domus suae comedit illum."
At another time Marforio addressed a letter to Pasquin, in which he tells him of the Pope's reply to an angel who had been sent to him with the message, "Feed my sheep" "Charity begins at home," had been the answer of the Pope. And when the Roman people had prayed Paul to have pity on his people, Paul had replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and give it to dogs."
But Pasquin was now to be brought into greater notoriety than ever. In spite of the efforts of the successors of Adrian, the Reformation had rapidly advanced, and the Reformers, scorning no weapons that might serve their cause, determined to turn the wit of Pasquin to their account. In the year 1544, a little, but thick, volume appeared, with the title, "Pasquillorum Tomi duo." It bore no name of editor or printer, and professed to be published at Eleutheropolis, the City of Freedom, or, as it might be rendered in a free translation, the City of Luther. Its 637 pages were filled with satire; it was not merely a collection of Pasquin's sayings, but it contained epigrams and dialogues derived from other sources as well. The book was of a kind to be popular, as well as to excite the bitterest aversion of the adherents of the Roman Church. It long since became a volume of excessive rarity, most of the copies having been destroyed by zealous Romanists. The famous scholar, Daniel Heinsius, within a century after its publication, believed that a copy which he purchased, at a cost of a hundred ducats, was the only one remaining in the world, and he inscribed the following lines upon one of its blank pages:—
"Roma meos fratres igni dedit. Unica Phoenix Vivo, aureis venio centum Heinsio."
"Rome gave my brothers to the fire. A solitary Phoenix, I survive, and at cost of a hundred gold pieces I come to Heinsius."
But Heinslus was mistaken in supposing his copy to be unique; and bibliographers of later date, while marking the rarity of the book, have recorded its existence in various libraries. At this moment two copies are lying before us, probably the only copies in America.
The editor of this publication was the Piedmontese scholar and Reformer, Coelius Secundus Curio. His early life had been eventful, and he had experienced the tender mercies of the Roman Church. He had been persecuted, his property had been seized, he himself compelled to fly, on account of his liberal views. He had been in the prisons of the Inquisition, from which he had escaped only by a successful and ingenious stratagem. At length, wearied with contention, he took up his abode in Protestant Switzerland, where he passed in quiet the latter years of his useful and honored life. It was while here that he compiled this book, and sent it as a missile into the camp of his opponents, the enemies of freedom of thought and of the right of private judgment. From this time Pasquin's fame became universal. The words pasquil or pasquinade were adopted info almost every European tongue, and soon embraced in their widening signification all sorts of satiric epigrams. A great part of the volume published by Curio is made up, indeed, of attacks on the Roman Church which have no connection with Pasquin as their author. The style and the subject of many of them betray a German origin; and some of the longer pieces so closely resemble, in point, in humor, and in expression, the celebrated "Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum," that there can be little doubt that Ulrich von Hutten, or some one of his coadjutors in that clever satire on the monks and clergy, had a hand in their composition.
But, leaving the pasquinades of other people, let us come back to the sayings of Pasquin himself. No one has surpassed him in his own way, and his store of epigrams, illustrating life and manners at Rome, is abundant. The pontificate of Sixtus V., from 1585 to 1590, was full of material for his wit. The only man in Rome who did not tremble under the rod with which this hard old monk ruled his people and the Church was the free-spoken marble jester. The very morning after the election of Sixtus, Pasquin appeared with a plate of toothpicks, and to the question of Marforio, what he was doing with them, he replied, "I am taking them to Alexandrino, Medicis, and Rusticucci," the three cardinals who had been most active in securing the Papacy for the new Pope. The point of the joke was plain to the Romans: it meant that his adherents, instead of gaining anything by their efforts, had been deceived, and would have nothing to do now but to pick their teeth at leisure.
Leti, in his entertaining and gossipping life of this most merciless of Popes, tells a story of another pasquinade, which exhibits the temper of Sixtus. One morning Pasquin appeared clothed in a very dirty shirt, and, upon being asked by Marforio, why he wore such foul linen, replied, he could get no other, for the Pope had made his washerwoman a princess,—meaning thereby the Pope's sister, Donna Camilla, who had formerly been a laundress, but was now established with a fortune and a palace. "This stinging piece of raillery was carried directly to his Holiness, who ordered a strict search to be made for the author, but to no purpose. Upon which he stuck up printed papers in all the public places of the city, promising, upon the word of a Pope, to give the author of the pasquinade a thousand pistoles and his life, provided he would discover himself, but threatened to hang him, if he was found out by any one else, and offered the thousand pistoles to the informer." Upon this the author was simple enough to make confession and to demand the money. Sixtus paid him the sum, and then, saying that he had indeed promised him his life, but not freedom from punishment, ordered his hands to be cut off, and his tongue to be bored, "to prevent him from being so witty for the future." This act, says Leti, "filled every one with terror and amazement." And well might such a piece of Oriental barbarity excite the horror of the Romans. Pasquin, however, was not alarmed, and a few days afterward he appeared holding a wet shirt to dry in the sun. It was a Sunday morning, and Marforio, naturally surprised at such a violation of the day, asked him why he could not wait till Monday before drying it Pasquin answered, that there was no time to lose; for, if he waited till to-morrow to dry his shirt, he might have to pay for the sunshine;—hinting at the heavy taxes which Sixtus had laid upon the necessaries of life, and from which the sunshine itself might not long be exempt.
It was near about this time that a caricature was circulated in Rome, representing Sixtus as King Stork and the Romans as frogs vainly attempting to escape from his devouring beak. Merito haec patimur, "We suffer deservedly," was the legend of the picture, and the moral it conveyed was a true one. Rome was in such a state as to require the harshest applications, and the despotic severity of Sixtus did much to restore decency and security to life. He left the Romans in a far better condition than he found them; and it would have been well for Rome, if among his successors there had been more to follow his example in repressing vice and violence,—in a word, had there been more King Storks and fewer King Logs.
The most poetic of pasquinades, and one in which wit rises into imagination, belongs to the pontificate of Urban VIII. (1623-1644.) This Pope issued a bull excommunicating all persons who took snuff in the churches of Seville; whereupon Pasquin quoted the following verse from Job (xiii. 25):—"Contra folium quod vento rapitur ostendis potentiam tuam? et stipulam siccam persequeris?"
This is a very model of satire in its kind, and of a higher kind than the pasquil, which Coleridge quotes as an example of wit, upon the Pope who had employed a committee to rip up the errors of his predecessors.
"Some one placed a pair of spurs on the statue of St. Peter, and a label from the opposite statue of St. Paul.
"St. Paul. Whither, then, are you bound?
"St. Peter. I apprehend danger here;—they'll soon call me in question for denying my Master.
"St. Paul. Nay, then, I had better be off, too; for they'll question me for having persecuted the Christians before my conversion."
In his distinction between the wit of thoughts, of words, and of images, Coleridge asserts that the first belongs eminently to the Italians. Such broad assertions are always open to exceptions, and Pasquin shows that the Romans at least are not less clever in the wit of words than in that of thoughts. Take, for example, the jest on Innocent X. which Howel reports in one of his entertaining letters. This Pope, who, says the candid historian, Mosheim, "to a profound ignorance of all those things which it was necessary for a Christian bishop to know, joined the most shameless indolence and the most notorious profligacy," abandoned his person, his dignity, and his government to the disposal of Donna Olympia Maldachini, the widow of his brother. The portrait of the Pope may be seen in the Doria Gallery at Rome; for it is still esteemed an honor by the noble family to which the gallery belongs to be able to trace a relationship to a Pope, even though so vile a one as Innocent "Magis amat papa Olympiam quam Olympum" said Pasquin; and the pun still clings to the memory of him whom his authorized biographer calls "religiosissimo nelle cose divine e prudentissimo nelle umane." But superlatives often have a value in inverse ratio to their intention. There is a curious story told by the Catholic historian, Novaes, that, after the death of Innocent, which took place in 1655, no one could be found willing to assume the charge of burying him. Word was sent to Donna Olympia that she should provide a coffin for the corpse; but she replied that she was only a poor widow. Of the cardinals he had made, of the relations he had enriched, none was to be found who had charity enough to treat his remains with decency. His body was taken to a room where some masons were at work, and one of them out of compassion put a tallow candle at its head, while another, fearing lest the mice, of which there were many in the apartment, might disturb the corpse, secured a person to watch it through the night. At length one of the officers of the court procured a cheap coffin, and one of the canons of Saint Peter's gave five crowns to pay the expenses of the burial. A moralist might comment on this story, and might compare it with another which is told in a life of Innocent, written during the reign of his successor, and published with approval at Rome. In this we are told that at the time of his death a marvellous prodigy was observed; for that, when his corpse was borne on a bier from Monte Cavallo to the Vatican, at the moment of a violent storm of wind and rain, not a drop of water fell upon it, but the bier remained perfectly dry, and the torches with which it was accompanied were none of them extinguished. What wonder, that, after this, it is added, "that his memory is venerated in many places at Rome"? Of all the troublesome race of panegyrists, the Roman variety is the most ingenious and the least to be trusted.
When Bishop Burnet was travelling in Italy, in the year 1686, the doctrines of the Spanish priest Molinos, the founder of the famous sect of Quietists, had lately become the object of attack of the Jesuits and of suspicion at the Papal Court. His system of mystical divinity is still of interest from its connection with the lives of Fenelon and Madame Guyon, if not from its intrinsic character. Like most other mystical doctrines, his teachings seem to have been open to the charge, that, while professedly based on the highest spirituality, they had a direct tendency to encourage sensuality in its most dangerous form. Molinos was at first much favored at Rome and by the Pope himself; but at the time of Burnet's journey he was in the custody of the Holy Office, while his books were undergoing the examination which finally led to the formal condemnation of sixty-eight propositions contained in them, to the renunciation of these propositions by their author, and to his being sentenced to perpetual imprisonment Burnet relates that it happened "in one week that one man had been condemned to the galleys for somewhat he had said, another had been hanged for somewhat he had writ, and Molinos was clapt in prison, whose doctrine consisted chiefly in this, that men ought to bring their minds to a state of inward quietness. The Pasquinade upon all this was, "Si parliamo, in galere; si scrivemmo, impiccati; si stiamo in quiete, all' Sant Uffizio. Eh! che bisogna fare?" "If we speak, the galleys; if we write, the gallows; if we stay quiet, the Inquisition. Eh! what must we do, then?"
With the changes of times and the succession of Popes, new material was constantly afforded to Pasquin for the exercise of his peculiar talent. Each generation gave him fresh subject for laughter or for rebuke. Men quickly passed away, but folly and vice remained. "Do you wonder," said Pasquin, once, in his early days, referring to his changes of character, "do you wonder why Rome yearly changes me to a new figure? It is because of the shifting manners of the city, and the falling back of men. He who would be pious must depart from Rome."
"Praeteriens, forsan miraris, turba, quotannis Cur me Roma novam mutet in effigiem. Hoc urbis mores varios, hominumque recessus Indicat: ergo abeat qui cupit esse pius."
During the eighteenth century Italy did not abound in poets or wits, and Master Pasquin seems to have shared in the dulness of the times. Toward its end, however, when Pius VI. was building the palace under the corner of which the statue was to find shelter, the marble representative of the tailor watched his proceedings with sharp observation. Long ago he had rebuked the nepotism of the Popes, but Pius had forgotten his epigrams. "Cerberus," he had said, "had three mouths with which he barked; but you have three, or even four, which bark not, but devour."
"Tres habuit fauces, et terno Cerberus ore Latratus intra Tartara nigra dabat. Et tibi plena fame tria sunt vel quatuor ora Quae nulli latrant, quemque sed illa vorant."
Every one who has been in Rome remembers how often, on the repairs of ancient monuments, and on the pedestals of statues or busts, are to be seen the words, "Munificentia Pii Sexti" thrusting themselves into notice, and occupying the place which should be filled with some nobler inscription. The bad taste and impertinence of this epigraph are often enhanced by the slightness of the work or the gift which it commemorates. During a season of dearth at Rome, in the time of Pius, when the bakers had reduced the size of their loaves, Pasquin took the opportunity to satirize the selfishness and vanity of the Pope, by exhibiting one of these diminished loaves bearing the familiar words, "Munificentia Pii VI."
The French Revolution, the Napoleonic occupation of Rome, the brilliant essays of liberalism of Pius IX., the Republic, the siege of Rome, the reactionary government of late years, have alike supplied matter for Master Pasquin, which he has shaped according to the fashion of the times. He still pursues his ancient avocation. Res acu tetigit. But the point of the needle is not the means by which the rents in the garment of Rome are to be mended,—much less by which her wounds are to be cauterized and healed. The sharp satiric tongue may prick her moral sense into restlessness, but the Roman spirit is not thus to be roused to action. Still Pasquin deserves credit for his efforts; and while other liberty is denied, the Romans may be glad that there is a single voice that cannot be silenced, and a single censor who is not to be corrupted.
[Footnote 1: Bernini, being asked what was the most beautiful statue in Rome, replied, "That of Pasquin." This reply the sensible Milizia taxes with affectation,—saying, that, although an artist may discover in the work some marks of good design, it is now too maimed to pass for a beautiful statue. Possibly Bernini was thinking of his own works in comparison with it.]
[Footnote 2: Andreas Schott,—who published an Itinerary of Italy about the beginning of the seventeenth century, copies this account, and adds,—"At present this custom is prohibited under the heaviest penalties."]
[Footnote 3: Mrs. Piozzi, in her amusing Journey through Italy, ii. 113, quotes these verses and gives a translation of them which shows that she quite mistook their point. In spite of her quoting Latin, Greek, and even on occasion Hebrew, her scholarship was not very accurate or deep.]
[Footnote 4: The Historie of Guicciardin, reduced into English by Geffray Fenton. 1579. p. 308. Another epigram of barbarous bitterness against Alexander refers, if we understand it aright, to one of the gloomiest events of his pontificate, the murder of his son Giovanni, Duca di Gandia, by his other son, Caesar Borgia. Giovanni was killed at night, and his body was thrown into the Tiber, from which it was recovered the next morning.
Piscatorem hominum ne te non, Sexte, putemus, Piscaris natum retibus ecce tuum."
"Lest we should not fancy you, O Sextus, a fisher of men, you fish for your own son with nets."]
[Footnote 5: Vasari relates, that Michel Angelo, when he was making the bronze statue of Julius, at Bologna, having asked the Pope if he should put a book in his left hand,—"No," replied the fiery old man, "put a sword in it, for I know not letters": "Mettivi una spada, che io non so lettere."]
[Footnote 6: At the beginning of his pontificate, upon occasion of Leo's taking possession of the Lateran with a solemn procession, an arch of triumph was erected at the bridge of Sant' Angelo, which bore an inscription worthy of the tailor's successor:—
"Olim habuit Cypria sua tempera, tempora Mavors Olim habuit, sua nunc tempora Pallas habet."
"Venus once had her time, Mars also has had his, but now Minerva rules."]
[Footnote 7: In Murray's Handbook for Rome, a book for the most part of great accuracy, there is a curious blunder in the account of Pasquin. It is said, that, "on the election of Pope Leo X., in 1440, the following satirical acrostic appeared, to mark the date MCCCCXL:—'Multi caeci cardinales creaverunt caecum decimum (X) Leonem: 'Many blind cardinals have created a tenth blind Lion.'" Now in 1440 Leo was not born, and no Pope was chosen in that year. Leo was not made Pope till 1513, and the acrostic has apparently nothing to do with the date of his accession to the pontificate.]
[Footnote 8: One of those copies was formerly in the Royal Library at Munich, and sold as a duplicate. The other has the bookplate of the Baron de Warenghien. Colonel Stanley's copy sold for L11 lls. The book was printed at Basle, by Jean Oporin. See Clement, Bibl. Cur. Hist, et Crit., vii. 371. See also, for an account of it, Salleugre, M.m. de Litt., ii. 6, 203; and Schelhorn, Amoen. Lit., iii. 151.]
[Footnote 9: An entertaining and curious account of Curio and his family is to be found in a commemorative oration delivered in 1570 before the Academy of Basle by Stupanus, and printed by Schelhorn in Amoen. Lit., Tom. xiv.]
[Footnote 10: In two or three of the dialogues Hutten is introduced as one of the speakers; and several of the poetic epigrams are ascribed to him by name.]
[Footnote 11: In Luther's Table-Talk, he says, "Whoso in Rome is heard to speak one word against the Pope received either a Strappecordo or is punished with death, for his name is Noli me tangere." Pasquin himself has hardly said a shrewder saying than this. Noli me tangere is the name under which Pius IX. pleads against the diminution of his temporal power, while he threatens his opponents with the Strappecorde.]
[Footnote 12: Lectures upon Shakespeare and other Dramatists, ii. 90.]
[Footnote 13: Novaes, x. 56. Artaud de Montor, Hist. des Pont. Rom., v. 523.]
[Footnote 14: Vita d' Innocenzio X., dal Cav. Ant. Bagatta.]
* * * * *
My ear is full of summer sounds, With summer sights my languid eye; Beyond the dusty village bounds I loiter in my daily rounds, And in the noon-time shadows lie.
The wild bee winds his drowsy horn, The bird swings on the ripened wheat, The long, green lances of the corn Are tilting in the winds of morn, The locust shrills his song of heat.
Another sound my spirit hears, A deeper sound that drowns them all,— A voice of pleading choked with tears, The call of human hopes and fears, The Macedonian cry to Paul!
The storm-bell rings, the trumpet blows; I know the word and countersign; Wherever Freedom's vanguard goes, Where stand or fall her friends or foes, I know the place that should be mine.
Shamed be the hands that idly fold, And lips that woo the reed's accord, When laggard Time the hour has tolled For true with false and new with old To fight the battles of the Lord!
O brothers! blest by partial Fate With power to match the will and deed, To him your summons comes too late, Who sinks beneath his armor's weight, And has no answer but God-speed!
* * * * *
DARWIN AND HIS REVIEWERS.
The origin of species, like all origination, like the institution of any other natural state or order, is beyond our immediate ken. We see or may learn how things go on; we can only frame hypotheses as to how they began.
Two hypotheses divide the scientific world, very unequally, upon the origin of the existing diversity of the plants and animals which surround us. One assumes that the actual kinds are primordial; the other, that they are derivative. One, that all kinds originated supernaturally and directly as such, and have continued unchanged in the order of Nature; the other, that the present kinds appeared in some sort of genealogical connection with other and earlier kinds, that they became what they now are in the course of time and in the order of Nature.
Or, bringing in the word species, which is well defined as "the perennial succession of individuals," commonly of very like individuals,—as a close corporation of individuals perpetuated by generation, instead of election,—and reducing the question to mathematical simplicity of statement: species are lines of individuals coming down from the past and running on to the future,—lines receding, therefore, from our view in either direction. Within our limited view they appear to be parallel lines, as a general thing neither approaching to nor diverging from each other. The first hypothesis assumes that they were parallel from the unknown beginning and will be to the unknown end. The second hypothesis assumes that the apparent parallelism is not real and complete, at least aboriginally, but approximate or temporary; that we should find the lines convergent in the past, if we could trace them far enough; that some of them, if produced back, would fall into certain fragments of lines, which have left traces in the past, lying not exactly in the same direction, and these farther back into others to which they are equally unparallel. It will also claim that the present lines, whether on the whole really or only approximately parallel, sometimes fork or send off branches on one side or the other, producing new lines, (varieties,) which run for a while, and for aught we know indefinitely, when not interfered with, near and approximately parallel to the parent line. This claim it can establish; and it may also show that these close subsidiary lines may branch or vary again, and that those branches or varieties which are best adapted to the existing conditions may be continued, while others stop or die out. And so we may have the basis of a real theory of the diversification of species; and here, indeed, there is a real, though a narrow, established ground to build upon. But, as systems of organic Nature, both are equally hypotheses, are suppositions of what there is no proof of from experience, assumed in order to account for the observed phenomena, and supported by such indirect evidence as can be had. Even when the upholders of the former and more popular system mix up revelation with scientific discussion,—which we decline to do,—they by no means thereby render their view other than hypothetical. Agreeing that plants and animals were produced by Omnipotent fiat does not exclude the idea of natural order and what we call secondary causes. The record of the fiat—"Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed," etc., "and it was so"; "let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so"—seems even to imply them. Agreeing that they were formed of "the dust of the ground" and of thin air only leads to the conclusion that the pristine individuals were corporeally constituted like existing individuals, produced through natural agencies. To agree that they were created "after their kinds" determines nothing as to what were the original kinds, nor in what mode, during what time, and in what connections it pleased the Almighty to introduce the first individuals of each sort upon the earth. Scientifically considered, the two opposing doctrines are equally hypothetical.