THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. I.—DECEMBER, 1857.—NO. II.
The only part of this ancient church which escaped destruction by fire in 1771 was, most fortunately, the famous Brancacci chapel. Here are the frescos by Masolino da Panicale, who died in the early part of the fifteenth century,—the Preaching of Saint Peter, and the Healing of the Sick. His scholar, Masaccio, (1402-1443,) continued the series, the completion of which was entrusted to Filippino Lippi, son of Fra Filippo.
No one can doubt that the hearty determination evinced by Masolino and Masaccio to deal with actual life, to grapple to their souls the visible forms of humanity, and to reproduce the types afterwards in new, vivid, breathing combinations of dignity and intelligent action, must have had an immense effect upon the course of Art. To judge by the few and somewhat injured specimens of these masters which are accessible, it is obvious that they had much more to do in forming the great schools of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, than a painter of such delicate, but limited genius as that of Fra Angelico could possibly have. Certainly, the courage and accuracy exhibited in the nude forms of Adam and Eve expelled from paradise, and the expressive grace in the group of Saint Paul conversing with Saint Peter in prison, where so much knowledge and power of action are combined with so much beauty, all show an immense advance over the best works of the preceding three quarters of a century.
Besides the great intrinsic merits of these paintings, the Brancacci chapel is especially interesting from the direct and unquestionable effect which it is known to have had upon younger painters. Here Raphael and Michel Angelo, in their youth, and Benvenuto Cellini passed many hours, copying and recopying what were then the first masterpieces of painting, the traces of which study are distinctly visible in their later productions; and here, too, according to Cellini, the famous punch in the nose befell Buonarotti, by which his well-known physiognomy acquired its marked peculiarity. Torregiani, painter and sculptor of secondary importance, but a bully of the first class,—a man who was in the habit of knocking about the artists whom he could not equal, and of breaking both their models and their heads,—had been accustomed to copy in the Brancacci chapel, among the rest. He had been much annoyed, according to his own account, by Michel Angelo's habit of laughing at the efforts of artists inferior in skill to himself, and had determined to punish him. One day, Buonarotti came into the chapel as usual, and whistled and sneered at a copy which Torregiani was making. The aggrieved artist, a man of large proportions, very truculent of aspect, with a loud voice and a savage frown, sprang upon his critic, and dealt him such a blow upon the nose, that the bone and cartilage yielded under his hand, according to his own account, as if they had been made of dough,—"come se fosse stato un cialdone." This was when both were very young men; but Torregiani, when relating the story many years afterwards, always congratulated himself that Buonarotti would bear the mark of the blow all his life. It may be added, that the bully met a hard fate afterwards. Having executed a statue in Spain for a grandee, he was very much outraged by receiving only thirty scudi as his reward, and accordingly smashed the statue to pieces with a sledge-hammer. In revenge, the Spaniard accused him of heresy, so that the unlucky artist was condemned to the flames by the Inquisition, and only escaped that horrible death by starving himself in prison before the execution.
In the chapel of the Sassetti, in this church, is a good set of frescos by Dominic Ghirlandaio, representing passages from the life of Saint Francis. They are not so masterly as his compositions in the Santa Maria Novella. Moreover, they are badly placed, badly lighted, and badly injured. They are in a northwestern corner, where light never comes that comes to all. The dramatic power and Flemish skill in portraiture of the man are, however, very visible, even in the darkness. No painter of his century approached him in animated grouping and powerful physiognomizing. Dignified, noble, powerful, and natural, he is the exact counterpart of Fra Angelico, among the Quattrocentisti. Two great, distinct systems,—the shallow, shrinking, timid, but rapturously devotional, piously sentimental school, of which Beato Angelico was facile princeps, painfully adventuring out of the close atmosphere of the miniatori into the broader light and more gairish colors of the actual, and falling back, hesitating and distrustful; and the hardy, healthy, audacious naturalists, wreaking strong and warm human emotions upon vigorous expression and confident attitude;—these two widely separated streams of Art, remote from each other in origin, and fed by various rills, in their course through the century, were to meet in one ocean at its close. This was then the fulness of perfection, the age of Angelo and Raphael, Leonardo and Correggio.
Fra Beato Angelico, who was a brother of this Dominican house, has filled nearly the whole monastery with the works of his hand. Considering the date of his birth, 1387, and his conventual life, he was hardly less wonderful than his wonderful epoch. Here is the same convent, the same city; while instead merely of the works of Cimabue, Giotto, and Orgagna, there are masterpieces by all the painters who ever lived to study;—yet imagine the snuffy old monk who will show you about the edifice, or any of his brethren, coming out with a series of masterpieces! One might as well expect a new Savonarola, who was likewise a friar in this establishment, to preach against Pio Nono, and to get himself burned in the Piazza for his pains.
In the old chapter-house is a very large, and for the angelic Frater a very hazardous performance,—a Crucifixion. The heads here are full of feeling and feebleness, except those of Mary Mother and Mary Magdalen, which are both very touching and tender. There is, however, an absolute impotence to reproduce the actual, to deal with groups of humanity upon a liberal scale. There is his usual want of discrimination, too, in physiognomy; for if the seraphic and intellectual head of the penitent thief were transferred to the shoulders of the Saviour in exchange for his own, no one could dispute that it would be an improvement.
Up stairs is a very sweet Annunciation. The subdued, demure, somewhat astonished joy of the Virgin is poetically rendered, both in face and attitude, and the figure of the angel has much grace. A small, but beautiful composition, the Coronation of the Virgin, is perhaps the most impressive of the whole series.
Below is a series of frescos by a very second-rate artist, Poccetti. Among them is a portrait of Savonarola; but as the reformer was burned half a century before Poccetti was born, it has not even the merit of authenticity. It was from this house that Savonarola was taken to be imprisoned and executed in 1498. There seems something unsatisfactory about Savonarola. One naturally sympathizes with the bold denouncer of Alexander VI.; but there was a lack of benevolence in his head and his heart. Without that anterior depression of the sinciput, he could hardly have permitted two friends to walk into the fire in his stead, as they were about to do in the stupendous and horrible farce enacted in the Piazza Gran Duca. There was no lack of self-esteem either in the man or his head. Without it, he would scarcely have thought so highly of his rather washy scheme for reorganizing the democratic government, and so very humbly of the genius of Dante, Petrarch, and others, whose works he condemned to the flames. A fraternal regard, too, for such great artists as Fra Angelico and Fra Bartolommeo,—both members of his own convent, and the latter a personal friend,—might have prevented his organizing that famous holocaust of paintings, that wretched iconoclasm, by which he signalized his brief period of popularity and power. In weighing, gauging, and measuring such a man, one ought to remember, that if he could have had his way and carried out all his schemes, he would have abolished Borgianism certainly, and perhaps the papacy, but that he would have substituted the rhapsodical reign of a single demagogue, perpetually seeing visions and dreaming dreams for the direction of his fellow-citizens, who were all to be governed by the hallucinations of this puritan Mahomet.
THE MEDICI CHAPEL.
The famous cemetery of the Medici, the Sagrestia Nuova, is a ponderous and dismal toy. It is a huge mass of expensive, solemn, and insipid magnificence, erected over the carcasses of as contemptible a family as ever rioted above the earth, or rotted under it. The only man of the race, Cosmo il Vecchio, who deserves any healthy admiration, although he was the real assassin of Florentine and Italian freedom, and has thus earned the nickname of Pater Patriae, is not buried here. The series of mighty dead begins with the infamous Cosmo, first grand duke, the contemporary of Philip II. of Spain, and his counterpart in character and crime. Then there is Ferdinando I., whose most signal achievement was not eating the poisoned pie prepared by the fair hands of Bianca Capello. There are other Ferdinandos, and other Cosmos,—all grand-ducal and pater-patrial, as Medici should be.
The chapel is a vast lump of Florentine mosaic, octagonal, a hundred feet or so in diameter, and about twice as high. The cupola has some brand-new frescos, by Benvenuto. "Anthropophagi, whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders," may enjoy these pictures upon domes. For common mortals it is not agreeable to remain very long upside down, even to contemplate masterpieces, which these certainly are not.
The walls of the chapel are all incrusted with gorgeous marbles and precious stones, from malachite, porphyry, lapis-lazuli, chalcedony, agate, to all the finer and more expensive gems which shone in Aaron's ephod. When one considers that an ear-ring or a brooch, half an inch long, of Florentine mosaic work, costs five or six dollars, and that here is a great church of the same material and workmanship as a breastpin, one may imagine it to have been somewhat expensive.
The Sagrestia Nuova was built by Michel Angelo, to hold his monuments to Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino, and grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and to Julian de' Medici, son of Lorenzo Magnifico.
It is not edifying to think of the creative soul and plastic hands of Buonarotti employed in rendering worship to such creatures. This Lorenzo is chiefly known as having married Madeleine de Boulogne, and as having died, as well as his wife, of a nameless disorder, immediately after they had engendered the renowned Catharine de' Medici, whose hideous life was worthy of its corrupt and poisoned source.
Did Michel Angelo look upon his subject as a purely imaginary one? Surely he must have had some definite form before his mental vision; for although sculpture cannot, like painting, tell an elaborate story, still each figure must have a moral and a meaning, must show cause for its existence, and indicate a possible function, or the mind of the spectator is left empty and craving.
Here, at the tomb of Lorenzo, are three masterly figures. An heroic, martial, deeply contemplative figure sits in grand repose. A statesman, a sage, a patriot, a warrior, with countenance immersed in solemn thought, and head supported and partly hidden by his hand, is brooding over great recollections and mighty deeds. Was this Lorenzo, the husband of Madeleine, the father of Catharine? Certainly the mind at once dethrones him from his supremacy upon his own tomb, and substitutes an Epaminondas, a Cromwell, a Washington,—what it wills. 'Tis a godlike apparition, and need be called by no mortal name. We feel unwilling to invade the repose of that majestic reverie by vulgar invocation. The hero, nameless as he must ever remain, sits there in no questionable shape, nor can we penetrate the sanctuary of that marble soul. Till we can summon Michel, with his chisel, to add the finishing strokes to the grave, silent face of the naked figure reclining below the tomb, or to supply the lacking left hand to the colossal form of female beauty sitting upon the opposite sepulchre, we must continue to burst in ignorance. Sooner shall the ponderous marble jaws of the tomb open, that Lorenzo may come forth to claim his right to the trophy, than any admirer of human genius will doubt that the shade of some real hero was present to the mind's eye of the sculptor, when he tore these stately forms out of the enclosing rock.
A colossal hero sits, serene and solemn, upon a sepulchre. Beneath him recline two vast mourning figures, one of each sex. One longs to challenge converse with the male figure, with the unfinished Sphinx-like face, who is stretched there at his harmonious length, like an ancient river-god without his urn. There is nothing appalling or chilling in his expression, nor does he seem to mourn without hope. 'Tis a stately recumbent figure, of wonderful anatomy, without any exaggeration of muscle, and, accordingly, his name is——Twilight!
Why Twilight should grieve at the tomb of Lorenzo, grandson of Lorenzo Magnifico, any more than the grandfather would have done, does not seem very clear, even to Twilight himself, who seems, after all, in a very crepuscular state upon the subject. The mistiness is much aided by the glimmering expression of his half-finished features.
But if Twilight should be pensive at the demise of Lorenzo, is there any reason why Aurora should weep outright upon the same occasion? This Aurora, however, weeping and stately, all nobleness and all tears, is a magnificent creation, fashioned with the audacious accuracy which has been granted to few modern sculptors. The figure and face are most beautiful, and rise above all puny criticism; and as one looks upon that sublime and wailing form, that noble and nameless child of a divine genius, the flippant question dies on the lip, and we seek not to disturb that passionate and beautiful image of woman's grief by idle curiosity or useless speculation.
The monument, upon the opposite side, to Julian, third son of Lorenzo Magnifico, is of very much the same character. Here are also two mourning figures. One is a sleeping and wonderfully beautiful female shape, colossal, in a position less adapted to repose than to the display of the sculptor's power and her own perfections. This is Night. A stupendously sculptured male figure, in a reclining attitude, and exhibiting, I suppose, as much learning in his torso as does the famous figure in the Elgin marbles, strikes one as the most triumphant statue of modern times.
The figure of Julian is not agreeable. The neck, long and twisted, suggests an heroic ostrich in a Roman breastplate. The attitude, too, is ungraceful. The hero sits with his knees projecting beyond the perpendicular, so that his legs seem to be doubling under him, a position deficient in grace and dignity.
It is superfluous to say that the spectator must invent for himself the allegory which he may choose to see embodied in this stony trio. It is not enough to be told the words of the charade,—Julian, Night, Morning. One can never spell out the meaning by putting together the group with the aid of such a key. Night is Night, obviously, because she is asleep. For an equally profound reason, Day is Day, because he is not asleep; and both, looked at in this vulgar light, are creations as imaginative as Simon Snug, with his lantern, representing moonshine. If the figures should arise and walk across the chapel, changing places with the couple opposite them, as if in a sepulchral quadrille, would the allegory become more intelligible? Could not Day or Night move from Julian's monument, and take up the same position at Lorenzo's tomb, or "Ninny's tomb," or any other tomb? Was Lorenzo any more to Aurora than Julian, that she should weep for him only?
Therefore one must invent for one's self the fable of those immortal groups. Each spectator must pluck out, unaided, the heart of their mystery. Those matchless colossal forms, which the foolish chroniclers of the time have baptized Night and Morning, speak an unknown language to the crowd. They are mute as Sphinx to souls which cannot supply the music and the poetry which fell from their marble lips upon the ear of him who created them.
The ancient residence of Cosmo Vecchio and his successors is a magnificent example of that vast and terrible architecture peculiar to Florence. This has always been a city, not of streets, but of fortresses. Each block is one house, but a house of the size of a citadel; while the corridors and apartments are like casemates and bastions, so gloomy and savage is their expression. Ancient Florence, the city of the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth centuries, the Florence of the nobles, the Florence of the Ghibellines, the Florence in which nearly every house was a castle, with frowning towers hundreds of feet high, machicolated battlements, donjon keeps, oubliettes, and all other appurtenances of a feudal stronghold, exists no longer. With the expulsion of the imperial faction, and the advent of the municipal Guelphs,—that proudest, boldest, most successful, and most unreasonable bourgeoisie which ever assumed organized life,—the nobles were curtailed of all their privileges. Their city castles, too, were shorn of their towers, which were limited to just so many ells, cloth measure, by the haughty shopkeepers who had displaced the grandees. The first third of the thirteenth century—the epoch of the memorable Buondelmonti street fight which lasted thirty years—was the period in which this dreadful architecture was fixed upon Florence. Then was the time in which the chains, fastened in those huge rings which still dangle from the grim house-fronts, were stretched across the street; thus enclosing and fettering a compact mass of combatants in an iron embrace, while from the rare and narrow murder-windows in the walls, and from the beetling roofs, descended the hail of iron and stone and scalding pitch and red-hot coals to refresh the struggling throng below.
After this epoch, and with the expiration of the imperial house of the Hohenstaufen, the nobles here, as in Switzerland, sought to popularize themselves, to become municipal.
Der Adel steigt von seinen alten Burgen, Und schwoert den Staedten seinen Buerger-Eid,
said the prophetic old Attinghausen, in his dying moments. The change was even more extraordinary in Florence. The expulsion of some of the patrician families was absolute. Others were allowed to participate with the plebeians in the struggle for civic honors, and for the wealth earned in commerce, manufactures, and handicraft. It became a severe and not uncommon punishment to degrade offending individuals or families into the ranks of nobility, and thus deprive them of their civil rights. Hundreds of low-born persons have, in a single day, been declared noble, and thus disfranchised. And the example of Florence was often followed by other cities.
The result was twofold upon the aristocracy. Those who municipalized themselves became more enlightened, more lettered, more refined, and, at the same time, less chivalrous and less martial than their ancestors. The characters of buccaneer, land-pirate, knight-errant could not be conveniently united with those of banker, exchange broker, dealer in dry goods, and general commission agents.
The consequence was that the fighting business became a specialty, and fell into the hands of private companies. Florence, like Venice, and other Italian republics, jobbed her wars. The work was done by the Hawkwoods, the Sforzas, the Bracciones, and other chiefs of the celebrated free companies, black bands, lance societies, who understood no other profession, but who were as accomplished in the arts of their own guild as were any of the five major and seven minor crafts into which the Florentine burgesses were divided.
This proved a bad thing for the liberties of Florence in the end. The chieftains of these military clubs, usually from the lowest ranks, with no capacity but for bloodshed, and no revenue but rapine, often ended their career by obtaining the seigniory of some petty republic, a small town, or a handful of hamlets, whose liberty they crushed with their own iron, and with the gold obtained, in exchange for their blood, from the city bankers. In the course of time such seigniories often rolled together, and assumed a menacing shape to all who valued municipal liberty. Sforza—whose peasant father threw his axe into a tree, resolving, if it fell, to join, as a common soldier, the roving band which had just invited him; if it adhered to the wood, to remain at home a laboring hind—becomes Duke of Milan, and is encouraged in his usurpation by Cosmo Vecchio, who still gives himself the airs of first-citizen of Florence.
The serpent, the well-known cognizance of the Visconti, had already coiled itself around all those fair and clustering cities which were once the Lombard republics, and had poisoned their vigorous life. The Ezzelinos, Carraras, Gonzagas, Scalas, had crushed the spirit of liberty in the neighborhood of Venice. All this had been accomplished by means of mercenary adventurers, guided only by the love of plunder; while those two luxurious and stately republics—the one an oligarchy, the other a democracy—looked on from their marble palaces, enjoying the refreshing bloodshowers in which their own golden harvests were so rapidly ripening.
Meanwhile a gigantic despotism was maturing, which was eventually to crush the power, glory, wealth, and freedom of Italy.
This palazzo of Cosmo the Elder is a good type of Florentine architecture at its ultimate epoch, just as Cosmo himself was the largest expression of the Florentine citizen in the last and over-ripe stage.
The Medici family, unheard of in the thirteenth century, obscure and plebeian in the middle of the fourteenth, and wealthy bankers and leaders of the democratic party at its close, culminated in the early part of the fifteenth in the person of Cosmo. The Pater Patriae,—so called, because, having at last absorbed all the authority, he could afford to affect some of the benignity of a parent, and to treat his fellow-citizens, not as men, but as little children,—the Father of his Country had acquired, by means of his great fortune and large financial connections, an immense control over the destinies of Florence and Italy. But he was still a private citizen in externals. There was, at least, elevation of taste, refinement of sentiment in Cosmo's conception of a great citizen. His habits of life were elegant, but frugal. He built churches, palaces, villas. He employed all the great architects of the age. He adorned these edifices with masterpieces from the pencils and chisels of the wonderful Quattrocentisti, whose productions alone would have given Florence an immortal name in Art history. Yet he preserved a perfect simplicity of equipage and apparel. In this regard, faithful to the traditions of the republic, which his family had really changed from a democracy to a ploutarchy, he had the good taste to scorn the vulgar pomp of kings,—"the horses led, and grooms besmeared with gold,"—all the theatrical paraphernalia and plebeian tinsel "which dazzle the crowd and set them all agape"; but his expenditures were those of an intellectual and accomplished oligarch. He was worthy, in many respects, to be the chief of those haughty merchants and manufacturers, who wielded more power, through the length of their purses and the cultivation of their brains, than did all the contemporaneous and illiterate barons of the rest of Christendom, by dint of castle-storming and cattle-stealing.
In an age when other nobles were proud of being unable to write their own names, or to read them when others wrote them, the great princes and citizens of Florence protected and cultivated art, science, and letters. Every citizen received a liberal education. Poets and philosophers sat in the councils of the republic. Philosophy, metaphysics, and the restoration of ancient learning occupied the minds and diminished the revenues of its greater and inferior burghers. In this respect, the Medici, and their abetters of the fifteenth century, discharged a portion of the debt which they had incurred to humanity. They robbed Italy of her freedom, but they gave her back the philosophy of Plato. They reduced the generality of Florentine citizens, who were once omnipotent, to a nullity; but they had at least, the sense to cherish Donatello and Ghiberti, Brunelleschi and Gozzoli, Ficino and Politian.
It is singular, too, with what comparatively small means the Medici were enabled to do such great things. Cosmo, unquestionably the greatest and most successful citizen that ever lived,—for he almost rivalled Pericles in position, if not in talent, while he surpassed him in good fortune,—was, during his lifetime, the virtual sovereign of the most enlightened and wealthy and powerful republic that had existed in modern times. He built the church of San Marco, the church of San Lorenzo, the cloister of San Verdiano. On the hill of Fiesole he erected a church and a convent. At Jerusalem he built a church and a hospital for pilgrims. All this was for religion, the republic, and the world. For himself he constructed four splendid villas, at Careggi, Fiesole, Caffaggiolo, and Trebbio, and in the city the magnificent palace in the Via Larga, now called the Riccardi.
In thirty-seven years, from 1434 to 1471, he and his successors expended eight millions of francs (663,755 gold florins) in buildings and charities,—a sum which may be represented by as many, or, as some would reckon, twice as many, dollars at the present day. Nevertheless, the income of Cosmo was never more than 600,000 francs, (50,000 gold florins,) while his fortune was never thought to exceed three millions of francs, or six hundred thousand dollars. Being invested in commerce, his property yielded, and ought to have yielded, an income of twenty per cent. Nevertheless, an inventory made in 1469 showed, that, after twenty-nine years, he left to his son Pietro a fortune but just about equal in amount to that which he had himself received from his father.
With six hundred thousand dollars for his whole capital, then, Cosmo was able to play his magnificent part in the world's history; while the Duke of Milan, son of the peasant Sforza, sometimes expended more than that sum in a single year. So much difference was there between the position and requirements of an educated and opulent first-citizen, and a low-born military parvenu, whom, however, Cosmo was most earnest to encourage and to strengthen in his designs against the liberties of Lombardy.
This Riccardi palace, as Cosmo observed after his poor son Peter had become bed-ridden with the gout, was a marvellously large mansion for so small a family as one old man and one cripple. It is chiefly interesting, now, for the frescos with which Benozzo Gozzoli has adorned the chapel. The same cause which has preserved these beautiful paintings so fresh, four centuries long, has unfortunately always prevented their being seen to any advantage. The absence of light, which has kept the colors from fading, is most provoking, when one wishes to admire the works of a great master, whose productions are so rare.
Gozzoli, who lived and worked through the middle of the fifteenth century, is chiefly known by his large and graceful compositions in the Pisan Campo Santo. These masterpieces are fast crumbling into mildewed rubbish. He had as much vigor and audacity as Ghirlandaio, with more grace and freshness of invention. He has, however, nothing of his dramatic power. His genius is rather idyllic and romantic. Although some of the figures in these Medici palace frescos are thought to be family portraits, still they hardly seem very lifelike. The subjects selected are a Nativity, and an Adoration of the Magi. In the neighborhood of the window is a choir of angels singing Hosanna, full of freshness and vernal grace. The long procession of kings riding to pay their homage, "with tedious pomp and rich retinue long," has given the artist an opportunity of exhibiting more power in perspective and fore-shortening than one could expect at that epoch. There are mules and horses, caparisoned and bedizened; some led by grinning blackamoors, others ridden by showy kings, effulgent in brocade, glittering spurs, and gleaming cuirasses. Here are horsemen travelling straight towards the spectator,—there, a group, in an exactly opposite direction, is forcing its way into the picture,—while hunters with hound and horn are pursuing the stag on the neighboring hills, and idle spectators stand around, gaping and dazzled; all drawn with a free and accurate pencil, and colored with much brilliancy;—a triumphant and masterly composition, hidden in a dark corner of what has now become a great dusty building, filled with public offices.
Here sits on her hill the weird old Etrurian nurse of Florence, withered, superannuated, feeble, warming her palsied limbs in the sun, and looking vacantly down upon the beautiful child whose cradle she rocked. Fiesole is perhaps the oldest Italian city. The inhabitants of middle and lower Italy were Pelasgians by origin, like the earlier races of Greece. The Etrurians were an aboriginal stock,—that is to say, as far as anything can be definitely stated regarding their original establishment in the peninsula; for they, too, doubtless came, at some remote epoch, from beyond the Altai mountains.
In their arts they seem to have been original,—at least, until at a later period they began to imitate the culture of Greece. They were the only ancient Italian people who had the art-capacity; and they supplied the wants of royal Rome, just as Greece afterwards supplied the republic and the empire with the far more elevated creations of her plastic genius.
The great works undertaken by the Tarquins, if there ever were Tarquins, were in the hands of Etrurian architects and sculptors. The admirable system of subterranean drainage in Rome, by which the swampy hollows among the seven hills were converted into stately streets, and the stupendous cloaca maxima, the buried arches of which have sustained for more than two thousand years, without flinching, the weight of superincumbent Rome, were Etrurian performances, commenced six centuries before Christ.
It would appear that this people had rather a tendency to the useful, than to the beautiful. Unable to assimilate the elements of beauty and grace furnished by more genial races, this mystic and vanished nation was rather prone to the stupendously and minutely practical, than devoted to the beautiful for its own sake.
At Fiesole, the vast Cyclopean walls, still fixed and firm as the everlasting hills, in their parallelopipedal layers, attest the grandeur of the ancient city. Here are walls built, probably, before the foundation of Rome, and yet steadfast as the Apennines. There are also a broken ring or two of an amphitheatre; for the Etrurians preceded and instructed the Romans in gladiatorial shows. It is suggestive to seat one's self upon these solid granite seats, where twenty-five hundred years ago some grave Etrurian citizen, wrapped in his mantle of Tyrrhenian purple, his straight-nosed wife at his side, with serpent bracelet and enamelled brooch, and a hopeful family clustering playfully at their knees, looked placidly on, while slaves were baiting and butchering each other in the arena below.
The Duomo is an edifice of the Romanesque period, and contains some masterpieces by Mino da Fiesole. On a fine day, however, the church is too dismal, and the scene outside too glowing and golden, to permit any compromise between nature and Mino. The view from the Franciscan convent upon the brow of the hill, site of the ancient acropolis, is on the whole the very best which can be obtained of Florence and the Val d' Arno. All the verdurous, gently rolling hills which are heaped about Firenze la bella are visible at once. There, stretched languidly upon those piles of velvet cushions, reposes the luxurious, jewelled, tiara-crowned city, like Cleopatra on her couch. Nothing, save an Oriental or Italian city on the sea-coast, can present a more beautiful picture. The hills are tossed about so softly, the sunshine comes down in its golden shower so voluptuously, the yellow Arno moves along its channel so noiselessly, the chains of villages, villas, convents, and palaces are strung together with such a profuse and careless grace, wreathing themselves from hill to hill, and around every coigne of vantage, the forests of olive and the festoons of vine are so poetical and suggestive, that we wonder not that civilized man has found this an attractive abode for twenty-five centuries.
Florence is stone dead. 'Tis but a polished tortoise-shell, of which the living inhabitant has long since crumbled to dust; but it still gleams in the sun with wondrous radiance.
Just at your feet, as you stand on the convent terrace, is the Villa Mozzi, where, not long ago, were found buried jars of Roman coins of the republican era, hidden there by Catiline, at the epoch of his memorable conspiracy. Upon the same spot was the favorite residence of Lorenzo Magnifico; concerning whose probable ponderings, as he sat upon his terrace, with his legs dangling over Florence, much may be learned from the guide-book of the immortal Murray, so that he who runs may read and philosophize.
Looking at Florence from the hill-top, one is more impressed than ever with the appropriateness of its name. The City of Flowers is itself a flower, and, as you gaze upon it from a height, you see how it opens from its calyx. The many bright villages, gay gardens, palaces, and convents which encircle the city, are not to be regarded separately, but as one whole. The germ and heart of Florence, the compressed and half hidden Piazza, with its dome, campanile, and long, slender towers, shooting forth like the stamens and pistils, is closely folded and sombre, while the vast and beautiful corolla spreads its brilliant and fragrant circumference, petal upon petal, for miles and miles around.
THE BATTLE OF LEPANTO.
It was two hours before dawn on Sunday, the memorable seventh of October, 1571, when the fleet weighed anchor. The wind had become lighter, but it was still contrary, and the galleys were indebted for their progress much more to their oars than to their sails. By sunrise they were abreast of the Curzolares, a cluster of huge rocks, or rocky islets, which, on the north, defends the entrance of the Gulf of Lepanto. The fleet moved laboriously along, while every eye was strained to catch the first glimpse of the hostile navy. At length the watch from the foretop of the Real called out, "A sail!" and soon after announced that the whole Ottoman fleet was in sight. Several others, climbing up the rigging, confirmed his report; and in a few moments more word was sent to the same effect by Andrew Doria, who commanded on the right. There was no longer any doubt; and Don John, ordering his pendant to be displayed at the mizzen-peak, unfurled the great standard of the League, given by the pope, and directed a gun to be fired, the signal for battle. The report, as it ran along the rocky shores, fell cheerily on the ears of the confederates, who, raising their eyes towards the consecrated banner, filled the air with their shouts.
The principal captains now came on board the Real to receive the last orders of the commander-in-chief. Even at this late hour there were some who ventured to intimate their doubts of the expediency of engaging the enemy in a position where he had a decided advantage. But Don John cut short the discussion. "Gentlemen," he said, "this is the time for combat, not for counsel." He then continued the dispositions he was making for the assault.
He had already given to each commander of a galley written instructions as to the manner in which the line of battle was to be formed, in case of meeting the enemy. The armada was now formed in that order. It extended on a front of three miles. Far on the right a squadron of sixty-four galleys was commanded by the Genoese, Andrew Doria, a name of terror to the Moslems. The centre, or battle, as it was called, consisting of sixty-three galleys, was led by John of Austria, who was supported on the one side by Colonna, the captain-general of the pope, and on the other by the Venetian captain-general, Veniero. Immediately in the rear was the galley of the Comendador Requesens, who still remained near the person of his former pupil; though a difference which arose between them on the voyage, fortunately now healed, showed that the young commander-in-chief was wholly independent of his teacher in the art of war. The left wing was commanded by the noble Venetian, Barberigo, whose vessels stretched along the Aetolian shore, which, to prevent his being turned by the enemy, he approached as near as, in his ignorance of the coast, he dared to venture. Finally, the reserve, consisting of thirty-five galleys, was given to the brave Marquis of Santa Cruz, with directions to act on any part where he thought his presence most needed. The smaller craft, some of which had now arrived, seem to have taken little part in the action, which was thus left to the galleys.
Each commander was to occupy so much space with his galley as to allow room for manoeuvring it to advantage, and yet not enough to enable the enemy to break the line. He was directed to single out his adversary, to close at once with him, and board as soon as possible. The beaks of the galleys were pronounced to be a hindrance rather than a help in action. They were rarely strong enough to resist a shock from the enemy; and they much interfered with the working and firing of the guns. Don John had the beak of his vessel cut away; and the example was speedily followed throughout the fleet, and, as it is said, with eminently good effect. It may seem strange that this discovery should have been reserved for the crisis of a battle.
When the officers had received their last instructions, they returned to their respective vessels; and Don John, going on board of a light frigate, passed rapidly through that part of the armada lying on his right, while he commanded Requesens to do the same with the vessels on his left. His object was to feel the temper of his men, and rouse their mettle by a few words of encouragement. The Venetians he reminded of their recent injuries. The hour for vengeance, he told them, had arrived. To the Spaniards, and other confederates, he said, "You have come to fight the battle of the Cross,—to conquer or die. But whether you die or conquer, do your duty this day, and you will secure a glorious immortality." His words were received with a burst of enthusiasm which went to the heart of the commander, and assured him that he could rely on his men in the hour of trial. On his return to his vessel, he saw Veniero on his quarter-deck, and they exchanged salutations in as friendly a manner as if no difference had existed between them. At a time like this, both these brave men were willing to forget all personal animosity, in a common feeling of devotion to the great cause in which they were engaged.
The Ottoman fleet came on slowly and with difficulty. For, strange to say, the wind, which had hitherto been adverse to the Christians, after lulling for a time, suddenly shifted to the opposite quarter, and blew in the face of the enemy. As the day advanced, moreover, the sun, which had shone in the eyes of the confederates, gradually shot its rays into those of the Moslems. Both circumstances were of good omen to the Christians, and the first was regarded as nothing short of a direct interposition of Heaven. Thus ploughing its way along, the Turkish armament, as it came nearer into view, showed itself in greater strength than had been anticipated by the allies. It consisted of nearly two hundred and fifty royal galleys, most of them of the largest class, besides a number of smaller vessels in the rear, which, like those of the allies, appear scarcely to have come into action. The men on board, including those of every description, were computed at not less than a hundred and twenty thousand. The galleys spread out, as usual with the Turks, in the form of a regular half-moon, covering a wider extent of surface than the combined fleets, which they somewhat exceeded in numbers. They presented, indeed, as they drew nearer, a magnificent array, with their gilded and gaudily painted prows, and their myriads of pennons and streamers fluttering gayly in the breeze, while the rays of the morning sun glanced on the polished scymitars of Damascus, and on the superb aigrettes of jewels which sparkled in the turbans of the Ottoman chiefs.
In the centre of the extended line, and directly opposite to the station occupied by the captain-general of the League, was the huge galley of Ali Pasha. The right of the armada was commanded by Mehemet Siroco, viceroy of Egypt, a circumspect as well as courageous leader; the left by Uluch Ali, dey of Algiers, the redoubtable corsair of the Mediterranean. Ali Pasha had experienced a similar difficulty with Don John, as several of his officers had strongly urged the inexpediency of engaging so formidable an armament as that of the allies. But Ali, like his rival, was young and ambitious. He had been sent by his master to fight the enemy; and no remonstrances, not even those of Mehemet Siroco, for whom he had great respect, could turn him from his purpose.
He had, moreover, received intelligence that the allied fleet was much inferior in strength to what it proved. In this error he was fortified by the first appearance of the Christians; for the extremity of their left wing, commanded by Barberigo, stretching behind the Aetolian shore, was hidden from his view. As he drew nearer, and saw the whole extent of the Christian lines, it is said his countenance fell. If so, he still did not abate one jot of his resolution. He spoke to those around him with the same confidence as before of the result of the battle. He urged his rowers to strain every effort. Ali was a man of more humanity than often belonged to his nation. His galley-slaves were all, or nearly all, Christian captives; and he addressed them in this neat and pithy manner: "If your countrymen win this day, Allah give you the benefit of it! Yet if I win it, you shall have your freedom. If you feel that I do well by you, do then the like by me."
As the Turkish admiral drew nearer, he made a change in his order of battle by separating his wings farther from his centre, thus conforming to the dispositions of the allies. Before he had come within cannon-shot, he fired a gun by way of challenge to his enemy. It was answered by another from the galley of John of Austria. A second gun discharged by Ali was as promptly replied to by the Christian commander. The distance between the two fleets was now rapidly diminishing. At this solemn hour a death-like silence reigned throughout the armament of the confederates. Men seemed to hold their breath, as if absorbed in the expectation of some great catastrophe. The day was magnificent. A light breeze, still adverse to the Turks, played on the waters, somewhat fretted by contrary winds. It was nearly noon; and as the sun, mounting through a cloudless sky, rose to the zenith, he seemed to pause, as if to look down on the beautiful scene, where the multitude of galleys, moving over the water, showed like a holiday spectacle rather than a preparation for mortal combat.
The illusion was soon dispelled by the fierce yells which rose on the air from the Turkish armada. It was the customary war-cry with which the Moslems entered into battle. Very different was the scene on board of the Christian galleys. Don John might be there seen, armed cap-a-pie, standing on the prow of the Real, anxiously awaiting the coming conflict. In this conspicuous position, kneeling down, he raised his eyes to heaven, and humbly prayed that the Almighty would be with his people on that day. His example was speedily followed by the whole fleet. Officers and men, all falling on their knees, and turning their eyes to the consecrated banner which floated from the Real, put up a petition like that of their commander. They then received absolution from the priests, of whom there were some in each vessel; and each man, as he rose to his feet, gathered new strength from the assurance that the Lord of Hosts would fight on his side.
When the foremost vessels of the Turks had come within cannon-shot, they opened a fire on the Christians. The firing soon ran along the whole of the Turkish line, and was kept up without interruption as it advanced. Don John gave orders for trumpet and atabal to sound the signal for action; and a simultaneous discharge followed from such of the guns in the combined fleet as could bear on the enemy. Don John had caused the galeazzas to be towed some half a mile ahead of the fleet, where they might intercept the advance of the Turks. As the latter came abreast of them, the huge galleys delivered their broadsides right and left, and their heavy ordnance produced a startling effect. Ali Pasha gave orders for his galleys to open on either side, and pass without engaging these monsters of the deep, of which he had had no experience. Even so their heavy guns did considerable damage to the nearest vessels, and created some confusion in the pasha's line of battle. They were, however, but unwieldy craft, and, having accomplished their object, seem to have taken no further part in the combat. The action began on the left wing of the allies, which Mehemet Siroco was desirous of turning. This had been anticipated by Barberigo, the Venetian admiral, who commanded in that quarter. To prevent it, as we have seen, he lay with his vessels as near the coast as he dared. Siroco, better acquainted with the soundings, saw there was space enough for him to pass, and darting by with all the speed that oars and wind could give him, he succeeded in doubling on his enemy. Thus placed between two fires, the extreme of the Christian left fought at terrible disadvantage. No less than eight galleys went to the bottom. Several more were captured. The brave Barberigo, throwing himself into the heat of the fight, without availing himself of his defensive armor, was pierced in the eye by an arrow, and though reluctant to leave the glory of the field to another, was borne to his cabin. The combat still continued with unabated fury on the part of the Venetians. They fought like men who felt that the war was theirs, and who were animated not only by the thirst for glory, but for revenge.
Far on the Christian right, a manoeuvre similar to that so successfully executed by Siroco was attempted by Uluch Ali, the viceroy of Algiers. Profiting by his superiority of numbers, he endeavored to turn the right wing of the confederates. It was in this quarter that Andrew Doria commanded. He also had foreseen this movement of his enemy, and he succeeded in foiling it. It was a trial of skill between the two most accomplished seamen in the Mediterranean. Doria extended his line so far to the right, indeed, to prevent being surrounded, that Don John was obliged to remind him that he left the centre much too exposed. His dispositions were so far unfortunate for himself that his own line was thus weakened and afforded some vulnerable points to his assailant. These were soon detected by the eagle eye of Uluch Ali; and like the king of birds swooping on his prey, he fell on some galleys separated by a considerable interval from their companions, and, sinking more than one, carried off the great Capitana of Malta in triumph as his prize.
While the combat thus opened disastrously to the allies both on the right and on the left, in the centre they may be said to have fought with doubtful fortune. Don John had led his division gallantly forward. But the object on which he was intent was an encounter with Ali Pasha, the foe most worthy of his sword. The Turkish commander had the same combat no less at heart. The galleys of both were easily recognized, not only from their position, but from their superior size and richer decoration. The one, moreover, displayed the holy banner of the League; the other, the great Ottoman standard. This, like the ancient standard of the caliphs, was held sacred in its character. It was covered with texts from the Koran, emblazoned in letters of gold, with the name of Allah inscribed upon it no less than twenty-eight thousand nine hundred times. It was the banner of the Sultan, having passed from father to son since the foundation of the imperial dynasty, and was never seen in the field unless the Grand-Seignior or his lieutenant was there in person.
Both the Christian and the Moslem chief urged on their rowers to the top of their speed. Their galleys soon shot ahead of the rest of the line, driven through the boiling surges as by the force of a tornado, and closing with a shock that made every timber crack, and the two vessels quiver to their very keels. So powerful, indeed, was the impetus they received, that the pasha's galley, which was considerably the larger and loftier of the two, was thrown so far upon its opponent that the prow reached the fourth bench of rowers. As soon as the vessels were disengaged from each other, and those on board had recovered from the shock, the work of death began. Don John's chief strength consisted in some three hundred Spanish arquebusiers, culled from the flower of his infantry. Ali, on the other hand, was provided with the like number of janissaries. He was also followed by a smaller vessel, in which two hundred more were stationed as a corps de reserve. He had, moreover, a hundred archers on board. The bow was still much in use with the Turks, as with the other Moslems.
The pasha opened at once on his enemy a terrible fire of cannon and musketry. It was returned with equal spirit, and much more effect; for the Turkish marksmen were observed to shoot over the heads of their adversaries. Their galley was unprovided with the defences which protected the sides of the Spanish vessels; and the troops, huddled together on their lofty prow, presented an easy mark to their enemies' balls. But though numbers of them fell at every discharge, their places were soon supplied by those in reserve. Their incessant fire, moreover, wasted the strength of the Spaniards; and as both Christian and Mussulman fought with indomitable spirit, it seemed doubtful to which side the victory would incline.
The affair was made more complicated by the entrance of other parties into the conflict. Both Ali and Don John were supported by some of the most valiant captains in their fleets. Next to the Spanish commander, as we have seen, were Colonna and the veteran Veniero, who, at the age of seventy-six, performed feats of arms worthy of a paladin of romance. Thus a little squadron of combatants gathered around the principal leaders, who sometimes found themselves assailed by several enemies at the same time. Still the chiefs did not lose sight of one another, but beating off their inferior foes as well as they could, each refusing to loosen his hold, clung with mortal grasp to his antagonist.
Thus the fight raged along the whole extent of the entrance of the Gulf of Lepanto. If the eye of the spectator could have penetrated the cloud of smoke that enveloped the combatants, and have embraced the whole scene at a glance, he would have beheld them broken up into small detachments, engaged in conflict with one another, wholly independently of the rest, and indeed ignorant of all that was doing in other quarters. The volumes of vapor, rolling heavily over the waters, effectually shut out from sight whatever was passing at any considerable distance, unless when a fresher breeze dispelled the smoke for a moment, or the flashes of the heavy guns threw a transient gleam over the dark canopy of battle. The contest exhibited few of those enlarged combinations and skilful manoeuvres to be expected in a great naval encounter. It was rather an assemblage of petty actions, resembling those on land. The galleys, grappling together, presented a level arena, on which soldier and galley-slave fought hand to hand, and the fate of the engagement was generally decided by boarding. As in most hand-to-hand contests, there was an enormous waste of life. The decks were loaded with corpses, Christian and Moslem lying promiscuously together in the embrace of death. Instances are given where every man on board was slain or wounded. It was a ghastly spectacle, where blood flowed in rivulets down the sides of the vessels, staining the waters of the Gulf for miles around.
It seemed as if some hurricane had swept over the sea, and covered it with the wreck of the noble armaments which a moment before were so proudly riding on its bosom. Little had they now to remind one of their late magnificent array, with their hulls battered and defaced, their masts and spars gone or fearfully splintered by the shot, their canvas cut into shreds and floating wildly on the breeze, while thousands of wounded and drowning men were clinging to the floating fragments, and calling piteously for help. Such was the wild uproar which had succeeded to the Sabbath-like stillness that two hours before had reigned over these beautiful solitudes!
The left wing of the confederates, commanded by Barberigo, had been sorely pressed by the Turks, as we have seen, at the beginning of the fight. Barberigo himself had been mortally wounded. His line had been turned. Several of his galleys had been sunk. But the Venetians gathered courage from despair. By incredible efforts they succeeded in beating off their enemies. They became the assailants in their turn. Sword in hand, they carried one vessel after another. The Capuchin, with uplifted crucifix, was seen to head the attack, and to lead the boarders to the assault. The Christian galley-slaves, in some instances, broke their fetters and joined their countrymen against their masters. Fortunately, the vessel of Mehemet Siroco, the Moslem admiral, was sunk; and though extricated from the water himself, it was only to perish by the sword of his conqueror, Juan Contarini. The Venetian could find no mercy for the Turk.
The fall of their commander gave the final blow to his followers. Without further attempt to prolong the fight, they fled before the avenging swords of the Venetians. Those nearest the land endeavored to escape by running their vessels ashore, where they abandoned them as prizes to the Christians. Yet many of the fugitives, before gaining the shore, perished miserably in the waves. Barberigo, the Venetian admiral, who was still lingering in agony, heard the tidings of the enemy's defeat, and exclaiming, "I die contented," he breathed his last.
Meanwhile the combat had been going forward in the centre between the two commanders-in-chief, Don John and Ali Pasha, whose galleys blazed with an incessant fire of artillery and musketry that enveloped them like "a martyr's robe of flames." Both parties fought with equal spirit, though not with equal fortune. Twice the Spaniards had boarded their enemy, and both times they had been repulsed with loss. Still their superiority in the use of their fire-arms would have given them a decided advantage over their opponents, if the loss thus inflicted had not been speedily repaired by fresh reinforcements. More than once the contest between the two chieftains was interrupted by the arrival of others to take part in the fray. They soon, however, returned to one another, as if unwilling to waste their strength on a meaner enemy. Through the whole engagement both commanders exposed themselves to danger as freely as any common soldier. Even Philip must have admitted that in such a contest it would have been difficult for his brother to find with honor a place of safety. Don John received a wound in the foot. It was a slight one, however, and he would not allow it to be attended to till the action was over.
At length the men were mustered, and a third time the trumpets sounded to the assault. It was more successful than those preceding. The Spaniards threw themselves boldly into the Turkish galley. They were met by the janissaries with the same spirit as before. Ali Pasha led them on. Unfortunately, at this moment he was struck by a musket-ball in the head, and stretched senseless on the gangway. His men fought worthily of their ancient renown. But they missed the accustomed voice of their commander. After a short, but ineffectual struggle against the fiery impetuosity of the Spaniards, they were overpowered and threw down their arms. The decks were loaded with the bodies of the dead and the dying. Beneath these was discovered the Turkish commander-in-chief, sorely wounded, but perhaps not mortally. He was drawn forth by some Castilian soldiers, who, recognizing his person, would at once have despatched him. But the wounded chief, having rallied from the first effects of his blow, had presence of mind enough to divert them from their purpose by pointing out the place below where he had deposited his money and jewels, and they hastened to profit by the disclosure before the treasure should fall into the hands of their comrades.
Ali was not so successful with another soldier, who came up soon after, brandishing his sword, and preparing to plunge it into the body of the prostrate commander. It was in vain that the latter endeavored to turn the ruffian from his purpose. He was a convict,—one of those galley-slaves whom Don John had caused to be unchained from the oar, and furnished with arms. He could not believe that any treasure would be worth so much to him as the head of the pasha. Without further hesitation he dealt him a blow which severed it from his shoulders. Then returning to his galley, he laid the bloody trophy before Don John. But he had miscalculated on his recompense. His commander gazed on it with a look of pity mingled with horror. He may have thought of the generous conduct of Ali to his Christian captives, and have felt that he deserved a better fate. He coldly inquired "of what use such a present could be to him," and then ordered it to be thrown into the sea. Far from being obeyed, it is said the head was stuck on a pike and raised aloft on board the captive galley. At the same time the banner of the Crescent was pulled down, while that of the Cross run up in its place proclaimed the downfall of the pasha.
The sight of the sacred ensign was welcomed by the Christians with a shout of "Victory!" which rose high above the din of battle. The tidings of the death of Ali soon passed from mouth to mouth, giving fresh heart to the confederates, but falling like a knell on the ears of the Moslems. Their confidence was gone. Their fire slackened. Their efforts grew weaker and weaker. They were too far from shore to seek an asylum there, like their comrades on the right. They had no resource but to prolong the combat or to surrender. Most preferred the latter. Many vessels were carried by boarding, others sunk by the victorious Christians. Before four hours had elapsed, the centre, like the right wing of the Moslems, might be said to be annihilated.
Still the fight was lingering on the right of the confederates, where, it will be remembered, Uluch Ali, the Algerine chief, had profited by Doria's error in extending his line so far as greatly to weaken it. His adversary, attacking it on its most vulnerable quarter, had succeeded, as we have seen, in capturing and destroying several vessels, and would have inflicted still heavier losses on his enemy, had it not been for the seasonable succor received from the Marquis of Santa Cruz. This brave officer, who commanded the reserve, had already been of much service to Don John, when the Real was assailed by several Turkish galleys at once, during his combat with Ali Pasha; the Marquis having arrived at this juncture, and beating off the assailants, one of whom he afterwards captured, the commander-in-chief was enabled to resume his engagement with the pasha.
No sooner did Santa Cruz learn the critical situation of Doria, than, supported by Cardona, general of the Sicilian squadron, he pushed forward to his relief. Dashing into the midst of the melee, they fell like a thunderbolt on the Algerine galleys. Few attempted to withstand the shock. But in their haste to avoid it, they were encountered by Doria and his Genoese. Thus beset on all sides, Uluch Ali was compelled to abandon his prizes and provide for his own safety by flight. He cut adrift the Maltese Capitana, which he had lashed to his stern, and on which three hundred corpses attested the desperate character of her defence. As tidings reached him of the discomfiture of the centre and the death of his commander, he felt that nothing remained but to make the best of his way from the fatal scene of action, and save as many of his own ships as he could. And there were no ships in the Turkish fleet superior to his, or manned by men under more perfect discipline; for they were the famous corsairs of the Mediterranean, who had been rocked from infancy on its waters.
Throwing out his signals for retreat, the Algerine was soon to be seen, at the head of his squadron, standing towards the north, under as much canvas as remained to him after the battle, and urged forward through the deep by the whole strength of his oarsmen. Doria and Santa Cruz followed quickly in his wake. But he was borne on the wings of the wind, and soon distanced his pursuers. Don John, having disposed of his own assailants, was coming to the support of Doria, and now joined in the pursuit of the viceroy. A rocky headland, stretching far into the sea, lay in the path of the fugitive, and his enemies hoped to intercept him there. Some few of his vessels stranded on the rocks. But the rest, near forty in number, standing more boldly out to sea, safely doubled the promontory. Then quickening their flight, they gradually faded from the horizon, their white sails, the last thing visible, showing in the distance like a flock of Arctic sea-fowl on their way to their native homes. The confederates explained the inferior sailing of their own galleys by the circumstance of their rowers, who had been allowed to bear arms in the fight, being crippled by their wounds.
The battle had lasted more than four hours. The sky, which had been almost without a cloud through the day, began now to be overcast, and showed signs of a coming storm. Before seeking a place of shelter for himself and his prizes, Don John reconnoitred the scene of action. He met with several vessels in too damaged a state for further service. These mostly belonging to the enemy, after saving what was of any value on board, he ordered to be burnt. He selected the neighboring port of Petala, as affording the most secure and accessible harbor for the night. Before he had arrived there, the tempest began to mutter and darkness was on the water. Yet the darkness rendered the more visible the blazing wrecks, which, sending up streams of fire mingled with showers of sparks, looked like volcanoes on the deep.
Long and loud were the congratulations now paid to the young commander-in-chief by his brave companions in arms, on the success of the day. The hours passed blithely with officers and men, while they recounted one to another their manifold achievements. But feelings of gloom mingled with their gayety, as they gathered tidings of the loss of friends who had bought this victory with their blood.
It was, indeed, a sanguinary battle, surpassing in this particular any sea-fight of modern times. The loss fell much the most heavily on the enemy. There is the usual discrepancy about numbers; but it may be safe to estimate the Turkish loss at about twenty-four thousand slain, and five thousand prisoners. But what gave most joy to the hearts of the conquerors was the liberation of twelve thousand Christian captives, who had been chained to the oar on board the Moslem galleys, and who now came forth with tears streaming down their haggard cheeks, to bless their deliverers.
The loss of the allies was comparatively small,—less than eight thousand. That it was so much less than that of their enemies may be referred in part to their superiority in the use of firearms; in part, also, to their exclusive use of these, instead of employing bows and arrows, weapons much less effective, but on which the Turks, like the other Moslem nations, seem to have greatly relied. Lastly, the Turks were the vanquished party, and in their heavier loss suffered the almost invariable lot of the vanquished.
As to their armada, it may almost be said to have been annihilated. Not more than forty galleys escaped, out of near two hundred and fifty which had entered into the action. One hundred and thirty were taken and divided among the conquerors. The remainder, sunk or burned, were swallowed up by the waves. To counterbalance all this, the confederates are said to have lost not more than fifteen galleys, though a much larger number doubtless were rendered unfit for service. This disparity affords good evidence of the inferiority of the Turks in the construction of their vessels, as well as in the nautical skill required to manage them. A large amount of booty, in the form of gold, jewels, and brocade, was found on board several of the prizes. The galley of the commander-in-chief alone is stated to have contained one hundred and seventy thousand gold sequins,—a large sum, but not large enough, it seems, to buy off his life.
The losses of the combatants cannot be fairly presented without taking into the account the quality as well as the number of the slain. The number of persons of consideration, both Christians and Moslems, who embarked in the expedition, was very great. The roll of slaughter showed that in the race of glory they gave little heed to their personal safety. The officer second in command among the Venetians, the commander-in-chief of the Turkish armament, and the commander of its right wing, all fell in the battle. Many a high-born cavalier closed at Lepanto a long career of honorable service. More than one, on the other hand, dated the commencement of their career from this day. Such was the case with Alexander Farnese, the young prince of Parma. Though somewhat older than his uncle, John of Austria, difference of birth had placed a wide distance in their conditions; the one filling the post of commander-in-chief, the other only that of a private adventurer. Yet even so he succeeded in winning great renown by his achievements. The galley in which he sailed was lying, yard-arm to yard-arm, alongside of a Turkish galley, with which it was hotly engaged. In the midst of the action, the young Farnese sprang on board of the enemy, and with his stout broadsword hewed down all who opposed him, opening a path into which his comrades poured one after another; and after a short, but murderous contest, he succeeded in carrying the vessel. As Farnese's galley lay just astern of Don John's, the latter could witness the achievement of his nephew, which filled him with an admiration he did not affect to conceal. The intrepidity he displayed on this occasion gave augury of his character in later life, when he succeeded his uncle in command, and surpassed him in military renown.
Another youth was in that sea-fight, who, then humble and unknown, was destined one day to win laurels of a purer and more enviable kind than those which grow on the battle-field. This was Cervantes, who, at the age of twenty-four, was serving on board the fleet as a common soldier. He was confined to his bed by a fever; but, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his captain, insisted, on the morning of the action, not only on bearing arms, but on being stationed at the post of danger. And well did he perform his duty there, as was shown by two wounds on the breast, and another in the hand, by which he lost the use of it. Fortunately, it was the left hand. The right yet remained, to record those immortal productions which were to be familiar as household words, not only in his own land, but in every quarter of the civilized world.
A fierce storm of thunder and lightning raged for four-and-twenty hours after the battle, during which the fleet rode safely at anchor in the harbor of Petala. It remained there three days longer. Don John profited by the time to visit the different galleys and ascertain their condition. He informed himself of the conduct of the troops, and was liberal of his praises to those who deserved them. With the sick and the wounded he showed the greatest sympathy, endeavoring to alleviate their sufferings, and furnishing them with whatever his galley contained that could minister to their comfort. With so generous and sympathetic a nature, it is not wonderful that he should have established himself in the hearts of his soldiers.
But the proofs of this kindly temper were not confined to his own followers. Among the prisoners were two sons of Ali, the Turkish commander-in-chief. One was seventeen, the other only thirteen years of age. Thus early had their father desired to initiate them in a profession which, beyond all others, opened the way to eminence in Turkey. They were not on board of his galley, and when they were informed of his death, they were inconsolable. To this sorrow was now to be added the doom of slavery.
As they were led into the presence of Don John, the youths prostrated themselves on the deck of his vessel. But raising them up, he affectionately embraced them. He said all he could to console them under their troubles. He caused them to be treated with the consideration due to their rank. His secretary, Juan de Soto, surrendered his quarters to them. They were provided with the richest apparel that could be found among the spoil. Their table was served with the same delicacies as that of the commander-in-chief; and his gentlemen of the chamber showed the same deference to them as to himself. His kindness did not stop with these acts of chivalrous courtesy. He received a letter from their sister Fatima, containing a touching appeal to Don John's humanity, and soliciting the release of her orphan brothers. He had sent a courier to give their friends in Constantinople the assurance of their personal safety; "which," adds the lady, "is held by all this court as an act of great courtesy,—gran gentilezza; and there is no one here who does not admire the goodness and magnanimity of your Highness." She enforced her petition with a rich present, for which she gracefully apologized, as intended to express her own feelings, though far below his deserts.
The young princes, in the division of the spoil, were assigned to the pope. But Don John succeeded in obtaining their liberation. Unfortunately, the elder died—of a broken heart, it is said—at Naples. The younger was sent home, with three of his attendants, for whom he had an especial regard. Don John declined the present, which he gave to Fatima's brother. In a letter to the Turkish princess, he remarked, that "he had done this, not because he undervalued her beautiful gift, but because it had ever been the habit of his royal ancestors freely to grant favors to those who stood in need of their protection, but not to receive aught by way of recompense."
THE WIND AND STREAM.
A brook came stealing from the ground; You scarcely saw its silvery gleam Among the herbs that hung around The borders of that winding stream,— A pretty stream, a placid stream, A softly gliding, bashful stream.
A breeze came wandering from the sky, Light as the whispers of a dream; He put the o'erhanging grasses by, And gayly stooped to kiss the stream,— The pretty stream, the flattered stream, The shy, yet unreluctant stream.
The water, as the wind passed o'er, Shot upward many a glancing beam, Dimpled and quivered more and more, And tripped along a livelier stream,— The flattered stream, the simpering stream, The fond, delighted, silly stream.
Away the airy wanderer flew To where the fields with blossoms teem, To sparkling springs and rivers blue, And left alone that little stream,— The flattered stream, the cheated stream, The sad, forsaken, lonely stream.
That careless wind no more came back; He wanders yet the fields, I deem; But on its melancholy track Complaining went that little stream,— The cheated stream, the hopeless stream, The ever murmuring, moaning stream.
Don't open your eyes, Polder! You think I am going to tell you about some of my Minnesota experiences; how I used to scamper over the prairies on my Indian pony, and lie in wait for wild turkeys on the edge of an oak opening. That is pretty sport, too, to creep under an oak with low-hanging boughs, and in the silence of a glowing autumn-day linger by the hour together in a trance of warm stillness, watching the light tracery of shadow and sun on that smooth sward, only now and then roused by the fleet rush of a deer through the wood, or the brisk chatter of a plume-tailed squirrel, till one hears a distant, sharp, clucking chuckle, and in an instant more pulls the trigger, and upsets a grand old cock, every bronzed feather glittering in the sunshine, and now splashed with scarlet blood, the delicate underwing ground into down as he rolls and flutters; for the first shot rarely kills at once with an amateur; there's too much excitement. Splendid sport, that! but I'm not going into it second-hand. I promised to tell you a story, now the skipper's fast, and the night is too warm to think of sleep down in that wretched bunk;—what another torture Dante might have lavished on his Inferno, if he'd ever slept in a fishing-smack! No. The moonlight makes me sentimental! Did I ever tell you about a month I spent up in Centreville, the year I came home from Germany? That was turkey-hunting with a vengeance!
You see, my pretty cousin Peggy married Peter Smith, who owns paper-mills in Centreville, and has exiled herself into deep country for life; a circumstance I disapprove, because I like Peggy, and manufacturers always bore me, though Peter is a clever fellow enough; but madam was an old flame of mine, and I have a lingering tenderness for her yet. I wish she was nearer town. Just that year Peggy had been very ill indeed, and Kate, her sister, had gone up to nurse her. When I came home Peggy was getting better, and sent for me to come up and make a visitation there in June. I hadn't seen Kate for seven years,—not since she was thirteen; our education intervened. She had gone through that grading process and come out. By Jupiter! when she met me at the door of Smith's pretty, English-looking cottage, I took my hat off, she was so like that little Brazilian princess we used to see in the cortege of the court at Paris. What was her name? Never mind that! Kate had just such large, expressive eyes, just such masses of shiny black hair, just such a little nose,—turned up undeniably, but all the more piquant. And her teeth! good gracious! she smiled like a flash of lightning,—dark and sallow as she was. But she was cross, or stiff, or something, to me for a long time. Peggy only appeared after dinner, looking pale and lovely enough in her loose wrapper to make Peter act excessively like——a young married man, and to make me wish myself at an invisible distance, doing something beside picking up Kate's things, that she always dropped on the floor whenever she sewed. Peggy saw I was bored, so she requested me one day to walk down to the poultry-yard and ask about her chickens; she pretended a great deal of anxiety, and Peter had sprained his ankle.
"Kate will go with you," said she.
"No, she won't!" ejaculated that young woman.
"Thank you," said I, making a minuet bow, and off I went to the farm-house. Such a pretty walk it was, too! through a thicket of birches, down a little hill-side into a hollow full of hoary chestnut-trees, across a bubbling, dancing brook, and you came out upon the tiniest orchard in the world, a one-storied house with a red porch, and a great sweet-brier bush thereby; while up the hill-side behind stretched a high picket fence, enclosing huge trees, part of the same brook I had crossed here dammed into a pond, and a chicken-house of pretentious height and aspect,—one of those model institutions that are the ruin of gentlemen-farmers and the delight of women. I had to go into the farm-kitchen for the poultry-yard key. The door stood open, and I stepped in cautiously, lest I should come unaware upon some domestic scene not intended to be visible to the naked eye. And a scene I did come upon, fit for Retzsch to outline;—the cleanest kitchen, a dresser of white wood under one window, and the farmer's daughter, Melinda Tucker, moulding bread thereat in a ponderous tray; her deep red hair,—yes, it was red and comely! of the deepest bay, full of gilded reflections, and accompanied by the fair, rose-flushed skin, blue eyes, and scarlet lips that belong to such hair,—which, as I began to say, was puckered into a thousand curves trying to curl, and knotted strictly against a pretty head, while her calico frock-sleeves were pinned-back to the shoulders, baring such a dimpled pair of arms,—how they did fly up and down in the tray! I stood still contemplating the picture, and presently seeing her begin to strip the dough from her pink fingers and mould it into a mass, I ventured to knock. If you had seen her start and blush, Polder! But when she saw me, she grew as cool as you please, and called her mother. Down came Mrs. Tucker, a talking Yankee. You don't know what that is. Listen, then.
"Well, good day, sir! I'xpect it's Mister Greene, Miss Smith's cousin. Well, you be! Don't favor her much though; she's kinder dark complected. She ha'n't got round yet, hes she? Dew tell! She's dre'ful delicate. I do'no' as ever I see a woman so sickly's she looks ter be sence that 'ere fever. She's real spry when she's so's to be crawlin',—I'xpect too spry to be 'hulsome. Well, he tells me you've ben 'crost the water. 'Ta'n't jest like this over there, I guess. Pretty sightly places they be though, a'n't they? I've seen picturs in Melindy's jography, looks as ef 'twa'n't so woodsy over there as 'tis in these parts, 'specially out West. He's got folks out to Indianny, an' we sot out fur to go a-cousinin', five year back, an' we got out there inter the dre'fullest woodsy region ever ye see, where 'twa'n't trees, it was 'sketers; husband he couldn't see none out of his eyes for a hull day, and I thought I should caterpillar every time I heerd one of 'em toot; they sartainly was the beater-ee!"
"The key, if you please!" I meekly interposed. Mrs. Tucker was fast stunning me!
"Law yis! Melindy, you go git that 'ere key; it's a-hangin' up'side o' the lookin'glass in the back shed, under that bunch o' onions father strung up yisterday. Got the bread sot to rise, hev ye? well, git yer bunnet an' go out to the coop with Mr. Greene, 'n' show him the turkeys an' the chickens, 'n' tell what dre'ful luck we hev hed. I never did see sech luck! the crows they keep a-comin' an' snippin' up the little creturs jest as soon's they're hatched; an' the old turkey hen't sot under the grapevine she got two hen's eggs under her, 'n' they come out fust, so she quit—"
Here I bolted out of the door, (a storm at sea did not deafen one like that!) Melindy following, in silence such as our blessed New England poet has immortalized,—silence that
"—Like a poultice comes, To heal the blows of sound."
Indeed, I did not discover that Melindy could talk that day; she was very silent, very incommunicative. I inspected the fowls, and tried to look wise, but I perceived a strangled laugh twisting Melindy's face when I innocently inquired if she found catnip of much benefit to the little chickens; a natural question enough, for the yard was full of it, and I had seen Hannah give it to the baby. (Hannah is my sister.) I could only see two little turkeys,—both on the floor of the second-story parlor in the chicken-house, both flat on their backs and gasping. Melindy did not know what ailed them; so I picked them up, slung them in my pocket-handkerchief, and took them home for Peggy to manipulate. I heard Melindy chuckle as I walked off, swinging them; and to be sure, when I brought the creatures in to Peggy, one of them kicked and lay still, and the other gasped worse than ever.
"What can we do?" asked Peggy, in the most plaintive voice, as the feeble "week! week!" of the little turkey was gasped out, more feebly every time.
"Give it some whiskey-punch!" growled Peter, whose strict temperance principles were shocked by the remedies prescribed for Peggy's ague.
"So I would," said Kate, demurely.
Now if Peggy had one trait more striking than another, it was her perfect, simple faith in what people said; irony was a mystery to her; lying, a myth,—something on a par with murder. She thought Kate meant so; and reaching out for the pretty wicker-flask that contained her daily ration of old Scotch whiskey, she dropped a little drop into a spoon, diluted it with water, and was going to give it to the turkey in all seriousness, when Kate exclaimed,—
"Peggy! when will you learn common sense? Who ever heard of giving whiskey to a turkey?"
"Why, you told me to, Kate!"
"Oh, give it to the thing!" growled Peter; "it will die, of course."
"I shall give it!" said Peggy, resolutely; "it does me good, and I will try."
So I held the little creature up, while Peggy carefully tipped the dose down its throat. How it choked, kicked, and began again with "week! week!" when it meant "strong!" but it revived. Peggy held it in the sun till it grew warm, gave it a drop more, fed it with bread-crumbs from her own plate, and laid it on the south window-sill. There it lay when we went to tea; when we came back, it lay on the floor, dead; either it was tipsy, or it had tried its new strength too soon, and, rolling off, had broken its neck! Poor Peggy!
There were six more hatched the next day, though, and I held many consultations with Melindy about their welfare. Truth to tell, Kate continued so cool to me, Peter's sprained ankle lasted so long, and Peggy could so well spare me from the little matrimonial tete-a-tetes that I interrupted, (I believe they didn't mind Kate!) that I took wonderfully to the chickens. Mrs. Tucker gave me rye-bread and milk of the best; "father" instructed me in the mysteries of cattle-driving; and Melindy, and Joe, and I, used to go strawberrying, or after "posies," almost every day. Melindy was a very pretty girl, and it was very good fun to see her blue eyes open and her red lips laugh over my European experiences. Really, I began to be of some importance at the farm-house, and to take airs upon myself, I suppose; but I was not conscious of the fact at the time.
After a week or two, Melindy and I began to have bad luck with the turkeys. I found two drenched and shivering, after a hail-and-thunder storm, and setting them in a basket on the cooking-stove hearth, went to help Melindy "dress her bow-pot," as she called arranging a vase of flowers, and when I came back the little turkeys were singed; they died a few hours after. Two more were trodden on by a great Shanghai rooster, who was so tall he could not see where he set his feet down; and of the remaining pair, one disappeared mysteriously,—supposed to be rats; and one falling into the duck-pond, Melindy began to dry it in her apron, and I went to help her; I thought, as I was rubbing the thing down with the apron, while she held it, that I had found one of her soft dimpled hands, and I gave the luckless turkey such a tender pressure that it uttered a miserable squeak and departed this life. Melindy all but cried. I laughed irresistibly. So there were no more turkeys. Peggy began to wonder what they should do for the proper Thanksgiving dinner, and Peter turned restlessly on his sofa, quite convinced that everything was going to rack and ruin because he had a sprained ankle.
"Can't we buy some young turkeys?" timidly suggested Peggy.
"Of course, if one knew who had them to sell," retorted Peter.
"I know," said I; "Mrs. Amzi Peters, up on the hill over Taunton, has got some."
"Who told you about Mrs. Peters's turkeys, Cousin Sam?" said Peggy, wondering.
"Melindy," said I, quite innocently.
Peter whistled, Peggy laughed, Kate darted a keen glance at me under her long lashes.
"I know the way there," said mademoiselle, in a suspiciously bland tone. "Can't you drive there with me, Cousin Sam, and get some more?"
"I shall be charmed," said I.
Peter rang the bell and ordered the horse to be ready in the single-seated wagon, after dinner. I was going right down to the farm-house to console Melindy, and take her a book she wanted to read, for no fine lady of all my New York acquaintance enjoyed a good book more than she did; but Cousin Kate asked me to wind some yarn for her, and was so brilliant, so amiable, so altogether charming, I quite forgot Melindy till dinner-time, and then, when that was over, there was a basket to be found, and we were off,—turkey-hunting! Down hill-sides overhung with tasselled chestnut-boughs; through pine-woods where neither horse nor wagon intruded any noise of hoof or wheel upon the odorous silence, as we rolled over the sand, past green meadows, and sloping orchards; over little bright brooks that chattered musically to the bobolinks on the fence-posts, and were echoed by those sacerdotal gentlemen in such liquid, bubbling, rollicking, uproarious bursts of singing as made one think of Anacreon's grasshopper
"Drunk with morning's dewy wine."
All these we passed, and at length drew up before Mrs. Peters's house. I had been here before, on a strawberrying stroll with Melindy,—(across lots it was not far,)—and having been asked in then, and entertained the lady with a recital of some foreign exploit, garnished for the occasion, of course she recognized me with clamorous hospitality.
"Why how do yew do, Mister Greene? I declare I ha'n't done a-thinkin' of that 'ere story you told us the day you was here, 'long o' Melindy." (Kate gave an ominous little cough.) "I was a-tellin' husband yesterday 't I never see sech a master hand for stories as you be. Well, yis, we hev got turkeys, young 'uns; but my stars! I don't know no more where they be than nothin'; they've strayed away into the woods, I guess, and I do'no' as the boys can skeer 'em up; besides, the boys is to school; h'm—yis! Where did you and Melindy go that day arter berries?"
"Up in the pine-lot, ma'am. You think you can't let us have the turkeys?"
"Dew tell ef you went up there! It's near about the sightliest place I ever see. Well, no,—I don't see how's to ketch them turkeys. Miss Bemont, she't lives over on Woodchuck Hill, she's got a lot o' little turkeys in a coop; I guess you'd better go 'long over there, an' ef you can't get none o' her'n, by that time our boys'll be to hum, an' I'll set 'em arter our'n; they'll buckle right to; it's good sport huntin' little turkeys; an' I guess you'll hev to stop, comin' home, so's to let me know ef you'll hev 'em."
Off we drove. I stood in mortal fear of Mrs. Peters's tongue,—and Kate's comments; but she did not make any; she was even more charming than before. Presently we came to the pine-lot, where Melindy and I had been, and I drew the reins. I wanted to see Kate's enjoyment of a scene that Kensett or Church should have made immortal long ago:—a wide stretch of hill and valley, quivering with cornfields, rolled away in pasture lands, thick with sturdy woods, or dotted over with old apple-trees, whose dense leaves caught the slant sunshine, glowing on their tops, and deepening to a dark, velvety green below, and far, far away, on the broad blue sky, the lurid splendors of a thunder-cloud, capped with pearly summits, tower upon tower, sharply defined against the pure ether, while in its purple base forked lightnings sped to and fro, and revealed depths of waiting tempest that could not yet descend. Kate looked on, and over the superb picture.
"How magnificent!" was all she said, in a deep, low tone, her dark cheek flushing with the words. Melindy and I had looked off there together. "It's real good land to farm," had been the sweet little rustic's comment. How charming are nature and simplicity!
Presently we came to Mrs. Bemont's, a brown house in a cluster of maples; the door-yard full of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese. Kate took the reins, and I knocked. Mrs. Bemont herself appeared, wiping her red, puckered hands on a long brown towel.
"Can you let me have some of your young turkeys, ma'am?" said I, insinuatingly.
"Well, I do'no';—want to eat 'em or raise 'em?"
"Both, I believe," was my meek answer.
"I do'no' 'bout lettin' on 'em go; 'ta'n't no gret good to sell 'em after all the risks is over; they git their own livin' pretty much now, an' they'll be wuth twice as much by'm'by."