Abbildungen der Seite

humiliation and sorrow! And how little, too, we know of those who lived and those who died in exile; and of those no less worthy of admiration, who braved all the annoyances and vexations of petty tyranny and daily persecution, and the still greater danger of the dungeon or the scaffold, that they might remain at home and foster there those energies and virtues by which their country was one day to be restored to her place among the nations! Thus the tenacious will, the indomitable resolution, remained unchanged; but the battle was lost once more, because the struggle for freedom had preceded the struggle for independence.

And now what are the chances, what the hopes, of Italy? Why should we believe, that, after so many errors, she will err no more? What is there in her present condition to justify the trust, that the causes which have hitherto prevented her success are not inherent defects of national character, rather than the natural results of temporary circumstances?

First, there are circumstances in her division of territory far more favorable to independence than those which existed before. The kingdom of the Two Sicilies, with its eight millions of inhabitants, occupies the same position in the south; and the Papal territories, with their two million seven hundred thousand, still extend, as before, from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic. But Tuscany has just been rounded off on the northwest by the accession of Lucca, and had already been strengthened by several small accessions on the opposite frontier. Piedmont has obtained a seaport in Genoa, and Venice is preparing, by its union with Lombardy under a foreign dominion, for a closer union and more harmonious action, when the moment shall have arrived for becoming, with Lombardy, a part of a native and independent sovereignty.

Then, too, the communications between separate states and different parts of the same state are daily becoming surer and more rapid. Venice is united with the interior of Lombardy by a railroad, and with Ancona by steam. Post-roads of unsurpassed beauty traverse the valley of the Po in every direction, and stretch along the narrow strip that skirts the Adriatic. Florence, and through her the heart of Tuscany, is brought within two hours of the sea. And soon a road will run down through the Maremmas, and unite the seaport of Tuscany with the seaport of Rome, and Rome herself

with the sea, and then, holding its course southward along the eastern or western edge of the Campagna, bring you out in a few hours upon that lovely bay of Naples.*

And with this increased communication there is an increase of kindly feeling, a gradual wearing down of prejudices. For as the inhabitants of different districts and men of different pursuits come to see more of one another, they come to judge one another more justly, and see things as they really are. Nothing nourishes prejudice like being always in the same place, or narrows the mind like always bounding the view by the same horizon. Some men look abroad through books, and their minds expand as they look; but there are many, and many constant readers too, to whom the knowledge of books is as a dead letter, and knowledge is, to say nothing of "wisdom, through this entrance quite shut out." And there are many who never believe any thing which they cannot see, although they are perfectly ready to accept any result of their own observation. Those who are accustomed to acquire knowledge through books are not always aware how difficult it is for an untrained mind to give the ideas received through this unwonted medium that degree of distinctness which is essential to conviction. There is something vague and indistinct in the written description, like a landscape through a haze; something which, try they never so hard, eludes their grasp, and they have no faith in it. But let them once come where they can lay their hand upon it and see it with their own eyes, and they become as tenacious in their belief as they were before in their incredulity.

Thus, with these new facilities for communication, the peasant, who had hardly ventured beyond his native valley more than once or twice in his life, now comes down to the coast with the fruit of his little field, and sees with admiring eyes the wealth of cities, and looks out upon the sea, where so large a portion of it is won; and when he carries back, in return for what he had earned with the sweat of his brow, something which others have been toiling to earn with labor which he can now estimate more justly, he learns to feel how all the

* We believe that the road between Venice and Milan is finished; others, too, will soon be opened in the valley of the Po, and along the eastern coast. That through the Maremmas was proposed many years ago by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, but rejected by the late pope, whose prejudices upon this subject were insuperable.

forms of industry run into one another, and how close the ties are by which mankind are bound together. And when the careworn citizen passes from the crowded mart to the depth of some quiet valley, and feels his feverish pulse beat more calmly under the soothing influences of nature, must not he, too, feel that there is something in life besides enthralling cares, something worth living for besides power and gold? And let it not be said that this is impractical, mere idle dreaming and declamation, and that a holiday more or less, and the choice of a place to pass it in, have nothing to do with the graver concerns of life; for all soothing influences are healing to the careworn mind, and whatever turns thought inward purifies and strengthens and elevates the soul.

Yet much is still wanting, and must ever be so, to a perfect blending of interest and feeling. There is so much in history to preserve the memory of old enmities and dissensions; and nations, like individuals, live more or less under the influence of the past. There is that difference of dialect, which makes the Neapolitan almost as much a stranger in the streets of Milan as of Paris, and gives an unfamiliar sound even to the words of their common language. There is a distinction of race, too, sufficient to keep up the traces, in complexion and feature, of an original difference of origin ; and however quick and excitable a Lombard may appearto us, he seems placid and calm in a circle of Neapolitans.† The elements of union are abundant, but those of fusion must ever remain insufficient.


Nor is this to be regretted. Centralization is one of the banes of modern civilization. But Italian civilization has ever been distinguished by its variety, and the astonishing activity of the most brilliant period of Italian history was in a great measure owing to that parcelling out of her territory into independent states, which has so often been lamented as

*The works of the two Thierrys have been one of the chief causes of the interest now felt in this subject. There is an admirable letter to one of them upon it (we forget which), which was republished by Cantù in his Documenti.

We remember, as an instance of this, a paragraph in a Neapolitan journal upon a literary friend of ours from Milan, who was on a visit to Naples. Even in Rome he passed for an exceedingly animated talker, and the Romans laugh at us for our inflexible features and motionless hands; yet the Neapolitan journalist was struck with his calm, collected manner, and praised his "placidi ragionamenti."

the source of all her calamities. For thus the fields of action were multiplied, although each individual field was contracted. There were several courts instead of one, and republics differing widely in their policy and character both from one another, and from the little duchies and principalities amid which they lay. Hence, in a great measure, the richness and variety of Italian literature, and, in some degree, of Italian art. Almost every state offers abundant materials for a literary and artistical history of its own. What a difference between the glowing school of Venetian art, and the severe grandeur of the Roman, — between the gilded palaces of Genoa, and the stern simplicity of Florence! And yet there was a bond of national feeling uniting them all, even in the midst of their divisions. Titian painted with the feeling that his works would one day hang side by side with those of Raphael; and Ariosto, amid the crowd that press forward to meet him in his hour of triumph, sees Lombard and Tuscan and Roman mingling together, and none whom he longed more to see than the Neapolitan Sannazaro.*

And this feeling is stronger now than it ever was before, and must necessarily, from the very nature of it, become stronger still. For it is in the essence of sound national feeling to grow by the efforts made to suppress it, if there be only some few left to foster it as they ought. And this is the writer's task, the mission of the poet, the orator, and the historian; a noble mission, fraught with sacrifice and peril, calling for self-denial and forbearance, and such faith as only noble minds possess, but bringing with it that reward of noble minds which gives a charm to danger, and makes suffering sweet. In this respect, there is something peculiarly healthy

* "Colui che con lor viene e da' più degni
Ha tanto onor, mai più non conobb' io:
Ma se me ne fur dati veri segni

É l'uom che di veder tanto desio.
Giacobo Sannazar che alle Camene
Lasciar fa i monti, ed abitar le arene."

There is a passage in one of the letters of Machiavelli (to Franc. Vettori, if our memory serves us aright), which shows how Ariosto's contemporaries prized a place in this catalogue. Machiavelli sends his regards to Ariosto, but hints to his friend that he had expected to find his own name there. He was right, for we need the praise of those we live with; yet, of all the names in that list, how few are there that any but the antiquarian remembers, while Machiavelli's, like that of Ariosto, is as fresh as if he had died but yesterday!

Its writers seem to

in the present tone of Italian literature. feel that they have no common duty to perform, and are prepared to perform it manfully. They seek their inspiration in national sources, and in those pure springs which lie among the higher regions of thought. This imparts to their writings an elevation of tone and a directness of purpose which give them more importance than usually belongs to works of mere literature. Men writing for their country have a very different feeling from those who are thinking of nothing but their own glory. There is something of the feeling of the battlefield about it, something of its stern resolve and self-forgetfulness. The action of the mind is always freer and more efficient, for the nobleness of the aim leaves less play for those selfish passions which, resist we ever so firmly, will always come to mingle themselves more or less with even our best motives, and remind us that we are men. There is something very noble, surely, in abstract truth, and in those speculations which bring us into immediate relation with the general interests of humanity. They expand and elevate the mind, and fill it with those grand conceptions and sublime emotions which seem to be a kind of foretaste of what it may hope for when freed from the shackles of sense. But duty, although it looks forward to another world, acts in this, and the end of its action is to make this world what it ought to be. Meanwhile, it takes the world as it is, with all its faults, knowing that many of them are too nearly allied to virtue to be rooted out rudely, and that real progress is a gradual advancement and a succession of connected ameliorations. Thus, to make these sure, giving them their proper startingpoint, and so directing them that every step shall necessarily lead to some new and prolific developement, is its highest aim; nor can man ever attain it by running too far in advance, and losing sight of those realities which are his only medium of efficient communication with his fellow-men. And we believe that that writer will seldom leave any enduring trace behind him, or even arrive at the truth, whose interest in the general progress of society does not begin with devotion to his own country. Life in its healthy state is not a war with passion, but an effort to direct it to its legitimate objects; and the passion of patriotism, guided by a sound judgment and expanded by an enlarged view of human nature, is the surest warrant of the progress of humanity towards the fulfilment of its great mission.

« ZurückWeiter »