The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been preserved faithfully. Only obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
PILGRIMAGE FROM THE ALPS TO THE TIBER.
The Influence of Romanism on Trade, Justice, and Knowledge.
REV. J.A. WYLIE, LL.D.
Author of "The Papacy," &c. &.c.
Edinburgh Shepherd & Elliot, 15, Princes Street. London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co. MDCCCLV.
CHAPTER I. PAGE THE INTRODUCTION, 1
CHAPTER II. THE PASSAGE OF THE ALPS, 8
CHAPTER III. RISE AND PROGRESS OF CONSTITUTIONALISM IN PIEDMONT, 23
CHAPTER IV. STRUCTURE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE VAUDOIS VALLEYS, 43
CHAPTER V. STATE AND PROSPECTS OF THE VAUDOIS CHURCH, 62
CHAPTER VI. FROM TURIN TO NOVARA—PLAIN OF LOMBARDY, 83
CHAPTER VII. FROM NOVARA TO MILAN—DOGANA—CHAIN OF THE ALPS, 94
CHAPTER VIII. CITY AND PEOPLE OF MILAN, 105
CHAPTER IX. ARCO DELLA PACE—ST AMBROSE, 119
CHAPTER X. THE DUOMO OF MILAN, 126
CHAPTER XI. MILAN TO BRESCIA—THE REFORMERS, 137
CHAPTER XII. THE PRESENT THE IMAGE OF THE PAST, 152
CHAPTER XIII. SCENERY OF LAKE GARDA—PESCHIERA—VERONA, 158
CHAPTER XIV. FROM VERONA TO VENICE—THE TYROLESE ALPS, 168
CHAPTER XV. VENICE—DEATH OF NATIONS, 178
CHAPTER XVI. PADUA—ST ANTONY—THE PO—ARREST, 198
CHAPTER XVII. FERRARA—RENEE AND OLYMPIA MORATA, 209
CHAPTER XVIII. BOLOGNA AND THE APENNINES, 216
CHAPTER XIX. FLORENCE AND ITS YOUNG EVANGELISM, 237
CHAPTER XX. FROM LEGHORN TO ROME—CIVITA VECCHIA, 262
CHAPTER XXI. MODERN ROME, 276
CHAPTER XXII. ANCIENT ROME—THE SEVEN HILLS, 289
CHAPTER XXIII. SIGHTS IN ROME—CATACOMBS—PILATE'S STAIRS—PIO NONO, &C., 302
CHAPTER XXIV. INFLUENCE OF ROMANISM ON TRADE, 333
CHAPTER XXV. INFLUENCE OF ROMANISM ON TRADE—(CONTINUED), 352
CHAPTER XXVI. JUSTICE AND LIBERTY IN THE PAPAL STATES, 366
CHAPTER XXVII. EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE IN THE PAPAL STATES, 401
CHAPTER XXVIII. MENTAL STATE OF THE PRIESTHOOD IN ITALY, 415
CHAPTER XXIX. SOCIAL AND DOMESTIC CUSTOMS OF THE ROMANS, 430
CHAPTER XXX. THE ARGUMENT FROM THE WHOLE, OR, ROME HER OWN WITNESS, 447
THE WORKINGS OF ROMANISM
I did not go to Rome to seek for condemnatory matter against the Pope's government. Had this been my only object, I should not have deemed it necessary to undertake so long a journey. I could have found materials on which to construct a charge in but too great abundance nearer home. The cry of the Papal States had waxed great, and there was no need to go down into those unhappy regions to satisfy one's self that the oppression was "altogether according to the cry of it." I had other objects to serve by my journey.
There is one other country which has still more deeply influenced the condition of the race, and towards which one is even more powerfully drawn, namely, Judea. But Italy is entitled to the next place, as respects the desire which one must naturally feel to visit it, and the instruction one may expect to reap from so doing. Some of the greatest minds which the pagan world has produced have appeared in Italy. In that land those events were accomplished which have given to modern history its form and colour; and those ideas elaborated, the impress of which may still be traced upon the opinions, the institutions, and the creeds of Europe. In Italy, too, empire has left her ineffaceable traces, and art her glorious footsteps. There is, all will admit, a peculiar and exquisite pleasure in visiting such spots: nor is there pleasure only, but profit also. One's taste may be corrected, and his judgment strengthened, by seeing the masterpieces of ancient genius. New trains of thought may be suggested, and new sources of information opened, by the sight of men and of manners wholly new. But more than this,—I believed that there were lessons to be learned there, which it was emphatically worth one's while going there to learn, touching the working of that politico-religious system of which Italy has so long been the seat and centre. I had previously been at some little pains to make myself acquainted with this system in its principles, and wished to have an opportunity of studying it in its effects upon the government of the country, and the condition of the people, as respects their trade, industry, knowledge, liberty, religion, and general happiness. All I shall say in the following pages will have a bearing, more or less direct, upon this main point.
It is impossible to disjoin the present of these countries from the past; nor can the solemn and painful enigma which they exhibit be unriddled but by a reference to the past, and that not the immediate, but the remote past. There is truth, no doubt, in the saying of the old moralist, that nations lose in moments what they had acquired in years; but the remark is applicable rather to the accelerated speed with which the last stages of a nation's ruin are accomplished, than to the slow and imperceptible progress which usually marks its commencement. Unless when cut off by the sudden stroke of war, it requires five centuries at least to consummate the fall of a great people. One must pass, therefore, over those hideous abuses which are the immediate harbingers of national disaster, and which exclusively engross the attention of ordinary inquirers, and go back to those remote ages, and those minute and apparently insignificant causes, amid which national declension, unsuspected often by the nation itself, takes its rise. The destiny of modern Europe was sealed so long ago as A.D. 606, when the Bishop of Rome was made head of the universal Church by the edict of a man stained with the double guilt of usurpation and murder. Religion is the parent of liberty. The rise of tyrants can be prevented in no other way but by maintaining the supremacy of God and conscience; and in the early corruptions of the gospel, the seeds were sown of those frightful despotisms which have since arisen, and of those tremendous convulsions which are now rending society. The evil principle implanted in the European commonwealth in the seventh century appeared to lie dormant for ages; but all the while it was busily at work beneath those imposing imperial structures which arose in the middle ages. It had not been cast out of the body politic; it was still there, operating with noiseless but resistless energy and terrible strength; and while monarchs were busily engaged founding empires and consolidating their rule, it was preparing to signalize, at a future day, the superiority of its own power by the sudden and irretrievable overthrow of theirs. Thus society had come to resemble the lofty mountain, whose crown of white snows and robe of fresh verdure but conceal those hidden fires which are smouldering within its bowels. Under the appearance of robust health, a moral cancer was all the while preying upon the vitals of society, eating out by slow degrees the faith, the virtue, the obedience of the world. The ground at last gave way, and thrones and hierarchies came tumbling down. Look at the Europe of our day. What is the Papacy, but an enormous cancer, of most deadly virulency, which has now run its course, and done its work upon the nations of the Continent. The European community, from head to foot, is one festering sore. Soundness in it there is none. The Papal world is a wriggling mass of corruption and suffering. It is a compound of tyrannies and perjuries,—of lies and blood-red murders,—of crimes abominable and unnatural,—of priestly maledictions, socialist ravings, and atheistic blasphemies. The whine of mendicants, the curses, groans, and shrieks of victims, and the demoniac laughter of tyrants, commingle in one hoarse roar. Faugh! the spectacle is too horrible to be looked at; its effluvia is too fetid to be endured. What is to be done with the carcase? We cannot dwell in its neighbourhood. It would be impossible long to inhabit the same globe with it: its stench were enough to pollute and poison the atmosphere of our planet. It must be buried or burned. It cannot be allowed to remain on the surface of the earth: it would breed a plague, which would infect, not a world only, but a universe. It is in this direction that we are to seek for instruction; and here, if we are able to receive it, thirty generations are willing to impart to us their dear-bought experience. Lessons which have cost the world so much are surely worth learning.
But I do not mean to treat my readers to lectures on history, instead of chapters on travel. It is not an abstract disquisition on the influence of religion and government, such as one might compose without stirring from his own fire-side, which I intend to write. It is a real journey we are about to undertake. You shall have facts as well as reflections,—incidents as well as disquisitions. I shall be grave,—as who would not at the sight of fallen nations?—but "when time shall serve there shall be smiles." You shall climb the Alps; and when their tops begin to burn at sunrise, you shall join heart and song with the music of the shepherd's horn, and the thunder of a thousand torrents, as they rush headlong down amid crags and pine-forests from the icy summits. You shall enter, with pilgrim feet, the gates of proud capitals, where puissant kings once reigned, but have passed away, and have left no memorial on earth, save a handful of dust in a stone-coffin, or a half-legible name on some mouldering arch. The solemn and stirring voice of Monte Viso, speaking from the midst of the Cottian Alps, will call you from afar to the martyr-land of Europe. You shall worship with the Waldenses beneath their own Castelluzzo, which covers with its mighty shadow the ashes of their martyred forefathers, and the humble sanctuary of their living descendants. You shall count the towns and campaniles on the broad Lombardy. You shall pass glorious days on the top of renowned cathedrals, and sit and muse in the face of the eternal Alps, as the clouds now veil, now reveal, their never-trodden snows. You shall cross the Lagunes, and see the winged lion of St Mark soaring serenely amid the bright domes and the ever calm seas of Venice, where you may list
"The song and oar of Adria's gondolier, Mellowed by distance, o'er the waters sweep."
You shall travel long sleepless nights in the diligence, and be ferried at day-break over "ancient rivers." You shall tread the grass-grown streets of Ferrara, and the deserted halls of Bologna, where the wisdom-loving youth of Europe erst assembled, but whose solitude now is undisturbed, save by the clank of the Croat's sabre, or the wine-flagon of the friar. You shall visit cells dim and dank, around which genius has thrown a halo which draws thither the pilgrim, who would rather muse in the twilight of the naked vault, than wander amid the marble glories of the palace that rises proudly in its neighbourhood. You shall go with me, at the hour of vespers, to aisled cathedrals, which were ages a-building, and the erection of which swallowed up the revenues of provinces,—beneath whose roof, ample enough to cover thousands and tens of thousands, you may see a solitary priest, singing a solemn dirge over a "Religion" fallen as a dominant belief, and existing only as a military organization; while statues, mute and solemn, of mailed warriors, grim saints, angels and winged cherubs, ranged along the walls, are the only companions of the surpliced man, if we except a few beggars pressing with naked knees the stony floor. You shall see Florence,—
"The brightest star of star-bright Italy."
You shall be stirred by the craggy grandeur of the Apennines, and soothed by the living green of the Tuscan vales, with their hoar castles, their olives, their dark cypresses, and their forests,—
"Where beside his leafy hold The sullen boar hath heard the distant horn, And whets his tusks against the gnarled thorn."
You shall taste the vine of Italy, and drink the waters of the Arno. You shall wander over ancient battle-fields, encounter the fierce Apennine blast, and be rocked on the Mediterranean wave, which the sirocco heaps up, huge and dark, and pours in a foaming cataract upon the strand of Italy. Finally, we shall tread together the sackcloth plain on which Rome sits, with the leaves of her torn laurel and the fragments of her shivered sceptre strewn around her, waiting with discrowned and downcast head the bolt of doom. Entering the gates of the "seven-hilled city," we shall climb the Capitol, and survey a scene which has its equal nowhere on the earth. Mouldering arches, fallen columns, buried palaces, empty tombs, and slaves treading on the dust of the conquerors of the world, are all that now remain of Imperial Rome. What a scene of ruin and woe! When the twilight falls, and the moon begins to climb the eastern arch, mark how the Coliseum projects, as if in pity, its mighty shadow across the Forum, and covers with its kindly folds the mouldering trophies of the past, and draws its mantle around the nakedness of the Caesars' palace, as if to screen it from the too curious eye of the visitor. Rome, what a history is thine! One other tragedy, terrible as befits the drama it closes, and the curtain will drop in solemn, and, it may be, eternal silence.
THE PASSAGE OF THE ALPS.
The Rhone—Plains of Dauphiny—Mont Blanc and the "Reds"—Landscape by Night—Democratic Club in the Diligence—Approach the Alps—Festooned Vines—Begin the Ascent—Chamberry—Uses of War—An Alpine Valley—Sudden Alternations of Beauty and Grandeur—Travellers—Evening—Grandeur of Sunset—Supper at Lanslebourg—Cross the Summit at Midnight—Morning—Sunrise among the Alps—Descent—Italy.
It was wearing late on an evening of early October 1851 when I crossed the Rhone on my way to the Alps. It had rained heavily during the day, and sombre clouds still rested on the towers of Lyons behind me. The river was in flood, and the lamps on the bridge threw a troubled gleam upon the impetuous current as it rolled underneath. It was impossible not to recollect that this was the stream on the banks of which Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, himself the disciple of John, had, at almost the identical spot where I crossed it, laboured and prayed, and into the floods of which had been flung the ashes of the first martyrs of Gaul. These murky skies formed no very auspicious commencement of my journey; but I cherished the hope that to-morrow would bring fair weather, and with fair weather would come the green valleys and gleaming tops of the Alps, and, the day after, the sunny plains of Italy. This fair vision beckoned me on through the deep road and the scudding shower.
We struck away into the plains of Dauphiny,—those great plains that stretch from the Rhone to the Alps, and which offer to the eye, as seen from the heights that overhang Lyons, a vast and varied expanse of wood and meadow, corn-field and vineyard, city and hamlet, with the snowy pile of Mont Blanc rising afar in the horizon. On the previous evening I had climbed these heights, so stately and beautiful, with convents hanging on their sides, and a chapel to Mary crowning their summit, to renew my acquaintance, after an interval of some years' absence, with the monarch of the Alps. I was greatly pleased to find, especially in these times, that my old friend had not grown "red." Since I saw him last, changes not a few had passed upon Europe, and more than one monarch had fallen; but Mont Blanc sat firmly in his seat, and wore his icy crown as proudly as ever.
Since my former visit to Lyons the "Reds" had made great progress in all the countries at the foot of the Alps. Their party had been especially progressive in Lyons; so much so as to affect the nomenclature of the hills that overlook that city on the north. That hill, which is nearly wholly covered with the houses and workshops of the silk-weavers, is now known as the "red mountain," its inhabitants being mostly of that faction; while the hill on the west of it, that, namely, which I had ascended on the evening before, and which is chiefly devoted to ecclesiastical persons and uses, is called the "white mountain." But while men had been changing their faith, and hills their names, Mont Blanc stood firmly by his old creed and his old colours. There he was, dazzlingly, transcendently white, defying the fuller's art to whiten him, and shading into dimness the snowy robe of the priest; looking with royal majesty over his wide realm; standing unchanged in the midst of a theatre of changes; abiding for ever, though kingdoms at his feet were passing away; pre-eminent in grace and glory amidst his princely peers; and looking the earthly type of that eternal and all-glorious One, who stands supreme and unapproachable amid the powers, dominions, and royalties of the universe.
The night wore on without any noticeable event, or any special interruption, save what was occasioned necessarily by our arrival at the several stages, and the changes consequent thereon of horses and postilions. There was a rag of a moon overhead,—at least so one might judge from the hazy light that struggled through the fog,—by the help of which I kept watching the landscape till past midnight. Then a spirit of drowsiness invaded me. It was not sleep, but sleep's image, or sleep's counterfeit,—an uneasy trance, in which a confused vision of tall trees, with their head in the clouds, and very long and very narrow fields, marked off by straight rows of very upright poplars, and large heavy-looking houses, with tall antique roofs, kept marching past, without variety and without end. I would wake up at times and look out. There was the same picture before me. I would fall back into my trance again, and, an hour or so after, I would again wake up; still the identical picture was there. I could not persuade myself that the diligence had moved from the spot, despite the rumbling of its wheels and the jingling of the horses' bells. All night long the same changeless picture kept moving on and on, ever passing, yet never past.
I may be said to have crossed the Alps amid a torrent of curses. My place was in the banquette, the roomiest and loftiest part of the lofty diligence, and which, perched in front, and looking down upon the inferior compartments of the diligence, much as the attics of a three-storey house look down upon the lower suits of apartments, commands a fine view of the country, when it is daylight and clear weather. There sat next me in the banquette a young Savoyard, who travelled with us as far as Chamberry, in the heart of the Alps; and on the other side of the Savoyard sat the conducteur. This last was a Piedmontese, a young, clever, obliging fellow, with a voluble tongue, and a keen dark eye in his head. Scarce had we extricated ourselves from the environs of Lyons, or had got beyond the reach of the guns that look so angrily down upon it from the heights, till these two broke into a conversation on politics. The conversation soon warmed into an energetic and vehement discussion, or philippic I should rather say. Their discourse was far too rapid, and I was too unfamiliar with the language in which it was uttered to do more than gather its scope and drift. But I could hear the names of France and Austria repeated every other sentence; and these names were sure to be followed by a volley of curses, fierce, scornful, and defiant. Austria was cursed,—France was cursed: they were cursed individually,—they were cursed conjunctly,—once, again, and a hundred times. What were the politics of the passengers in the other compartments of the diligence I know not; but little did they wot that they had a democratic club overhead, and that more treason was spouted that night in their company than might have got us all into trouble, had there been any evesdropper in any corner of the vehicle. When I chanced to awake, they were still at it. The harsh grating sound of the anathemas haunted me during my sleep even. It was like a rattling hail-shower, or like the continuous corruscations of lightning,—the lightning of the Alps. Had it been possible for the authorities to know but a tithe of what was spoken that night by my two neighbours, their journey would have been short: they would have been shot at the next station, to a certainty.
With the night, the dream-like landscape, and the maledictory harangues which had haunted me during the darkness, passed away, and the morning found us nearing the mountains. The Alps open upon you by little. One who has never climbed these hills imagines himself standing at their feet, and looking up the long unbroken vista of fields, vineyards, forests, and naked rocks, to the eternal snows of their summit. Not so. They do not come marching thus upon you in all their grandeur to overwhelm you. To see them thus, you must stand afar off,—at least fifty miles away. There you can take in the whole at a glance, from the beauteous fringe of stream, and hamlet, and woodland, that skirts their base, to the white serrated line that cuts so sharply the blue of the firmament. Nearer them,—unless, indeed, in the great central valleys, where you can see the icy fields hanging in the firmament at an awful distance above you,—their snow-clad summits are invisible, being hidden by an intervening sea of ridges, that are strewn over with rocks, or wave darkly with pines.
As we approached the mountains, they offered to the eye a beauteous chain of verdant hills, with the morning mists hanging on their sides. The torrents were in flood from the recent rains; the woods had the rich tints of autumn upon them; but the charm of the scene lay in the beautiful festoonings of the vine. The uplands before me were barred by what I at first took to be long horizontal layers of fleecy cloud. On a nearer approach, these turned out to be the long branchy arms of the vine. The vine-stock is made to lean against the cut trunk of a chestnut or poplar tree, and its branches are bent horizontally, and extended till they meet those of the neighbouring vine-stock, which have been similarly dealt with. In this way, continuous lines of luxuriant foliage, with pendulous blood-red clusters in their season, may be made to run for miles together along the hill-side. There might be from thirty to forty parallel lines in those I now saw. Tinted with the morning sun, and relieved against the deep verdure of the mountain, they appeared like stripes of amber, or floating lines of cloud fringed with gold.
It was the Mont Cenis route I was traversing,—the least rugged of all the passes of the Alps, and the same by which Hannibal, as some suppose, passed into Italy. The day cleared up into one of unusual brilliancy. We began to ascend by a path cut in the rock of the mountain, having on our left an escarpment of limestone several hundred feet high, and on our right a deep gorge, with a white foaming torrent at its bottom. The frontier chain passed, we descended into a rich valley, with a fine stream flowing through it, and the poor town of Les Echelles hiding from view in one of its angles. These noble valleys are sadly blotted by filth and disease. The contrast offered betwixt the noble features of nature and the degraded form of man is painful and humiliating. Bowed down by toil, stolid with ignorance, disfigured with the goitre, struck with cretinism, the miserable beings around you do more to sadden you than all that the bright air and glorious hills can do to exhilarate you.
The valley where we now were was a complete cul de sac. It was walled in all round by limestone hills of great height, and the eye sought in vain for visible outlet. At length one could see a white line running half-way up the mountain's face, and ending in an opening no bigger than a pigeon-hole. We slowly climbed this road,—for road it was; and when we came to the diminutive opening we had seen from the valley below, it expanded into a tunnel,—one of the great works of Napoleon,—which ran right through the mountain, and brought us out on the other side. We now traversed a narrow and rocky ravine, which at length expanded into a magnificent valley, rich in vines and fruit-trees of all kinds, and overhung by lofty mountains. On this plain, surrounded by the living grandeur of nature, and the faded renown of its monastic and archiepiscopal glory, and half-buried amid foliage and ruins, sits Chamberry, the capital of Savoy.
At Chamberry our route underwent a change. Beauty now gave place to grandeur; but still a grandeur blended with scenes of exquisite loveliness. These I cannot stay to describe at length. The whole day was passed in winding and climbing among the hills. We toiled slowly to rise above the plains we had left, and to approach the region where winter spreads out her boundless sea of ice and snow. We followed the magnificent road which we owe to the genius of Napoleon. The fruits of Marengo are gone. Austerlitz is but a name. But the passes of the Alps remain. "When will it be ready for the transport of the cannon?" enquired Napoleon respecting the Simplon road. War is a rough pioneer; but without such a pioneer to clear the way the world would stand still. Look back. What do you see throughout the successive ages? War, with his red eye, his iron feet, and his gleaming brand, marching in the van; and commerce, and arts, and Christianity, following in the wake of this blood-besmeared Anakim. Such has ever been the order of procession. Mankind in the mass are a sluggish race, and will march only when the word of command is sounded from iron-throated, hoarse-voiced war. Look at the Alps. What do you see? A gigantic form, busy amid the blinding tempests and the eternal ice of their summits. With herculean might he rends the rocks and levels the mountains. Who is he, and what does he there? That is war, in the person of Napoleon, hewing a path through rocks and glaciers, for the passage of the Bible and the missionary. Under the reign of the Mediator the promise to Christianity is, All is yours. War is yours, and Peace is yours.
As we passed on, innumerable nooks of beauty opened to the eye, and romantic peaks ever and anon shot up before us. Now the path led along a meadow, with its large bright flowers; and now along the brink of an Alpine river, with its worn bed and tumultuous floods. Now it rounded the shoulder of a hill; and now it lost itself in some frightful gorge, where the overhanging mountain, with its drapery of pine forests, made it dark as midnight almost. You emerge into daylight again, and begin the same succession of green meadow, pine-clad hill, foaming torrent, and black gorge. Thus you go onward and upward. At length white Alps begin to look down upon you, and give you warning that you are nearing those central regions where eternal winter holds his seat amid pinnacles of ice and wastes of snow.
Let us take an individual picture. The road has made a sudden turn; and a valley, hitherto concealed by the mountains, opens unexpectedly. It is some three or four miles long; and the road traverses it straight as the arrow's flight, till it loses itself amid the rocks and foliage at the bottom of the mountain which you see lying across the valley. On this hand is a stream of water, clear as crystal; on that is the ridgy, wavy, lofty mass of a purple Alp. The bright air and light incorporate, as it were, with the substance of the mountain, and spiritualize it, so that it looks of mould intermediate betwixt the earth and the firmament. The path is bordered with the most delicious verdure, fresh and soft as a carpet, and freckled with the dancing shadows of the trees. On this hand is a chalet, with a vine climbing its wall and mantling its doorway; on that is a verdant knoll, planted a-top with chestnut trees; and from amidst their rich, massy foliage, the little spire of the church, with its glittering vane, looks forth. Near it is the cure's house, buried amidst flower-blossoms, the foliage of vines, and the shadows of the sycamore and chestnut. There is not a spot in the little valley which beauty has not clothed and decked with the most painstaking care; while grandeur has built up a wall all round, as if to keep out the storms that sometimes rage here. It looks so quiet and tranquil, and is so shut in from the great world outside, that one thinks of it as a spot which happy beings from another sphere might come to visit, and where he might list the melody of their voices, as they walk at even-tide amid the bowers of this earthly Eden.
The road makes another turn, and the scene is changed in a moment,—in the twinkling of an eye. The happy valley is gone,—it has vanished like a dream; and a scene of stern, savage, overpowering sublimity rises before you. Alp is piled upon Alp, chasms yawn, torrents growl, jutting rocks threaten; and far over head is the dark pine forest, amid which you can descry, perhaps, the frozen billows of the glacier, or have glimpses of those still higher and drearier regions where winter sits on her eternal throne, and holds undivided sway. Your farther progress is completely barred. So it looks. A cyclopean wall rises from earth to heaven. The gate of rock by which you entered seems to have closed its ponderous jaws behind you, and shut you in,—there to remain till some supernatural power rend the mountains and give you egress. The mood of mind changes with the scene. The beauty soothed and softened you; now you grow impulsive and stern. The awful forms around you blend with the soul, as it were, and impart something of their own vastness to it. You feel yourself carried into the very presence of that Power which sank the foundations of the mountains in the depths of the earth, and built up their giant masses above the clouds; which hung the avalanche on their brow, clove their unfathomable abysses, poured the river at their feet, and taught the forked lightning to play around their awful icy steeps. You seem to hear the sound of the Almighty's footsteps still echoing amid these hills. There passes before you the shadow of Omnipotence; and a great voice seems to proclaim the Godhead of Him "who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance."
The road was comparatively solitary. We passed at times a waggoner, who was conveying the produce of the plains to some village among the mountains; and then a couple of pedestrians, with the air of tradesmen, on their way perhaps to a Swiss town to seek employment; and next a cowherd, driving home his herds from the glades of the forest; and now an occasional gendarme would present himself, and force you to remember, what you would willingly have forgotten amid such scenes, that there were such things as armies in the world; and sometimes the long, dark figure of the cure, reading his breviary to economize time, might be seen gliding along before you, representative of the murky superstition that still fills these valleys, and which, indeed, you can read in the stolid face of the Savoyard, as he sits listlessly under the broad easings of his cottage roof.
Anon the evening came, walking noiselessly upon the mountains, and shedding on the spirit a not unpleasant melancholy. The Alps seemed to grow taller. Deep masses of shade were projected from summit to summit. Pine forest, and green vale, and dashing torrent, and quiet hamlet, all retired from view, as if they wished to go to sleep beneath the friendly shadows. A deep and reverent silence stole over the Alps, as if the stillness of the firmament had descended upon them. Over all nature was shed this spirit of quiet and profound tranquillity. Every tree was motionless. The murmur of the brook, the wing of the bird, the creak of our diligence, the voices of the postilion and conducteur, all felt the softening influence of the hour.
But mark! what glory is this which begins to burn upon the crest of the snowy Alps? First there comes a flood of rosy light, and then a deep bright crimson, like the ruby's flash or the sapphire's blaze, and then a circlet of flaming peaks studs the horizon. It looks as if a great conflagration were about to begin. But suddenly the light fades, and piles of cold, pale white rise above you. You can scarce believe them to be the same mountains. But, quick as the lightning, the flash comes again. A flood of glory rolls once more along their summits. It is a last and mighty blaze. You feel as if it were a struggle for life,—as if it were a war waged by the spirits of darkness against these celestial forms. The struggle is over: the darkness has prevailed. These mighty mountain torches are extinguished one after one; and cold, ghastly piles, of sepulchral hue, which you shiver to look up at, and which remind you of the dead, rise still and calm in the firmament above you. You feel relieved when darkness interposes its veil betwixt you and them. The night sets in deep, and calm, and beautiful, with troops of stars overhead. The voice of streams, all night long, fills the silent hills with melodious echoes.
We now threaded the black gorge of the Arc, passing, unperceived in the darkness, Fort Lesseillon, which, erecting its tiers of batteries above this tremendous natural fosse, looks like a mailed warrior guarding the entrance to Italy. It was eleven o'clock, and we were toiling up the mountain. We had left all human habitations far below, as we thought, when suddenly we were startled by a peal of village bells. Never had bells sounded sweeter in my fancy than those I now heard in these dreary regions. These were the convent bells of the little village of Lanslebourg, which lies at the foot of the summit of the Mont Cenis. Here we were to sup. It was a sort of Arbour in the midst of the hill Difficulty, where we Pilgrims might refresh ourselves before beginning our last and steepest ascent. It was a most substantial repast, as all suppers in that part of the world are; and we had the pleasure of thinking that we were perhaps the highest supper party in Europe. It was our last meal before crossing the mountain, and passing from the modern to the ancient world; for the ridge of the Alps is the limit that divides the two. On this side are modern times; on that are the dark ages. You retrograde five full centuries when you step across the line. We ate our supper, as did the Israelites their last meal in Egypt, with our loins girded,—scarce even our greatcoats put off, and our staff in our hand.
Now for the summit. We started at midnight. Above us was an ebon vault, studded thick with large bright stars. Around us was the awful silence of the mountains. The night was luminous; for in that elevated region darkness is unknown, save when the storm-cloud shrouds it. Of our party, some betook them to the diligence, and were carried over asleep; others of us, leaving the vehicle to follow the road, which zig-zags up to the summit, addressed ourselves to the old route, which winds steeply upward, now through forests of stunted firs, now over a matting of thick, short grass, and now over the bare debris-strewn scalp of the mountain. The convent bells followed us with their sweet chimes up the hill, and formed a link between us and the living world below. The echoes of our voices were strangely loud. They rung out in the thin elastic air, as if all we said had been caught up and repeated by some invisible being,—some genius of the mountains. The hours wore away; and so delighted were we with the novelty of our position,—climbing the summits of the Alps at midnight,—that they seemed but so many minutes.
Ere we were aware, the night was past, and the dawn came upon us; and with the dawn, new and stupendous glories burst forth. How fresh and holy the young day, as it drew aside the curtains of the east, and smiled upon the mountains! The valleys were buried under a fathomless ocean of haze; but the pearly light, sown by the rosy hand of morn, fringed the mountain ridges, and a multitudinous sea of silvery waves spread out around us. The dawn stole on, waxing momentarily; and the great white Alps, which had been standing all night around us so silent, and cold, and sepulchral-like, in their snowy shrouds, now began to grow palpable and less dream-like. The stars put out their fires as the pure crystal light mounted into the sky. Each successive scene was lovely,—inexpressibly lovely,—but momentary. We wished we could have stereotyped it till we had had time to admire it; but while we were gazing it had passed and was gone, like the other glories of the world. But, lo! the sun is near. Mighty torch-bearers run before his chariot, and cry to the rocks, the pine-forests, the torrents, the glaciers, the vine-clad vales, the flower-enamelled glades, the rivers, the cities, that their king is coming. Awake and worship! A mighty Alp, whose loftier stature or more favourable position gives it the start of all the others, has caught the first ray; and suddenly, as if an invisible hand had kindled it, it rises into the firmament, a pyramid of flame, soft, mild, yet gloriously bright, like a dome of living sapphire. While you gaze, another flashes upon you, and another, and another, and at length the whole horizon is filled with gigantic pyres. The stupendous vision has risen so suddenly, that you almost look if you may see the seraph which has flown round and kindled these mighty torches. The glory is inexpressible, and on a scale so vast, that you have no words to describe it. You can scarce believe it to be reflected light which gives such glory to these mountains. They are so rosy, so vividly, intensely radiant, that you feel as if that boundless effulgence emanated from themselves,—were flowing forth from some hidden fountain of light within. It is like no other scene of earthly glory you ever saw. You can compare it only to some celestial city which has been let down from the firmament upon the tops of the mountains, with its glittering turrets, its domes of sapphire, and its wall of alabaster, needing no sun or other source of earthly light to enlighten and glorify it. But while you gaze, it is gone. The sun is up, and the mighty mountain-torches which had carried the tidings of his coming to the countries beneath are extinguished.
It was now full day, and we had reached the summit of the pass. Above us were still the snow-clad peaks; but the road does not ascend higher. We now crossed the frontier, and were in Italy. A little rocky plain surrounded by weather-beaten peaks, a deep blue lake, and a sea of bare ridges in front, were all that we saw of Italy. The road now began sensibly to decline, and the diligence quickened its pace. We soon reached the ridges before us, and began to descend over the brow of the Alps, which are steep and perpendicular as a wall almost, on their southern side. You first traverse a region covered with immense lichen-clothed boulders; next come stretches of heath; then stunted firs: by and by fruit and forest trees begin to make their appearance; next comes the lovely acacia; and last of all the vine, tall and luxuriant, veiling the peasant's cot with its shadow. The road is literally a series of hanging stairs, which zig-zag down the face of the mountain. At certain points the rock is perforated; at others it is hewn into terraces; and at others the path rests on vast substructions of masonry. Now an immense rock leans over the road, and now you find yourself on the edge of some frightful precipice, with the gulph running right down many thousands of feet, and a white torrent at the bottom, boiling and struggling, but unable to make itself heard at that height on the mountain. The turns are frequent and sharp; and the heavy, overladen vehicle, in its furious downward career, gives a swing at each, as if it would cut short the passage into Italy, and land the passenger, sooner than he wishes, at the bottom. At length, after four hours' riding, the descent is accomplished. The scene has changed in the twinkling of an eye. The plain is as level as a floor. The warm sun,—the brilliant sky,—the luxuriant vines,—the handsome architecture,—the picturesque costumes,—the dark oval faces, and black fiery eyes of the natives,—all tell you that it is a new world into which you have entered,—that this is ITALY.
RISK AND PROGRESS OF CONSTITUTIONALISM IN PIEDMONT.
First Entrance into Italy—Never can be Repeated—The Cathedral of Turin—The Royal Palace—The Museum—Egyptian Mummies—Reflections—Landmark of the Vaudois Valleys—Piedmontese House of Commons—Piedmontese Constitution—Perils that surrounded it—Providentially shielded from these—Numbers and Wealth of the Priesthood—Want of Public Opinion—Rise of a Free Press—Its Power—The Gazetta del Popolo—The Bible quoted by the Journalists—The flourishing State of the Country—The Waldensian Temple and Congregation—Workmen's Clubs—The Capuchin Monastery—A Capuchin Friar—Sunset.
One can enter Italy for the first time only once. For, however often we may climb the Alps, and tread the land that lies stretched out at their base, it is with a cold pulse, compared with the fever of excitement into which we are thrown by the first touch of that soil. The charm is flown; the tree of knowledge has been plucked; and never more can we taste the dreamy yet intense delight which attended the first unfolding of the gates of the Alps, and the first rising of the fair vision of Italy.
In truth, the Italy which one comes to see on his second visit is not the Italy that first drew him across the Alps. That was the Italy of history, or rather of his own imagination. The fair form his fancy was wont to conjure up, draped in the glowing recollections of empire and of arms, and encompassed with the halo of heroic deeds, he can see no more. There meets him, on the other side of the Alps, a vision very unlike this. The Italy of the Caesars is gone; and where she sat is now a poor, naked, cowering thing, with a chain upon her arm,—the Italy of the Popes. But the fascination attends the traveller some short way into that land. Indeed, he is loath to lose it, and would rather see Italy through the warm colourings of history, and the bright hues of his own fancy, than look upon her as she is.
I shall never forget the intense excitement that thrilled me when I found myself rolling along on the magnificent avenue of pollard-elms, that runs all the way from Rivoli to Turin. The voluptuous air, which seemed to fill the landscape with a dreamy gaiety; the intense sunlight, which tinted every object with extraordinary brilliancy, from the bright leaves overhead, to the burning domes of Turin in front; the dark eyes of the natives, which flashed with a fervour like that of their own sun; the Alps towering above me, and running off in a vast unbroken line of glittering masses,—all contributed to form a picture of so novel and brilliant a kind, that it absolutely produced an intoxication of delight.
I passed a few days at Turin; and the pleasure of my stay was much enhanced by the society of my friend the Rev. John Bonar, whom I had met at Chamberry, en route, with his family, for Malta. We visited together the chief objects of interest in the capital of Piedmont. The churches we saw of course. And though we had been carried blindfolded across the Alps, and set down in the cathedral of Turin, the statuary alone would have told us that we were in Italy. The most unpractised eye could see at once the difference betwixt these statues and those of the Transalpine churches. The Italian sculptors seemed to possess some secret by which they could make the marble live. Some half-dozen of priests, with red copes (I presume it was a martyr's day, for on such days the Church's dress is red), ranged in a pew near the altar, were singing psalms. Whether the good men were thinking of their dinner, I knew not; but they yawned portentously, wrung their hands with an air of helplessness, and looked at us as if they half expected that we would volunteer to do duty for an hour or so in their stead. A bishop chanting his psalter under the groined roof of cathedral, and a covenanter praying in his hill-side cave, would form an admirable picture of two very different styles of devotion. There were some dozen of old women on the floor, whom the mixed motive of saying their prayers and picking up a chance alms seemed to have drawn thither. From the Duomo we went to the King's palace. We walked through a suit of splendid apartments, though not quite accordant in their style of ornament and comfort with our English ideas. The floor and roof were of rich and beautiful mosaics; the walls were adorned with the more memorable battles of the Sardinian nation; and the furniture was minutely and elaborately inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Three rooms more particularly attracted my attention. The first contained the throne of the kings of Savoy,—a gilded chair, under a crimson canopy, and surrounded by a gilt railing. I thought, as I gazed upon it, how often the power of that throne had lain heavily upon the poor Waldenses. The other room contained the bed on which King Charles Albert died. It is yet in my readers' recollection, that Charles Albert died at Oporto; but the whole furniture of the room in which he breathed his last was transported, together with his ashes, to Turin. It was an affecting sight. There it stood, huddled into a corner,—a poor bed of boards, with a plain coverlet, such as a Spanish peasant might sleep beneath; a chest of deal drawers; and a few of the necessary utensils of a sick chamber. The third room contained the Queen's bed of state. Its windows opened sweetly upon the fine gardens of the palace, where the first ray, as it slants downwards from the crest of the Alps into the valley of the Po, falls on the massy foliage of the mulberry and the orange. On the table were some six or eight books, among which was a copy of the Psalms of David. "It is very fine," said my friend Mr Bonar, glancing up at the gilded canopy and silken hangings of the bed, and poking his hand at the same time into its soft woolly furnishings, "but nothing but blankets can make it comfortable."
From the palace we passed to the Museum. There you see pictures, statues, coins stamped with the effigies of kings that lived thousands of years ago, and papyrus parchments inscribed with the hieroglyphics of old Egypt, and other curiosities, which it has required ages to collect, as it would volumes to describe. Not the least interesting sight there is the gods of Egypt,—cats, ibises, fish, monkeys, heads of calves and bulls, all lying in their original swathings. I looked narrowly at these divinities, but could detect no difference betwixt the god-cat of Egypt and the cats of our day. Were it possible to re-animate one of them, and make it free of our streets, I fear the god would be mistaken for an ordinary quadruped of its own kind, pelted and worried by mischievous boys and dogs, as other cats are. I do not know that a modern priest of Turin has any very good ground for taunting an old Egyptian priest with his cat-worship. If it is impossible to tell the difference betwixt a cat which is simply a cat, and a cat which is a god, it is just as impossible to tell the difference betwixt a bread-wafer which is simply bread, and a bread-wafer which is the flesh and blood, the soul and divinity, of Christ.
Seeing in Egypt the gods died, it will not surprise the reader that in Egypt men should die. And there they lay, the brown sons and daughters of Mizraim, side by side with their gods, wrapt with them in the same stoney, dreamless slumber. One mummy struck me much. It lay in a stone sarcophagus, the same in which the hands of wife or child mayhap had placed it; and there it had slept on undisturbed through all the changes and hubbub of four thousand years. Over the face was drawn a thin cloth, through which the features could be seen not indistinctly. Now, thought I, I shall hear all about old Egypt. Perhaps this man has seen Joseph, or talked with Jacob, or witnessed the wonders of the exodus. Come, tell me your name or profession, or some of the strange events of your history. Did you don the mail-coat of the warrior, or the white robe of the priest? Did you till the ground, and live on garlic; or were you owner of a princely estate, and wont to sit on your house-top of evenings, enjoying the delicious twilight, and the soft flow of the Nile? Come now, tell me all. The door of a departed world seemed about to open. I felt as if standing on its threshold, and looking in upon the shadowy forms that peopled it. But ah! these lips spoke not. With the Rosetta stone as the key, I could compel the granite slabs and the brown worn parchments around me to give up their secrets. But where was the key that could open that breast, and read the secrets locked up in it?
And this form had still a living owner! This awoke a train of thought yet more solemn. Who, what, and where is he? Anxious as I had been to have the door of that mysterious past in which he had lived opened to me, I was yet more anxious to look into that more mysterious and awful future into which he had gone. What had he seen and felt these four thousand years? Did the ages seem long to him, or was it but as a few days since he left the earth? I went close up to the dark curtain, but there was no opening,—no chink by which I could see into the world beyond. Will no kind hand draw the veil aside but for a moment? There it has hung unlifted age after age, concealing, with its impenetrable folds, all that mortals would most like to know. Myriads and myriads have passed within, but not one has ever given back voice, or look, or sign, to those they left behind, and from whom never before did they conceal thought or wish. Why is this? Do they not still think of us? Do they not still love us? Would they softly speak to us if they could? What gulf divides them? Ah! how silent are the dead!
Close by the great highway into Italy lie the "Valleys of the Vaudois." One might pass them without being aware of their near presence, or that he was treading upon holy ground;—so near to the world are they, and yet so completely hidden from it. Ascend the little hill on the south of Turin, and follow with your eye the great wall of the Alps which bounds the plain on the north. There, in the west, about thirty miles from where you stand, is a tall pyramidal-shaped mountain, towering high above the other summits. That is Monte Viso, which rises like a heaven-erected beacon, to signify from afar to the traveller the land of the Waldenses, and to call him, with its solemn voice, to turn aside and see the spot where "the bush burned and was not consumed." We shall make a short, a very short visit to these valleys, than which Europe has no more sacred soil. But first let us speak of some of the bulwarks which an all-wise Providence has erected in our day around a Church and people whose existence is one of the great living miracles of the world.
The revolutions which swept over Italy in 1848 were the knell of the other Italian States, but to Piedmont they were the trumpet of liberty. No man living can satisfactorily explain why the same event should have operated so disasterously for the one, and so beneficially for the other. No reason can be found in the condition of the country itself: the thing is inexplicable on ordinary principles; and the more intelligent Piedmontese at this day speak of it as a miracle. But so is the fact. Piedmont is a constitutional kingdom; and I went with M. Malan, himself a Waldensian, and a member of the Chamber of Deputies, to see the hall where their Parliament sits. A spacious flight of steps conducts to a noble hall, in form an ellipse, and surmounted by a dome. At one end of the ellipse hangs a portrait of the President, and underneath is his richly gilt chair, with a crimson-covered table before it. Right in front of the Speaker's chair, on a lower level, is placed the tribune, which much resembles the precentor's desk in a Scottish church. The tribune is occupied only when a Minister makes a Ministerial declaration, or a Convener of a Committee gives in his Report. An open space divides the tribune from the seats of the members. These last run all round the hall, in concentric rows of benches, also covered with crimson. "There, on the right," said M. Malan, "sit the priest party. In the front are the Ministerial members; on the left is my seat. There is an extreme left to which I do not belong: I have not passed the constitutional line. This lower tier of galleries is for the conductors of the press and the diplomatic corps; this higher gallery is for ladies and military men. We are 204 members in all. We have a member for every twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Our population is four millions and a half. Our House of Peers contains only ninety members. The King has the privilege of nominating to it, but peers so created are only for life."
It was, in truth, a marvellous sight;—a free and independent Parliament meeting in the ancient capital of the bigoted Piedmont, with a free press and a public looking on, and one of the long proscribed Vaudois race occupying a seat in it. The more I thought of it, the more I wondered. The causes which had led to so extraordinary a result seemed clearly providential. When King Charles Albert in 1848 gave his subjects a Constitution, no one had asked it, and few there were who could value it, or even knew what a Constitution meant. One or two public writers there were who said that public opinion demanded it; but, in sooth, there was then no public opinion in the country. Soon after this the campaign in Lombardy was commenced, and the result of that campaign threatened the Piedmontese Constitution with extinction. The Piedmontese army was beaten by the Austrians, and had to make a hasty and inglorious retreat into their own country. Every one then expected that Radetzky would march upon Turin, put down the Constitution, and seize upon Sardinia. Contrary to his usual habits, the old warrior halted on the frontier, as if kept back by an invisible power, and the Constitution was saved. Then came the death of Charles Albert, of a broken heart, in Oporto, whither he had fled; and every one believed that the Piedmontese charter would accompany its author to the tomb. The dispositions and policy of the new king were unknown; but the probability was that he would follow the example of his brother sovereigns of Italy, all of whom had begun to revoke the Constitutions which they had so recently inaugurated with solemn oaths. Happily these fears were not realized. The new perils passed over, and left the Constitution unscathed. King Victor Immanuel,—a constitutional monarch simply by accident,—turned out a good-natured, easy-minded man, who loved the chase and his country seat, and found it more agreeable to live on good terms with his subjects, and enjoy a handsome civil list,—which his Parliament has taken care to vote him,—than to be indebted for his safety and a bankrupt exchequer to the bayonets of his guards. Thus marvellously, hitherto, in the midst of dangers at home and re-action abroad, has the Piedmontese charter been preserved. I dwell with the greater minuteness on this point, because on the integrity of that charter are suspended the civil liberties of the Church of the Vaudois. When I was in Turin the Constitution was three years old; but even then its existence was exceedingly precarious. The King could have revoked it at any moment; and there was not then, I was assured by General Beckwith,—who knows the state of the Piedmontese nation well,—moral power in the country to offer any effectual resistance, had the royal will decreed the suppression of constitutional government. "But," added he, "should the Constitution live three years longer, the people by that time will have become so habituated to the working of a free Constitution, and public opinion will have acquired such strength, that it will be impossible for the monarch to retrace his steps, even should he be so inclined." It is exactly three years since that time, and the state of the Piedmontese nation at this moment is such as to justify the words of the sagacious old man.
The first grand difficulty in the way of the Constitution was, the numbers and power of the priesthood. In no country in Europe,—not even in France and Austria, when their size is compared,—were the benefices so numerous, or their holders so luxuriously fed. Piedmont was the paradise of priests. The ecclesiastical statistics of that kingdom, furnished to the French journal La Presse, on occasion of the introduction of the bill for suppressing the convents, on the 8th of January 1855, reveals a state of things truly astonishing. Notwithstanding that the population is only four and a half millions, there are in Sardinia 7 archbishops; 34 bishops; 41 chapters, with 860 canons attached to the bishoprics; 73 simple chapters, with 470 canons; 1100 livings for the canons; and, lastly, 4267 parishes, with some thousands of parish priests. The domain of the Church represents a capital of 400 millions of francs, with a yearly revenue of 17 millions and upwards. This enormous wealth is divided amongst the clergy in proportions grossly unequal. The 41 prelates of Sardinia enjoy a revenue of nearly a million and a half of francs, which is double what used to maintain all the bishops of the French empire. The Archbishop of Turin has an income of 120,000 francs, which is more than the whole bench of Belgian bishops. The other prelates are paid in proportion. As a set-off to this wealth, there are in Sardinia upwards of 2000 curates, not one of whom has so much as 800 francs, or about L.35 sterling. These are thus tempted to prey upon the people. Such is the terrible organization which the King and Parliament have to encounter in carrying out their reforms, and such is the fearful incubus which has pressed for ages upon the social rights and industrial energies of the Piedmontese people.
But this is but a part of the great sacerdotal army encamped in Piedmont. There are 71 religious orders besides, divided into 604 houses, containing in all 8563 monks and nuns. The expense of feeding these six hundred houses, with their army of eight thousand strong, forms an item of two millions and a-half of francs, and represents a capital of forty-five millions. The greatest admirer of these fraternities will scarce deny that this is a handsome remuneration for their services; indeed, we never could make out what these services really are. They do not teach the youth, or pray with the aged. For reading they have no taste; and to write what will be read, or preach what will be listened to, is far beyond their ability. Their pious hands disdain all contact with the plough, and the loom, and the spade. They share with their countrymen neither the labours of peace, nor the dangers of war. They lounge all day in the streets, or about the wine shops; and, when the dinner-hour arrives, they troop home-wards, to retail the gossip of the town over a groaning board and a well-filled flagon. Thus they fatten like pigs, being about as cleanly, but scarce as useful. It is not surprising that a bill should at last have reached the Chambers, proposing, first, the better distribution of the revenues of the Church, equal to a fourth of the kingdom; and, second, the suppression of those "houses," the rules of which bind over their members to sheer, downright idleness, leaving only those who have some show of public duty to perform. The priests denounce the bill as "spoliation and robbery" of course, and prophesy all manner of things against so wicked a kingdom. Doubtless it is daring impiety in the eyes of Rome to forbid a man with a shaven crown and a brown cloak to play the idler and vagabond. We are only surprised that the people of Piedmont have so long suffered their labours to be eaten up by an order of men useless, and worse than useless.
Another grand difficulty in Piedmont was the absence of a middle class,—wealthy, intelligent, and independent. No one felt that he had rights, and you never heard people saying there, as you may do in Britain, "this is my right, and I will have it." A feeling of individual right, and of responsibility,—for the two go together,—was then just beginning to dawn upon the popular mind. This was accompanied by a certain amount of disorganizing influence; not that of Socialism,—which, happily, scarce existed in Piedmont,—but that of self-action. Every one was feeling his own way. The priests, of course, were exceedingly wroth, and loudly accused Protestantism as the cause of all this commotion in men's minds. Alas! there was no Protestantism in Piedmont, for it had been one of the most bigoted kingdoms in Italy. It was their own handiwork; for a tyranny always produces a democracy. As if by a miracle, a powerful and popular press started up in Turin. The writers in the Opinione and the Gazetta del Popolo, acting, I suspect, on a hint given by some Vaudois that there was an old book, now little known, that would help them in the war they were now waging, went to the Bible, and, finding that it made against the priests, were liberal in their quotations from it. Their most telling hits were the extracts from Scripture; and finding it so, they quoted yet more largely. The priests were much concerned to see Holy Scripture so far profaned as to be quoted in newspapers, and exposed freely to the gaze of the vulgar. But what could they do? Their own literary qualifications did not warrant them to enter the lists with these writers: they had forgot the way to preach, unless at Lent; they could work the confessional, but even it began to be silenced by the powerful artillery of the press. At an earlier stage they might have roused the peasantry, and marched upon the Constitution, whose life they knew was the death of their power; but it was too late in 1851. An attempt of this sort made a year or two after, among the peasantry of the Val d'Aosta, turned out a miserable failure. Thus, a movement which in other countries came forward under the sanction of the priesthood, from the very outset in Piedmont took a contrary direction, and set in full against the Church. Since that day liberty has been working itself, bit by bit, into the action of the Constitution, and the feelings of the people; and now, I believe, neither King nor Parliament, were they so inclined, could put it down.
The sum of the matter then is, that of all the kingdoms which the era of 1848 started in the path of free government, the brave little State of Piedmont alone has persevered to this day. Amid the wide weltering sea of Italian anarchy and despotism, here, and here alone, liberty finds a spot on which to plant her foot. Again we ask, why is this? There is nothing in the past history of the country,—nothing in the present state of the nation,—which can account for it. We must look elsewhere for a solution; and we do not hesitate to avow our firm conviction, that a special Providence has shielded the Constitution of Piedmont, because with that Constitution is bound up the liberties of the ancient martyr Church of the Vaudois. It was the only one of the Italian Constitutions that carried in it so sacred a guarantee of permanency. On the 17th of February 1848 (the day is worth remembering), Charles Albert, by a royal edict, admitted the Waldenses to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights, in common with the rest of their fellow-subjects. Now, for the first time in a thousand years, the trumpet of liberty sounded amid the Vaudois valleys; and the shout of joy which the Alps sent back seemed like the first response to the prayer which had so often ascended from these hills, "How long, O Lord." Would not Sodom have been spared had ten righteous men been found in it? and why not Piedmont, seeing the Waldensian Church was there? Yes, Piedmont is the little Zoar of the Italian plains! Little may its people reck to whom it is they owe their escape. It is nevertheless a truth that, but for the poor Vaudois, whom, instigated by the Pope, they long and ruthlessly laboured to exterminate, their country would have been at this day in the same gulph of social demoralization and political re-action with Tuscany, and Naples, and Rome. These last were taken, and Piedmont escaped.
And the country is truly flourishing. It has thriven every day since Charles Albert emancipated the Vaudois. No one can cross its frontier without being struck with the contrast it presents to the other Italian States. While they are decaying like a corpse, it is flourishing like the chestnut-tree of its own mountains. The very faces of the people may tell you that the country is free and prosperous. Its citizens walk about with the cheerful, active air of men who have something to do and to enjoy, and not with the listless, desponding, heart-sick look which marks the inhabitants of the other States of Italy. Here, too, you miss that universal beggary and vagabondism that disfigure and pollute all the other countries of the Peninsula. What rich loam the ploughman turns up! What magnificent vines shade its plains! Public works are in progress, railways have been formed, and new houses are building. Not fewer than a hundred houses were built in Turin last year, which is more, I verily believe, than in all the other Italian towns out of Piedmont taken together. Thus, while the other States of Italy are foundering in the tempest, Piedmont lives because it carries the Vaudois and their fortunes.
From the hall of the Chamber of Deputies I went with M. Malan to the office of the Gazetta del Popolo, to be introduced to its editors. The Gazetta del Popolo is a daily paper, with a circulation of 15,000; and, being sold at a penny, is universally read by the middle and lower classes. It is the Times of Piedmont. Its editors are men of great talent, and write with the practical good sense and racy style of Cobbett. They are not religious men, neither are they Romanists, though nominally connected with the Church of the State; but they are warm advocates of constitutional government, hearty haters of the Papacy, and have done much to enlighten the public mind, and loosen it from Romanism. They first of all made inquiries respecting the external resemblance of Puseyistic and Popish worship, as I had seen the latter in Italy. They made yet more eager inquiries respecting the progress and prospects of Puseyism in England, and about a then recent declaration of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the effect that there were only two Bishops in the Church of England that had gone over to Puseyism. They seemed to feel that the fortunes of the Papacy would turn mainly upon the fortunes of Puseyism in England. As regarded the Archbishop, I replied, that I believed in the substantial accuracy of his statement, that there were not more than two members of the episcopate who could be held to be decided Puseyites; and as regarded the progress of Puseyism, I said, that it had been making great and rapid progress, but that the papal aggression, in my humble opinion, had dealt a somewhat heavy blow to both Popery and Puseyism,—that so long as Romanism came begging for toleration, it had found great favour in the eyes of the liberals; but when it came claiming to govern, it had scared away many of its former supporters, who had come to know it better,—and that the Protestant feeling which the aggression had evoked on the part of the Court, the Parliament, and the people, had tended to discourage Romanism, and all kindred or identical creeds. They were delighted to hear this, and said that they would baptize the fact in the Gazetta del Popolo, "the assassination of the Papacy by Cardinal Wiseman." Their paper, M. Malan afterwards told me, is published on Sabbaths as well (there are worse things done on that day in Italy, even by bishops), on which day they print their weekly sermon. "You won't preach," say they to the priests; "therefore we will;" and it is in their Sabbath sheet that they make their bitterest assaults upon the priesthood. They quote largely from Scripture: not that they wish to establish evangelical truth, of which they know little, but because they find such quotations to be the most powerful weapons which they can employ against the Papacy. In truth, they advertised in this way the Bible to their countrymen, many of whom had never heard of such a book till then.
I was inexpressibly delighted to find such men in Turin wielding such influence, and took the liberty of saying at parting, that we in England had beheld with admiration the noble stand Piedmont had made in behalf of constitutional government,—that we were watching with intense interest the future career of their nation,—that we were cherishing the hope that they would manfully maintain the ground they had taken up,—and that in England, and especially in Scotland, we felt that the root of all the despotism of the Continent was the Papacy,—that the way to strike for liberty was to strike at Rome,—and that till the Papacy was overthrown, never would the nations of the world be either free or happy. They assured me that in these sentiments they heartily concurred, and that they were the very ideas they were endeavouring to propagate. They gave me, on taking leave, a copy of that morning's paper as a souvenir; and on examining it afterwards, I found that the topic of its leading article was quite in the vein of our conversation. The great bulk of the liberal party in Piedmont shared even then the ideas of the editors of the Gazetta del Popolo, and felt that to lay the foundations of constitutional liberty, they needs must raze those of Rome. This is a truth; and not only so,—it is the primal truth in the science of European liberty. This truth only now begins to be understood on the Continent. It is the main lesson which the re-action of 1849 has been overruled to teach. All former insurrections have been against kings and aristocrats: even in 1848 the Italians were willing to accept the leadership of the Pope. The perfidies and atrocities of which they have since been the victims have burned the essential tyranny of the papal system into their minds; and the next insurrection that takes place will be against the Papacy.
A constitution, a free press, and a public opinion, are but the outward defences of a divine and immortal principle, which, rooted in the soil of Piedmont, has outlived a long winter, and is now beginning to bud afresh, and to send forth goodlier shoots than ever. To this I next turned. Conducted by M. Malan, I went to the western quarter of Turin, where, amid the gardens and elegant mansions of the suburbs, workmen were digging the foundations of what was to be a spacious building. On this spot the Dominicans in former ages had burned the bodies of the martyrs; and now the Waldensian temple stands here,—a striking proof, surely, of the immortality of truth,—to rise, and live, and speak boldly, on the very spot where she had been bound to a stake, burned, and extinguished, as the persecutor believed. This church, not the least elegant in a city abounding with elegant structures, has since been opened, and is filled every Sabbath with well-nigh a thousand auditors,—the largest congregation, I will venture to say, in Turin.
In 1851 I could visit the cradle of this movement. It had its first rise in the labours of Felix Neff, twenty-five years before; but it was not till the revolution of 1848 that it appeared above ground. Even in 1851, colportage among the Piedmontese was prohibited, though it was allowable to print or import the Bible for the use of the Waldenses, and the Government winked at its sale to their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects. I was shown in M. Malan's banking office the Bible depot, and was gratified to find that the sales which were made to applicants only had during the past year amounted to a thousand copies. Evening meetings were held every day of the week, in various parts of Turin, at which the Bible was read, and points of controversy betwixt Christianity and Romanism eagerly discussed. The Rev. M. Meille, the able editor of the Buona Novella,—a paper then just starting,—informed me that not fewer than ninety persons had been present at the meeting superintended by him the night before. These week-day assemblages, as well as the Sabbath audiences, were of a very miscellaneous character,—Vaudois, who had come to Turin to be servants, for, prior to the revolution, they could be nothing else; Piedmontese tradesmen; Swiss, Germans, and Italian refugees, to whom three pastors ministered,—one in French, one in German, and a third in the Italian tongue. There were then not fewer than ten re-unions every week in Turin. The idea, too, had been started of taking advantage of the workmen's clubs for the propagation of the gospel. A network of such societies covered northern and central Italy. The clubs in Turin corresponded with those in Genoa, Alessandria, and all the principal towns of Piedmont; and these again with similar clubs in central Italy; and any new theory or doctrine introduced into one soon made the round of all. The plan adopted was to send evangelical workmen into these clubs, who were listened to as they propounded the new plan of justification by faith. The clubs in Turin were first leavened with the gospel; thence it was extended to Genoa, and gradually also to central Italy. While the proletaires in France were discussing the claims of labour, the workmen in Piedmont were canvassing the doctrines of the New Testament; and hence the difference betwixt the two countries.
It was now drawing towards sunset, and I purposed enjoying the twilight,—delicious in all climates, but especially in Italy,—on the terrace of the College or Monastery of the Capuchins. This monastery stands on the Collina, a romantic height on the south of Turin, washed by the Po, with villas and temples on its crest and summits. I took my way through the noble street that leads southwards, halting at the book-stalls, and picking out of their heaps of rubbish an Italian copy of the Catechism of Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux. The Collina was all in a blaze; the windows of the Palazzo Regina glittered in the setting beams; and the dome of the Superga shone like gold. Crossing the Po, I ascended by the winding avenue of shady acacias, which are planted there to protect the cowled heads of the fathers from the noonday sun. One of the monks was winding his way up hill, at a pace which gave me full opportunity of observing him. A little black cap covered his scalp; his round bullet-head, which bristled with short, thick-set hairs, joined on, by a neck of considerably more than the average girth, to shoulders of Atlantean dimensions. His body was enveloped in a coarse brown mantle, which descended to his calves, and was gathered round his middle with a slender white cord. His naked feet were thrust into sandals. The features of the "religious" were coarse and swollen; and he strode up hill before me with a gait which would have made a peaceful man, had he met him on a roadside in Scotland, give him a wide offing. Parties of soldiers wounded in the late campaign were sauntering in the square of the monastery, or looking over the low wall at the city beneath. Their pale and sickly looks formed a striking contrast to the athletic forms of the full-fed monks. It was inexplicable to me, that the youth of Sardinia, immature and raw, should be drafted into the army, while such an amount of thews and sinews as this monastery, and hundreds more, contained, should be allowed to run to waste, or worse. If but for their health, the monks should be compelled to fight the next campaign.
The sun went down. Long horizontal shafts of golden light shot through amidst the Alps; their snows glittered with a dazzling whiteness: whiteness is a weak term;—it was a brilliant and lustrous glory, like that of light itself. Anon a crimson blush ran along the chain. It faded; it came again. A wall of burning peaks, from two to three hundred miles in length, rose along the horizon. Eve, with her purple shadows, drew on; and I left the mountains under a sky of vermilion, with Monte Viso covering with its shadow the honoured dust that sleeps around it, and pointing with its stony finger to that sky whither the spirits of the martyred Vaudois have now ascended. It seemed to say, "Come and see."
STRUCTURE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE VAUDOIS VALLEYS.
Journey to "Valleys"—Dinner at Pignerolo—Grandeur of Scenery—Associations—Bicherasio—Procession of Santissimo—Connection betwixt the History and the Country of the Vaudois—The Three Valleys of Martino, Angrona, and Lucerna—Their Arrangement—Strength—Fertility—La Tour—The Castelluzzo—Scenery of the Val Lucerna—The Manna of the Waldenses—Populousness of the Valleys—Variety of Productions—The Roman Flood and the Vaudois Ark.
The Valleys of the Vaudois lie about thirty miles to the south-west of Turin. The road thither it is scarce possible to miss. Keeping the lofty and pyramidal summit of Monte Viso in your eye, you go straight on, in a line parallel with the Alps, along the valley of the Po, which is but a prolongation of the great plain of Lombardy. On my way down to these valleys, I observed on the roadside numerous little temples, which the natives, in true Pagan fashion, had erected to their deities. The niches of these temples were filled with Madonnas, crucifixes, and saints, gaunt and grizzly, with unlighted candles stuck before them, or rude paintings and tinsel baubles hung up as votive offerings. The signboards—especially those of the wine venders—were exceedingly religious. They displayed, for the most part, a bizarre painting of the Virgin, and occasionally of the Pope; and not unfrequently underneath these personages were a company of heretics, such as those I was going to visit, sweltering in flames. Were a Protestant vintner to sell his ale beneath a picture of Catholics burning in hell, I fear we should never hear the last of it. But I must say, that these pictures seemed the production of past times. They were one and all sorely faded, as if their owners were beginning to be somewhat ashamed of them, or lacked zeal to repair them. The conducteur of the stage had an Italian translation of Mr Gladstone's well-known pamphlet on Naples in his hand, which then covered all the book-stalls in Turin, and was read by every one. This led to a lively discussion on the subject of the Church, between him and two fellow-travellers, to whom I had been introduced at starting, as Waldenses. I observed that, although he appeared to come off but second best in the controversy, he bore all with unruffled humour, as if not unwilling to be beaten. At length, after a ride of twenty miles over the plain, in which the husbandman, with plough as old in its form as the Georgics, was turning up a soil rich, black, and glossy as the raven's wing, we arrived at Pignerolo, a town on the borders of the Vaudois land.
The two Vaudois and myself adjourned to the hotel to dine. Even in this we had an instance of changed times. In this very town of Pignerolo a law had been in existence, and was not long repealed, forbidding, under severe penalties, any one to give meat or drink to a Vaudois. The "Valleys" were only ten miles distant, and we agreed to walk thither on foot. Indeed, all such spots must be so visited, if one would feel their full influence. Leaving Pignerolo, the road began to draw into the bosom of the mountains, and the scenery became grander at every step. On the right rose the hills of the Vaudois, with knolls glittering with woods and cottages scattered at their feet. On the left, long reaches of the Po, meandering through pasturages and vineyards, gleamed out golden in the western sun. The scenery reminded me much of the Highlands at Comrie, only it was on a scale of richness and magnificence unknown to Scotland.
After advancing a few miles, I chanced to turn and look back. The change the mountains had undergone struck me much. A division of Alps, tall and cloud-capped, appeared to have broken off from the main army, and to have come marching into the plain; and while the mountains were closing in upon us behind, they appeared to be falling back in front, and arranging themselves into the segment of a vast circle. A magnificent amphitheatre had risen noiselessly around us. On all sides save the south, where a reach of the valley was still visible, the eye met only a lofty wall of mountains, hung in a rich and gorgeous tapestry of bright green pasturages and shady pine-forests, with the frequent sunlight gleam of white chalets. The snows of their summits were veiled in masses of cloud, which the southerly winds were bringing up upon them from the Mediterranean. I seemed to have entered some stately temple,—a temple not of mortal workmanship,—which needed no tall shaft, no groined roof, no silver lamps, no chisel or pencil of artist to beautify it, and no white-robed priest to make it holy. It had been built by Him whose power laid the foundations of the earth, and hung the stars in heaven; and it had been consecrated by sacrifices such as Rome's mitred priests never offered in aisled cathedral. Nor had it been the scene only of lofty endurance: it had been the scene also of sweet and holy joys. There the Vaudois patriarchs, like Enoch, had "walked with God;" there they had read his Word, and kept his Sabbaths. They had sung his praise by these silvery brooks, and kneeled in prayer beneath these chestnut trees. There, too, arose the shout of triumphant battle; and from those valleys the Vaudois martyrs had gone up, higher than these white peaks, to take their place in the white-robed and palm-bearing company. Can the spirit, I asked myself, ever forget its earthly struggles, or the scene on which they were endured? and may not the very same picture of beauty and grandeur now before my eye be imprinted eternally on the memory of many of the blessed in Heaven?
There was silence on plain and mountain,—a hush like that of a sanctuary, reverent and deep, and broken only by the flow of the torrent and the sound of voices among the vineyards. I could not fail to observe that sounds here were more musical than on the plain. This is a peculiarity belonging to mountainous regions; but I have nowhere seen it so perceptible as here. Every accent had a fullness and melody of tone, as if spoken in a whispering gallery. Right in the centre of the circle formed by the mountains was the entrance of the Vaudois valleys. The place was due north from where we now were, but we had to make a considerable detour in order to reach it. A long low hill, rough with boulders and feathery with woods, lay across the mouth of these valleys; and we had to go round it on the west, and return along the fertile vale which divides it from the high Alps, whose straths and gorges form the dwellings of the Waldenses.
A dream it seemed to be, walking thus within the shadow of the Vaudois hills. And then, too, what a strange chance was it which had thrown me into the society of my two Waldensian fellow-travellers! They had met me on the threshold of their country, as if sent to bid me welcome, and conduct my steps into a land which the prayers and sufferings of their forefathers had for ever hallowed. They could not speak a word of my tongue; and to them my transalpine Italian was not more than intelligible. Yet, such is the power of a common sympathy, the conversation did not once flag all the way; and it had reference, of course, to one subject. I told them that I was not unacquainted with their glorious history;—that from a child I had known the noble deeds of their fathers, who had received an equal place in my veneration with the men of old, "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy;"—and that, next to the hills of my own land, hallowed, too, with martyr-blood, I loved the mountains within whose shadow my wandering steps had now brought me. The eyes of my Vaudois friends kindled; they were not unconscious, I could see, of their noble lineage; and they were visibly touched by the circumstance that a stranger from a distant land—drawn thither by sympathy with the great struggles of their nation—should come to visit their mountains. Every object in any way connected with their history, and especially with their persecutions, was carefully pointed out to me. "There," said they, "is our frontier church, the first of the Vaudois candles," pointing to a white edifice that gleamed out upon us amid woods and rocks, on the summit of a hill, soon after leaving Pignerolo. They mentioned, too, with peculiar emphasis, the year of the last great massacre of their brethren. The memory of that transaction, I feel assured, will perish only with the Vaudois race. Nor can I forget the evident pride with which, on nearing the valley of Lucerne, they pointed to the giant form of their Castelluzzo, now looming through the shades of night, and told me that in the caves of that mighty rock their fathers found shelter, when the valley beneath was covered with armed men.
Nowhere had I seen more luxuriant vines. They were festooned, too, after the manner of those I had seen among the Alps; but here the effect was more beautiful. They were literally stretched out over entire fields in an unbroken web of boughs. Clothed with luxuriant foliage, they looked like another azure canopy extended over the soil. There was ample room beneath for the ploughman and his bullocks. The golden beams, struggling through the massy foliage, fell in a mellow and finely tinted shower on the newly ploughed soil. Wheat is said to ripen better beneath the vine-shade than in the open sun. The season of grapes was shortly past; but here and there large clusters were still pendent on the bough.
Hitherto, although we had been skirting the Vaudois territory, we had not set foot upon it. The line which separates it from the rest of Piedmont touches the small town of Bicherasio, on the western flank of the low hill I have mentioned; and the roofs of the little town were already in sight. Passing, on the left, a white-walled mass-house on a small height, with the priest looking at us from amid the autumn-tinted vine leaves that shaded the wall, we entered the town of Bicherasio. The first sight we saw was a procession advancing up the street at double-quick time. I was at first sorely puzzled what to make of it. There was an air of mingled fun and gravity on the faces of the crowd; but the former so greatly predominated, that I took the affair for a frolic of the youths of Bicherasio. First came a squad of dirty boys, some of whom carried prayer-books: these were followed by some dozen or so of young women in their working attire, ranged in line, and carrying flambeaux. In the centre of the procession was a tall raw-boned priest, of about twenty-five years of age, with a little box in his hand. His head was bare, and he wore a long brown dress, bound with a cord round his middle. A canopy of crimson cloth, sorely soiled and tarnished, was borne over him by four of the taller lads. He had a flurried and wild look, as if he had slept out in the woods all night, and had had time only to shake himself, and put his fingers through his hair, before being called on to run with his little box. The procession closed, as it had opened, with a cloud of noisy and dirty urchins hanging on the rear of the priest and his flambeaux-bearing company. The whole swept past us at such a rapid pace, that I could only, by way of divining its object, open large wondering eyes upon it, which the large-boned lad in the brown cloak noticed, and repaid with a scowl, which broke no bones, however. "He is carrying the santissimo," said my fellow-travellers, when the procession had passed, "to a dying man." We passed the line, and set foot on the Vaudois territory. Being now on privileged soil, and safe from any ebullition which the scant reverence we had paid the procession of the santissimo might have drawn upon us, we entered a small albergo, and partook together of a bottle of wine. Our long walk, and the warmth of the evening, made the refreshment exceedingly agreeable. By way of commending the qualities of their soil, my companions remarked, that "this was the vine of the land." I felt disposed to deal with it as David did with the water of the well of Bethlehem, for here—