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THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
* * * * *
VOL. IX. FEBRUARY, 1862.--NO. LII
* * * * *
BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let this Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
AGNES OF SORRENTO
FLORENCE AND HER PROPHET
It was drawing towards evening, as two travellers, approaching Florence
from the south, checked their course on the summit of one of the circle
of hills which command a view of the city, and seemed to look down upon
it with admiration. One of these was our old friend Father Antonio, and
the other the Cavalier. The former was mounted on an ambling mule, whose
easy pace suited well with his meditative habits; while the other reined
in a high-mettled steed, who, though now somewhat jaded under the
fatigue of a long journey, showed by a series of little lively motions
of his ears and tail, and by pawing the ground impatiently, that he had
the inexhaustible stock of spirits which goes with good blood.
"There she lies, my Florence," said the monk, stretching his hands out
with enthusiasm. "Is she not indeed a sheltered lily growing fair among
the hollows of the mountains? Little she may be, Sir, compared to old
Rome; but every inch of her is a gem,--every inch!"
And, in truth, the scene was worthy of the artist's enthusiasm. All
the overhanging hills that encircle the city with their silvery
olive-gardens and their pearl-white villas were now lighted up with
evening glory. The old gray walls of the convents of San Miniato and the
Monte Oliveto were touched with yellow; and even the black obelisks of
the cypresses in their cemeteries had here and there streaks and dots
of gold, fluttering like bright birds among their gloomy branches. The
distant snow-peaks of the Apennines, which even in spring long wear
their icy mantles, were shimmering and changing like an opal ring
with tints of violet, green, blue, and rose, blended in inexpressible
softness by that dreamy haze which forms the peculiar feature of Italian
In this loving embrace of mountains lay the city, divided by the Arno as
by a line of rosy crystal barred by the graceful arches of its bridges.
Amid the crowd of palaces and spires and towers rose central and
conspicuous the great Duomo, just crowned with that magnificent dome
which was then considered a novelty and a marvel in architecture, and
which Michel Angelo looked longingly back upon when he was going to Rome
to build that more wondrous orb of Saint Peter's. White and stately by
its side shot up the airy shaft of the Campanile; and the violet vapor
swathing the whole city in a tender indistinctness, these two striking
objects, rising by their magnitude far above it, seemed to stand alone
in a sort of airy grandeur.
And now the bells of the churches were sounding the Ave Maria, filling
the air with sweet and solemn vibrations, as if angels were passing to
and fro overhead, harping as they went; and ever and anon the great bell
of the Campanile came pulsing in with a throb of sound of a quality so
different that one hushed one's breath to hear. It might be fancied to
be the voice of one of those kingly archangels that one sees drawn by
the old Florentine religious artists,--a voice grave and unearthly, and
with a plaintive undertone of divine mystery.
The monk and the cavalier bent low in their saddles, and seemed to join
devoutly in the worship of the hour.
One need not wonder at the enthusiasm of the returning pilgrim of those
days for the city of his love, who feels the charm that lingers around
that beautiful place even in modern times. Never was there a spot
to which the heart could insensibly grow with a more home-like
affection,--never one more thoroughly consecrated in every stone by the
sacred touch of genius.
A republic, in the midst of contending elements, the history of
Florence, in the Middle Ages, was a history of what shoots and blossoms
the Italian nature might send forth, when rooted in the rich soil
of liberty. It was a city of poets and artists. Its statesmen, its
merchants, its common artisans, and the very monks in its convents, were
all pervaded by one spirit. The men of Florence in its best days were
men of a large, grave, earnest mould. What the Puritans of New England
wrought out with severest earnestness in their reasonings and their
lives these early Puritans of Italy embodied in poetry, sculpture, and
painting. They built their Cathedral and their Campanile, as the Jews
of old built their Temple, with awe and religious fear, that they might
thus express by costly and imperishable monuments their sense of God's
majesty and beauty. The modern traveller who visits the churches and
convents of Florence, or the museums where are preserved the fading
remains of its early religious Art, if he be a person of any
sensibility, cannot fail to be affected with the intense gravity and
earnestness which pervade them. They seem less to be paintings for the
embellishment of life than eloquent picture-writing by which burning
religious souls sought to preach the truths of the invisible world to
the eye of the multitude. Through all the deficiencies of perspective,
coloring, and outline incident to the childhood and early youth of Art,
one feels the passionate purpose of some lofty soul to express ideas of
patience, self-sacrifice, adoration, and aspiration far transcending the
limits of mortal capability.
The angels and celestial beings of these grave old painters are as
different from the fat little pink Cupids or lovely laughing children of
Titian and Correggio as are the sermons of President Edwards from the
love-songs of Tom Moore. These old seers of the pencil give you grave,
radiant beings, strong as man, fine as woman, sweeping downward in lines
of floating undulation, and seeming by the ease with which they remain
poised in the air to feel none of that earthly attraction which draws
material bodies earthward. Whether they wear the morning star on their
forehead or bear the lily or the sword in their hand, there is still
that suggestion of mystery and power about them, that air of dignity and
repose, that speak the children of a nobler race than ours. One could
well believe such a being might pass in his serene poised majesty of
motion through the walls of a gross material dwelling without deranging
one graceful fold of his swaying robe or unclasping the hands folded
quietly on his bosom. Well has a modern master of art and style said of
these old artists, "Many pictures are ostentatious exhibitions of the
artist's power of speech, the clear and vigorous elocution of useless
and senseless words; while the earlier efforts of Giotto and Ciniabue
are the burning messages of prophecy delivered by the stammering lips of
But at the time we write, Florence had passed through her ages of
primitive religions and republican simplicity, and was fast hastening to
her downfall. The genius, energy, and prophetic enthusiasm of Savonarola
had made, it is true, a desperate rally on the verge of the precipice;
but no one man has ever power to turn back the downward slide of a whole
When Father Antonio left Sorrento in company with the cavalier, it
was the intention of the latter to go with him only so far as their
respective routes should lie together. The band under the command of
Agostino was posted in a ruined fortress in one of those airily perched
old mountain-towns which form so picturesque and characteristic a
feature of the Italian landscape. But before they reached this spot, the
simple, poetic, guileless monk, with his fresh artistic nature, had so
won upon his travelling companion that a most enthusiastic friendship
had sprung up between them, and Agostino could not find it in his heart
at once to separate from him. Tempest-tossed and homeless, burning with
a sense of wrong, alienated from the faith of his fathers through his
intellect and moral sense, yet clinging to it with his memory and
imagination, he found in the tender devotional fervor of the artist monk
a reconciling and healing power. He shared, too, in no small degree, the
feelings which now possessed the breast of his companion for the
great reformer whose purpose seemed to meditate nothing less than
the restoration of the Church of Italy to the primitive apostolic
simplicity. He longed to see him,--to listen to the eloquence of which
he had heard so much. Then, too, he had thoughts that but vaguely shaped
themselves in his mind. This noble man, so brave and courageous, menaced
by the forces of a cruel tyranny, might he not need the protection of a
good sword? He recollected, too, that he had an uncle high in the favor
of the King of France, to whom he had written a full account of his own
situation. Might he not be of use in urging this uncle to induce the
French King to throw before Savonarola the shield of his protection? At
all events, he entered Florence this evening with the burning zeal of a
young neophyte who hopes to effect something himself for a glorious and
sacred cause embodied in a leader who commands his deepest veneration.
"My son," said Father Antonio, as they raised their heads after the
evening prayer, "I am at this time like a man who, having long been,
away from his home, fears, on returning, that he shall hear some evil
tidings of those he hath left. I long, yet dread, to go to my dear
Father Girolamo and the beloved brothers in our house. There is a
presage that lies heavy on my heart, so that I cannot shake it off. Look
at our glorious old Duomo;--doth she not sit there among the houses and
palaces as a queen-mother among nations,--worthy, in her greatness and
beauty, to represent the Church of the New Jerusalem, the Bride of the
Lord? Ah, I have seen it thronged and pressed with the multitude who
came to crave the bread of life from our master!"
"Courage, my friend!" said Agostino; "it cannot be that Florence will
suffer her pride and glory to be trodden down. Let us hasten on, for the
shades of evening are coming fast, and there is a keen wind sweeping
down from your snowy mountains."
And the two soon found themselves plunging into the shadows of the
streets, threading their devious way to the convent.
At length they drew up before a dark wall, where the Father Antonio rang
A door was immediately opened, a cowled head appeared, and a cautious
"Who is there?"
"Ah, is that you, good Brother Angelo?" said Father Antonio, cheerily.
"And is it you, dear Brother Antonio? Come in! come in!" was the cordial
response, as the two passed into the court; "truly, it will make all our
hearts leap to see you."
"And, Brother Angelo, how is our dear father? I have been so anxious
"Oh, fear not!--he sustains himself in God, and is full of sweetness to
"But do the people stand by him, Angelo, and the Signoria?"
"He has strong friends as yet, but his enemies are like ravening wolves.
The Pope hath set on the Franciscans, and they hunt him as dogs do a
good stag.--But whom have you here with you?" added the monk, raising
his torch and regarding the knight.
"Fear him not; he is a brave knight and good Christian, who comes to
offer his sword to our father and seek his counsels."
"He shall be welcome," said the porter, cheerfully. "We will have you
into the refectory forthwith, for you must be hungry."
The young cavalier, following the flickering torch of his conductor, had
only a dim notion of long cloistered corridors, out of which now and
then, as the light flared by, came a golden gleam from some quaint old
painting, where the pure angel forms of Angelico stood in the gravity
of an immortal youth, or the Madonna, like a bending lily, awaited the
message of Heaven; but when they entered the refectory, a cheerful voice
addressed them, and Father Antonio was clasped in the embrace of the
father so much beloved.
"Welcome, welcome, my dear son!" said that rich voice which had thrilled
so many thousand Italian hearts with its music. "So you are come back to
the fold again. How goes the good work of the Lord?"
"Well, everywhere," said Father Antonio; and then, recollecting his
young friend, he suddenly turned and said,--
"Let me present to you one son who comes to seek your instructions,--the
young Signor Agostino, of the noble house of Sarelli."
The Superior turned to Agostino with a movement full of a generous
frankness, and warmly extended his hand, at the same time fixing upon
him the mesmeric glance of a pair of large, deep blue eyes, which might,
on slight observation, have been mistaken for black, so great was their
depth and brilliancy.
Agostino surveyed his new acquaintance with that mingling of ingenuous
respect and curiosity with which an ardent young man would regard the
most distinguished leader of his age, and felt drawn to him by a
certain atmosphere of vital cordiality such as one can feel better than
"You have ridden far to-day, my son,--you must be weary," said the
Superior, affably,--"but here you must feel yourself at home; command
us in anything we can do for you. The brothers will attend to those
refreshments which are needed after so long a journey; and when you have
rested and supped, we shall hope to see you a little more quietly."
So saying, he signed to one or two brothers who stood by, and,
commending the travellers to their care, left the apartment.
In a few moments a table was spread with a plain and wholesome repast,
to which the two travellers sat down with appetites sharpened by their
During the supper, the brothers of the convent, among whom Father
Antonio had always been a favorite, crowded around him in a state of
"You should have been here the last week," said one; "such a turmoil as
we have been in!"
"Yes," said another,--"the Pope hath set on the Franciscans, who, you
know, are always ready enough to take up with anything against our
order, and they have been pursuing our father like so many hounds."
"There hath been a whirlwind of preaching here and there," said a
third,--"in the Duomo, and Santa Croce, and San Lorenzo; and they have
battled to and fro, and all the city is full of it."
"Tell him about yesterday, about the ordeal," shouted an eager voice.
Two or three voices took up the story at once, and began to tell
it,--all the others correcting, contradicting, or adding incidents. From
the confused fragments here and there Agostino gathered that there had
been on the day before a popular spectacle in the grand piazza, in
which, according to an old superstition of the Middle Ages, Fra Girolamo
Savonarola and his opponents were expected to prove the truth of their
words by passing unhurt through the fire; that two immense piles of
combustibles had been constructed with a narrow passage between, and the
whole magistracy of the city convened, with a throng of the populace,
eager for the excitement of the spectacle; that the day had been spent
in discussions, and scruples, and preliminaries; and that, finally,
in the afternoon, a violent storm of rain arising had dispersed the
multitude and put a stop to the whole exhibition.
"But the people are not satisfied," said Father Angelo; "and there are
enough mischief-makers among them to throw all the blame on our father."
"Yes," said one, "they say he wanted to burn the Holy Sacrament, because
he was going to take it with him into the fire."
"As if it could burn!" said another voice.
"It would to all human appearance, I suppose," said a third.
"Any way," said a fourth, "there is some mischief brewing; for here is
our friend Prospero Rondinelli just come in, who says, when he came past
the Duomo, he saw people gathering, and heard them threatening us: there
were as many as two hundred, he thought."
"We ought to tell Father Girolamo," exclaimed several voices.
"Oh, he will not be disturbed!" said Father Angelo. "Since these
affairs, he hath been in prayer in the chapter-room before the blessed
Angelico's picture of the Cross. When we would talk with him of these
things, he waves us away, and says only, 'I am weary; go and tell
"He bade me come to him after supper," said Father Antonio. "I will talk
"Do so,--that is right," said two or three eager voices, as the monk and
Agostino, having finished their repast, arose to be conducted to the
presence of the father.
THE ATTACK ON SAN MARCO.
They found him in a large and dimly lighted apartment, sitting absorbed
in pensive contemplation before a picture of the Crucifixion by Fra
Angelico, which, whatever might be its _naive_ faults of drawing and
perspective, had an intense earnestness of feeling, and, though faded
and dimmed by the lapse of centuries, still stirs in some faint wise
even the practised _dilettanti_ of our day.
The face upon the cross, with its majestic patience, seemed to shed a
blessing down on the company of saints of all ages who were grouped by
their representative men at the foot. Saint Dominic, Saint Ambrose,
Saint Augustin, Saint Jerome, Saint Francis, and Saint Benedict were
depicted as standing before the Great Sacrifice in company with the
Twelve Apostles, the two Maries, and the fainting mother of Jesus,--thus
expressing the unity of the Church Universal in that great victory of
sorrow and glory. The painting was inclosed above by a semicircular
bordering composed of medallion heads of the Prophets, and below was a
similar medallion border of the principal saints and worthies of the
Dominican order. In our day such pictures are visited by tourists with
red guide-books in their hands, who survey them in the intervals of
careless conversation; but they were painted by the simple artist on
his knees, weeping and praying as he worked, and the sight of them was
accepted by like simple-hearted Christians as a perpetual sacrament of
the eye, by which they received Christ into their souls.
So absorbed was the father in the contemplation of this picture, that he
did not hear the approaching footsteps of the knight and monk. When at
last they came so near as almost to touch him, he suddenly looked up,
and it became apparent that his eyes were full of tears.
He rose, and, pointing with a mute gesture toward the painting, said,--
"There is more in that than in all Michel Angelo Buonarotti hath done
yet, though he be a God-fearing youth,--more than in all the heathen
marbles in Lorenzo's gardens. But sit down with me here. I have to come
here often, where I can refresh my courage."
The monk and knight seated themselves, the latter with his attention
riveted on the remarkable man before him. The head and face of
Savonarola are familiar to us by many paintings and medallions, which,
however, fail to impart what must have been that effect of his personal
presence which so drew all hearts to him in his day. The knight saw a
man of middle age, of elastic, well-knit figure, and a flexibility
and grace of motion which seemed to make every nerve, even to his
finger-ends, vital with the expression of his soul. The close-shaven
crown and the plain white Dominican robe gave a severe and statuesque
simplicity to the lines of his figure. His head and face, like those
of most of the men of genius whom modern Italy has produced, were so
strongly cast in the antique mould as to leave no doubt of the identity
of modern Italian blood with that of the great men of ancient Italy. His
low, broad forehead, prominent Roman nose, well-cut, yet fully outlined
lips, and strong, finely moulded jaw and chin, all spoke the old Roman
vigor and energy, while the flexible delicacy of all the muscles of his
face and figure gave an inexpressible fascination to his appearance.
Every emotion and changing thought seemed to flutter and tremble over
his countenance as the shadow of leaves over sunny water. His eye had
a wonderful dilating power, and when he was excited seemed to shower
sparks; and his voice possessed a surprising scale of delicate and
melodious inflections, which could take him in a moment through the
whole range of human feeling, whether playful and tender or denunciatory
and terrible. Yet, when in repose among his friends, there was an almost
childlike simplicity and artlessness of manner, which drew the heart by
an irresistible attraction. At this moment it was easy to see by his
pale cheek and the furrowed lines of his face that he had been passing
through severe struggles; but his mind seemed stayed on some invisible
centre, in a solemn and mournful calm.
"Come, tell me something of the good works of the Lord in our Italy,
brother," he said, with a smile which was almost playful in its
brightness. "You have been through all the lowly places of the land,
carrying our Lord's bread to the poor, and repairing and beautifying
shrines and altars by the noble gift that is in you."
"Yes, father," said the monk; "and I have found that there are many
sheep of the Lord that feed quietly among the mountains of Italy, and
love nothing so much as to hear of the dear Shepherd who laid down His
life for them."
"Even so, even so," said the Superior, with animation; "and it is the
thought of these sweet hearts that comforts me when my soul is among
lions. The foundation standeth sure,--the Lord knoweth them that are
"And it is good and encouraging," said Father Antonio, "to see the zeal
of the poor, who will give their last penny for the altar of the Lord,
and who flock so to hear the word and take the sacraments. I have
had precious seasons of preaching and confessing, and have worked in
blessedness many days restoring and beautifying the holy pictures and
statues whereby these little ones have been comforted. What with the
wranglings of princes and the factions and disturbances in our poor
Italy, there be many who suffer in want and loss of all things, so that
no refuge remains to them but the altars of our Jesus, and none cares
for them but He."
"Brother," said the Superior, "there be thousands of flowers fairer than
man ever saw that grow up in waste places and in deep dells and shades
of mountains; but God bears each one in His heart, and delighteth
Himself in silence with them: and so doth He with these poor, simple,
unknown souls. The True Church is not a flaunting queen who goes boldly
forth among men displaying her beauties, but a veiled bride, a dove that
is in the cleft of the rocks, whose voice is known only to the Beloved.
Ah! when shall the great marriage-feast come, when all shall behold her
glorified? I had hoped to see the day here in Italy: but now"----
The father stopped, and seemed to lapse into unconscious musing,--his
large eye growing fixed and mysterious in its expression.
"The brothers have been telling me somewhat of the tribulations you have
been through," said Father Antonio, who thought he saw a good opening to
introduce the subject nearest his heart.
"No more of that!--no more!" said the Superior, turning away his head
with an expression of pain and weariness; "rather let us look up. What
think you, brother, are all _these_ doing now?" he said, pointing to the
saints in the picture. "They are all alive and well, and see clearly
through our darkness." Then, rising up, he added, solemnly, "Whatever
man may say or do, it is enough for me to feel that my dearest Lord and
His blessed Mother and all the holy archangels, the martyrs and prophets
and apostles, are with me. The end is coming."
"But, dearest father," said Antonio, "think you the Lord will suffer the
wicked to prevail?"
"It may be for a time," said Savonarola. "As for me, I am in His hands
only as an instrument. He is master of the forge and handles the hammer,
and when He has done using it He casts it from Him. Thus He did with
Jeremiah, whom He permitted to be stoned to death when his preaching
mission was accomplished; and thus He may do with _this_ hammer when He
has done using it."
At this moment a monk rushed into the room with a face expressive of the
utmost terror, and called out,--
"Father, what shall we do? The mob are surrounding the convent! Hark!
hear them at the doors!"
In truth, a wild, confused roar of mingled shrieks, cries, and blows
came in through the open door of the apartment; and the pattering sound
of approaching footsteps was heard like showering raindrops along the
"Here come Messer Nicolo de' Lapi, and Francesco Valori!" called out a
The room was soon filled with a confused crowd, consisting of
distinguished Florentine citizens, who had gained admittance through a
secret passage, and the excited novices and monks.
"The streets outside the convent are packed close with men," cried one
of the citizens; "they have stationed guards everywhere to cut off our
friends who might come to help us."
"I saw them seize a young man who was quietly walking, singing psalms,
and slay him on the steps of the Church of the Innocents," said another;
"they cried and hooted, 'No more psalm-singing!'"
"And there's Arnolfo Battista," said a third;--"he went out to try
to speak to them, and they have killed him,--cut him down with their
"Hurry! hurry! barricade the door! arm yourselves!" was the cry from
"Shall we fight, father? shall we defend ourselves?" cried others, as
the monks pressed around their Superior.
When the crowd first burst into the room, the face of the Superior
flushed, and there was a slight movement of surprise; then he seemed to
recollect himself, and murmuring, "I expected this, but not so soon,"
appeared lost in mental prayer. To the agitated inquiries of his flock,
he answered,--"No, brothers; the weapons of monks must be spiritual, not
carnal." Then lifting on high a crucifix, he said,--"Come with me, and
let us walk in solemn procession to the altar, singing the praises of
The monks, with the instinctive habit of obedience, fell into procession
behind their leader, whose voice, clear and strong, was heard raising
the Psalm, _"Quare fremunt gentes"_:--
"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel
together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying,
"'Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.'
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.: the Lord shall have them
As one voice after another took up the chant, the solemn enthusiasm rose
and deepened, and all present, whether ecclesiastics or laymen, fell
into the procession and joined in the anthem. Amid the wild uproar, the
din and clatter of axes, the thunders of heavy battering-implements on
the stone walls and portals, came this long-drawn solemn wave of sound,
rising and falling,--now drowned in the savage clamors of the mob, and
now bursting out clear and full like the voices of God's chosen amid the
confusion and struggles of all the generations of this mortal life.
White-robed and grand the procession moved on, while the pictured saints
and angels on the walls seemed to smile calmly down upon them from a
golden twilight. They passed thus into the sacristy, where with all
solemnity and composure they arrayed their Father and Superior for the
last time in his sacramental robes, and then, still chanting, followed
him to the high altar,--where all bowed in prayer. And still, whenever
there was a pause in the stormy uproar and fiendish clamor, might be
heard the clear, plaintive uprising of that strange singing,--"O Lord,
save thy people, and bless thine heritage!"
It needs not to tell in detail what history has told of that tragic
night: how the doors at last were forced, and the mob rushed in; how
citizens and friends, and many of the monks themselves, their instinct
of combativeness overcoming their spiritual beliefs, fought valiantly,
and used torches and crucifixes for purposes little contemplated when
they were made.
Fiercest among the combatants was Agostino, who three times drove back
the crowd as they were approaching the choir, where Savonarola and his
immediate friends were still praying. Father Antonio, too, seized
a sword from the hand of a fallen man and laid about him with an
impetuosity which would be inexplicable to any who do not know what
force there is in gentle natures when the objects of their affections
are assailed. The artist monk fought for his master with the blind
desperation with which a woman fights over the cradle of her child.
All in vain! Past midnight, and the news comes that artillery is planted
to blow down the walls of the convent, and the magistracy, who up to
this time have lifted not a finger to repress the tumult, send word to
Savonarola to surrender himself to them, together with the two most
active of his companions, Fra Domenico da Pescia and Fra Silvestro
Maruffi, as the only means of averting the destruction of the whole
order. They offer him assurances of protection and safe return, which he
does not in the least believe: nevertheless, he feels that his hour is
come, and gives himself up.
His preparations were all made with a solemn method which showed that
he felt he was approaching the last act in the drama of life. He called
together his flock, scattered and forlorn, and gave them his last
words of fatherly advice, encouragement, and comfort,--ending with the
remarkable declaration, "A Christian's life consists in doing good and
suffering evil." "I go with joy to this marriage-supper," he said, as he
left the church for the last sad preparations. He and his doomed friends
then confessed and received the sacrament, and after that he surrendered
himself into the hands of the men who he felt in his prophetic soul had
come to take him to torture and to death.
As he gave himself into their hands, he said, "I commend to your care
this flock of mine, and these good citizens of Florence who have been
with us"; and then once more turning to his brethren, said,--"Doubt not,
my brethren. God will not fail to perfect His work. Whether I live or
die, He will aid and console you."
At this moment there was a struggle with the attendants in the outer
circle of the crowd, and the voice of Father Antonio was heard crying
out earnestly,--"Do not hold me! I will go with him! I must go with
him!"--"Son," said Savonarola, "I charge you on your obedience not to
come. It is I and Fra Domenico who are to die for the love of Christ."
And thus, at the ninth hour of the night, he passed the threshold of San
As he was leaving, a plaintive voice of distress was heard from a young
novice who had been peculiarly dear to him, who stretched his hands
after him, crying,--"Father! father! why do you leave us desolate?"
Whereupon he turned back a moment, and said,--"God will be your help.
If we do not see each other again in this world, we surely shall in
When the party had gone forth, the monks and citizens stood looking into
each other's faces, listening with dismay to the howl of wild ferocity
that was rising around the departing prisoner.
"What shall we do?" was the outcry from many voices.
"I know what I shall do," said Agostino. "If any man here will find me a
fleet horse, I will start for Milan this very hour; for my uncle is now
there on a visit, and he is a counsellor of weight with the King of
France: we must get the King to interfere."
"Good! good! good!" rose from a hundred voices.
"I will go with you," said Father Antonio. "I shall have no rest till I
"And I," quoth Jacopo Niccolini, "will saddle for you, without delay,
two horses of part Arabian blood, swift of foot, and easy, and which
will travel day and night without sinking."
The rays of the setting sun were imparting even more than their wonted
cheerfulness to the airy and bustling streets of Milan. There was the
usual rush and roar of busy life which mark the great city, and the
display of gay costumes and brilliant trappings proper to a ducal
capital which at that time gave the law to Europe in all matters of
taste and elegance, even as Paris does now. It was, in fact, from the
reputation of this city in matters of external show that our English
term Milliner was probably derived; and one might well have believed
this, who saw the sweep of the ducal cortege at this moment returning
in pomp from the afternoon airing. Such glittering of gold-embroidered
mantles, such bewildering confusion of colors, such flashing of jewelry
from cap and dagger-hilt and finger-ring, and even from bridle and
stirrup, testified that the male sex at this period in Italy were no
whit behind the daughters of Eve in that passion for personal adornment
which our age is wont to consider exclusively feminine. Indeed, all that
was visible to the vulgar eye of this pageant was wholly masculine;
though no one doubted that behind the gold-embroidered curtains of the
litters which contained the female notabilities of the court still more
dazzling wonders might be concealed. Occasionally a white jewelled hand
would draw aside one of these screens, and a pair of eyes brighter than
any gems would peer forth; and then there would be tokens of a visible
commotion among the plumed and gemmed cavaliers around, and one young
head would nod to another with jests and quips, and there would be
bowing and curveting and all the antics and caracolings supposable among
gay young people on whom the sun shone brightly, and who felt the world
going well around them, and deemed themselves the observed of all
Meanwhile, the mute, subservient common people looked on all this as
a part of their daily amusement. Meek dwellers in those dank, noisome
caverns, without any opening but a street-door, which are called
dwelling-places in Italy, they lived in uninquiring good-nature,
contentedly bringing up children on coarse bread, dirty cabbage-stumps,
and other garbage, while all that they could earn was sucked upward by
capillary attraction to nourish the extravagance of those upper classes
on which they stared with such blind and ignorant admiration.
This was the lot they believed themselves born for, and which every
exhortation of their priests taught them to regard as the appointed
ordinance of God. The women, to be sure, as women always will be, were
true to the instinct of their sex, and crawled out of the damp and
vile-smelling recesses of their homes with solid gold ear-rings shaking
in their ears, and their blue-black lustrous hair ornamented with a
glittering circle of steel pins or other quaint coiffure. There was
sense in all this: for had not even Dukes of Milan been found so
condescending and affable as to admire the charms of the fair in the
lower orders, whence had come sons and daughters who took rank among
princes and princesses? What father, or what husband, could be
insensible to prospects of such honor? What priest would not readily
absolve such sin? Therefore one might have observed more than one comely
dark-eyed woman, brilliant as some tropical bird in the colors of her
peasant dress, who cast coquettish glances toward high places, not
unacknowledged by patronizing nods in return, while mothers and fathers
looked on in triumph. These were the days for the upper classes: the
Church bore them all in her bosom as a tender nursing-mother, and
provided for all their little peccadilloes with even grandmotherly
indulgence, and in return the world was immensely deferential towards
the Church; and it was only now and then some rugged John Baptist,
in raiment of camel's hair, like Savonarola, who dared to speak an
indecorous word of God's truth in the ear of power, and Herod and
Herodias had ever at hand the good old recipe for quieting such
disturbances. John Baptist was beheaded in prison, and then all the
world and all the Scribes and Pharisees applauded; and only a few poor
disciples were found to take up the body and go and tell Jesus.
The whole piazza around the great Cathedral is at this moment full of
the dashing cavalcade of the ducal court, looking as brilliant in the
evening light as a field of poppy, corn-flower, and scarlet clover
at Sorrento; and there, amid the flutter and rush, the amours and
intrigues, the court scandal, the laughing, the gibing, the glitter,
and dazzle, stands that wonderful Cathedral, that silent witness, that
strange, pure, immaculate mountain of airy, unearthly loveliness,--the
most striking emblem of God's mingled vastness and sweetness that ever
it was given to human heart to devise or hands to execute. If there be
among the many mansions of our Father above, among the houses not made
with hands, aught purer and fairer, it must be the work of those grand
spirits who inspired and presided over the erection of this celestial
miracle of beauty. In the great, vain, wicked city, all alive with the
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, it seemed
to stand as much apart and alone as if it were in the solemn desolation
of the Campagna, or in one of the wide deserts of Africa,--so little
part or lot did it appear to have in anything earthly, so little to
belong to the struggling, bustling crowd who beneath its white dazzling
pinnacles seemed dwarfed into crawling insects. They who could look up
from the dizzy, frivolous life below saw far, far above them, in the
blue Italian air, thousands of glorified saints standing on a thousand
airy points of brilliant whiteness, ever solemnly adoring. The marble
which below was somewhat touched and soiled with the dust of the street
seemed gradually to refine and brighten as it rose into the pure regions
of the air, till at last in those thousand distant pinnacles it had the
ethereal translucence of wintry frost-work, and now began to glow with
the violet and rose hues of evening, in solemn splendor.
The ducal cortege sweeps by; but we have mounted the dizzy, dark
staircase that leads to the roof, where, amid the bustling life of the
city, there is a promenade of still and wondrous solitude. One seems to
have ascended in those few moments far beyond the tumult and dust of
earthly things, to the silence, the clearness, the tranquillity of
ethereal regions. The noise of the rushing tides of life below rises
only in a soft and distant murmur; while around, in the wide, clear
distance, is spread a prospect which has not on earth its like or its
equal. The beautiful plains of Lombardy lie beneath like a map, and the
northern horizon-line is glittering with the entire sweep of the Alps,
like a solemn senate of archangels with diamond mail and glittering
crowns. Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa with his countenance of light, the
Jungfrau and all the weird brothers of the Oberland, rise one after
another to the delighted gaze, and the range of the Tyrol melts far off
into the blue of the sky. On another side, the Apennines, with their
picturesque outlines and cloud-spotted sides, complete the inclosure.
All around, wherever the eye turns, is the unbroken phalanx of
mountains; and this temple, with its thousand saintly statues standing
in attitudes of ecstasy and prayer, seems like a worthy altar and shrine
for the beautiful plain which the mountains inclose: it seems to give
all Northern Italy to God.
The effect of the statues in this high, pure air, in this solemn,
glorious scenery, is peculiar. They seem a meet companionship for these
exalted regions. They seem to stand exultant on their spires, poised
lightly as ethereal creatures, the fit inhabitants of the pure blue sky.
One feels that they have done with earth; one can fancy them a band of
white-robed kings and priests forever ministering in that great temple
of which the Alps and the Apennines are the walls and the Cathedral the
heart and centre. Never were Art and Nature so majestically married by
Religion in so worthy a temple.
One form could be discerned standing in rapt attention, gazing from a
platform on the roof upon the far-distant scene. He was enveloped in
the white coarse woollen gown of the Dominican monks, and seemed wholly
absorbed in meditating on the scene before him, which appeared to move
him deeply; for, raising his hands, he repeated aloud from the Latin
Vulgate the words of an Apostle:--
"Accessistis ad Sion montem et civitatem Dei viventis, Ierusalem
caelestem, et multorum millinm angelorum frequentiam, ecclesiam
primitivorum, qui inscripti sunt in caelis."[A]
[Footnote A: "Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the
living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of
angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are
written in heaven."]
At this moment the evening worship commenced within the Cathedral, and
the whole building seemed to vibrate with the rising swell of the great
organ, while the grave, long-drawn tones of the Ambrosian Liturgy rose
surging in waves and dying away in distant murmurs, like the rolling
of the tide on some ocean-shore. The monk turned and drew near to the
central part of the roof to listen, and as he turned he disclosed the
well-known features of Father Antonio.
Haggard, weary, and travel-worn, his first impulse, on entering the
city, was to fly to this holy solitude, as the wandering sparrow of
sacred song sought her nest amid the altars of God's temple. Artist no
less than monk, he found in this wondrous shrine of beauty a repose
both for his artistic and his religious nature; and while waiting for
Agostino Sarelli to find his uncle's residence, he had determined to
pass the interval in this holy solitude. Many hours had he paced alone
up and down the long promenades of white marble which run everywhere
between forests of dazzling pinnacles and flying-buttresses of airy
lightness. Now he rested in fixed attention against the wall above the
choir, which he could feel pulsating with throbs of sacred sound, as if
a great warm heart were beating within the fair marble miracle, warming
it into mysterious life and sympathy.
"I would now that boy were here to worship with me," he said. "No wonder
the child's faith fainteth: it takes such monuments as these of the
Church's former days to strengthen one's hopes. Ah, woe unto those by
whom such offence cometh!"
At this moment the form of Agostino was seen ascending the marble
The eye of the monk brightened as he came towards him. He put out
one hand eagerly to take his, and raised the other with a gesture of
"Look," he said, "and listen! Is it not the sound of many waters and
Agostino stood subdued for the moment by the magnificent sights and
sounds; for, as the sun went down, the distant mountains grew every
moment more unearthly in their brilliancy,--and as they lay in a long
line, jewelled brightness mingling with the cloud-wreaths of the far
horizon, one might have imagined that he in truth beheld the foundations
of that celestial city of jasper, pearl, and translucent gold which the
Apostle saw, and that the risings and fallings of choral sound which
seemed to thrill and pulsate through the marble battlements were indeed
that song like many waters sung by the Church Triumphant above.
For a few moments the monk and the young man stood in silence, till at
length the monk spoke.
"You have told me, my son, that your heart often troubles you in being
more Roman than Christian; that you sometimes doubt whether the Church
on earth be other than a fiction or a fable. But look around us. Who
are these, this great multitude who praise and pray continually in this
temple of the upper air? These are they who have come out of great
tribulation, having washed their robes and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb. These are not the men that have sacked cities, and made
deserts, and written their triumphs in blood and carnage. These be men
that have sheltered the poor, and built houses for orphans, and sold
themselves into slavery to redeem their brothers in Christ. These be
pure women who have lodged saints, brought up children, lived holy and
prayerful lives. These be martyrs who have laid down their lives for the
testimony of Jesus. There were no such churches in old Rome,--no such
"Well," said Agostino, "one thing is certain. If such be the True
Church, the Pope and the Cardinals of our day have no part in it; for
they are the men who sack cities and make desolations, who devour
widows' houses and for a pretence make long prayers. Let us see one of
_them_ selling himself into slavery for the love of anybody, while they
seek to keep all the world in slavery to themselves!"
"That is the grievous declension our master weeps over," said the monk.
"Ah, if the Bishops of the Church now were like brave old Saint
Ambrose, strong alone by faith and prayer, showing no more favor to an
unrepentant Emperor than to the meanest slave, then would the Church be
a reality and a glory! Such is my master. Never is he afraid of the face
of king or lord, when he has God's truth to speak. You should have heard
how plainly he dealt with our Lorenzo de' Medici on his death-bed,--how
he refused him absolution, unless he would make restitution to the poor
and restore the liberties of Florence."
"I should have thought," said the young man, sarcastically, "that
Lorenzo the Magnificent might have got absolution cheaper than that.
Where were all the bishops in his dominion, that he must needs send for
"Son, it is ever so," replied the monk. "If there be a man that cares
neither for Duke nor Emperor, but for God alone, then Dukes and Emperors
would give more for his good word than for a whole dozen of common
"I suppose it is something like a rare manuscript or a singular gem:
these _virtuosi_ have no rest till they have clutched it. The thing they
cannot get is always the thing they want."
"Lorenzo was always seeking our master," said the monk. "Often would he
come walking in our gardens, expecting surely he would hasten down to
meet him; and the brothers would run all out of breath to his cell to
say, 'Father, Lorenzo is in the garden.' 'He is welcome,' would he
answer, with his pleasant smile. 'But, father, will you not descend
to meet him?' 'Hath he asked for me?' 'No.' 'Well, then, let us not
interrupt his meditations,' he would answer, and remain still at his
reading, so jealous was he lest he should seek the favor of princes and
forget God, as does all the world in our day."
"And because he does not seek the favor of the men of this world he will
be trampled down and slain. Will the God in whom he trusts defend him?"
The monk pointed expressively upward to the statues that stood glorified
above them, still wearing a rosy radiance, though the shadows of
twilight had fallen on all the city below.
"My son," he said, "the victories of the True Church are not in time,
but in eternity. How many around us were conquered on earth that they
might triumph in heaven! What saith the Apostle? 'They were
tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better
"But, alas!" said Agostino, "are we never to see the right triumph here?
I fear that this noble name is written in blood, like so many of whom
the world is not worthy. Can one do nothing to help it?"
"How is that? What have you heard?" said the monk, eagerly. "Have you
seen your uncle?"
"Not yet; he is gone into the country for a day,--so say his servants. I
saw, when the Duke's court passed, my cousin, who is in his train, and
got a moment's speech with him; and he promised, that, if I would wait
for him here, he would come to me as soon as he could be let off from
his attendance. When he comes, it were best that we confer alone."
"I will retire to the southern side," said the monk, "and await the end
of your conference": and with that he crossed the platform on which they
were standing, and, going down a flight of white marble steps, was soon
lost to view amid the wilderness of frost-like carved work.
He had scarcely vanished, before footsteps were heard ascending the
marble staircase on the other side, and the sound of a voice humming a
popular air of the court.
The stranger was a young man of about five-and-twenty, habited with all
that richness and brilliancy of coloring which the fashion of the day
permitted to a young exquisite. His mantle of purple velvet falling
jauntily off from one shoulder disclosed a doublet of amber satin richly
embroidered with gold and seed-pearl. The long white plume which drooped
from his cap was held in its place by a large diamond which sparkled
like a star in the evening twilight. His finely moulded hands were
loaded with rings, and ruffles of the richest Venetian lace encircled
his wrists. He had worn over all a dark cloak with a peaked hood, the
usual evening disguise in Italy; but as he gained the top-stair of the
platform, he threw it carelessly down and gayly offered his hand.
"Good even to you, cousin mine! So you see I am as true to my
appointment as if your name were Leonora or Camilla instead of Agostino.
How goes it with you? I wanted to talk with you below, but I saw we must
have a place without listeners. Our friends the saints are too high in
heavenly things to make mischief by eavesdropping."
"Thank you, Cousin Carlos, for your promptness. And now to the point.
Did your father, my uncle, get the letter I wrote him about a month
"He did; and he bade me treat with you about it. It's an abominable
snarl this they have got you into. My father says, your best way is to
come straight to him in France, and abide till things take a better
turn: he is high in favor with the King and can find you a very pretty
place at court, and he takes it upon him in time to reconcile the Pope.
Between you and me, the old Pope has no special spite in the world
against _you_: he merely wants your lands for his son, and as long
as you prowl round and lay claim to them, why, you must stay
excommunicated; but just clear the coast and leave them peaceably and
he will put you back into the True Church, and my father will charge
himself with your success. Popes don't last forever, or there may come
another falling out with the King of France, and either way there will
be a chance of your being one day put back into your rights; meanwhile,
a young fellow might do worse than have a good place in our court."
During this long monologue, which the young speaker uttered with all the
flippant self-sufficiency of worldly people with whom the world is going
well, the face of the young nobleman who listened presented a picture of
many strong contending emotions.
"You speak," he said, "as if man had nothing to do in this world but
seek his own ease and pleasure. What lies nearest my heart is not that
I am plundered of my estates, and my house uprooted, but it is that my
beautiful Rome, the city of my fathers, is a prisoner under the heel of
the tyrant. It is that the glorious religion of Christ, the holy faith
in which my mother died, the faith made venerable by all these saints
around us, is made the tool and instrument of such vileness and cruelty
that one is tempted to doubt whether it were not better to have been
born of heathen in the good old times of the Roman Republic,--God
forgive me for saying so! Does the Most Christian King of France know
that the man who pretends to rule in the name of Christ is not a
believer in the Christian religion,--that he does not believe even in a
God,--that he obtained the holy seat by simony,--that he uses all its
power to enrich a brood of children whose lives are so indecent that it
is a shame to modest lips even to _say_ what they do?"
"Why, of course," said the other, "the King of France is pretty well
informed about all these things. You know old King Charles, when he
marched through Italy, had more than half a mind, they say, to pull the
old Pope out of his place; and he might have done it easily. My father
was in his train at that time, and he says the Pope was frightened
enough. Somehow they made it all up among them, and settled about their
territories, which is the main thing, after all; and now our new King, I
fancy, does not like to meddle with him: between you and me, he has his
eye in another direction here. This gay city would suit him admirably,
and he fancies he can govern it as well as it is governed now. My father
does not visit here with his eyes shut, _I_ can tell you. But as to the
Pope----Well, you see such things are delicate to handle. After all,
my dear Agostino, we are not priests,--our business is with this world;
and, no matter how they came by them, these fellows have the keys of the
kingdom of heaven, and one cannot afford to quarrel with them,--we must
have the ordinances, you know, or what becomes of our souls? Do you
suppose, now, that I should live as gay and easy a life as I do, if I
thought there were any doubt of my salvation? It's a mercy to us sinners
that the ordinances are not vitiated by the sins of the priests; it
would go hard with us, if they were: as it is, if they will live
scandalous lives, it is their affair, not ours."
"And is it nothing," replied the other, "to a true man who has taken the
holy vows of knighthood on him, whether his Lord's religion be defamed
and dishonored and made a scandal and a scoffing? Did not all Europe go
out to save Christ's holy sepulchre from being dishonored by the feet of
the Infidel? and shall we let infidels have the very house of the Lord,
and reign supreme in His holy dwelling-place? There has risen a holy
prophet in Italy, the greatest since the time of Saint Francis, and his
preaching hath stirred all hearts to live more conformably with our
holy faith; and now for his pure life and good works he is under
excommunication of the Pope, and they have seized and imprisoned him,
and threaten his life."
"Oh, you mean Savonarola," said the other. "Yes, we have heard of
him,--a most imprudent, impracticable fellow, who will not take advice
nor be guided. My father, I believe, thought well of him once, and
deemed that in the distracted state of Italy he might prove serviceable
in forwarding some of his plans: but he is wholly wrapt up in his own
notions; he heeds no will but his own."
"Have you heard anything," said Agostino, "of a letter which he wrote to
the King of France lately, stirring him up to call a General Council of
the Christian Church to consider what is to be done about the scandals
"Then he has written one, has he?" replied the young man; "then the
story that I have heard whispered about here must be true. A man who
certainly is in a condition to know told me day before yesterday that
the Duke had arrested a courier with some such letter, and sent it on to
the Pope: it is likely, for the Duke hates Savonarola. If that be true,
it will go hard with him yet; for the Pope has a long arm for an enemy."
"And so," said Agostino, with an expression of deep concern, "that
letter, from which the good man hoped so much, and which was so
powerful, will only go to increase his danger!"
"The more fool he!--he might have known that it was of no use. Who was
going to take his part against the Pope?"
"The city of Florence has stood by him until lately," said
Agostino,--"and would again, with a little help."
"Oh, no! never think it, my dear Agostino! Depend upon it, it will end
as such things always do, and the man is only a madman that undertakes
it. Hark ye, cousin, what have _you_ to do with this man? Why do you
attach yourself to the side that is _sure_ to lose? I cannot conceive
what you would be at. This is no way to mend your fortunes. Come
to-night to my father's palace: the Duke has appointed us princely
lodgings, and treats us with great hospitality, and my father has plans
for your advantage. Between us, there is a fair young ward of his, of
large estates and noble blood, whom he designs for you. So you see, if
you turn your attention in this channel, there may come a reinforcement
of the family property, which will enable you to hold out until the Pope
dies, or some prince or other gets into a quarrel with him, which is
always happening, and then a move may be made for you. My father, I'll
promise you, is shrewd enough, and always keeps his eye open to see
where there is a joint in the harness, and have a trusty dagger-blade
all whetted to stick under. Of course, he means to see you righted; he
has the family interest at heart, and feels as indignant as you could at
the rascality which has been perpetrated; but I am quite sure he will
tell you that the way is not to come out openly against the Pope and
join this fanatical party."
Agostino stood silent, with the melancholy air of a man who has much to
say, and is deeply moved by considerations which he perceives it would
be utterly idle and useless to attempt to explain. If the easy theology
of his friend were indeed true,--if the treasures of the heavenly
kingdom, glory, honor, and immortality, could indeed be placed in unholy
hands to be bought and sold and traded in,--if holiness of heart
and life, and all those nobler modes of living and being which were
witnessed in the histories of the thousand saints around him, were
indeed but a secondary thing in the strife for worldly place and
territory,--what, then, remained for the man of ideas, of aspirations?
In such a state of society, his track must be like that of the dove in
sacred history who found no rest for the sole of her foot.
Agostino folded his arms and sighed deeply, and then made answer
mechanically, as one whose thoughts are afar off.
"Present my duty," he said, "to my uncle, your father, and say to him
that I will wait on him to-night."
"Even so," said the young man, picking up his cloak and folding it about
him. "And now, you know, I must go. Don't be discouraged; keep up a good
heart; you shall see what it is to have powerful friends to stand by
you; all will be right yet. Come, will you go with me now?"
"Thank you," said Agostino, "I think I would be alone a little while. My
head is confused, and I would fain think over matters a little quietly."
"Well, _au revoir_, then. I must leave you to the company of the saints.
But be sure and come early."
So saying, he threw his cloak over his shoulder and sauntered carelessly
down the marble steps, humming again the gay air with which he had
Left alone, Agostino once more cast a glance on the strangely solemn
and impressive scene around him. He was standing on a platform of the
central tower which overlooked the whole building. The round, full moon
had now risen in the horizon, displacing by her solemn brightness
the glow of twilight; and her beams were reflected by the delicate
frost-work of the myriad pinnacles which rose in a bewildering maze
at his feet. It might seem to be some strange enchanted garden of
fairy-land, where a luxuriant and freakish growth of Nature had been
suddenly arrested and frozen into eternal stillness. Around in the
shadows at the foot of the Cathedral the lights of the great gay city
twinkled and danced and veered and fluttered like fire-flies in the
damp, dewy shadows of some moist meadow in summer. The sound of
clattering hoofs and rumbling wheels, of tinkling guitars and gay
roundelays, rose out of that obscure distance, seeming far off and
plaintive like the dream of a life that is past. The great church seemed
a vast world; the long aisles of statued pinnacles with their pure
floorings of white marble appeared as if they might be the corridors of
heaven; and it seemed as if the crowned and sceptred saints in their
white marriage-garments might come down and walk there, without ever a
spot of earth on their unsullied whiteness.
In a few moments Father Antonio had glided back to the side of the young
man, whom he found so lost in reverie that not till he laid his hand
upon his arm did he awaken from his meditations.
"Ah!" he said, with a start, "my father, is it you?"
"Yes, my son. What of your conference? Have you learned anything?"
"Father, I have learned far more than I wished to know."
"What is it, my son? Speak it at once."
"Well, then, I fear that the letter of our holy father to the King of
France has been intercepted here in Milan, and sent to the Pope."
"What makes you think so?" said the monk, with an eagerness that showed
how much he felt the intelligence.
"My cousin tells me that a person of consideration in the Duke's
household, who is supposed to be in a position to know, told him that it
Agostino felt the light grasp which the monk had laid upon his arm
gradually closing with a convulsive pressure, and that he was trembling
with intense feeling.
"Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight!" he said, after a
few moments of silence.
"It is discouraging," said Agostino, "to see how little these princes
care for the true interests of religion and the service of God,--how
little real fealty there is to our Lord Jesus."
"Yes," said the monk, "all seek their own, and not the things that are
Christ's. It is well written, 'Put not your trust in princes.'"
"And what prospect, what hope do you see for him?" said Agostino. "Will
Florence stand firm?"
"I could have thought so once," said the monk,--"in those days when I
have seen counsellors and nobles and women of the highest degree all
humbly craving to hear the word of God from his lips, and seeming to
seek nothing so much as to purify their houses, their hands, and their
hearts, that they might be worthy citizens of that commonwealth which
has chosen the Lord Jesus for its gonfalonier. I have seen the very
children thronging to kiss the hem of his robe, as he walked through the
streets; but, oh, my friend, did not Jerusalem bring palms and spread
its garments in the way of Christ only four days before he was
The monk's voice here faltered. He turned away and seemed to wrestle
with a tempest of suppressed sobbing. A moment more, he looked
heavenward and pointed up with a smile.
"Son," he said, "you ask _what hope there is_. I answer, There is hope
of such crowns as these wear who came out of great tribulation and now
reign with Christ in glory."
OUR ARTISTS IN ITALY.
A representation of Nature, in order to be a true landscape, must be
organic. It must not present itself as an aggregation, but as a growth.
It must manifest obedience to laws which are peculiarly its own, and
through the operation of which it has developed from the moment of
inception to that of maturity. And, moreover, that inception must have
been near a human heart, that development must have been nourished by
vitality derived from human life, and that maturity must be that of the
divine unity to which tend all the mysterious operations of organizing
We hold this to be the first essential condition of Landscape Art, the
condition without which no rendering of Nature can be Art. Other
points of excellence may be unattained. Let this be evident, that the
production is an offspring of humanity, and it shall be perceived also
that it partakes of whatever immortality the human heart inherits.
Herein is concealed the whole secret of the value of pre-Raphaelite Art,
and not, as we have been assured, in the faithfulness of its followers
to the exact representation of the individual details of Nature. Each
wrought from the love of Nature, consciously giving what truth he
possessed, unconsciously giving of his own interior life. Each picture
was the child of the painter. Yet, however much the ancient artist may
have failed in rendering the specific truths of the external world,
we can never attribute his failure to any disregard for the true.
His picture never gives the impression of falsehood; and in the most
erroneous record of the external there is ever the promise of more
truth, and this promise is not that of the man, but of the principle
governing the character of his picture.
We think that all works of Art may be divided into two distinct classes:
those which are the result of a man's whole nature, involving the
affectional, religious, and intellectual, and those which are the
productions of the intellect, and from the will. The first class
comprises those results of Art which are vital,--which come to
us through processes of growth, and impress us with a sense
of organization. The second includes those works which are
constructed,--which present an accumulation of objects mechanically
combined, parts skilfully joined through scientific means.
Earnestness and the definite purpose which is its sign, love which drew
the soul into sweetest communion with our mother Nature, giving to him
who thus came revelations of the harmonies possible between her and her
children, and devotion to his art mightier than ever inspired the Hindoo
devotee in self-sacrifice, characterized those who have given all that
pure Art which has been alluded to as the true: and such were the
majority of those artists who preceded Raphael.
True, all of those who were devoted to Landscape Art, or who made it a
part of their practice to introduce this element into their pictures,
often failed in attaining truth; but, by some strange power with
which they have invested their landscapes, an impulse is given to the
perception, and the essential truth, feebly hinted at, perhaps, is
recognized. But as the record comes down through the years, each
new picture approximates more nearly to the character of the scene
attempted, with, occasionally, (as in the works of Masaccio,) touches of
truth absolutely perfect, until at last appeared that man altogether at
one with Nature, who reproduced Nature in all its glory, pomp, freedom,
and life, as might an archangel. Titian brought to perfection the first
great class of Landscape Art, and, of course, in doing so, perfected
that department which was the only one as yet developed, and which
remains a distinct branch, subject to its own peculiar laws. We refer to
the rendering of natural scenery, beginning in the merely and completely
subordinate accessory, and ending, with Titian, in the perfectly
dignified and noble companionship of the visible universe with man.
We speak of this Art perfected far back, because we feel assured that
landscape, as accessory to the historical, has an ideal altogether
distinct from that of pure landscape.
It would not be just, perhaps, to regard the law which necessitates this
ideal as a law of subordination, although that condition prevails up to
the time of Titian. Nature, to the true man, never presents itself as
subordinate, but as correspondently ever equal with man, ever ready with
possibilities to match his own. So true is this, that a man's universe,
that of which his vision takes possession, is a part of himself, subject
to his sorrows and joys, his hope and his despair: to him, the violets,
the mountains, and the far-away worlds, throbbing in unison with his own
heart-beat, are in some wise the signs or the manifestations of his own
soul's possibilities. And he is right. That of the flower which is its
beauty, that of the mountains which is their magnificent grandeur, that
of the stars which is their ineffable glory and sublimity, is his, is
within him, is a part of his soul's life, waxing or waning so in unison
with its richness or poverty that wise men mark the soul's stature by
the part of it which is akin to the violets, the hills, or the infinite
"The world is as large as a man's head." In that there is a fine hint
of a great truth, but beyond that is _the_ truth. It is not the mere
knowledge of Alcyone that necessitates the sublime. After that comes the
wonder. The world is as large as is a man, and its relation to him
is marked by a sympathy which acts and reacts with the certainty and
precision of law.
The ideal of Landscape Art, used in alliance with representations of
the human figure, must, then, be founded upon this immutable sympathy
between the landscape world and the human. Thus, in the painting alluded
to in the article on Mr. Page, "The Entombment" of the Louvre, the
landscape is charged with the solemnity of the hour. No blade of grass
or shadow of leaf but seems conscious of the great event, and the sky
reveals, by its heavenly tenderness, that there all is known.
How different in expression, yet how similar in strength, is the
landscape of that seeming miracle, "The Presentation in the Temple"!
It is clear, confident day,--so pure and perfect a day abroad over the
happy earth, that all things lure forth into an atmosphere so unsullied
that to breathe it is life and joy,--over an earth youthful with spring,
fresh with morning; and hither have come the people to see confirmed the
future mother of Christ, now the child Mary. As the maiden ascends the
steps of the Temple, a halo surrounds her,--not her head alone, but all
the form,--and far away a fainter halo rests upon the hills. Her youth,
its purity and half-recognized promise, seem sweetly imaged in the
morning freshness and spring-life of the landscape.
We can remember no landscape by Titian which is not in full sympathy
with the motives which actuate his groups. It is the unison of scene and
act that gives his pictures a unity and completeness never or rarely
After Titian came painters--among them, mighty ones--who, like
Tintoretto, wrought from the external. The elements of the landscape
were treated with knowledge and power, but not often with feeling, and
very seldom with a recognition of its central significance. One example
is so marvellous, however, that we cannot forbear referring to it. Its
truthfulness is the more remarkable from the fact that the painter's
conceptions rarely were such that any true landscape could be found
capable of harmony with their character. In this picture, "The
Temptation of Saint Anthony," one of the Pitti Palace Gallery, Salvator
has wrought marvellously like a demon. The horizon and the sky near it
are charged with a sense of demoniacal conflict for human souls, and
forebodings of defeat and woe.
Yet within this, mantling the remotest depths, there is a sheen of
light, a gleam of hope and faith.
In our own times there is little to refer to illustrative of excellence
in this branch of Art. Overbeck makes frequent use of natural scenery,
and his delicate yet firm outlines repeat, hill and valley and clouds,
the sentiment of peace and purity which pervades his noble productions.
Not that there are not produced frequently, and especially in France,
works remarkable for truth and power. But, too often, the truths are
redundant, and the power vanquishes the sentiments of the group.
One artist in France, Rosa Bonheur, has, however, embodied conceptions
so noble, so in unison with the finest Nature, that its most glorious
and most significant scenery, rendered with a handling akin to the old
mastership, is alone adequate to sympathize with and sustain them. I
need but refer to the wonderful view of the Pyrenees in the picture of
"The Muleteers," the tender morning spirit of that heathery scene in the
Highlands, and that miracle of representation, the near ground, crisp
and frosty, of Mr. Belmont's "Hunters in Early Morning."
American Art, as represented in Italy, has few examples of excellence in
this branch of painting. Its followers have wrought more persistently
in other directions, toward the expression of a class of ideals rarely
involving the one which we have attempted to analyze. Yet, occasionally,
an artist has appeared, making Rome or Florence his home long enough to
win a place, which, when he has departed, is not quickly filled, who has
ideas of history and events calling for the record of the palette;
or there has been wrought in the studio of some resident painter a
composition in which landscape has been employed as accessory.
In many instances there have been produced works which reflect the
highest honor upon our country. As it is foreign to the purpose of
the present paper to deal with other than the different phases of
landscape-painting, we forbear to speak as their merits suggest of the
figure portions of the works of Mr. Rothermel, the result of his brief
sojourn in Italy. In any passage of scenery, and particularly in sky
forms and tones, the expression and character are always such as
support vigorously the action of his group. We say vigorously; for Mr.
Rothermel, in his Italian pictures, revealed an artistic nature related
to humanity in its most agitated moods, as in the "Lear," and in the
"Saint Agnese,"--this beautiful picture being, however, a higher
conception, inasmuch as in it the spirit might find some rest in the
stillness of the maiden Agnese, already saint and about to be martyr,
and in the deep blue sky, on whose field linger white clouds, like lambs
"shepherded by the slow unwilling winds."
Brief mention was made, in our allusion to Mr. Page's picture of the
"Flight into Egypt," to its landscape. This work was executed in Rome,
and its peculiar tone excited much interest among the friends of Mr.
Field, its fortunate possessor. A beautiful, yet not altogether original
idea, finds expression in the foreground group, where Mary, poised upon
the back of the ass, folds the child in her arms, the animal snatches at
a wayside weed, Joseph, drawing tightly the long rope by which he
leads, bends away into the desert with weird energy. In all other
representations of this subject the accessory landscape has usually been
living with full-foliaged trees, abundant herbage, and copious streams.
To indicate the Egyptian phase of its character, palms have been
introduced, as in the beautiful picture by Claude in the Doria Gallery,
and almost invariably the scene has been one of luxury and peace.
But with the event itself all this conflicts. In it were sorrow and
apprehension and death. The fugitives saw not then the safety, nor
anticipated the victory. In this picture, beyond and before the hurrying
group, stretches the immeasurable, hungry sand. A sad golden-brown
haze--such as sometimes comes in our Indian summer, when the hectic
autumn rests silent, mournful and hopeless, in the arms of Nature--
pervades the plain; while on the horizon far away,--an infinite distance
it seems, so strangely spectral are they,--rise the Pyramids, just those
awful ghosts against the ominous sky!
As different as are the subjects he chooses are the bits of scenery
Hamilton Wild introduces in his pictures of life as it now is. His are
more truly historical paintings, although aspiring to no record of the
greatly bad and sorrowful transactions of our age. They represent the
joy and hope of youth, the cheerfulness and vivacity of the lowly, their
pleasantest pursuits, their most primitive customs, their characteristic
and often superb costumes; and wherever a passage of scenery occurs, it
is always that which has aided in developing the human life with which
it is associated.
There is never a discrepancy, nor is unison of sentiment ever achieved
by any bending of the truth. His keen sense of harmony never fails to
perceive, in the infinite range of tones and expressions of Nature, just
that which better than all others supports the character and action of
his group. With motives so healthful, it may be less difficult to find
that sympathy which Nature cheerfully gives; yet there is a tendency
with artists to be enticed away from Nature's joyousness, and especially
from her simplicity.
To this temptation Mr. Wild can never have been subjected. The freedom
which he manifests is not that which has been won, but into which he
must have been born, and with that grew the ability which transfigures
labor into play. Unto such a Nature the out-world presents unasked her
phases of joy and brightness, her light and life.
Does he seek Nature? No. Nature goes with him; and whether he tarry
among the Lagoons, where all seems Art or Death, or in the shadow and
desolation of the Campagna, in the unclean villages of the Alban Hills,
or where the shadows of deserted palaces fall black, broken, and jagged
on the red earth of Granada, there she companions him. She shows him,
that, after all, Venice is hers, and gives him the white marble enriched
with subtilest films of gold, alabaster which the processes of her
incessant years have changed to Oriental amber, a city made opalescent
by the magic of her sunsets. At Rome she opens vistas away from the
sepulchral, out into the wine-colored light of the Campagna, into
the peace gladdened by larks and the bleating of lambs; above are
pines,--Italian pines,--and across the path falls the still shadow of
blooming oleanders. She leads away from squalid towns, and gathers a
group of her children,--peasants, costumed in scarlet and gold, under
the grape-laden festoons of vines, while the now distant village glows
like cliffs of Carrara. How lavish she must have been of her old ideal
Spain, the while he dwelt in Granada!--the dance of the gypsies;
pomegranates heavy with ripeness hanging among the quivering glossy
leaves; olives gleaming with soft ashy whiteness, as the south-wind
wanders across their grove up to where the towers of the Alhambra lift
golden and pale lilac against the clear sky.
We have dwelt thus lengthily upon this primitive and apparently less
important branch of Landscape Art for several reasons: from a conviction
that its importance is, and is only apparently less; from the fact that
from it have been derived all other classes of landscape; and because a
comprehension of its scope and purpose aids more than any other agency
in understanding those of the pure and simple Landscape Art.
We have seen Nature ever ready with moods so related to the soul that
no ideal worthy of Art might be conceived beyond the range of her
sympathies. Even to that event involving all the intensity of human
thought and feeling, the last refinement of all spiritual emotion, and
a sense of mysteries more sublime than the creation of worlds,--even to
the Crucifixion,--Nature gathered herself, as the only possible
sign, the only expression for men, then and forever, of the awful
significance. The joyfulness of festivals, the pomp of processions,
the sublimity of great martyrdoms, the sorrow of defeats, the peace of
holiness, the innocence and sweetness of childhood, the hope of manhood,
and the retrospection of old age, when represented upon the canvas, find
in her forms and colors endless refrain of response.
This truth, that Nature is capable of such cooperation with the human,
that she confines herself to no country or continent, and that her
expressions are not relative, depending upon the suggestiveness of the
human action to which they correspond, but are positive and under the
rule of the immutable, enables the artist to evolve the first great
class of simple landscape-painting.
Had Art always been real and artists ever true, this consideration must
have called forth this class. It being true that natural scenery readily
allies itself with representations of the human figure in order to
express more perfectly than otherwise possible the ideal, it must be
through affinity with that which evolves the ideal, and only by indirect
relation to its sign or visible manifestation in form-language. Then why
not found a school of landscape by discarding the human figure as an
element of expression? A man comes who is born to the easel, yet who
feels no impulse to represent the practical effect upon human faces and
limbs of the various emotions, passions, and sentiments which demand
utterance. His thought is to hold himself to his kindred by more subtile
and far more delicate bonds. He knows that any one can look upon the
"Huguenot Lovers," by Millais, and feel responsive; for it occupies a
great plane, a part of which may be mistaken for passion. But he feels
that the love of Thekla and Max Piccolomini will permit no effigy but
that sacred bank beyond the cliffs of Libussa's Castle, whither come no
footsteps nor jarring of wheels, but only the sound of the deep Moldau
and of remote bells. It is the essence of the ideal which compels his
imagination, not the limited and restless circumstance which chanced
to occur as its revelator. Then the day uprises as if conscious of his
inner life and purpose. Then she gives him breadth after breadth of
color, within which is traced her no longer mystic alphabet. How
significant are the forms she gives him for the foreground, sweet
monosyllables! There are pansies, and rue, and violets, and rosemary.
Among these and their companions children walk and learn, and to the
child-man, the artist to be, she proffers these emblems. Should he
accept her gifts, then all this wonderful world of Art-Nature is open to
him. He inherits, possesses beyond all deeds, above all statutes,--as
does Mr. Gay, who painted that great, though unassuming, picture of "The
Marshes of Cohasset."
Because Art was not held to the highest, few men have known the
elevation of this department of landscape-painting. Too deep or too
devoted a life seems to have been required, too constant communion with
Nature, or too broad a study of her phenomena. Unfortunately, we have
few representatives of this class, in Italy,--Mr. Wild producing
only rarely works which to the principles hinted at are precious
illustrations. After the remarks we have made, we fear that allusion to
the existing facts of painting may be deemed disparaging. Not so; we
deprecate such a conclusion. One great and living picture marks the man.
To be true to himself and Nature is the first duty, even should he be
compelled to stand lifelong with his face towards the west, in order to
possess his soul in Art.
One of the pleasantest styles of landscape painting is that where the
artist, in a mood of deep peace, sits down in the midst of scenes
endeared by long and sweet association, and records in all tenderness
their spirit and beauty. Such scenery Italy affords, and the Alban
Hills seem to be the centre whence radiate all phases of the lovely and
beautiful in Nature. There her forms have conspired with all the highest
and rarest phenomena of light to render her state unapproachably
There has also been given such an artist,--a woman altogether truthful,
strong, and nobly delicate; and although several years have passed since
she left Italy, her representations of scenery peculiarly Italian are
too remarkable to be passed unnoticed. Indeed, this lady, Miss Sarah
Jane Clark, is the only artist whose works are illustrative of a
style of simple Landscape Art which unites in itself the love and
conscientiousness of early Art and the precision and science of the
modern. Her picture of Albano is wonderful,--not from the rendering of
unusual or brilliant effects, but from a sense of genuineness. We feel
that it grew. The flower and leaf forms which enrich the near ground are
such as spring up on days like the one she has chosen. Another month,
and new combinations would have given another key to her work and
rendered the present impossible. In that real landscape had wrought
the secret vitality clothing the earth in leafage and bloom. In its
representation we see that a still more refined, a diviner vitality, has
evolved leaf, flower, and golden grain. Another fact associated with
this painting, as well as with some of its companions, is its character
Temperance in Landscape Art is very difficult in the vicinity of
Rome. In this picture the scene sweeps downward, with most gentle
and undulating inclination, over vast groves of olive and luxuriant
vineyards, to the Campagna with its convex waves of green and gold, on
which float the wrecks of cities, out to the sea itself, not so far away
as to conceal the flashing of waves upon the beach. Daily, over this
groundwork, so deftly wrought for their reception, are cast fields and
mighty bands of violet and rose, of amber and pale topaz, of blue,
orange, and garnet, upon the sea. It is as if an aurora had fallen from
Arctic skies, living, changeful, evanescent, athwart sea, plain, and
mountain. Here is sore temptation for the colorist; more, perhaps,
than by the wealth and combination of tints, he is affected by their
celestial quality. All is prismatic, or like those hues produced by the
interference of rays of light as seen in the colors of stars. Gorgeous
as are these phenomena, they are also as transitory; and although the
scene is repeated, it is with such subtile and such great changes as to
remove it from the grasp of the painter who wishes to study his work
wholly from Nature. The eye must be quick and the brush obedient, to
catch the fleeting glories of those Alban sunsets. Even the imperial
hand of Turner could give us only reminiscences.
The allurements to adopt a style of coloring involving these effects
must have been great to one whose love of color amounted to a passion.
Only a still greater love could have drawn her of whom we speak to the
more subdued, but higher plane upon which she stands,--and that must
have been a love of truth, and of that which has appealed to her nature
through repetition's sweet influences. This is the scene lying in deep
repose in open, permanent day. Trees, hills, plain, and sea forget the
flying hours. Yesterday they did not remember, serene and changeless as
ivy on the wall. So gradual has been the transition, so slowly has the
surface of the grain lifted from the rippling blade to the billowy
stalk, so continually have the scarlet poppies bloomed since May came,
that, to her, this is ever the same beneficent and dear spot, sacred to
her soul, as well as fitting type and sign of her pure Art.
The class of landscape-painting which deals with morning and evening
phenomena, and is based upon the fleeting and transitory, is the only
one that finds representation at present in Italy. Mr. Brown has
developed new and peculiar strength since his return to America, and
must require place from his new stand-point. Abel Nichols, whose copies
of Claude were so truthful, and whose original pictures ever strove to
be so, who through surpassing sacrifice became great, who lived, if ever
man has, the wonderful Christ-life, now sleeps the sleep of peace, the
last peace, under the sod of the landscape of his nativity.
There remains to be considered a series of undeniably remarkable
pictures, executed in Rome by John Rollin Tilton.
This artist's landscapes are remarkable for the conflicting effects
which they have produced on the public. They have excited, as they have
been exhibited in his studio in Rome, great enthusiasm, and admiration
which would listen to no criticism. Until perhaps the present year,
which is one of prostration in Rome, his works could not be purchased,
each one being the fulfilment of a commission given long before. These
commissions were given not by men merely wealthy, but by men widely
known for cultivation, discrimination, and for refinement of that taste
which requires the influences of Art. On the other hand, men equally as
remarkable for their accomplishments in matters of taste have expressed
their condemnation of all the paintings of Mr. Tilton, or rather for
those executed prior to 1859, and there were those who heaped them with
ridicule. In admiration and condemnation we have often shared;--in the
sentiment of ridicule never; for in all attempts there have been the
hintings of worthy purpose and a desire to excel.
Those who most despise Mr. Tilton's style and productions are men whose
tendencies are to the theories of English pre-Raphaelism. Viewed in
relation to those principles, his pictures have little value. The
purchasers of them are the men who regard with enthusiastic admiration
the evanescent splendors of Nature.
Mr. Tilton's early ambition was to be the painter to fulfil the demands
of this latter class. He not only sympathized with it in its greater
admiration for "effects" in Nature, but he found associated therewith an
enthusiasm which inspired him with unbounded hope and energy.
When he came to Rome, the Campagnian sunsets were found to be
representative of the peculiar class of effects which he regarded as the
manifestation of his feeling; and so he forthwith took possession of
that part of the day which was passing while the sun performed the last
twelve degrees of his daily journey. Other portions of the twenty-four
hours did not appear to excite even ordinary interest; and whenever
conversation involved consideration of scenery under other than the
favorite character, he was prone to silence, or to attempts to change
the subject. Yet he has been known to speak in terms of commendation
of certain sunrises, and once was actually caught by a friend making a
sketch of Pilatus at sunrise across the Lake of Lucerne.
The objects in the immediate foreground shared in the neglect which
attached to certain seasons. They were ignored as organized members of
what should be a living foreground, and their places were concealed by
unintelligible pigment. As to life there, he wanted none: light,--light
that gleams, and color to reflect it, were his aim. As an inevitable
attending result of these principles, or practices, the structure of the
whole landscape was ambiguous. The essential line and point were evaded,
and one perceived that the artist had _watched_ far more attentively
than he had studied Nature.
At the same time the pictures produced in this studio were marked by
qualities of great beauty. The peculiarly ethereal character of the vast
bands of thin vapors made visible by the slant rays of the sun, and
illuminated with tints which are exquisitely pure and prismatic, was
rendered with surprising success. On examination, the tints which were
used to represent the prismatic character of those of Nature were found
to present surfaces of such excessive delicacy, that the evanescence of
the natural phenomena was suggested, and apprehensions were indulged as
to the permanency of the effects. That noble north light of a cloudless
Roman sky did not extend far, hardly to Civita Vecchia, certainly not
to England, Old or New; and with a less friendly hand than his own to
expose his work, under sight still less kind, there might be presented a
picture bereft of all but its faults. Such has been the case.
We here dismiss willingly further recollection of the works to which we
have called attention. They are marked by error in theory, inasmuch as
they show neglect of the specific and essential, and by feebleness of
system, inasmuch as under no other light than that in which they were
painted could their finer qualities be perceived. Yet it is but just
to add that these were produced during a state of transition from one
method of applying pigments to another of totally different character.
This period of the painter's experience was brought to a close by the
better one of a summer residence at Pieve di Cadore, a village among the
Friulian Alps. Thither he might have gone merely to make a pilgrimage
to the birthplace of Titian; for other reason than _that_ he stayed in
Cadore. He stayed for life, truth, and correction, and he found all. No
other place on the continent could have afforded Mr. Tilton the benefit
that this mountain village did. Here was no ambiguity, no optical
illusion, but frank; ingenuous Nature. The peaks which guarded the
valley were clear and immutable. They suffered no conflicting opinions;
accident had done little to disguise, their true character, but Nature
held them as specimens of the essential in mountain structure. That the
lesson of these peaks might not be forgotten, the student finds them
copied accurately in nearly every landscape painted by Titian. The
magnificent one in "The Presentation in the Temple" was his favorite.
The sketches of this period show that the artist's attention was divided
between the study of these hill forms and of the luxuriant vegetation
of the sloping fields and pastures so characteristic of Swiss scenery.
Cadore is most richly endowed in this respect. The hill-sides are
burdened with flowers, many of which are large and of tropical splendor.
The green of the broad fields is modified by the burden of blossoms. We
have seen against the background of one of these steepest fields what
seemed to be a column of delicate blue smoke wreathing up the hill-side.
In reality it was a bed of wild forget-me-nots, which marked the course
of a minute rill. Under such influences as these, a man born to be a
painter, to whom Art is all, whose hand never fails to execute, and
whose mind has risen above any erroneous combination of principles which
may have checked his progress toward the greatly excellent, must
find himself with new strength, a chastened imagination, and broader
conceptions of his art.
The results of Mr. Tilton's labors since the summer in the Alps prove
that such was the effect upon him. His pictures have of late occupied
nearly every class of Landscape Art. The works now wrought in his Roman
studio are indicative of great changes in feeling, and are marked by
surprising improvements in execution. Yet the individuality of the
artist is impressed upon every canvas. The changes to which we refer are
these,--foregrounds suggested by or painted from living forms. In one
view of Nemi we saw a superb black, gold, and crimson butterfly resting
on a flower. Yet these foregrounds require more strength, more "body,"
more of that which artists achieve who achieve nothing else. We notice
far more individualism in tree forms. The ideal tree, that is, the tree
as it should be, and the conventional one coming against the sky on one
side of the composition, the one bequeathed by Claude, have given place
to Nature's homelier types. The question as to the meaning of passages
no longer arises. The lines are drawn with a decision, with a sense of
certainty, raising them above all doubt. In the rendering of distant
mountains, Mr. Dillon evinces new knowledge of what such forms
necessarily imply,--their tendency to monotone and to flatness, yet
preserving all their essential surface markings, and their inevitable
cutting outline against the sky,--which sharpness Mr. Tilton as yet has
only hinted at, not represented. Positive edges are the true.--But we
have no further space to devote to these particulars of landscape form.
In these Mr. Tilton has many rivals and not a few superiors.
There is left us the pleasant privilege of alluding to an ability which
we believe he shares with none, and which enables him to give his
present pictures their great value. This is the power to discriminate
accurately between the several classes of color,--the local, the
reflected, and the prismatic. It will be found on reference to most
landscapes, especially those of the English schools, that it is the
understanding, already informed on the subject, which accepts as
reflected the continual attempts to render this kind of color: they are
regarded as indicative. But the eye, which should have been satisfied
first, recognizes nothing more than local coloring. Near objects, under
broad, open daylight, yield us their local coloring,--as the surfaces
of stones, the trunks of trees, and the many tints of soil and
vegetation,--yet even here all is modified by reflections. We remember
a cliff at L'Ariccia, which, gray in morning light, became, as evening
approached, a marvellous beryl green, upon which some large poppies cast
wafts of purest scarlet. Farther away, both local and reflected color
lose their power. The rays no longer convey information of surfaces as
separate existences. Nature gathers up into masses, and these masses
tide back to the foreground colors far removed in character from the
near. Vast combinations of rays and atmospheric influences have wrought
this change. As we have said, noon gives us the earth clean and itself;
but, as the sun declines, flushes of color pass along the ground. Their
character we have already described. The particles which fill the
atmosphere just above the surface of the earth become illuminated and
visible in radiant masses. Farther away there is floated over the
mountains a miraculous bloom, a bloom like that upon virgin fruit; and
still more remote, upon the far sea, there is a dream of amber mantling
the sleeping blue. To render these effects, to give us the illuminated
air, the soft green which the mossy sod casts upon the shaded cliff, the
precious bloom upon the hills, and the tints diffused along the sea,--to
achieve this so completely that there never shall be any doubt, to give
us upon the canvas what shall be all this to the beholder, is great, and
this Mr. Tilton has performed.
THE EXPERIENCES OF THE A. C.
"Bridgeport! Change cars for the Naugatuck Railroad!" shouted the
conductor of the New York and Boston Express Train, on the evening of
May 27th, 1858. Indeed, he does it every night, (Sundays excepted,)
for that matter; but as this story refers especially to Mr. J. Edward
Johnson, who was a passenger on that train, on the aforesaid evening,
I make special mention of the fact. Mr. Johnson, carpet-bag in hand,
jumped upon the platform, entered the office, purchased a ticket for
Waterbury, and was soon whirling in the Naugatuck train towards his
On reaching Waterbury, in the soft spring twilight, Mr. Johnson walked
up and down in front of the station, curiously scanning the faces of the
assembled crowd. Presently he noticed a gentleman who was performing
the same operation upon the faces of the alighting passengers. Throwing
himself directly in the way of the latter, the two exchanged a steady
"Is your name Billings?" "Is your name Johnson?" were simultaneous
questions, followed by the simultaneous exclamations,--"Ned!" "Enos!"
Then there was a crushing grasp of hands, repeated after a pause,
in testimony of ancient friendship, and Mr. Billings, returning to
practical life, asked,--
"Is that all your baggage? Come, I have a buggy here: Eunice has heard
the whistle, and she'll be impatient to welcome you."
The impatience of Eunice (Mrs. Billings, of course) was not of long
duration; for in five minutes thereafter she stood at the door of her
husband's chocolate-colored villa, receiving his friend.
While these three persons are comfortably seated at the tea-table,
enjoying their waffles, cold tongue, and canned peaches, and asking
and answering questions helter-skelter in the delightful confusion of
reunion after long separation, let us briefly inform the reader who and
what they are.
Mr. Enos Billings, then, was part owner of a manufactory of metal
buttons, forty years old, of middling height, ordinarily quiet and
rather shy, but with a large share of latent warmth and enthusiasm in
his nature. His hair was brown, slightly streaked with gray, his eyes a
soft, dark hazel, forehead square, eye-brows straight, nose of no very
marked character, and mouth moderately full, with a tendency to twitch
a little at the corners. His voice was undertoned, but mellow and
Mrs. Eunice Billings, of nearly equal age, was a good specimen of the
wide-awake New-England woman. Her face had a piquant smartness of
expression, which might have been refined into a sharp edge, but for her
natural hearty good-humor. Her head was smoothly formed, her face a full
oval, her hair and eyes blond and blue in a strong light, but brown and
steel-gray at other times, and her complexion of that ripe fairness into
which a ruddier color will sometimes fade. Her form, neither plump nor
spare, had yet a firm, elastic compactness, and her slightest movement
conveyed a certain impression of decision and self-reliance.
As for J. Edward Johnson, it is enough to say that he was a tall,
thin gentleman of forty-five, with an aquiline nose, narrow face, and
military whiskers, which swooped upwards and met under his nose in a
glossy black moustache. His complexion was dark, from the bronzing of
fifteen summers in New Orleans. He was a member of a wholesale hardware
firm in that city, and had now revisited his native North for the first
time since his departure. A year before, some letters relating to
invoices of metal buttons, signed "Foster, Kirkup, & Co., per Enos
Billings," had accidentally revealed to him the whereabouts of the old
friend of his youth, with whom we now find him domiciled. The first
thing he did, after attending to some necessary business matters in New
York, was to take the train for Waterbury.
"Enos," said he, as he stretched out his hand for the third cup of tea,
(which he had taken only for the purpose of prolonging the pleasant
table-chat,) "I wonder which of us is most changed."
"You, of course," said Mr. Billings, "with your brown face and big
moustache. Your own brother wouldn't have known you, if he had seen you
last, as I did, with smooth cheeks and hair of unmerciful length. Why,
not even your voice is the same!"
"That is easily accounted for," replied Mr. Johnson. "But in your case,
Enos, I am puzzled to find where the difference lies. Your features seem
to be but little changed, now that I can examine them at leisure; yet it
is not the same face. But, really, I never looked at you for so long
a time, in those days. I beg pardon: you used to be so--so remarkably
Mr. Billings blushed slightly, and seemed at a loss what to answer. His
wife, however, burst into a merry laugh, exclaiming,--
"Oh, that was before the days of the A.C.!"
He, catching the infection, laughed also: in fact, Mr. Johnson laughed,
but without knowing why.
"The 'A.C.'!" said Mr. Billings. "Bless me, Eunice! how long it is since
we have talked of that summer! I had almost forgotten that there ever
was an A.C."
"Enos, _could_ you ever forget Abel Mallory and the beer?--or that scene
between Hollins and Shelldrake?--or" (here _she_ blushed the least bit)
"your own fit of candor?" And she laughed again, more heartily than
"What a precious lot of fools, to be sure!" exclaimed her husband.
Mr. Johnson, meanwhile, though enjoying the cheerful humor of his hosts,
was not a little puzzled with regard to its cause.
"What is the A.C.?" he ventured to ask.
Mr. and Mrs. Billings looked at each other, and smiled, without
"Really, Ned," said the former, finally, "the answer to your question
involves the whole story."
"Then why not tell him the whole story, Enos?" remarked his wife.
"You know I've never told it yet, and it's rather a hard thing to do,
seeing that I'm one of the heroes of the farce,--for it wasn't even
genteel comedy, Ned," said Mr. Billings. "However," he continued,
"absurd as the story may seem, it's the only key to the change in my
life, and I must run the risk of being laughed at."
"I'll help you through, Enos," said his wife, encouragingly; "and
besides, my _role_ in the farce was no better than yours. Let us
resuscitate, for to-night only, the constitution of the A.C."
"Upon my word, a capital idea! But we shall have to initiate Ned."
Mr. Johnson merrily agreeing, he was blindfolded and conducted into
another room. A heavy arm-chair, rolling on casters, struck his legs in
the rear, and he sank into it with lamb-like resignation.
"Open your mouth!" was the command, given with mock solemnity.
"Now shut it!"
And his lips closed upon a cigar, while at the same time the
handkerchief was whisked away from his eyes. He found himself in Mr.
"Your nose betrays your taste, Mr. Johnson," said the lady, "and I am
not hard-hearted enough to deprive you of the indulgence. Here are
"Well," said he, acting upon the hint, "if the remainder of the
ceremonies are equally agreeable, I should like to be a permanent member
of your order."
By this time Mr. and Mrs. Billings, having between them lighted the
lamp, stirred up the coal in the grate, closed the doors, and taken
possession of comfortable chairs, the latter proclaimed,--
"The Chapter (isn't that what you call it?) will now be held!"
"Was it in '43 when you left home, Ned?" asked Mr. B.
"Well, the A.C. culminated in '45. You remember something of the society
of Norridgeport, the last winter you were there? Abel Mallory, for
"Let me think a moment," said Mr. Johnson, reflectively. "Really, it
seems like looking back a hundred years. Mallory,--wasn't that the
sentimental young man, with wispy hair, a tallowy skin, and big, sweaty
hands, who used to be spouting Carlyle on the 'reading evenings' at
Shelldrake's? Yes, to be sure; and there was Hollins, with his clerical
face and infidel talk,--and Pauline Ringtop, who used to say, 'The
Beautiful is the Good.' I can still hear her shrill voice singing,
'Would that _I_ were beautiful, would that _I_ were fair!'"
There was a hearty chorus of laughter at poor Miss Ringtop's expense.
It harmed no one, however; for the tar-weed was already thick over her
"Oh, I see," said Mr. Billings, "you still remember the absurdities of
those days. In fact, I think you partially saw through them then. But I
was younger, and far from being so clear-headed, and I looked upon those
evenings at Shelldrake's as being equal, at least, to the _symposia_ of
Plato. Something in Mallory always repelled me. I detested the sight of
his thick nose, with the flaring nostrils, and his coarse, half-formed
lips, of the bluish color of raw corned-beef. But I looked upon these
feelings as unreasonable prejudices, and strove to conquer them, seeing
the admiration which he received from others. He was an oracle on the
subject of 'Nature.' Having eaten nothing for two years, except
Graham bread, vegetables without salt, and fruits, fresh or dried,
he considered himself to have attained an antediluvian purity of
health,--or that he would attain it, so soon as two pimples on his left
temple should have healed. These pimples he looked upon as the last
feeble stand made by the pernicious juices left from the meat he had
formerly eaten and the coffee he had drunk. His theory was, that through
a body so purged and purified none but true and natural impulses could
find access to the soul. Such, indeed, was the theory we all held. A
Return to Nature was the near Millennium, the dawn of which we already
beheld in the sky. To be sure, there was a difference in our individual
views as to how this should be achieved, but we were all agreed as to
what the result should be.
"I can laugh over those days now, Ned; but they were really happy while
they lasted. We were the salt of the earth; we were lifted above those
grovelling instincts which we saw manifested in the lives of others.
Each contributed his share of gas to inflate the painted balloon to
which we all clung, in the expectation that it would presently soar
with us to the stars. But it only went up over the out-houses, dodged
backwards and forwards two or three times, and finally flopped down with
us into a swamp."
"And that balloon was the A. C.?" suggested Mr. Johnson.
"As President of this Chapter, I prohibit questions," said Eunice. "And,
Enos, don't send up your balloon until the proper time. Don't anticipate
the programme, or the performance will be spoiled."
"I had almost forgotten that Ned is so much in the dark," her obedient
husband answered. "You can have but a slight notion," he continued,
turning to his friend, "of the extent to which this sentimental, or
transcendental, element in the little circle at Shelldrake's increased
after you left Norridgeport. We read the 'Dial,' and Emerson; we
believed in Alcott as the 'purple Plato' of modern times; we took
psychological works out of the library, and would listen for hours to
Hollins while he read Schelling or Fichte, and then go home with a
misty impression of having imbibed infinite wisdom. It was, perhaps,
a natural, though very eccentric rebound from the hard, practical,
unimaginative New-England mind which surrounded us; yet I look back upon
it with a kind of wonder. I was then, as you know, unformed mentally,
and might have been so still, but for the experiences of the A. C."
Mr. Johnson shifted his position, a little impatiently. Eunice looked at
him with laughing eyes, and shook her finger with a mock threat.
"Shelldrake," continued Mr. Billings, without noticing this by-play,