Part 2 out of 10
"Well," said Rienzi, laughing gently, and drawing his seat nearer to the
Bishop's, "my Lord has certainly the best of the argument at present; and I
must own, that strong, licentious, and unhallowed as the order of nobility
was then, it is yet more so now."
"Even I," rejoined Raimond, colouring as he spoke, "though Vicar of the
Pope, and representative of his spiritual authority, was, but three days
ago, subjected to a coarse affront from that very Stephen Colonna, who has
ever received such favour and tenderness from the Holy See. His servitors
jostled mine in the open streets, and I myself, - I, the delegate of the
sire of kings - was forced to draw aside to the wall, and wait until the
hoary insolent swept by. Nor were blaspheming words wanting to complete
the insult. "'Pardon, Lord Bishop,' said he, as he passed me; 'but this
world, thou knowest, must necessarily take precedence of the other.'"
"Dared he so high?" said Rienzi, shading his face with his hand, as a very
peculiar smile - scarcely itself joyous, though it made others gay, and
which completely changed the character of his face, naturally grave even to
sternness - played round his lips. "Then it is time for thee, holy father,
as for us, to - "
"To what?" interrupted the Bishop, quickly. "Can we effect aught! Dismiss
thy enthusiastic dreamings - descend to the real earth - look soberly round
us. Against men so powerful, what can we do?"
"My Lord," answered Rienzi, gravely, "it is the misfortune of signors of
your rank never to know the people, or the accurate signs of the time. As
those who pass over the heights of mountains see the clouds sweep below,
veiling the plains and valleys from their gaze, while they, only a little
above the level, survey the movements and the homes of men; even so from
your lofty eminence ye behold but the indistinct and sullen vapours - while
from my humbler station I see the preparations of the shepherds, to shelter
themselves and herds from the storm which those clouds betoken. Despair
not, my Lord; endurance goes but to a certain limit - to that limit it is
already stretched; Rome waits but the occasion (it will soon come, but not
suddenly) to rise simultaneously against her oppressors."
The great secret of eloquence is to be in earnest - the great secret of
Rienzi's eloquence was in the mightiness of his enthusiasm. He never spoke
as one who doubted of success. Perhaps, like most men who undertake high
and great actions, he himself was never thoroughly aware of the obstacles
in his way. He saw the end, bright and clear, and overleaped, in the
vision of his soul, the crosses and the length of the path; thus the deep
convictions of his own mind stamped themselves irresistibly upon others.
He seemed less to promise than to prophesy.
The Bishop of Orvietto, not over wise, yet a man of cool temperament and
much worldly experience, was forcibly impressed by the energy of his
companion; perhaps, indeed, the more so, inasmuch as his own pride and his
own passions were also enlisted against the arrogance and licence of the
nobles. He paused ere he replied to Rienzi.
"But is it," he asked, at length, "only the plebeians who will rise? Thou
knowest how they are caitiff and uncertain."
"My Lord," answered Rienzi, "judge, by one fact, how strongly I am
surrounded by friends of no common class: thou knowest how loudly I speak
against the nobles - I cite them by their name - I beard the Savelli, the
Orsini, the Colonna, in their very hearing. Thinkest thou that they
forgive me? thinkest thou that, were only the plebeians my safeguard and my
favourers, they would not seize me by open force, - that I had not long ere
this found a gag in their dungeons, or been swallowed up in the eternal
dumbness of the grave? Observe," continued he, as, reading the Vicar's
countenance, he perceived the impression he had made - "observe, that,
throughout the whole world, a great revolution has begun. The barbaric
darkness of centuries has been broken; the Knowledge which made men as
demigods in the past time has been called from her urn; a Power, subtler
than brute force, and mightier than armed men, is at work; we have begun
once more to do homage to the Royalty of Mind. Yes, that same Power which,
a few years ago, crowned Petrarch in the Capitol, when it witnessed, after
the silence of twelve centuries, the glories of a Triumph, - which heaped
upon a man of obscure birth, and unknown in arms, the same honours given of
old to emperors and the vanquishers of kings, - which united in one act of
homage even the rival houses of Colonna and Orsini, - which made the
haughtiest patricians emulous to bear the train, to touch but the purple
robe, of the son of the Florentine plebeian, - which still draws the eyes
of Europe to the lowly cottage of Vaucluse, - which gives to the humble
student the all-acknowledged licence to admonish tyrants, and approach,
with haughty prayers, even the Father of the Church; - yes, that same
Power, which, working silently throughout Italy, murmurs under the solid
base of the Venetian oligarchy; (It was about eight years afterwards that
the long-smothered hate of the Venetian people to that wisest and most
vigilant of all oligarchies, the Sparta of Italy, broke out in the
conspiracy under Marino Faliero.) which, beyond the Alps, has wakened into
visible and sudden life in Spain, in Germany, in Flanders; and which, even
in that barbarous Isle, conquered by the Norman sword, ruled by the bravest
of living kings, (Edward III., in whose reign opinions far more popular
than those of the following century began to work. The Civil Wars threw
back the action into the blood. It was indeed an age throughout the world
which put forth abundant blossoms, but crude and unripened fruit; - a
singular leap, followed by as singular a pause.) has roused a spirit Norman
cannot break - kings to rule over must rule by - yes, that same Power is
everywhere abroad: it speaks, it conquers in the voice even of him who is
before you; it unites in his cause all on whom but one glimmering of light
has burst, all in whom one generous desire can be kindled! Know, Lord
Vicar, that there is not a man in Rome, save our oppressors themselves -
not a man who has learned one syllable of our ancient tongue - whose heart
and sword are not with me. The peaceful cultivators of letters - the proud
nobles of the second order - the rising race, wiser than their slothful
sires; above all, my Lord, the humbler ministers of religion, priests and
monks, whom luxury hath not blinded, pomp hath not deafened, to the
monstrous outrage to Christianity daily and nightly perpetrated in the
Christian Capital; these, - all these, - are linked with the merchant and
the artisan in one indissoluble bond, waiting but the signal to fall or to
conquer, to live freemen, or to die martyrs, with Rienzi and their
"Sayest thou so in truth?" said the Bishop, startled, and half rising.
"Prove but thy words, and thou shalt not find the ministers of God are less
eager than their lay brethren for the happiness of men."
"What I say," rejoined Rienzi, in a cooler tone, "that can I show; but I
may only prove it to those who will be with us."
"Fear me not," answered Raimond: "I know well the secret mind of his
Holiness, whose delegate and representative I am; and could he see but the
legitimate and natural limit set to the power of the patricians, who, in
their arrogance, have set at nought the authority of the Church itself, be
sure that he would smile on the hand that drew the line. Nay, so certain
of this am I, that if ye succeed, I, his responsible but unworthy vicar,
will myself sanction the success. But beware of crude attempts; the Church
must not be weakened by linking itself to failure."
"Right, my Lord," answered Rienzi; "and in this, the policy of religion is
that of freedom. Judge of my prudence by my long delay. He who can see
all around him impatient - himself not less so - and yet suppress the
signal, and bide the hour, is not likely to lose his cause by rashness."
"More, then, of this anon," said the Bishop, resettling himself in his
seat. "As thy plans mature, fear not to communicate with me. Believe that
Rome has no firmer friend then he who, ordained to preserve order, finds
himself impotent against aggression. Meanwhile, to the object of my
present visit, which links itself, in some measure, perhaps, with the
topics on which we have conversed...Thou knowest that when his Holiness
intrusted thee with thy present office, he bade thee also announce his
beneficent intention of granting a general Jubilee at Rome for the year
1350 - a most admirable design for two reasons, sufficiently apparent to
thyself: first, that every Christian soul that may undertake the
pilgrimage to Rome on that occasion, may thus obtain a general remission of
sins; and secondly, because, to speak carnally, the concourse of pilgrims
so assembled, usually, by the donations and offerings their piety suggests,
very materially add to the revenues of the Holy See: at this time, by the
way, in no very flourishing condition. This thou knowest, dear Rienzi."
Rienzi bowed his head in assent, and the prelate continued -
"Well, it is with the greatest grief that his Holiness perceives that his
pious intentions are likely to be frustrated: for so fierce and numerous
are now the brigands in the public approaches to Rome, that, verily, the
boldest pilgrim may tremble a little to undertake the journey; and those
who do so venture will, probably, be composed of the poorest of the
Christian community, - men who, bringing with them neither gold, nor
silver, nor precious offerings, will have little to fear from the rapacity
of the brigands. Hence arise two consequences: on the one hand, the rich
- whom, Heaven knows, and the Gospel has, indeed, expressly declared, have
the most need of a remission of sins - will be deprived of this glorious
occasion for absolution; and, on the other hand, the coffers of the Church
will be impiously defrauded of that wealth which it would otherwise
doubtless obtain from the zeal of her children."
"Nothing can be more logically manifest, my Lord," said Rienzi.
The Vicar continued - "Now, in letters received five days since from his
Holiness, he bade me expose these fearful consequences to Christianity to
the various patricians who are legitimately fiefs of the Church, and
command their resolute combination against the marauders of the road. With
these have I conferred, and vainly."
"For by the aid, and from the troops, of those very brigands, these
patricians have fortified their palaces against each other," added Rienzi.
"Exactly for that reason," rejoined the Bishop. "Nay, Stephen Colonna
himself had the audacity to confess it. Utterly unmoved by the loss to so
many precious souls, and, I may add, to the papal treasury, which ought to
be little less dear to right-discerning men, they refuse to advance a step
against the bandits. Now, then, hearken the second mandate of his
Holiness: - 'Failing the nobles,' saith he, in his prophetic sagacity,
'confer with Cola di Rienzi. He is a bold man, and a pious, and, thou
tellest me, of great weight with the people; and say to him, that if his
wit can devise the method for extirpating these sons of Belial, and
rendering a safe passage along the public ways, largely, indeed, will he
merit at our hands, - lasting will be the gratitude we shall owe to him;
and whatever succour thou, and the servants of our See, can render to him,
let it not be stinted.'"
"Said his Holiness thus!" exclaimed Rienzi. "I ask no more - the gratitude
is mine that he hath thought thus of his servant, and intrusted me with
this charge; at once I accept it - at once I pledge myself to success. Let
us, my Lord, let us, then, clearly understand the limits ordained to my
discretion. To curb the brigands without the walls, I must have authority
over those within. If I undertake, at peril of my life, to clear all the
avenues to Rome of the robbers who now infest it, shall I have full licence
for conduct bold, peremptory, and severe?"
"Such conduct the very nature of the charge demands," replied Raimond.
"Ay, - even though it be exercised against the arch offenders - against the
supporters of the brigands - against the haughtiest of the nobles
The Bishop paused, and looked hard in the face of the speaker. "I repeat,"
said he, at length, sinking his voice, and with a significant tone, "in
these bold attempts, success is the sole sanction. Succeed, and we will
excuse thee all - even to the - "
"Death of a Colonna or an Orsini, should justice demand it; and provided it
be according to the law, and only incurred by the violation of the law!"
added Rienzi, firmly.
The Bishop did not reply in words, but a slight motion of his head was
sufficient answer to Rienzi.
"My Lord," said he, "from this time, then, all is well; I date the
revolution - the restoration of order, of the state - from this hour, this
very conference. Till now, knowing that justice must never wink upon great
offenders, I had hesitated, through fear lest thou and his Holiness might
deem it severity, and blame him who replaces the law, because he smites the
violaters of law. Now I judge ye more rightly. Your hand, my Lord."
The Bishop extended his hand; Rienzi grasped it firmly, and then raised it
respectfully to his lips. Both felt that the compact was sealed.
This conference, so long in recital, was short in the reality; but its
object was already finished, and the Bishop rose to depart. The outer
portal of the house was opened, the numerous servitors of the Bishop held
on high their torches, and he had just termed from Rienzi, who had attended
him to the gate, when a female passed hastily through the Prelate's train,
and starting as she beheld Rienzi, flung herself at his feet.
"Oh, hasten, Sir! hasten, for the love of God, hasten! or the young Signora
is lost for ever!"
"The Signora! - Heaven and earth, Benedetta, of whom do you speak? - of my
sister - of Irene? is she not within?"
"Oh, Sir - the Orsini - the Orsini!"
"What of them? - speak, woman!"
Here, breathlessly, and with many a break, Benedetta recounted to Rienzi,
in whom the reader has already recognised the brother of Irene, so far of
the adventure with Martino di Porto as she had witnessed: of the
termination and result of the contest she knew nought.
Rienzi listened in silence; but the deadly paleness of his countenance, and
the writhing of the nether lip, testified the emotions to which he gave no
"You hear, my Lord Bishop - you hear," said he, when Benedetta had
concluded; and turning to the Bishop, whose departure the narrative had
delayed - "you hear to what outrage the citizens of Rome are subjected. My
hat and sword! instantly! My Lord, forgive my abruptness."
"Whither art thou bent, then?" asked Raimond.
"Whither - whither! - Ay, I forgot, my Lord, you have no sister. Perhaps
too, you had no brother? - No, no; one victim at least I will live to save.
Whither, you ask me? - to the palace of Martino di Porto."
"To an Orsini alone, and for justice?"
"Alone, and for justice! - No!" shouted Rienzi, in a loud voice, as he
seized his sword, now brought to him by one of his servants, and rushed
from the house; "but one man is sufficient for revenge!"
The Bishop paused for a moment's deliberation. "He must not be lost,"
muttered he, "as he well may be, if exposed thus solitary to the wolf's
rage. What, ho!" he cried aloud; "advance the torches! - quick, quick! We
ourself - we, the Vicar of the Pope - will see to this. Calm yourselves,
good people; your young Signora shall be restored. On! to the palace of
Martino di Porto!"
Chapter 1.VI. Irene in the Palace of Adrian di Castello.
As the Cyprian gazed on the image in which he had embodied a youth of
dreams, what time the living hues flushed slowly beneath the marble, - so
gazed the young and passionate Adrian upon the form reclined before him,
re-awakening gradually to life. And, if the beauty of that face were not
of the loftiest or the most dazzling order, if its soft and quiet character
might be outshone by many, of loveliness less really perfect, yet never was
there a countenance that, to some eyes, would have seemed more charming,
and never one in which more eloquently was wrought that ineffable and
virgin expression which Italian art seeks for in its models, - in which
modesty is the outward, and tenderness the latent, expression; the bloom of
youth, both of form and heart, ere the first frail and delicate freshness
of either is brushed away: and when even love itself, the only unquiet
visitant that should be known at such an age, is but a sentiment, and not a
"Benedetta!" murmured Irene, at length opening her eyes, unconsciously,
upon him who knelt beside her, - eyes of that uncertain, that most liquid
hue, on which you might gaze for years and never learn the secret of the
colour, so changed it with the dilating pupil, - darkening in the shade,
and brightening into azure in the light:
"Benedetta," said Irene, "where art thou? Oh, Benedetta! I have had such
"And I, too, such a vision!" thought Adrian.
"Where am I?" cried Irene, rising from the couch. "This room - these
hangings - Holy Virgin! do I dream still! - and you! Heavens! - it is the
Lord Adrian di Castello!"
"Is that a name thou hast been taught to fear?" said Adrian; "if so, I will
If Irene now blushed deeply, it was not in that wild delight with which her
romantic heart motive foretold that she would listen to the first words of
homage from Adrian di Castello. Bewildered and confused, - terrified at
the strangeness of the place and shrinking even from the thought of finding
herself alone with one who for years had been present to her fancies, -
alarm and distress were the emotions she felt the most, and which most were
impressed upon her speaking countenance; and as Adrian now drew nearer to
her, despite the gentleness of his voice and the respect of his looks, her
fears, not the less strong that they were vague, increased upon her: she
retreated to the further end of the room, looked wildly round her, and
then, covering her face with her hands, burst into a paroxysm of tears.
Moved himself by these tears, and divining her thoughts, Adrian forgot for
moment all the more daring wishes he had formed.
"Fear not, sweet lady," said he, earnestly: "recollect thyself, I beseech
thee; no peril, no evil can reach thee here; it was this hand that saved
thee from the outrage of the Orsini - this roof is but the shelter of a
friend! Tell me, then, fair wonder, thy name and residence, and I will
summon my servitors, and guard thee to thy home at once."
Perhaps the relief of tears, even more than Adrian's words, restored Irene
to herself, and enabled her to comprehend her novel situation; and as her
senses, thus cleared, told her what she owed to him whom her dreams had so
long imaged as the ideal of all excellence, she recovered her self-
possession, and uttered her thanks with a grace not the less winning, if it
still partook of embarrassment.
"Thank me not," answered Adrian, passionately. "I have touched thy hand -
I am repaid. Repaid! nay, all gratitude - all homage is for me to render!"
Blushing again, but with far different emotions than before, Irene, after a
momentary pause, replied, "Yet, my Lord, I must consider it a debt the more
weighty that you speak of it so lightly. And now, complete the obligation.
I do not see my companion - suffer her to accompany me home; it is but a
short way hence."
"Blessed, then, is the air that I have breathed so unconsciously!" said
Adrian. "But thy companion, dear lady, is not here. She fled, I imagine,
in the confusion of the conflict; and not knowing thy name, nor being able,
in thy then state, to learn it from thy lips, it was my happy necessity to
convey thee hither; - but I will be thy companion. Nay, why that timid
glance? my people, also, shall attend us."
"My thanks, noble Lord, are of little worth; my brother, who is not unknown
to thee, will thank thee more fittingly. May I depart?" and Irene, as she
spoke, was already at the door.
"Art thou so eager to leave me?" answered Adrian, sadly. "Alas! when thou
hast departed from my eyes, it will seem as if the moon had left the night!
- but it is happiness to obey thy wishes, even though they tear thee from
A slight smile parted Irene's lips, and Adrian's heart beat audibly to
himself, as he drew from that smile, and those downcast eyes, no
Reluctantly and slowly he turned towards the door, and summoned his
attendants. "But," said he, as they stood on the lofty staircase, "thou
sayest, sweet lady, that thy brother's name is not unknown to me. Heaven
grant that he be, indeed, a friend of the Colonna!"
"His boast," answered Irene, evasively; "the boast of Cola di Rienzi is, to
be a friend to the friends of Rome."
"Holy Virgin of Ara Coeli! - is thy brother that extraordinary man?"
exclaimed Adrian, as he foresaw, at the mention of that name, a barrier to
his sudden passion. "Alas! in a Colonna, in a noble, he will see no merit;
even though thy fortunate deliverer, sweet maiden, sought to be his early
Thou wrongest him much, my Lord," returned Irene, warmly; "he is a man
above all others to sympathize with thy generous valour, even had it been
exerted in defence of the humblest woman in Rome, - how much more, then,
when in protection of his sister!"
"The times are, indeed, diseased," answered Adrian, thoughtfully, as they
now found themselves in the open street, "when men who alike mourn for the
woes of their country are yet suspicious of each other; when to be a
patrician is to be regarded as an enemy to the people; when to be termed
the friend of the people is to be considered a foe to the patricians: but
come what may, oh! let me hope, dear lady, that no doubts, no divisions,
shall banish from thy breast one gentle memory of me!"
"Ah! little, little do you know me!" began Irene, and stopped suddenly
"Speak! speak again! - of what music has this envious silence deprived my
soul! Thou wilt not, then, forget me? And," continued Adrian, "we shall
meet again? It is to Rienzi's house we are bound now; tomorrow I shall
visit my old companion, - tomorrow I shall see thee. Will it not be so?"
In Irene's silence was her answer.
"And as thou hast told me thy brother's name, make it sweet to my ear, and
add to it thine own."
"They call me Irene."
"Irene, Irene! - let me repeat it. It is a soft name, and dwells upon the
lips as if loath to leave them - a fitting name for one like thee."
Thus making his welcome court to Irene, in that flowered and glowing
language which, if more peculiar to that age and to the gallantry of the
south, is also the language in which the poetry of youthful passion would,
in all times and lands, utter its rich extravagance, could heart speak to
heart, Adrian conveyed homeward his beautiful charge, taking, however, the
most circuitous and lengthened route; an artifice which Irene either
perceived not, or silently forgave. They were now within sight of the
street in which Rienzi dwelt, when a party of men bearing torches, came
unexpectedly upon them. It was the train of the Bishop of Orvietto,
returning from the palace of Martino di Porto, and in their way
(accompanied by Rienzi) to that of Adrian. They had learned at the former,
without an interview with the Orsini, from the retainers in the court
below, the fortune of the conflict, and the name of Irene's champion; and,
despite Adrian's general reputation for gallantry, Rienzi knew enough of
his character, and the nobleness of his temper, to feel assured that Irene
was safe in his protection. Alas! in that very safety to the person is
often the most danger to the heart. Woman never so dangerously loves, as
when he who loves her, for her sake, subdues himself.
Clasped to her brother's breast, Irene bade him thank her deliverer; and
Rienzi, with that fascinating frankness which sits so well on those usually
reserved, and which all who would rule the hearts of their fellow-men must
at times command, advanced to the young Colonna, and poured forth his
gratitude and praise.
"We have been severed too long, - we must know each other again," replied
Adrian. "I shall seek thee, ere long, be assured."
Turning to take his leave of Irene, he conveyed her hand to his lips, and
pressing it, as it dropped from his clasp, was he deceived in thinking that
those delicate fingers lightly, involuntarily, returned the pressure?
Chapter 1.VII. Upon Love and Lovers.
If, in adopting the legendary love tale of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare
had changed the scene in which it is cast for a more northern clime, we may
doubt whether the art of Shakespeare himself could have reconciled us at
once to the suddenness and the strength of Juliet's passion. And, even as
it is, perhaps there are few of our rational and sober-minded islanders who
would not honestly confess, if fairly questioned, that they deem the
romance and fervour of those ill-starred lovers of Verona exaggerated and
over-drawn. Yet, in Italy, the picture of that affection born of a night -
but "strong as death" - is one to which the veriest commonplaces of life
would afford parallels without number. As in different ages, so in
different climes, love varies wonderfully in the shapes it takes. And even
at this day, beneath Italian skies, many a simple girl would feel as
Juliet, and many a homely gallant would rival the extravagance of Romeo.
Long suits in that sunny land, wherein, as whereof, I now write, are
unknown. In no other land, perhaps, is there found so commonly the love at
first sight, which in France is a jest, and in England a doubt; in no other
land, too, is love, though so suddenly conceived, more faithfully
preserved. That which is ripened in fancy comes at once to passion, yet is
embalmed through all time by sentiment. And this must be my and their
excuse, if the love of Adrian some too prematurely formed, and that of
Irene too romantically conceived; - it is the excuse which they take from
the air and sun, from the customs of their ancestors, from the soft
contagion of example. But while they yielded to the dictates of their
hearts, it was with a certain though secret sadness - a presentiment that
had, perhaps, its charm, though it was of cross and evil. Born of so proud
a race, Adrian could scarcely dream of marriage with the sister of a
plebeian; and Irene, unconscious of the future glory of her brother, could
hardly have cherished any hope, save that of being loved. Yet these
adverse circumstances, which, in the harder, the more prudent, the more
self-denying, perhaps the more virtuous minds, that are formed beneath the
northern skies, would have been an inducement to wrestle against love so
placed, only contributed to feed and to strengthen theirs by an opposition
which has ever its attraction for romance. They found frequent, though
short, opportunities of meeting - not quite alone, but only in the
conniving presence of Benedetta: sometimes in the public gardens,
sometimes amidst the vast and deserted ruins by which the house of Rienzi
was surrounded. They surrendered themselves, without much question of the
future, to the excitement - the elysium - of the hour: they lived but from
day to day; their future was the next time they should meet; beyond that
epoch, the very mists of their youthful love closed in obscurity and shadow
which they sought not to penetrate: and as yet they had not arrived at
that period of affection when there was danger of their fall, - their love
had not passed the golden portal where Heaven ceases and Earth begins.
Everything for them was the poetry, the vagueness, the refinement, - not
the power, the concentration, the mortality, - of desire! The look - the
whisper - the brief pressure of the hand, at most, the first kisses of
love, rare and few, - these marked the human limits of that sentiment which
filled them with a new life, which elevated them as with a new soul.
The roving tendencies of Adrian were at once fixed and centered; the dreams
of his tender mistress had awakened to a life dreaming still, but "rounded
with a truth." All that earnestness, and energy, and fervour of emotion,
which, in her brother, broke forth in the schemes of patriotism and the
aspirations of power, were, in Irene, softened down into one object of
existence, one concentration of soul, - and that was love. Yet, in this
range of thought and action, so apparently limited, there was, in reality,
no less boundless a sphere than in the wide space of her brother's many-
pathed ambition. Not the less had she the power and scope for all the
loftiest capacities granted to our clay. Equal was her enthusiasm for her
idol; equal, had she been equally tried, would have been her generosity,
her devotion: - greater, be sure, her courage; more inalienable her
worship; more unsullied by selfish purposes and sordid views. Time,
change, misfortune, ingratitude, would have left her the same! What state
could fall, what liberty decay, if the zeal of man's noisy patriotism were
as pure as the silent loyalty of a woman's love?
In them everything was young! - the heart unchilled, unblighted, - that
fulness and luxuriance of life's life which has in it something of divine.
At that age, when it seems as if we could never die, how deathless, how
flushed and mighty as with the youngness of a god, is all that our hearts
create! Our own youth is like that of the earth itself, when it peopled
the woods and waters with divinities; when life ran riot, and yet only gave
birth to beauty; - all its shapes, of poetry, - all its airs, the melodies
of Arcady and Olympus! The Golden Age never leaves the world: it exists
still, and shall exist, till love, health, poetry, are no more; but only
for the young!
If I now dwell, though but for a moment, on this interlude in a drama
calling forth more masculine passions than that of love, it is because I
foresee that the occasion will but rarely recur. If I linger on the
description of Irene and her hidden affection, rather than wait for
circumstances to portray them better than the author's words can, it is
because I foresee that that loving and lovely image must continue to the
last rather a shadow than a portrait, - thrown in the background, as is the
real destiny of such natures, by bolder figures and more gorgeous colours;
a something whose presence is rather felt than seen, and whose very harmony
with the whole consists in its retiring and subdued repose.
Chapter 1.VIII. The Enthusiastic Man Judged by the Discreet Man.
"Thou wrongest me," said Rienzi, warmly, to Adrian, as they sat alone,
towards the close of a long conference; "I do not play the part of a mere
demagogue; I wish not to stir the great deeps in order that my lees of
fortune may rise to the surface. So long have I brooded over the past,
that it seems to me as if I had become a part of it - as if I had no
separate existence. I have coined my whole soul into one master passion, -
and its end is the restoration of Rome."
"But by what means?"
"My Lord! my Lord! there is but one way to restore the greatness of a
people - it is an appeal to the people themselves. It is not in the power
of princes and barons to make a state permanently glorious; they raise
themselves, but they raise not the people with them. All great
regenerations are the universal movement of the mass."
"Nay," answered Adrian, "then have we read history differently. To me, all
great regenerations seem to have been the work of the few, and tacitly
accepted by the multitude. But let us not dispute after the manner of the
schools. Thou sayest loudly that a vast crisis is at hand; that the Good
Estate (buono stato) shall be established. How? where are your arms? -
your soldiers? Are the nobles less strong than heretofore? Is the mob
more bold, more constant? Heaven knows that I speak not with the
prejudices of my order - I weep for the debasement of my country! I am a
Roman, and in that name I forget that I am a noble. But I tremble at the
storm you would raise so hazardously. If your insurrection succeed, it
will be violent: it will be purchased by blood - by the blood of all the
loftiest names of Rome. You will aim at a second expulsion of the
Tarquins; but it will be more like a second proscription of Sylla.
Massacres and disorders never pave the way to peace. If, on the other
hand, you fail, the chains of Rome are riveted for ever: an ineffectual
struggle to escape is but an excuse for additional tortures to the slave."
"And what, then, would the Lord Adrian have us do?" said Rienzi, with that
peculiar and sarcastic smile which has before been noted. "Shall we wait
till the Colonna and Orsini quarrel no more? shall we ask the Colonna for
liberty, and the Orsini for justice? My Lord, we cannot appeal to the
nobles against the nobles. We must not ask them to moderate their power;
we must restore to ourselves that power. There may be danger in the
attempt - but we attempt it amongst the monuments of the Forum: and if we
fall - we shall perish worthy of our sires! Ye have high descent, and
sounding titles, and wide lands, and you talk of your ancestral honours!
We, too, - we plebeians of Rome, - we have ours! Our fathers were freemen!
where is our heritage? not sold - not given away: but stolen from us, now
by fraud, now by force - filched from us in our sleep; or wrung from us
with fierce hands, amidst our cries and struggles. My Lord, we but ask
that lawful heritage to be restored to us: to us - nay, to you it is the
same; your liberty, alike, is gone. Can you dwell in your father's house,
without towers, and fortresses, and the bought swords of bravos? can you
walk in the streets at dark without arms and followers? True, you, a
noble, may retaliate; though we dare not. You, in your turn, may terrify
and outrage others; but does licence compensate for liberty? They have
given you pomp and power - but the safety of equal laws were a better gift.
Oh, were I you - were I Stephen Colonna himself, I should pant, ay,
thirstily as I do now, for that free air which comes not through bars and
bulwarks against my fellow-citizens, but in the open space of Heaven -
safe, because protected by the silent Providence of Law, and not by the
lean fears and hollow-eyed suspicions which are the comrades of a hated
power. The tyrant thinks he is free, because he commands slaves: the
meanest peasant in a free state is more free than he is. Oh, my Lord, that
you - the brave, the generous, the enlightened - you, almost alone amidst
your order, in the knowledge that we had a country - oh, would that you who
can sympathise with our sufferings, would strike with us for their
"Thou wilt war against Stephen Colonna, my kinsman; and though I have seen
him but little, nor, truth to say, esteem him much, yet he is the boast of
our house, - how can I join thee?"
"His life will be safe, his possessions safe, his rank safe. What do we
war against? His power to do wrong to others."
"Should he discover that thou hast force beyond words, he would be less
merciful to thee."
"And has he not discovered that? Do not the shouts of the people tell him
that I am a man whom he should fear? Does he - the cautious, the wily, the
profound - does he build fortresses, and erect towers, and not see from his
battlements the mighty fabric that I, too, have erected?"
"You! where, Rienzi?"
"In the hearts of Rome! Does he not see?" continued Rienzi. "No, no; he -
all, all his tribe, are blind. Is it not so?"
"Of a certainty, my kinsman has no belief in your power, else he would have
crushed you long ere this. Nay, it was but three days ago that he said,
gravely, he would rather you addressed the populace than the best priest in
Christendom; for that other orators inflamed the crowd, and no man so
stilled and dispersed them as you did."
"And I called him profound! Does not Heaven hush the air most when most it
prepares the storm? Ay, my Lord, I understand. Stephen Colonna despises
me. I have been" - (here, as he continued, a deep blush mantled over his
cheek) - "you remember it - at his palace in my younger days, and pleased
him with witty tales and light apophthegms. Nay - ha! ha! - he would call
me, I think, sometimes, in gay compliment, his jester - his buffoon! I
have brooked his insult; I have even bowed to his applause. I would
undergo the same penance, stoop to the same shame, for the same motive, and
in the same cause. What did I desire to effect? Can you tell me? No! I
will whisper it, then, to you: it was - the contempt of Stephen Colonna.
Under that contempt I was protected, till protection became no longer
necessary. I desired not to be thought formidable by the patricians, in
order that, quietly and unsuspected, I might make my way amongst the
people. I have done so; I now throw aside the mask. Face to face with
Stephen Colonna, I could tell him, this very hour, that I brave his anger;
that I laugh at his dungeons and armed men. But if he think me the same
Rienzi as of old, let him; I can wait my hour."
"Yet," said Adrian, waiving an answer to the haughty language of his
companion, "tell me, what dost thou ask for the people, in order to avoid
an appeal to their passions? - ignorant and capricious as they are, thou
canst not appeal to their reason."
"I ask full justice and safety for all men. I will be contented with no
less a compromise. I ask the nobles to dismantle their fortresses; to
disband their armed retainers; to acknowledge no impunity for crime in high
lineage; to claim no protection save in the courts of the common law."
"Vain desire!" said Adrian. "Ask what may yet be granted."
"Ha - ha!" replied Rienzi, laughing bitterly, "did I not tell you it was a
vain dream to ask for law and justice at the hands of the great? Can you
blame me, then, that I ask it elsewhere?" Then, suddenly changing his tone
and manner, he added with great solemnity - "Waking life hath false and
vain dreams; but sleep is sometimes a mighty prophet. By sleep it is that
Heaven mysteriously communes with its creatures, and guides and sustains
its earthly agents in the path to which its providence leads them on."
Adrian made no reply. This was not the first time he had noted that
Rienzi's strong intellect was strangely conjoined with a deep and mystical
superstition. And this yet more inclined the young noble, who, though
sufficiently devout, yielded but little to the wilder credulities of the
time, to doubt the success of the schemer's projects. In this he erred
greatly, though his error was that of the worldly wise. For nothing ever
so inspires human daring, as the fond belief that it is the agent of a
Diviner Wisdom. Revenge and patriotism, united in one man of genius and
ambition - such are the Archimedian levers that find, in FANATICISM, the
spot out of the world by which to move the world. The prudent man may
direct a state; but it is the enthusiast who regenerates it, - or ruins.
Chapter 1.IX. "When the People Saw this Picture, Every One Marvelled."
Before the market-place, and at the foot of the Capitol, an immense crowd
was assembled. Each man sought to push before his neighbour; each
struggled to gain access to one particular spot, round which the crowd was
wedged think and dense.
"Corpo di Dio!" said a man of huge stature, pressing onward, like some
bulky ship, casting the noisy waves right and left from its prow, "this is
hot work; but for what, in the holy Mother's name, do ye crowd so? See you
not, Sir Ribald, that my right arm is disabled, swathed, and bandaged, so
that I cannot help myself better than a baby? And yet you push against me
as if I were an old wall!"
"Ah, Cecco del Vecchio! - what, man! we must make way for you - you are too
small and tender to bustle through a crowd! Come, I will protect you!"
said a dwarf of some four feet high, glancing up at the giant.
"Faith," said the grim smith, looking round on the mob, who laughed loud at
the dwarf's proffer, "we all do want protection, big and small. What do
you laugh for, ye apes? - ay, you don't understand parables."
"And yet it is a parable we are come to gaze upon," said one of the mob,
with a slight sneer.
"Pleasant day to you, Signor Baroncelli," answered Cecco del Vecchio; "you
are a good man, and love the people; it makes one's heart smile to see you.
What's all this pother for?"
"Why the Pope's Notary hath set up a great picture in the marketplace, and
the gapers say it relates to Rome; so they are melting their brains out,
this hot day, to guess at the riddle."
"Ho! ho!" said the smith, pushing on so vigorously that he left the speaker
suddenly in the rear; "if Cola di Rienzi hath aught in the matter, I would
break through stone rocks to get to it."
"Much good will a dead daub do us," said Baroncelli, sourly, and turning to
his neighbours; but no man listened to him, and he, a would-be demagogue,
gnawed his lip in envy.
Amidst half-awed groans and curses from the men whom he jostled aside, and
open objurgations and shrill cries from the women, to whose robes and
headgear he showed as little respect, the sturdy smith won his way to a
space fenced round by chains, in the centre of which was placed a huge
"How came it hither?" cried one; "I was first at the market."
"We found it here at daybreak," said a vender of fruit: "no one was by."
"But why do you fancy Rienzi had a hand in it?"
"Why, who else could?" answered twenty voices.
"True! Who else?" echoed the gaunt smith. "I dare be sworn the good man
spent the whole night in painting it himself. Blood of St. Peter! but it
is mighty fine! What is it about?"
"That's the riddle," said a meditative fish-woman; "if I could make it out,
I should die happy."
"It is something about liberty and taxes, no doubt," said Luigi, the
butcher, leaning over the chains. "Ah, if Rienzi were minded, every poor
man would have his bit of meat in his pot."
"And as much bread as he could eat," added a pale baker.
"Chut! bread and meat - everybody has that now! - but what wine the poor
folks drink! One has no encouragement to take pains with one's vineyard,"
said a vine-dresser.
"Ho, hollo! - long life to Pandulfo di Guido! Make way for master
Pandulfo; he is a learned man; he is a friend of the great Notary's; he
will tell us all about the picture; make way, there - make way!"
Slowly and modestly, Pandulfo di Guido, a quiet, wealthy, and honest man of
letters, whom nought save the violence of the times could have roused from
his tranquil home, or his studious closet, passed to the chains. He looked
long and hard at the picture, which was bright with new, and yet moist
colours, and exhibited somewhat of the reviving art, which, though hard and
harsh in its features, was about that time visible, and, carried to a far
higher degree, we yet gaze upon in the paintings of Perugino, who
flourished during the succeeding generation. The people pressed round the
learned man, with open mouths; now turning their eyes to the picture, now
"Know you not," at length said Pandulfo, "the easy and palpable meaning of
this design? Behold how the painter has presented to you a vast and stormy
sea - mark how its waves - "
"Speak louder - louder!" shouted the impatient crowd.
"Hush!" cried those in the immediate vicinity of Pandulfo, "the worthy
Signor is perfectly audible!"
Meanwhile, some of the more witty, pushing towards a stall in the
marketplace, bore from it a rough table, from which they besought Pandulfo
to address the people. The pale citizen, with some pain and shame, for he
was no practised spokesman, was obliged to assent; but when he cast his
eyes over the vast and breathless crowd, his own deep sympathy with their
cause inspired and emboldened him. A light broke from his eyes; his voice
swelled into power; and his head, usually buried in his breast, became
erect and commanding in its air.
"You see before you in the picture" (he began again) "a mighty and
tempestuous sea: upon its waves you behold five ships; four of them are
already wrecks, - their masts are broken, the waves are dashing through the
rent planks, they are past all aid and hope: on each of these ships lies
the corpse of a woman. See you not, in the wan face and livid limbs, how
faithfully the limner hath painted the hues and loathsomeness of death?
Below each of these ships is a word that applies the metaphor to truth.
Yonder, you see the name of Carthage; the other three are Troy, Jerusalem,
and Babylon. To these four is one common inscription. 'To exhaustion were
we brought by injustice!' Turn now your eyes to the middle of the sea, -
there you behold the fifth ship, tossed amidst the waves, her mast broken,
her rudder gone, her sails shivered, but not yet a wreck like the rest,
though she soon may be. On her deck kneels a female, clothed in mourning;
mark the wo upon her countenance, - how cunningly the artist has conveyed
its depth and desolation; she stretches out her arms in prayer, she
implores your and Heaven's assistance. Mark now the superscription - 'This
is Rome!' - Yes, it is your country that addresses you in this emblem!"
The crowd waved to and fro, and a deep murmur crept gathering over the
silence which they had hitherto kept.
"Now," continued Pandulfo, "turn your gaze to the right of the picture, and
you will behold the cause of the tempest, - you will see why the fifth
vessel is thus perilled, and her sisters are thus wrecked. Mark, four
different kinds of animals, who, from their horrid jaws, send forth the
winds and storms which torture and rack the sea. The first are the lions,
the wolves, the bears. These, the inscription tells you, are the lawless
and savage signors of the state. The next are the dogs and swine, - these
are the evil counsellors and parasites. Thirdly, you behold the dragons
and the foxes, - and these are false judges and notaries, and they who sell
justice. Fourthly, in the hares, the goats, the apes, that assist in
creating the storm, you perceive, by the inscription, the emblems of the
popular thieves and homicides, ravishers and spoliators. Are ye bewildered
still, O Romans! or have ye mastered the riddle of the picture?"
Far in their massive palaces the Savelli and Orsini heard the echo of the
shouts that answered the question of Pandulfo.
"Are ye, then, without hope!" resumed the scholar, as the shout ceased, and
hushing, with the first sound of his voice, the ejaculations and speeches
which each man had turned to utter to his neighbour. "Are ye without hope?
Doth the picture, which shows your tribulation, promise you no redemption?
Behold, above that angry sea, the heavens open, and the majesty of God
descends gloriously, as to judgment: and, from the rays that surround the
Spirit of God extend two flaming swords, and on those swords stand, in
wrath, but in deliverance, the two patron saints - the two mighty guardians
of your city! People of Rome, farewell! The parable is finished." (M.
Sismondi attributes to Rienzi a fine oration at the showing of the picture,
in which he thundered against the vices of the patricians. The
contemporary biographer of Rienzi says nothing of this harangue. But,
apparently (since history has its liberties as well as fiction), M.
Sismondi has thought it convenient to confound two occasions very distinct
Chapter 1.X. A Rough Spirit Raised, Which May Hereafter Rend the Wizard.
While thus animated was the scene around the Capitol, within one of the
apartments of the palace sat the agent and prime cause of that excitement.
In the company of his quiet scribes, Rienzi appeared absorbed in the
patient details of his avocation. While the murmur and the hum, the shout
and the tramp, of multitudes, rolled to his chamber, he seemed not to heed
them, nor to rouse himself a moment from his task. With the unbroken
regularity of an automaton, he continued to enter in his large book, and
with the clear and beautiful characters of the period, those damning
figures which taught him, better than declamations, the frauds practised on
the people, and armed him with that weapon of plain fact which it is so
difficult for abuse to parry.
"Page 2, Vol. B.," said he, in the tranquil voice of business, to the
clerks; "see there, the profits of the salt duty; department No.3 - very
well. Page 9, Vol. D. - what is the account rendered by Vescobaldi, the
collector? What! twelve thousand florins? - no more? - unconscionable
rascal!" (Here was a loud shout without of 'Pandulfo! - long live
Pandulfo!') "Pastrucci, my friend, your head wanders; you are listening to
the noise without - please to amuse yourself with the calculation I
entrusted to you. Santi, what is the entry given in by Antonio Tralli?"
A slight tap was heard at the door, and Pandulfo entered.
The clerks continued their labour, though they looked up hastily at the
pale and respectable visitor, whose name, to their great astonishment, had
thus become a popular cry.
"Ah, my friend," said Rienzi, calmly enough in voice, but his hands
trembled with ill-suppressed emotion, "you would speak to me alone, eh?
well, well - this way." Thus saying, he led the citizen into a small
cabinet in the rear of the room of office, carefully shut the door, and
then giving himself up to the natural impatience of his character, seized
Pandulfo by the hand: "Speak!" cried he: "do they take the
interpretation? - have you made it plain and palpable enough? - has it sunk
deep into their souls?"
"Oh, by St. Peter! yes!" returned the citizen, whose spirits were elevated
by his recent discovery that he, too, was an orator - a luxurious pleasure
for a timid man. "They swallowed every word of the interpretation; they
are moved to the marrow - you might lead them this very hour to battle, and
find them heroes. As for the sturdy smith - "
"What! Cecco del Vecchio?" interrupted Rienzi; "ah, his heart is wrought
in bronze - what did he?"
"Why, he caught me by the hem of my robe as I descended my rostrum, (oh!
would you could have seen me! - per fede I had caught your mantle! - I was
a second you!) and said, weeping like a child, 'Ah, Signor, I am but a poor
man, and of little worth; but if every drop of blood in this body were a
life, I would give it for my country!'"
"Brave soul," said Rienzi, with emotion; "would Rome had but fifty such!
No man hath done us more good among his own class than Cecco del Vecchio."
"They feel a protection in his very size," said Pandulfo. "It is something
to hear such big words from such a big fellow."
"Were there any voices lifted in disapprobation of the picture and its
"The time is nearly ripe, then - a few suns more, and the fruit must be
gathered. The Aventine, - the Lateran, - and then the solitary trumpet!"
Thus saying, Rienzi, with folded arms and downcast eyes, seemed sunk into a
"By the way," said Pandulfo, "I had almost forgot to tell thee, that the
crowd would have poured themselves hither, so impatient were they to see
thee; but I bade Cecco del Vecchio mount the rostrum, and tell them, in his
blunt way, that it would be unseemly at the present time, when thou wert
engaged in the Capitol on civil and holy affairs, to rush in so great a
body into thy presence. Did I not right?"
"Most right, my Pandulfo."
"But Cecco del Vecchio says he must come and kiss thy hand: and thou mayst
expect him here the moment he can escape unobserved from the crowd."
"He is welcome!" said Rienzi, half mechanically, for he was still absorbed
"And, lo! here he is," - as one of the scribes announced the visit of the
"Let him be admitted!" said Rienzi, seating himself composedly.
When the huge smith found himself in the presence of Rienzi, it amused
Pandulfo to perceive the wonderful influences of mind over matter. That
fierce and sturdy giant, who, in all popular commotions, towered above his
tribe, with thews of stone, and nerves of iron, the rallying point and
bulwark of the rest, - stood now colouring and trembling before the
intellect, which (so had the eloquent spirit of Rienzi waked and fanned the
spark which, till then, had lain dormant in that rough bosom) might almost
be said to have created his own. And he, indeed, who first arouses in the
bondsman the sense and soul of freedom, comes as near as is permitted to
man, nearer than the philosopher, nearer even than the poet, to the great
creative attribute of God! - But, if the breast be uneducated, the gift may
curse the giver; and he who passes at once from the slave to the freeman
may pass as rapidly from the freeman to the ruffian.
"Approach, my friend," said Rienzi, after a moment's pause; "I know all
that thou hast done, and wouldst do, for Rome! Thou art worthy of her best
days, and thou art born to share in their return."
The smith dropped at the feet of Rienzi, who held out his hand to raise
him, which Cecco del Vecchio seized, and reverentially kissed.
"This kiss does not betray," said Rienzi, smiling; "but rise, my friend, -
this posture is only due to God and his saints!"
"He is a saint who helps us at need!" said the smith, bluntly, "and that no
man has done as thou hast. But when," he added, sinking his voice, and
fixing his eyes hard on Rienzi, as one may do who waits a signal to strike
a blow, "when - when shall we make the great effort?"
Thou hast spoken to all the brave men in thy neighbourhood, - are they well
"To live or die, as Rienzi bids them!"
"I must have the list - the number - names - houses and callings, this
"Each man must sign his name or mark with his own hand."
"It shall be done."
"Then, harkye! attend Pandulfo di Guido at his house this evening, at
sunset. He shall instruct thee where to meet this night some brave hearts;
- thou art worthy to be ranked amongst them. Thou wilt not fail!"
"By the holy Stairs! I will count every minute till then," said the smith,
his swarthy face lighted with pride at the confidence shown him.
"Meanwhile, watch all your neighbours; let no man flag or grow faint-
hearted, - none of thy friends must be branded as a traitor!"
"I will cut his throat, were he my own mother's son, if I find one pledged
man flinch!" said the fierce smith.
"Ha, ha!" rejoined Rienzi, with that strange laugh which belonged to him;
"a miracle! a miracle! The Picture speaks now!"
It was already nearly dusk when Rienzi left the Capitol. The broad space
before its walls was empty and deserted, and wrapping his mantle closely
round him, he walked musingly on.
"I have almost climbed the height," thought he, "and now the precipice
yawns before me. If I fail, what a fall! The last hope of my country
falls with me. Never will a noble rise against the nobles. Never will
another plebeian have the opportunities and the power that I have! Rome is
bound up with me - with a single life. The liberties of all time are fixed
to a reed that a wind may uproot. But oh, Providence! hast thou not
reserved and marked me for great deeds? How, step by step, have I been led
on to this solemn enterprise! How has each hour prepared its successor!
And yet what danger! If the inconstant people, made cowardly by long
thraldom, do but waver in the crisis, I am swept away!"
As he spoke, he raised his eyes, and lo, before him, the first star of
twilight shone calmly down upon the crumbling remnants of the Tarpeian
Rock. It was no favouring omen, and Rienzi's heart beat quicker as that
dark and ruined mass frowned thus suddenly on his gaze.
"Dread monument," thought he, "of what dark catastrophes, to what unknown
schemes, hast thou been the witness! To how many enterprises, on which
history is dumb, hast thou set the seal! How know we whether they were
criminal or just? How know we whether he, thus doomed as a traitor, would
not, if successful, have been immortalized as a deliverer? If I fall, who
will write my chronicle? One of the people? alas! blinded and ignorant,
they furnish forth no minds that can appeal to posterity. One of the
patricians? in what colours then shall I be painted! No tomb will rise for
me amidst the wrecks; no hand scatter flowers upon my grave!"
Thus meditating on the verge of that mighty enterprise to which he had
devoted himself, Rienzi pursued his way. He gained the Tiber, and paused
for a few moments beside its legendary stream, over which the purple and
starlit heaven shone deeply down. He crossed the bridge which leads to the
quarter of the Trastevere, whose haughty inhabitants yet boast themselves
the sole true descendants of the ancient Romans. Here he step grew quicker
and more light; brighter, if less solemn, thoughts crowded upon his breast;
and ambition, lulled for a moment, left his strained and over-laboured mind
to the reign of a softer passion.
Chapter 1.XI. Nina di Raselli.
"I tell you, Lucia, I do not love those stuffs; they do not become me. Saw
you ever so poor a dye? - this purple, indeed! that crimson! Why did you
let the man leave them? Let him take them elsewhere tomorrow. They may
suit the signoras on the other side the Tiber, who imagine everything
Venetian must be perfect; but I, Lucia, I see with my own eyes, and judge
from my own mind."
"Ah, dear lady," said the serving-maid, "if you were, as you doubtless will
be, some time or other, a grand signora, how worthily you would wear the
honours! Santa Cecilia! No other dame in Rome would be looked at while
the Lady Nina were by!"
"Would we not teach them what pomp was?" answered Nina. "Oh! what
festivals would we hold! Saw you not from the gallery the revels given
last week by the Lady Giulia Savelli?"
"Ay, signora; and when you walked up the hall in your silver and pearl
tissue, there ran such a murmur through the gallery; every one cried, 'The
Savelli have entertained an angel!'"
"Pish! Lucia; no flattery, girl."
"It is naked truth, lady. But that was a revel, was it not? There was
grandeur! - fifty servitors in scarlet and gold! and the music playing all
the while. The minstrels were sent for from Bergamo. Did not that
festival please you? Ah, I warrant many were the fine speeches made to you
"Heigho! - no, there was one voice wanting, and all the music was marred.
But, girl, were I the Lady Giulia, I would not have been contented with so
poor a revel."
"How, poor! Why all the nobles say it outdid the proudest marriage-feast
of the Colonna. Nay, a Neapolitan who sat next me, and who had served
under the young Queen Joanna, at her marriage, says, that even Naples was
"That may be. I know nought of Naples; but I know what my court should
have been, were I what - what I am not, and may never be! The banquet
vessels should have been of gold; the cups jewelled to the brim; not an
inch of the rude pavement should have been visible; all should have glowed
with cloth of gold. The fountain in the court should have showered up the
perfumes of the East; my pages should not have been rough youths, blushing
at their own uncouthness, but fair boys, who had not told their twelfth
year, culled from the daintiest palaces of Rome; and, as for the music, oh,
Lucia! - each musician should have worn a chaplet, and deserved it; and he
who played best should have had a reward, to inspire all the rest - a rose
from me. Saw you, too, the Lady Giulia's robe? What colours! they might
have put out the sun at noonday! - yellow, and blue, and orange, and
scarlet! Oh, sweet Saints! - but my eyes ached all the next day!"
"Doubtless, the Lady Giulia lacks your skill in the mixture of colours,"
said the complaisant waiting-woman.
"And then, too, what a mien! - no royalty in it! She moved along the hall,
so that her train well nigh tripped her every moment; and then she said,
with a foolish laugh, 'These holyday robes are but troublesome luxuries.'
Troth, for the great there should be no holyday robes; 'tis for myself, not
for others, that I would attire! Every day should have its new robe, more
gorgeous than the last; - every day should be a holyday!"
"Methought," said Lucia, "that the Lord Giovanni Orsini seemed very devoted
to my Lady."
"He! the bear!"
"Bear, he may be! but he has a costly skin. His riches are untold."
"And the fool knows not how to spend them."
"Was not that the young Lord Adrian who spoke to you just by the columns,
where the music played?"
"It might be, - I forget."
"Yet, I hear that few ladies forget when Lord Adrian di Castello woos
"There was but one man whose company seemed to me worth the recollection,"
answered Nina, unheeding the insinuation of the artful handmaid.
"And who was he?" asked Lucia.
"The old scholar from Avignon!"
"What! he with the gray beard? Oh, Signora!"
"Yes," said Nina, with a grave and sad voice; "when he spoke, the whole
scene vanished from my eyes, - for he spoke to me of HIM!"
As she said this, the Signora sighed deeply, and the tears gathered to her
The waiting-woman raised her lips in disdain, and her looks in wonder; but
she did not dare to venture a reply.
"Open the lattice," said Nina, after a pause, "and give me yon paper. Not
that, girl - but the verses sent me yesterday. What! art thou Italian, and
dost thou not know, by instinct, that I spoke of the rhyme of Petrarch?"
Seated by the open casement, through which the moonlight stole soft and
sheen, with one lamp beside her, from which she seemed to shade her eyes,
though in reality she sought to hide her countenance from Lucia, the young
Signora appeared absorbed in one of those tender sonnets which then turned
the brains and inflamed the hearts of Italy. (Although it is true that the
love sonnets of Petrarch were not then, as now, the most esteemed of his
works, yet it has been a great, though a common error, to represent them as
little known and coldly admired. Their effect was, in reality, prodigious
and universal. Every ballad-singer sung them in the streets, and (says
Filippo Villani), "Gravissimi nesciebant abstinere" - "Even the gravest
could not abstain from them.")
Born of an impoverished house, which, though boasting its descent from a
consular race of Rome, scarcely at that day maintained a rank amongst the
inferior order of nobility, Nina di Raselli was the spoiled child - the
idol and the tyrant - of her parents. The energetic and self-willed
character of her mind made her rule where she should have obeyed; and as in
all ages dispositions can conquer custom, she had, though in a clime and
land where the young and unmarried of her sex are usually chained and
fettered, assumed, and by assuming won, the prerogative of independence.
She possessed, it is true, more learning and more genius than generally
fell to the share of women in that day; and enough of both to be deemed a
miracle by her parents; - she had, also, what they valued more, a
surpassing beauty; and, what they feared more, an indomitable haughtiness;
- a haughtiness mixed with a thousand soft and endearing qualities where
she loved; and which, indeed, where she loved, seemed to vanish. At once
vain yet high-minded, resolute yet impassioned, there was a gorgeous
magnificence in her very vanity and splendour, - an ideality in her
waywardness: her defects made a part of her brilliancy; without them she
would have seemed less woman; and, knowing her, you would have compared all
women by her standard. Softer qualities beside her seemed not more
charming, but more insipid. She had no vulgar ambition, for she had
obstinately refused many alliances which the daughter of Raselli could
scarcely have hoped to form. The untutored minds and savage power of the
Roman nobles seemed to her imagination, which was full of the poetry of
rank, its luxury and its graces, as something barbarous and revolting, at
once to be dreaded and despised. She had, therefore, passed her twentieth
year unmarried, but not without love. The faults, themselves, of her
character, elevated that ideal of love which she had formed. She required
some being round whom all her vainer qualities could rally; she felt that
where she loved she must adore; she demanded no common idol before which to
humble so strong and imperious a mind. Unlike women of a gentler mould,
who desire, for a short period, to exercise the caprices of sweet empire, -
when she loved she must cease to command; and pride, at once, be humbled to
devotion. So rare were the qualities that could attract her; so
imperiously did her haughtiness require that those qualities should be
above her own, yet of the same order; that her love elevated its object
like a god. Accustomed to despise, she felt all the luxury it is to
venerate! And if it were her lot to be united with one thus loved, her
nature was that which might become elevated by the nature that it gazed on.
For her beauty - Reader, shouldst thou ever go to Rome, thou wilt see in
the Capitol the picture of the Cumaean Sibyl, which, often copied, no copy
can even faintly represent. I beseech thee, mistake not this sibyl for
another, for the Roman galleries abound in sibyls. (The sibyl referred to
is the well-known one by Domenichino. As a mere work of art, that by
Guercino, called the Persian sibyl, in the same collection, is perhaps
superior; but in beauty, in character, there is no comparison.) The sibyl
I speak of is dark, and the face has an Eastern cast; the robe and turban,
gorgeous though they be, grow dim before the rich, but transparent roses of
the cheek; the hair would be black, save for that golden glow which mellows
it to a hue and lustre never seen but in the south, and even in the south
most rare; the features, not Grecian, are yet faultless; the mouth, the
brow, the ripe and exquisite contour, all are human and voluptuous; the
expression, the aspect, is something more; the form is, perhaps, too full
for the perfection of loveliness, for the proportions of sculpture, for the
delicacy of Athenian models; but the luxuriant fault has a majesty. Gaze
long upon that picture: it charms, yet commands, the eye. While you gaze,
you call back five centuries. You see before you the breathing image of
Nina di Raselli!
But it was not those ingenious and elaborate conceits in which Petrarch,
great Poet though he be, has so often mistaken pedantry for passion, that
absorbed at that moment the attention of the beautiful Nina. Her eyes
rested not on the page, but on the garden that stretched below the
casement. Over the old fruit-trees and hanging vines fell the moonshine;
and in the centre of the green, but half-neglected sward, the waters of a
small and circular fountain, whose perfect proportions spoke of days long
past, played and sparkled in the starlight. The scene was still and
beautiful; but neither of its stillness nor its beauty thought Nina:
towards one, the gloomiest and most rugged, spot in the whole garden,
turned her gaze; there, the trees stood densely massed together, and shut
from view the low but heavy wall which encircled the mansion of Raselli.
The boughs on those trees stirred gently, but Nina saw them wave; and now
from the copse emerged, slowly and cautiously, a solitary figure, whose
shadow threw itself, long and dark, over the sward. It approached the
window, and a low voice breathed Nina's name.
"Quick, Lucia!" cried she, breathlessly, turning to her handmaid: "quick!
the rope-ladder! it is he! he is come! How slow you are! haste, girl, - he
may be discovered! There, - O joy, - O joy! - My lover! my hero! my
"It is you!" said Rienzi, as, now entering the chamber, he wound his arms
around her half-averted form, "and what is night to others is day to me!"
The first sweet moments of welcome were over; and Rienzi was seated at the
feet of his mistress: his head rested on her knees - his face looking up
to hers - their hands clasped each in each.
"And for me thou bravest these dangers!" said the lover; "the shame of
discovery, the wrath of thy parents!"
"But what are my perils to thine? Oh, Heaven! if my father found thee here
thou wouldst die!"
"He would think it then so great a humiliation, that thou, beautiful Nina,
who mightst match with the haughtiest names of Rome, shouldst waste thy
love on a plebeian - even though the grandson of an emperor!"
The proud heart of Nina could sympathize well with the wounded pride of her
lover: she detected the soreness which lurked beneath his answer,
carelessly as it was uttered.
"Hast thou not told me," she said, "of that great Marius, who was no noble,
but from whom the loftiest Colonna would rejoice to claim his descent? and
do I not know in thee one who shall yet eclipse the power of Marius,
unsullied by his vices?"
"Delicious flattery! sweet prophet!" said Rienzi, with a melancholy smile;
"never were thy supporting promises of the future more welcome to me than
now; for to thee I will say what I would utter to none else - my soul half
sinks beneath the mighty burthen I have heaped upon it. I want new courage
as the dread hour approaches; and from thy words and looks I drink it."
"Oh!" answered Nina, blushing as she spoke, "glorious is indeed the lot
which I have bought by my love for thee: glorious to share thy schemes, to
cheer thee in doubt, to whisper hope to thee in danger."
"And give grace to me in triumph!" added Rienzi, passionately. "Ah! should
the future ever place upon these brows the laurel-wreath due to one who has
saved his country, what joy, what recompence, to lay it at thy feet!
Perhaps, in those long and solitary hours of languor and exhaustion which
fill up the interstices of time, - the dull space for sober thought between
the epochs of exciting action, - perhaps I should have failed and flagged,
and renounced even my dreams for Rome, had they not been linked also with
my dreams for thee! - had I not pictured to myself the hour when my fate
should elevate me beyond my birth; when thy sire would deem it no disgrace
to give thee to my arms; when thou, too, shouldst stand amidst the dames of
Rome, more honoured, as more beautiful, than all; and when I should see
that pomp, which my own soul disdains, ("Quem semper abhorrui sicut cenum"
is the expression used by Rienzi, in his letter to his friend at Avignon,
and which was probably sincere. Men rarely act according to the bias of
their own tastes.) made dear and grateful to me because associated with
thee! Yes, it is these thoughts that have inspired me, when sterner ones
have shrunk back appalled from the spectres that surround their goal. And
oh! my Nina, sacred, strong, enduring must be, indeed, the love which lives
in the same pure and elevated air as that which sustains my hopes of
liberty and fame!"
This was the language which, more even than the vows of fidelity and the
dear adulation which springs from the heart's exuberance, had bound the
proud and vain soul of Nina to the chains that it so willingly wore.
Perhaps, indeed, in the absence of Rienzi, her weaker nature pictured to
herself the triumph of humbling the highborn signoras, and eclipsing the
barbarous magnificence of the chiefs of Rome; but in his presence, and
listening to his more elevated and generous ambition, as yet all unsullied
by one private feeling save the hope of her, her higher sympathies were
enlisted with his schemes, her mind aspired to raise itself to the height
of his, and she thought less of her own rise than of his glory. It was
sweet to her pride to be the sole confidante of his most secret thoughts,
as of his most hardy undertakings; to see bared before her that intricate
and plotting spirit; to be admitted even to the knowledge of its doubts and
weakness, as of its heroism and power.
Nothing could be more contrasted than the loves of Rienzi and Nina, and
those of Adrian and Irene: in the latter, all were the dreams, the
phantasies, the extravagance, of youth; they never talked of the future;
they mingled no other aspirations with those of love. Ambition, glory, the
world's high objects, were nothing to them when together; their love had
swallowed up the world, and left nothing visible beneath the sun, save
itself. But the passion of Nina and her lover was that of more complicated
natures and more mature years: it was made up of a thousand feelings, each
naturally severed from each, but compelled into one focus by the mighty
concentration of love; their talk was of the world; it was from the world
that they drew the aliment which sustained it; it was of the future they
spoke and thought; of its dreams and imagined glories they made themselves
a home and altar; their love had in it more of the Intellectual than that
of Adrian and Irene; it was more fitted for this hard earth; it had in it,
also, more of the leaven of the later and iron days, and less of poetry and
the first golden age.
"And must thou leave me now?" said Nina, her cheek no more averted from his
lips, nor her form from his parting embrace. "The moon is high yet; it is
but a little hour thou hast given me."
"An hour! Alas!" said Rienzi, "it is near upon midnight - our friends
"Go, then, my soul's best half! Go; Nina shall not detain thee one moment
from those higher objects which make thee so dear to Nina. When - when
shall we meet again!"
"Not," said Rienzi, proudly, and with all his soul upon his brow, "not
thus, by stealth! no! nor as I thus have met thee, the obscure and
contemned bondsman! When next thou seest me, it shall be at the head of
the sons of Rome! her champion! her restorer! or - " said he, sinking his
"There is no or!" interrupted Nina, weaving her arms round him, and
catching his enthusiasm; "thou hast uttered thine own destiny!"
"One kiss more! - farewell! - the tenth day from the morrow shines upon the
restoration of Rome!"
Chapter 1.XII. The Strange Adventures that Befel Walter de Montreal.
It was upon that same evening, and while the earlier stars yet shone over
the city, that Walter de Montreal, returning, alone, to the convent then
associated with the church of Santa Maria del Priorata (both of which
belonged to the Knights of the Hospital, and in the first of which Montreal
had taken his lodgment), paused amidst the ruins and desolation which lay
around his path. Thou little skilled in the classic memories and
associations of the spot, he could not but be impressed with the
surrounding witnesses of departed empire; the vast skeleton, as it were, of
the dead giantess.
"Now," thought he, as he gazed around upon the roofless columns and
shattered walls, everywhere visible, over which the starlight shone,
ghastly and transparent, backed by the frowning and embattled fortresses of
the Frangipani, half hid by the dark foliage that sprung up amidst the very
fanes and palaces of old - Nature exulting over the frailer Art; "now,"
thought he, "bookmen would be inspired, by this scene, with fantastic and
dreaming visions of the past. But to me these monuments of high ambition
and royal splendour create only images of the future. Rome may yet be,
with her seven-hilled diadem, as Rome has been before, the prize of the
strongest hand and the boldest warrior, - revived, not by her own
degenerate sons, but the infused blood of a new race. William the Bastard
could scarce have found the hardy Englishers so easy a conquest as Walter
the Well-born may find these eunuch Romans. And which conquest were the
more glorious, - the barbarous Isle, or the Metropolis of the World? Short
step from the general to the podesta - shorter step from the podesta to the
While thus revolving his wild, yet not altogether chimerical ambition, a
quick light step was heard amidst the long herbage, and, looking up,
Montreal perceived the figure of a tall female descending from that part of
the hill then covered by many convents, towards the base of the Aventine.
She supported her steps with a long staff, and moved with such elasticity
and erectness, that now, as her face became visible by the starlight, it
was surprising to perceive that it was the face of one advanced in years, -
a harsh, proud countenance, withered, and deeply wrinkled, but not without
a certain regularity of outline.
"Merciful Virgin!" cried Montreal, starting back as that face gleamed upon
him: "is it possible? It is she: - it is - "
He sprung forward, and stood right before the old woman, who seemed equally
surprised, though more dismayed, at the sight of Montreal.
"I have sought thee for years," said the Knight, first breaking the
silence; "years, long years, - thy conscience can tell thee why."
"Mine, man of blood!" cried the female, trembling with rage or fear;
"darest thou talk of conscience? Thou, the dishonourer - the robber - the
professed homicide! Thou, disgrace to knighthood and to birth! Thou, with
the cross of chastity and of peace upon thy breast! Thou talk of
conscience, hypocrite! - thou?"
"Lady - lady!" said Montreal, deprecatingly, and almost quailing beneath
the fiery passion of that feeble woman, "I have sinned against thee and
thine. But remember all my excuses! - early love - fatal obstacles - rash
vow - irresistible temptation! Perhaps," he added, in a more haughty tone,
"perhaps, yet, I may have the power to atone my error, and wring, with
mailed hand, from the successor of St Peter, who hath power to loose as to
bind - "
"Perjured and abandoned!" interrupted the female; "dost thou dream that
violence can purchase absolution, or that thou canst ever atone the past? -
a noble name disgraced, a father's broken heart and dying curse! Yes, that
curse, I hear it now! it rings upon me thrillingly, as when I watched the
expiring clay! it cleaves to thee - it pursues thee - it shall pierce thee
through thy corselet - it shall smite thee in the meridian of thy power!
Genius wasted - ambition blasted - penitence deferred - a life of brawls,
and a death of shame - thy destruction the offspring of thy crime! - To
this, to this, an old man's curse hath doomed thee! - AND THOU ART DOOMED!"
These words were rather shrieked than spoken: and the flashing eye, the
lifted hand, the dilated form of the speaker - the hour - the solitude of
the ruins around - all conspired to give to the fearful execration the
character of prophecy. The warrior, against whose undaunted breast a
hundred spears had shivered in vain, fell appalled and humbled to the
ground. He seized the hem of his fierce denouncer's robe, and cried, in a
choked and hollow voice, "Spare me! spare me!"
"Spare thee!" said the unrelenting crone; "hast thou ever spared man in thy
hatred, or woman in thy lust? Ah, grovel in the dust! - crouch - crouch! -
wild beast as thou art! whose sleek skin and beautiful hues have taught the
unwary to be blind to the talons that rend, and the grinders that devour; -
crouch, that the foot of the old and impotent may spurn thee!"
"Hag!" cried Montreal, in the reaction of sudden fury and maddened pride,
springing up to the full height of his stature. "Hag! thou hast passed the
limits to which, remembering who thou art, my forbearance gave thee
licence. I had well-nigh forgot that thou hadst assumed my part - I am the
Accuser! Woman! - the boy! - shrink not! equivocate not! lie not! - thou
wert the thief!"
"I was. Thou taughtest me the lesson how to steal a - "
"Render - restore him!" interrupted Montreal, stamping on the ground with
such force that the splinters of the marble fragments on which he stood
shivered under his armed heel.
The woman little heeded a violence at which the fiercest warrior of Italy
might have trembled; but she did not make an immediate answer. The
character of her countenance altered from passion into an expression of
grave, intent, and melancholy thought. At length she replied to Montreal;
whose hand had wandered to his dagger-hilt, with the instinct of long
habit, whenever enraged or thwarted, rather than from any design of blood;
which, stern and vindictive as he was, he would have been incapable of
forming against any woman, - much less against the one then before him.
"Walter de Montreal," said she, in a voice so calm that it almost sounded
like that of compassion, "the boy, I think, has never known brother or
sister: the only child of a once haughty and lordly race, on both sides,
though now on both dishonoured - nay, why so impatient? thou wilt soon
learn the worst - the boy is dead!"
"Dead!" repeated Montreal, recoiling and growing pale; "dead! - no, no -
say not that! He has a mother, - you know he has! - a fond, meekhearted,
anxious, hoping mother! - no! - no, he is not dead!"
"Thou canst feel, then, for a mother?" said the old woman, seemingly
touched by the tone of the Provencal. "Yet, bethink thee; is it not better
that the grave should save him from a life of riot, of bloodshed, and of
crime? Better to sleep with God than to wake with the fiends!"
"Dead!" echoed Montreal; "dead! - the pretty one! - so young! - those eyes
- the mother's eyes - closed so soon?"
"Hast thou aught else to say? Thy sight scares my very womanhood from my
soul! - let me be gone."
"Dead! - may I believe thee? or dost thou mock me? Thou hast uttered thy
curse, hearken to my warning: - If thou hast lied in this, thy last hour
shall dismay thee, and thy death-bed shall be the death-bed of despair!"
"Thy lips," replied the female, with a scornful smile, "are better adapted
for lewd vows to unhappy maidens, than for the denunciations which sound
solemn only when coming from the good. Farewell!"
"Stay! inexorable woman! stay! - where sleeps he? Masses shall be sung!
priests shall pray! - the sins of the father shall not be visited on that
"At Florence!" returned the woman, hastily. "But no stone records the
departed one! - The dead boy had no name!"
Waiting for no further questionings, the woman now passed on, - pursued her
way; - and the long herbage, and the winding descent, soon snatched her
ill-omened apparition from the desolate landscape.
Montreal, thus alone, sunk with a deep and heavy sigh upon the ground,
covered his face with his hands, and burst into an agony of grief; his
chest heaved, his whole frame trembled, and he wept and sobbed aloud, with
all the fearful vehemence of a man whose passions are strong and fierce,
but to whom the violence of grief alone is novel and unfamiliar.
He remained thus, prostrate and unmanned, for a considerable time, growing
slowly and gradually more calm as tears relieved his emotion; and, at
length, rather indulging a gloomy reverie than a passionate grief. The
moon was high and the hour late when he arose, and then few traces of the
past excitement remained upon his countenance; for Walter de Montreal was
not of that mould in which woe can force a settlement, or to which any
affliction can bring the continued and habitual melancholy that darkens
those who feel more enduringly, though with emotions less stormy. His were
the elements of the true Franc character, though carried to excess: his
sternest and his deepest qualities were mingled with fickleness and
caprice; his profound sagacity often frustrated by a whim; his towering
ambition deserted for some frivolous temptation; and his elastic, sanguine,
and high-spirited nature, faithful only to the desire of military glory, to
the poetry of a daring and stormy life, and to the susceptibilities of that
tender passion without whose colourings no portrait of chivalry is
complete, and in which he was capable of a sentiment, a tenderness, and a
loyal devotion, which could hardly have been supposed compatible with his
reckless levity and his undisciplined career.
"Well," said he, as he rose slowly, folded his mantle round him, and
resumed his way, "it was not for myself I grieved thus. But the pang is
past, and the worst is known. Now, then, back to those things that never
die - restless projects and daring schemes. That hag's curse keeps my
blood cold still, and this solitude has something in it weird and awful.
Ha! - what sudden light is that?"
The light which caught Montreal's eye broke forth almost like a star,
scarcely larger, indeed, but more red and intense in its ray. Of itself it
was nothing uncommon, and might have shone either from convent or cottage.
But it streamed from a part of the Aventine which contained no habitations
of the living, but only the empty ruins and shattered porticoes, of which
even the names and memories of the ancient inhabitants were dead. Aware of
this, Montreal felt a slight awe (as the beam threw its steady light over
the dreary landscape); for he was not without the knightly superstitions of
the age, and it was now the witching hour consecrated to ghost and spirit.
But fear, whether of this world or the next, could not long daunt the mind
of the hardy freebooter; and, after a short hesitation, he resolved to make
a digression from his way, and ascertain the cause of the phenomenon.
Unconsciously, the martial tread of the barbarian passed over the site of
the famed, or infamous, Temple of Isis, which had once witnessed those
wildest orgies commemorated by Juvenal; and came at last to a thick and
dark copse, from an opening in the centre of which gleamed the mysterious
light. Penetrating the gloomy foliage, the Knight now found himself before
a large ruin, grey and roofless, from within which came, indistinct and
muffled, the sound of voices. Through a rent in the wall, forming a kind
of casement, and about ten feet from the ground, the light now broke over
the matted and rank soil, embedded, as it were, in vast masses of shade,
and streaming through a mouldering portico hard at hand. The Provencal
stood, though he knew it not, on the very place once consecrated by the
Temple: the Portico and the Library of Liberty (the first public library
instituted in Rome). The wall of the ruin was covered with innumerable
creepers and wild brushwood, and it required but little agility on the part
of Montreal, by the help of these, to raise himself to the height of the
aperture, and, concealed by the luxuriant foliage, to gaze within. He saw
a table, lighted with tapers, in the centre of which was a crucifix; a
dagger, unsheathed; an open scroll, which the event proved to be of sacred
character; and a brazen bowl. About a hundred men, in cloaks, and with
black vizards, stood motionless around; and one, taller than the rest,
without disguise or mask - whose pale brow and stern features seemed by
that light yet paler and yet more stern - appeared to be concluding some
address to his companions.
"Yes," said he, "in the church of the Lateran I will make the last appeal
to the people. Supported by the Vicar of the Pope, myself an officer of
the Pontiff, it will be seen that Religion and Liberty - the heroes and the
martyrs - are united in one cause. After that time, words are idle; action
must begin. By this crucifix I pledge my faith, on this blade I devote my
life, to the regeneration of Rome! And you (then no need for mask or
mantle!), when the solitary trump is heard, when the solitary horseman is
seen, - you, swear to rally round the standard of the Republic, and resist
- with heart and hand, with life and soul, in defiance of death, and in
hope of redemption - the arms of the oppressor!"
"We swear - we swear!" exclaimed every voice: and, crowding toward cross
and weapon, the tapers were obscured by the intervening throng, and
Montreal could not perceive the ceremony, nor hear the muttered formula of
the oath: but he could guess that the rite then common to conspiracies -
and which required each conspirator to shed some drops of his own blood, in
token that life itself was devoted to the enterprise - had not been
omitted, when, the group again receding, the same figure as before had
addressed the meeting, holding on high the bowl with both hands, - while
from the left arm, which was bared, the blood weltered slowly, and
trickled, drop by drop, upon the ground, - said, in a solemn voice and
"Amidst the ruins of thy temple, O Liberty! we, Romans, dedicate to thee
this libation! We, befriended and inspired by no unreal and fabled idols,
but by the Lord of Hosts, and Him who, descending to earth, appealed not to
emperors and to princes, but to the fisherman and the peasant, - giving to
the lowly and the poor the mission of Revelation." Then, turning suddenly
to his companions, as his features, singularly varying in their character
and expression, brightened, from solemn awe, into a martial and kindling
enthusiasm, he cried aloud, "Death to the Tyranny! Life to the Republic!"
The effect of the transition was startling. Each man, as by an involuntary
and irresistible impulse, laid his hand upon his sword, as he echoed the
sentiment; some, indeed, drew forth their blades, as if for instant action.
"I have seen enow: they will break up anon," said Montreal to himself:
"and I would rather face an army of thousands, than even half-a-dozen
enthusiasts, so inflamed, - and I thus detected." And, with this thought,
he dropped on the ground, and glided away, as, once again, through the
still midnight air, broke upon his ear the muffled shout - "DEATH TO THE
TYRANNY! - LIFE TO THE REPUBLIC!"
BOOK II. THE REVOLUTION
"Ogni Lascivia, ogni male, nulla giustizia, nullo freno. Non c'era piu
remedia, ogni persona periva. Allora Cola di Rienzi." &c. - "Vita di Cola
di Rienzi", lib. i. chap. 2.
"Every kind of lewdness, every form of evil; no justice, no restraint.
Remedy there was none; perdition fell on all. Then Cola di Rienzi," &c. -
"Life of Cola di Rienzi".
Chapter 2.I. The Knight of Provence, and his Proposal.
It was nearly noon as Adrian entered the gates of the palace of Stephen
Colonna. The palaces of the nobles were not then as we see them now,
receptacles for the immortal canvas of Italian, and the imperishable
sculpture of Grecian Art; but still to this day are retained the massive
walls, and barred windows, and spacious courts, which at that time
protected their rude retainers. High above the gates rose a lofty and
solid tower, whose height commanded a wide view of the mutilated remains of
Rome: the gate itself was adorned and strengthened on either side by
columns of granite, whose Doric capitals betrayed the sacrilege that had
torn them from one of the many temples that had formerly crowded the sacred
Forum. From the same spoils came, too, the vast fragments of travertine
which made the walls of the outer court. So common at that day were these
barbarous appropriations of the most precious monuments of art, that the
columns and domes of earlier Rome were regarded by all classes but as
quarries, from which every man was free to gather the materials, whether
for his castle or his cottage, - a wantonness of outrage far greater than
the Goths', to whom a later age would fain have attributed all the
disgrace, and which, more perhaps than even heavier offences, excited the
classical indignation of Petrarch, and made him sympathise with Rienzi in
his hopes of Rome. Still may you see the churches of that or even earlier
dates, of the most shapeless architecture, built on the sites, and from the
marbles, consecrating (rather than consecrated by) the names of Venus, of
Jupiter, of Minerva. The palace of the Prince of the Orsini, duke of
Gravina, is yet reared above the graceful arches (still visible) of the
theatre of Marcellus; then a fortress of the Savelli.
As Adrian passed the court, a heavy waggon blocked up the way, laden with
huge marbles, dug from the unexhausted mine of the Golden House of Nero:
they were intended for an additional tower, by which Stephen Colonna
proposed yet more to strengthen the tasteless and barbarous edifice in
which the old noble maintained the dignity of outraging the law.
The friend of Petrarch and the pupil of Rienzi sighed deeply as he passed
this vehicle of new spoliations, and as a pillar of fluted alabaster,
rolling carelessly from the waggon, fell with a loud crash upon the
pavement. At the foot of the stairs grouped some dozen of the bandits whom
the old Colonna entertained: they were playing at dice upon an ancient
tomb, the clear and deep inscription on which (so different from the
slovenly character of the later empire) bespoke it a memorial of the most
powerful age of Rome, and which, now empty even of ashes, and upset, served
for a table to these foreign savages, and was strewn, even at that early
hour, with fragments of meat and flasks of wine. They scarcely stirred,
they scarcely looked up, as the young noble passed them; and their fierce
oaths and loud ejaculations, uttered in a northern patois, grated harsh
upon his ear, as he mounted, with a slow step, the lofty and unclean
stairs. He came into a vast ante-chamber, which was half-filled with the
higher class of the patrician's retainers: some five or six pages, chosen
from the inferior noblesse, congregated by a narrow and deep-sunk casement,
were discussing the grave matters of gallantry and intrigue; three petty
chieftains of the band below, with their corselets donned, and their swords
and casques beside them, were sitting, stolid and silent, at a table, in
the middle of the room, and might have been taken for automatons, save for
the solemn regularity with which they ever and anon lifted to their
moustachioed lips their several goblets, and then, with a complacent grunt,
re-settled to their contemplations. Striking was the contrast which their
northern phlegm presented to a crowd of Italian clients, and petitioners,
and parasites, who walked restlessly to and fro, talking loudly to each
other, with all the vehement gestures and varying physiognomy of southern
vivacity. There was a general stir and sensation as Adrian broke upon this
miscellaneous company. The bandit captains nodded their heads
mechanically; the pages bowed, and admired the fashion of his plume and
hose; the clients, and petitioners, and parasites, crowded round him, each
with a separate request for interest with his potent kinsman. Great need
had Adrian of his wonted urbanity and address, in extricating himself from
their grasp; and painfully did he win, at last, the low and narrow door, at
which stood a tall servitor, who admitted or rejected the applicants,
according to his interest or caprice.
"Is the Baron alone?" asked Adrian.
"Why, no, my Lord: a foreign signor is with him - but to you he is of
"Well, you may admit me. I would inquire of his health."
The servitor opened the door - through whose aperture peered many a jealous
and wistful eye - and consigned Adrian to the guidance of a page, who,
older and of greater esteem than the loiterers in the ante-room, was the
especial henchman of the Lord of the Castle. Passing another, but empty
chamber, vast and dreary, Adrian found himself in a small cabinet, and in
the presence of his kinsman.
Before a table, bearing the implements of writing, sate the old Colonna: a
robe of rich furs and velvet hung loose upon his tall and stately frame;
from a round skull-cap, of comforting warmth and crimson hue, a few grey
locks descended, and mixed with a long and reverent beard. The countenance
of the aged noble, who had long passed his eightieth year, still retained
the traces of a comeliness for which in earlier manhood he was remarkable.
His eyes, if deep-sunken, were still keen and lively, and sparkled with all
the fire of youth; his mouth curved upward in a pleasant, though half-
satiric, smile; and his appearance on the whole was prepossessing and
commanding, indicating rather the high blood, the shrewd wit, and the
gallant valour of the patrician, than his craft, hypocrisy, and habitual
but disdainful spirit of oppression.
Stephen Colonna, without being absolutely a hero, was indeed far braver
than most of the Romans, though he held fast to the Italian maxim - never
to fight an enemy while it is possible to cheat him. Two faults, however,
marred the effect of his sagacity: a supreme insolence of disposition, and
a profound belief in the lights of his experience. He was incapable of
analogy. What had never happened in his time, he was perfectly persuaded
never could happen. Thus, though generally esteemed an able diplomatist,
he had the cunning of the intriguant, and not the providence of a
statesman. If, however, pride made him arrogant in prosperity, it
supported him in misfortune. And in the earlier vicissitudes of a life
which had partly been consumed in exile, he had developed many noble
qualities of fortitude, endurance, and real greatness of soul; which showed
that his failings were rather acquired by circumstance than derived from
nature. His numerous and highborn race were proud of their chief; and with
justice; for he was the ablest and most honoured, not only of the direct
branch of the Colonna, but also, perhaps, of all the more powerful barons.
Seated at the same table with Stephen Colonna was a man of noble presence,
of about three or four and thirty years of age, in whom Adrian instantly
recognised Walter de Montreal. This celebrated knight was scarcely of the
personal appearance which might have corresponded with the terror his name
generally excited. His face was handsome, almost to the extreme of
womanish delicacy. His fair hair waved long and freely over a white and
unwrinkled forehead: the life of a camp and the suns of Italy had but
little embrowned his clear and healthful complexion, which retained much of
the bloom of youth. His features were aquiline and regular; his eyes, of a
light hazel, were large, bright, and penetrating; and a short, but curled
beard and moustachio, trimmed with soldier-like precision, and very little
darker than the hair, gave indeed a martial expression to his comely
countenance, but rather the expression which might have suited the hero of
courts and tournaments, than the chief of a brigand's camp. The aspect,
manner, and bearing, of the Provencal were those which captivate rather
than awe, - blending, as they did, a certain military frankness with the
easy and graceful dignity of one conscious of gentle birth, and accustomed
to mix, on equal terms, with the great and noble. His form happily
contrasted and elevated the character of a countenance which required
strength and stature to free its uncommon beauty from the charge of
effeminacy, being of great height and remarkable muscular power, without
the least approach to clumsy and unwieldy bulk: it erred, indeed, rather
to the side of leanness than flesh, - at once robust and slender. But the
chief personal distinction of this warrior, the most redoubted lance of
Italy, was an air and carriage of chivalric and heroic grace, greatly set
off at this time by his splendid dress, which was of brown velvet sown with
pearls, over which hung the surcoat worn by the Knights of the Hospital,
whereon was wrought, in white, the eight-pointed cross that made the badge
of his order. The Knight's attitude was that of earnest conversation,
bending slightly forward towards the Colonna, and resting both his hands -
which (according to the usual distinction of the old Norman race, (Small
hands and feet, however disproportioned to the rest of the person, were at
that time deemed no less a distinction of the well-born, than they have
been in a more refined age. Many readers will remember the pain occasioned
to Petrarch by his tight shoes. The supposed beauty of this peculiarity is
more derived from the feudal than the classic time.) from whom, though born
in Provence, Montreal boasted his descent) were small and delicate, the
fingers being covered with jewels, as was the fashion of the day - upon the
golden hilt of an enormous sword, on the sheath of which was elaborately
wrought the silver lilies that made the device of the Provencal Brotherhood
"Good morrow, fair kinsman!" said Stephen. "Seat thyself, I pray; and know
in this knightly visitor the celebrated Sieur de Montreal."
"Ah, my Lord," said Montreal, smiling, as he saluted Adrian; "and how is my
lady at home?"
"You mistake, Sir Knight," quoth Stephen; "my young kinsman is not yet
married: faith, as Pope Boniface remarked, when he lay stretched on a sick
bed, and his confessor talked to him about Abraham's bosom, 'that is a
pleasure the greater for being deferred.'"
"The Signor will pardon my mistake," returned Montreal.
"But not," said Adrian, "the neglect of Sir Walter in not ascertaining the
fact in person. My thanks to him, noble kinsman, are greater than you weet
of; and he promised to visit me, that he might receive them at leisure."
"I assure you, Signor," answered Montreal, "that I have not forgotten the
invitation; but so weighty hitherto have been my affairs at Rome, that I
have been obliged to parley with my impatience to better our acquaintance."
"Oh, ye knew each other before?" said Stephen. "And how?"
"My Lord, there is a damsel in the case!" replied Montreal. "Excuse my
"Ah, Adrian, Adrian! when will you learn my continence!" said Stephen,
solemnly stroking his grey beard. "What an example I set you! But a truce
to this light conversation, - let us resume our theme. You must know,
Adrian, that it is to the brave band of my guest I am indebted for those
valiant gentlemen below, who keep Rome so quiet, though my poor habitation
so noisy. He has called to proffer more assistance, if need be; and to
advise me on the affairs of Northern Italy. Continue, I pray thee, Sir
Knight; I have no disguises from my kinsman."
"Thou seest," said Montreal, fixing his penetrating eyes on Adrian, "thou
seest, doubtless, my Lord, that Italy at this moment presents to us a
remarkable spectacle. It is a contest between two opposing powers, which
shall destroy the other. The one power is that of the unruly and turbulent
people - a power which they call 'Liberty;' the other power is that of the
chiefs and princes - a power which they more appropriately call 'Order.'
Between these parties the cities of Italy are divided. In Florence, in
Genoa, in Pisa, for instance, is established a Free State - a Republic, God
wot! and a more riotous, unhappy state of government, cannot well be
"That is perfectly true," quoth Stephen; "they banished my own first cousin
"A perpetual strife, in short," continued Montreal, "between the great
families; an alternation of prosecutions, and confiscations, and
banishments: today, the Guelfs proscribe the Ghibellines - tomorrow, the
Ghibellines drive out the Guelfs. This may be liberty, but it is the
liberty of the strong against the weak. In the other cities, as Milan, as
Verona, as Bologna, the people are under the rule of one man, - who calls
himself a prince, and whom his enemies call a tyrant. Having more force
than any other citizen, he preserves a firm government; having more
constant demand on his intellect and energies than the other citizens, he
also preserves a wise one. These two orders of government are enlisted
against each other: whenever the people in the one rebel against their
prince, the people of the other - that is, the Free States - send arms and
money to their assistance."
"You hear, Adrian, how wicked those last are," quoth Stephen.
"Now it seems to me," continued Montreal, "that this contest must end some
time or other. All Italy must become republican or monarchical. It is
easy to predict which will be the result."
"Yes, Liberty must conquer in the end!" said Adrian, warmly.
"Pardon me, young Lord; my opinion is entirely the reverse. You perceive
that these republics are commercial, - are traders; they esteem wealth,
they despise valour, they cultivate all trades save that of the armourer.
Accordingly, how do they maintain themselves in war: by their own
citizens? Not a whit of it! Either they send to some foreign chief, and
promise, if he grant them his protection, the principality of the city for
five or ten years in return; or else they borrow from some hardy
adventurer, like myself, as many troops as they can afford to pay for. Is
it not so, Lord Adrian?"
Adrian nodded his reluctant assent.
"Well, then, it is the fault of the foreign chief if he do not make his
power permanent; as has been already done in States once free by the
Visconti and the Scala: or else it is the fault of the captain of the
mercenaries if he do not convert his brigands into senators, and himself
into a king. These are events so natural, that one day or other they will
occur throughout all Italy. And all Italy will then become monarchical.
Now it seems to me the interest of all the powerful families - your own, at
Rome, as that of the Visconti, at Milan - to expedite this epoch, and to
check, while you yet may with ease, that rebellious contagion amongst the
people which is now rapidly spreading, and which ends in the fever of
licence to them, but in the corruption of death to you. In these free
States, the nobles are the first to suffer: first your privileges, then
your property, are swept away. Nay, in Florence, as ye well know, my
Lords, no noble is even capable of holding the meanest office in the
"Villains!" said Colonna, "they violate the first law of nature!"
"At this moment," resumed Montreal, who, engrossed with his subject, little
heeded the interruptions he received from the holy indignation of the
Baron: "at this moment, there are many - the wisest, perhaps, in the free
States - who desire to renew the old Lombard leagues, in defence of their
common freedom everywhere, and against whosoever shall aspire to be prince.
Fortunately, the deadly jealousies between these merchant States - the base
plebeian jealousies - more of trade than of glory - interpose at present an
irresistible obstacle to this design; and Florence, the most stirring and
the most esteemed of all, is happily so reduced by reverses of commerce as
to be utterly unable to follow out so great an undertaking. Now, then, is
the time for us, my Lords; while these obstacles are so great for our foes,
now is the time for us to form and cement a counter-league between all the
princes of Italy. To you, noble Stephen, I have come, as your rank
demands, - alone, of all the barons of Rome, - to propose to you this
honourable union. Observe what advantages it proffers to your house. The
popes have abandoned Rome for ever; there is no counterpoise to your
ambition, - there need be none to your power. You see before you the
examples of Visconti and Taddeo di Pepoli. You may found in Rome, the
first city of Italy, a supreme and uncontrolled principality, subjugate
utterly your weaker rivals, - the Savelli, the Malatesta, the Orsini, - and
leave to your sons' sons an hereditary kingdom that may aspire once more,
perhaps, to the empire of the world."
Stephen shaded his face with his hand as he answered: "But this, noble
Montreal, requires means: - money and men."
"Of the last, you can command from me enow - my small company, the best
disciplined, can (whenever I please) swell to the most numerous in Italy:
in the first, noble Baron, the rich House of Colonna cannot fail; and even
a mortgage on its vast estates may be well repaid when you have possessed
yourselves of the whole revenues of Rome. You see," continued Montreal,
turning to Adrian, in whose youth he expected a more warm ally than in the
his hoary kinsman: "you see, at a glance, how feasible is this project,
and what a mighty field it opens to your House."
"Sir Walter de Montreal," said Adrian, rising from his seat, and giving
vent to the indignation he had with difficulty suppressed, "I grieve much
that, beneath the roof of the first citizen of Rome, a stranger should
attempt thus calmly, and without interruption, to excite the ambition of
emulating the execrated celebrity of a Visconti or a Pepoli. Speak, my
Lord! (turning to Stephen) - speak, noble kinsman! and tell this Knight of
Provence, that if by a Colonna the ancient grandeur of Rome cannot be
restored, it shall not be, at least, by a Colonna that her last wrecks of
liberty shall be swept away."
"How now, Adrian! - how now, sweet kinsman!" said Stephen, thus suddenly
appealed to, "calm thyself, I pr'ythee. Noble Sir Walter, he is young -
young, and hasty - he means not to offend thee."
Of that I am persuaded," returned Montreal, coldly, but with great and
courteous command of temper. "He speaks from the impulse of the moment, -
a praiseworthy fault in youth. It was mine at his age, and many a time
have I nearly lost my life for the rashness. Nay, Signor, nay! - touch not
your sword so meaningly, as if you fancied I intimated a threat; far from
me such presumption. I have learned sufficient caution, believe me, in the
wars, not wantonly to draw against me a blade which I have seen wielded
against such odds."
Touched, despite himself, by the courtesy of the Knight, and the allusion
to a scene in which, perhaps, his life had been preserved by Montreal,
Adrian extended his hand to the latter.
"I was to blame for my haste," said he, frankly; "but know, by my very
heat," he added more gravely, "that your project will find no friends among
the Colonna. Nay, in the presence of my noble kinsman, I dare to tell you,
that could even his high sanction lend itself to such a scheme, the best
hearts of his house would desert him; and I myself, his kinsman, would man
yonder castle against so unnatural an ambition!"
A slight and scarce perceptible cloud passed over Montreal's countenance at
these words; and he bit his lip ere he replied:
"Yet if the Orsini be less scrupulous, their first exertion of power would
be heard in the crashing house of the Colonna."
Know you," returned Adrian, "that one of our mottoes is this haughty
address to the Romans, - 'If we fall, ye fall also?' And better that fate,
than a rise upon the wrecks of our native city."
"Well, well, well!" said Montreal, reseating himself, "I see that I must
leave Rome to herself, - the League must thrive without her aid. I did but
jest, touching the Orsini, for they have not the power that would make
their efforts safe. Let us sweep, then, our past conference from our
recollection. It is the nineteenth, I think, Lord Colonna, on which you
propose to repair to Corneto, with your friends and retainers, and on which
you have invited my attendance?"
"It is on that day, Sir Knight," replied the Baron, evidently much relieved
by the turn the conversation had assumed. "The fact is, that we have been
so charged with indifference to the interests of the good people, that I
strain a point in this expedition to contradict the assertion; and we
propose, therefore, to escort and protect, against the robbers of the road,
a convoy of corn to Corneto. In truth, I may add another reason, besides
fear of the robbers, that makes me desire as numerous a train as possible.
I wish to show my enemies, and the people generally, the solid and growing
power of my house; the display of such an armed band as I hope to levy,
will be a magnificent occasion to strike awe into the riotous and
refractory. Adrian, you will collect your servitors, I trust, on that day;
we would not be without you."
"And as we ride along, fair Signor," said Montreal, inclining to Adrian,
"we will find at least one subject on which we can agree: all brave men
and true knights have one common topic, - and its name is Woman. You must
make me acquainted with the names of the fairest dames of Rome; and we will
discuss old adventures in the Parliament of Love, and hope for new. By the
way, I suppose, Lord Adrian, you, with the rest of your countrymen, are
"Do you not share our enthusiasm? slur not so your gallantry, I pray you."
"Come, we must not again disagree; but, by my halidame, I think one
troubadour roundel worth all that Petrarch ever wrote. He has but borrowed
from our knightly poesy, to disguise it, like a carpet coxcomb."
"Well," said Adrian, gaily, "for every line of the troubadours that you
quote, I will cite you another. I will forgive you for injustice to
Petrarch, if you are just to the troubadours."
"Just!" cried Montreal, with real enthusiasm: "I am of the land, nay the
very blood of the troubadour! But we grow too light for your noble
kinsman; and it is time for me to bid you, for the present, farewell. My
Lord Colonna, peace be with you; farewell, Sir Adrian, - brother mine in
knighthood, - remember your challenge."
And with an easy and careless grace the Knight of St. John took his leave.
The old Baron, making a dumb sign of excuse to Adrian, followed Montreal
into the adjoining room.
"Sir Knight!" said he, "Sir Knight!" as he closed the door upon Adrian, and
then drew Montreal to the recess of the casement, - "a word in your ear.
Think not I slight your offer, but these young men must be managed; the
plot is great - noble, - grateful to my heart; but it requires time and
caution. I have many of my house, scrupulous as yon hot-skull, to win
over; the way is pleasant, but must be sounded well and carefully; you