« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
•D'Azeglio availed himself of this episode in the early wars of his country, to revive that sentiment of national unity which so many years of dispersion and tyranny had obscured, but not extinguished, in the Italian heart. From the records of the past he thus evoked the spirit so requisite to consecrate the present. Ettore Fieramosca is the ideal of an Italian knight; his unfortunate but nobly-cherished love, his prowess, beauty, and fiery enthusiasm for his country, his chivalric accomplishments and entire self-devotion, beautiful and attractive as they are, become more impressive from the strict historical fidelity with which they are associated. The games, laws, costume, turns of thought and speech, and military and popular habits of the era, are scrupulously given. Among the characters introduced are Cæsar Borgia and Vittoria Colonna, names that eloquently typify the two extremes of Italian character, — the integrity of which, in its villany and its virtue, is admirably preserved; the ecclesiastic, the inn-keeper, the man-at-arms, the gossiping citizen, and the prince of that day, are portrayed to the life. Many of the local scenes described have the clearness of outline and the vividness of tint which make them permanent reminiscences to the contemplative reader, and have associated them in the minds of his countrymen with the hero of D'Azeglio's romance and the sentiment of national honor.
In 1841 appeared "Nicolò di Lapi," the work which established D'Azeglio’s fame as a literary artist and a man of decided genius. The same patriotic instinct guided his pen as in his previous enterprise; but the design was more elaborate and finished, and the conception wrought out through more extensive research and a higher degree of feeling. The time chosen is that terrible epoch when Florence defended herself alone against the arms of Clement the Seventh and Charles the Fifth. In his account of the siege of 1529-30, he follows Varchi in regard to the prominent external facts; but into the partial and imperfect record of the historian he breathed the life of nature and tradition. For this purpose, the documents of the age were assiduously collated ; the monuments, walls, and towers of Florence interrogated; the bastions of Saint Miniato, the palaces of the Medici and Pazzi, the Bargello, the piazza, ancient private dwellings — the courts
and staircases, the portraits and legends — every tradition and memorial of the period, examined, to acquire the requisite scenie and local material, which are wrought up with such authentie minuteness as to form a complete picture, and one which the observation of every visitor to the Tuscan capital at once and entirely recognizes.
Nor has he bestowed less care upon the spirit and action of his romance. The people, as they once existed, in all their original efficiency and individual character, are reproduced, as they then lived, thought, suffered, and battled, after three hundred years of internal agitation and wars, proving themselves adequate to cope at once with both Emperor and Pope, and falling at last rather through treachery than conquest. The very atmosphere of those times seems to float around us as we read. The republic lives in its original vigor. We realize the events of history reanimated by the fire of poetic invention. Niccolo is the ideal of an Italian patriot, as Fieramosca is of a knight. There is a Lear-like solemnity in his vehement passion and religious selfcontrol, a Marino Faliero dignity in his political ruin. The consistent earnestness of his character, the wisdom and majesty, the fierce indignation and holy resignation, the high counsels and serene martyrdom of the venerable patriot, are at once exalted and touching. Depressed by existing degeneracy, D'Azeglio seems to have evoked this noble example from the past to revive the dormant hopes and elevate the national sentiment of his countrymen. Around this grand central figure he has grouped, with rare skill and marvellous effect, a number of historical personages and domestic characters, whose words, acts, and appearance, give distinct reality and dramatic effect to the whole conception. It is enough to mention Savonarola, Feruccio, and Malatesta, the reformer, the soldier, and the civic ruler,-- all reproduced with accuracy, and their agency upon the spirit of the age and the course of events suggested with consummate tact.
From the intensely exciting scenes enacted in the camp, around the walls of the besieged city, on the bastions, in the cabinet, and at Volterra, we are suddenly transported to the home of Lapi, and witness the domestic life of the age. The family portraits are exquisitely discriminated ; Lisa and Laodamia are two of
those finely contrasted and beautifully conceived female characters, which, like Scott's Minna and Brenda, leave a Shakspearian identity of impression on the reader's mind.' Lamberto is a fine type of the youth of Tuscany ; Troilo, of Italian duplicity; and Bindo, of a younger son, beloved and brave; while the struggle between monastic and martial impulses, so characteristic of the epoch, is vividly depicted in Fanfulla. Selvaggia is, also, a representative, both in her wild career and her genuine penitence, of a species native to the soil.
As Ruskin studied the architecture of Venice to fix dates and analyze combinations, D'Azeglio appears to have scrutinized the art, literature, and monuments, of Florence, to gather the varied and legitimate elements which compose this work. He catches the voice of faction, and prolongs its echo; he paints the edifice until it stands visibly before the imagination or the memory. He reveals the mood of the patriot and the lover, so that we share its deep emotion, and leads us, as it were, through the streets of the besieged city, to the bedside of the tender maiden and the vigil of the anxious citizen, till the objects and spirit of the age and people become, through sympathy and observation, like conscious realities. Among the incidental merits of this work may also be reckoned its philosophic insight, exhibited not only in a fine study of the laws of character, but in the influence of political opinion upon domestic life, the conflict between patriotic and personal sentiment, the local agency of institutions, and the mutual relation of military and religious enthusiasm.
Nor can we fail to perceive, throughout, the singular advantages enjoyed by the historical novelist in Italy, finding in her works of art, her temples, palaces, and libraries, the most significant, and, at the same time, authentic hints and glimpses of the life of the past. Many exquisite touches of picturesque or suggestive limning, such as mark the patient explorer and the observant artist, occur in “ Niccolò de Lapi.” But if to these characteristics the work owes much of its immediate popularity, and not a little of its intrinsic interest, the standard literary value attached to it is, in no small degree, derived from the style. The language of D'Azeglio is terse, flowing, and appropriate. He writes in a calm though fervent spirit; his tone is chastened and intense ;
and he uses words with a keen sense of their meaning and delicate adaptation. He has drawn a picture of the age, not only alive with moral sentiment and warmed by patriotic emotion, but so managed as to excite profound respect as well as earnest sympathy: to blend in harmonious contrast the office of historian and poet.
Indeed, D'Azeglio's great distinction is a certain moderation, judgment, and rational view of the prospects and needs of his country, rarely found in unison with so much zeal and genius. He early manifested this trait in habits of study and investigation, and has since and always been true to himself in this regard as a man of action. It is on account of his excellent sense, logical power, and reverence for truth, that he has so eminently succeeded both as an artist and a statesman. No better proof of his superiority to the mass of revolutionists can be desired, than the sentiments and arguments of his well-known political essay induced by the occurrences in Romagna in the autumn of 1845. He there states, without the least fanaticism or exaggeration, the real state of the case, and points out clearly and justly the reforms necessary in the Pontifical States. He rebukes all premature and ill-considered measures on the part of the oppressed people, as only calculatel to postpone their enfranchisement and prejudice their cause. He wisely advocates gradual enlightenment, and eloquently describes the fatal consequences of rash and ignorant movements.
He gives a plain and authentic statement of facts to show the utter impolicy, as well as inhumanity, of secret prosecutions, of resort to foreign arms, base espionage, a contraband system, censorship, and an inconsistent and unreliable code, and all the other flagrant evils of papal sway; and while thús effectively reproaching the government, he is equally indignant and impartial in his condemnation of reckless agitators and precipitate heroes, who not only vainly sacrifice themselves, but bring into fatal disrepute more judicious patriots. D'Azeglio comprehends the inevitable agency of public sentiment as a means of national redemption. He understands the Italian character, and points out the difference between animal and civic courage. He thinks fools as dangerous as knaves to the cause of freedom; shows the need of political education ; pleads for a due regard to time, opportunity, and means; in order to secure permanent advantage; and declares
that the great lesson his countrymen have to learn is to avoid the two extremes of reckless despair and inert resignation, to improve, to hope, to prepare the way, and thus gain moral vigor, the world's respect, and God's favor; and, while he demonstrates the injustice of the Papal government, he would not have its victims imitate the madman, who, in flying from an insect, ran over a precipice.
He gives instances, on the one hand, of the decadence of the towns of Romagna in consequence of misrule, and, on the other, of the concessions of despotic governments to the consistent and enlightened appeal of their subjects. In his strict justice, he
, even praises Austria for her administration of law, compared with the Roman tyranny, that makes the judge and accuser one; and selects from his own state an example of treachery with which to contrast the self-devotion of those who fought at Barletta. This able pamphlet, entitled, “Ultimi Casi di Romagna," is one of the most candid and thoughtful expositions of actual political evils, and the only available means of overcoming them, which a native writer has produced. No one can read it without sympathy for the oppressed, indignation against the government, and respect for the reasoning of D'Azeglio. It is not less intelligible than philosophic; and subsequent events have amply proved the soundness of its arguments and the correctness of its inferences.
If, in view of the many abortive revolutions, the want of unity, the influence of Jesuitism, the interference of France and Austria, and all the other antagonistic conditions that environ the intelligent votaries of Italian independence and nationality, we seek a clue by which to thread the dark labyrinth of her misfortunes, and find a way into the light of freedom and progress, what rational plan or ground of hope suggests itself? Only, as it seems to us, the practical adoption in some section of the land of those political and social reforms which, once realized, will inevitably spread; the successful experiment in a limited sphere, which, by the force of example and moral laws, will gradually
Let the capacity for self-government, the advantages of liberal institutions, be demonstrated in one state, and they cannot fail to penetrate the whole nation. A few years since, Rome seemed the destined nucleus for such a change, and subsequently