Part 3 out of 10
From under his bent brows, Montreal darted one keen glance at Stephen, and
"My friendship for you dictated my offer. The League may stand without the
Colonna, - beware a time when the Colonna cannot stand without the League.
My Lord, look well around you; there are more freemen - ay, bold and
stirring ones, too - in Rome, than you imagine. Beware Rienzi! Adieu, we
meet soon again."
Thus saying, Montreal departed, soliloquising as he passed with his
careless step through the crowded ante-room:
"I shall fail here! - these caitiff nobles have neither the courage to be
great, nor the wisdom to be honest. Let them fall! - I may find an
adventurer from the people, an adventurer like myself, worth them all."
No sooner had Stephen returned to Adrian than he flung his arms
affectionately round his ward, who was preparing his pride for some sharp
rebuke for his petulance.
"Nobly feigned, - admirable, admirable!" cried the Baron; "you have learned
the true art of a statesman at the Emperor's court. I always thought you
would - always said it. You saw the dilemma I was in, thus taken by
surprise by that barbarian's mad scheme; afraid to refuse, - more afraid to
accept. You extricated me with consummate address: that passion, - so
natural to your age, - was a famous feint; drew off the attack; gave me
time to breathe; allowed me to play with the savage. But we must not
offend him, you know: all my retainers would desert me, or sell me to the
Orsini, or cut my throat, if he but held up his finger. Oh! it was
admirably managed, Adrian - admirably!"
"Thank Heaven!" said Adrian, with some difficulty recovering the breath
which his astonishment had taken away, "you do not think of embracing that
"Think of it! no, indeed!" said Stephen, throwing himself back on his
chair. "Why, do you not know my age, boy? Hard on my ninetieth year, I
should be a fool indeed to throw myself into such a whirl of turbulence and
agitation. I want to keep what I have, not risk it by grasping more. Am I
not the beloved of the pope? shall I hazard his excommunication? Am I not
the most powerful of the nobles? should I be more if I were king? At my
age, to talk to me of such stuff! - the man's an idiot. Besides," added
the old man, sinking his voice, and looking fearfully round, "if I were a
king, my sons might poison me for the succession. They are good lads,
Adrian, very! But such a temptation! - I would not throw it in their way;
these grey hairs have experience! Tyrants don't die a natural death; no,
no! Plague on the Knight, say I; he has already cast me into a cold
Adrian gazed on the working features of the old man, whose selfishness thus
preserved him from crime. He listened to his concluding words - full of
the dark truth of the times; and as the high and pure ambition of Rienzi
flashed upon him in contrast, he felt that he could not blame its fervour,
or wonder at its excess.
"And then, too," resumed the Baron, speaking more deliberately as he
recovered his self-possession, "this man, by way of a warning, shows me, at
a glance, his whole ignorance of the state. What think you? he has mingled
with the mob, and taken their rank breath for power; yes, he thinks words
are soldiers, and bade me - me, Stephen Colonna - beware - of whom, think
you? No, you will never guess! - of that speech-maker, Rienzi! my own old
jesting guest! Ha! ha! ha! - the ignorance of these barbarians! Ha! ha!
ha! and the old man laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks.
"Yet many of the nobles fear that same Rienzi," said Adrian, gravely.
"Ah! let them, let them! - they have not our experience - our knowledge of
the world, Adrian. Tut, man, - when did declamation ever overthrow
castles, and conquer soldiery? I like Rienzi to harangue the mob about old
Rome, and such stuff; it gives them something to think of and prate about,
and so all their fierceness evaporates in words; they might burn a house if
they did not hear a speech. But, now I am on that score, I must own the
pedant has grown impudent in his new office; here, here, - I received this
paper ere I rose today. I hear a similar insolence has been shown to all
the nobles. Read it, will you," and the Colonna put a scroll into his
"I have received the like," said Adrian, glancing at it. "It is a request
of Rienzi's to attend at the Church of St. John of Lateran, to hear
explained the inscription on a Table just discovered. It bears, he saith,
the most intimate connexion with the welfare and state of Rome."
"Very entertaining, I dare to say, to professors and bookmen. Pardon me,
kinsman; I forgot your taste for these things; and my son, Gianni, too,
shares your fantasy. Well, well! it is innocent enough! Go - the man
"Will you not attend, too?"
"I - my dear boy - I!" said the old Colonna, opening his eyes in such
astonishment that Adrian could not help laughing at the simplicity of his
Chapter 2.II. The Interview, and the Doubt.
As Adrian turned from the palace of his guardian, and bent his way in the
direction of the Forum, he came somewhat unexpectedly upon Raimond, bishop
of Orvietto, who, mounted upon a low palfrey, and accompanied by some three
or four of his waiting-men, halted abruptly when he recognised the young
"Ah, my son! it is seldom that I see thee: how fares it with thee? - well?
So, so! I rejoice to hear it. Alas! what a state of society is ours, when
compared to the tranquil pleasures of Avignon! There, all men who, like
us, are fond of the same pursuits, the same studies, deliciae musarum, hum!
hum! (the Bishop was proud of an occasional quotation, right or wrong), are
brought easily and naturally together. But here we scarcely dare stir out
of our houses, save upon great occasions. But, talking of great occasions,
and the Muses, reminds me of our good Rienzi's invitation to the Lateran:
of course you will attend; 'tis a mighty knotty piece of Latin he proposes
to solve - so I hear, at least; very interesting to us, my son, - very!"
"It is tomorrow," answered Adrian. "Yes, assuredly; I will be there."
"And, harkye, my son," said the Bishop, resting his hand affectionately on
Adrian's shoulder, "I have reason to hope that he will remind our poor
citizens of the Jubilee for the year Fifty, and stir them towards clearing
the road of the brigands: a necessary injunction, and one to be heeded
timeously; for who will come here for absolution when he stands a chance of
rushing unannealed upon purgatory by the way? You have heard Rienzi, - ay?
quite a Cicero - quite! Well, Heaven bless you, my son! You will not
"Nay, not I."
"Yet, stay - a word with you: just suggest to all whom you may meet the
advisability of a full meeting; it looks well for the city to show respect
"To say nothing of the Jubilee," added Adrian, smiling.
"Ah, to say nothing of the Jubilee - very good! Adieu for the present!"
And the Bishop, resettling himself on his saddle, ambled solemnly on to
visit his various friends, and press them to the meeting.
Meanwhile, Adrian continued his course till he had passed the Capitol, the
Arch of Severus, the crumbling columns of the fane of Jupiter, and found
himself amidst the long grass, the whispering reeds, and the neglected
vines, that wave over the now-vanished pomp of the Golden House of Nero.
Seating himself on a fallen pillar - by that spot where the traveller
descends to the (so called) Baths of Livia - he looked impatiently to the
sun, as to blame it for the slowness of its march.
Not long, however, had he to wait before a light step was heard crushing
the fragrant grass; and presently through the arching vines gleamed a face
that might well have seemed the nymph, the goddess of the scene.
"My beautiful! my Irene! - how shall I thank thee!"
It was long before the delighted lover suffered himself to observe upon
Irene's face a sadness that did not usually cloud it in his presence. Her
voice, too, trembled; her words seemed constrained and cold.
"Have I offended thee?" he asked; "or what less misfortune hath occurred?"
Irene raised her eyes to her lover's, and said, looking at him earnestly,
"Tell me, my Lord, in sober and simple truth, tell me, would it grieve thee
much were this to be our last meeting?"
Paler than the marble at his feet grew the dark cheek of Adrian. It was
some moments ere he could reply, and he did so then with a forced smile and
a quivering lip.
"Jest not so, Irene! Last! - that is not a word for us!"
"But hear me, my Lord - "
"Why so cold? - call me Adrian! - friend! - lover! or be dumb!"
"Well, then, my soul's soul! my all of hope! my life's life!" exclaimed
Irene, passionately, "hear me! I fear that we stand at this moment upon
some gulf whose depth I see not, but which may divide us for ever! Thou
knowest the real nature of my brother, and dost not misread him as many do.
Long has he planned, and schemed, and communed with himself, and, feeling
his way amidst the people, prepared the path to some great design. But now
- (thou wilt not betray - thou wilt not injure him? - he is thy friend!)"
"And thy brother! I would give my life for his! Say on!"
"But now, then," resumed Irene, "the time for that enterprise, whatever it
be, is coming fast. I know not of its exact nature, but I know that it is
against the nobles - against thy order - against thy house itself! If it
succeed - oh, Adrian! thou thyself mayst not be free from danger; and my
name, at least, will be coupled with the name of thy foes. If it fail, -
my brother, my bold brother, is swept away! He will fall a victim to
revenge or justice, call it as you will. Your kinsman may be his judge -
his executioner; and I - even if I should yet live to mourn over the boast
and glory of my humble line - could I permit myself to love, to see, one in
whose veins flowed the blood of his destroyer? Oh! I am wretched -
wretched! these thoughts make me well-nigh mad!" and, wringing her hands
bitterly, Irene sobbed aloud.
Adrian himself was struck forcibly by the picture thus presented to him,
although the alternative it embraced had often before forced itself dimly
on his mind. It was true, however, that, not seeing the schemes of Rienzi
backed by any physical power, and never yet having witnessed the mighty
force of a moral revolution, he did not conceive that any rise to which he
might instigate the people could be permanently successful: and, as for
his punishment, in that city, where all justice was the slave of interest,
Adrian knew himself powerful enough to obtain forgiveness even for the
greatest of all crimes - armed insurrection against the nobles. As these
thoughts recurred to him, he gained the courage to console and cheer Irene.
But his efforts were only partially successful. Awakened by her fears to
that consideration of the future which hitherto she had forgotten, Irene,
for the first time, seemed deaf to the charmer's voice.
"Alas!" said she, sadly, "even at the best, what can this love, that we
have so blindly encouraged - what can it end in? Thou must not wed with
one like me; and I! how foolish I have been!"
"Recall thy senses then, Irene," said Adrian, proudly, partly perhaps in
anger, partly in his experience of the sex. "Love another, and more
wisely, if thou wilt; cancel thy vows with me, and continue to think it a
crime to love, and a folly to be true!"
"Cruel!" said Irene, falteringly, and in her turn alarmed. "Dost thou
speak in earnest?"
"Tell me, ere I answer you, tell me this: come death, come anguish, come a
whole life of sorrow, as the end of this love, wouldst thou yet repent that
thou hast loved? If so, thou knowest not the love that I feel for thee."
"Never! never can I repent!" said Irene, falling upon Adrian's neck;
"But is there, in truth," said Adrian, a little while after this lover-like
quarrel and reconciliation, "is there, in truth, so marked a difference
between thy brother's past and his present bearing? How knowest thou that
the time for action is so near?"
"Because now he sits closeted whole nights with all ranks of men; he shuts
up his books, - he reads no more, - but, when alone, walks to and fro his
chamber, muttering to himself. Sometimes he pauses before the calendar,
which of late he has fixed with his own hand against the wall, and passes
his finger over the letters, till he comes to some chosen date, and then he
plays with his sword and smiles. But two nights since, arms, too, in great
number were brought to the house; and I heard the chief of the men who
brought them, a grim giant, known well amongst the people, say, as he wiped
his brow, - 'These will see work soon!'"
"Arms! Are you sure of that?" said Adrian, anxiously. "Nay, then, there
is more in these schemes than I imagined! But (observing Irene's gaze bent
fearfully on him as his voice changed, he added, more gaily) - but come
what may, believe me - my beautiful! my adored! that while I live, thy
brother shall not suffer from the wrath he may provoke, - nor I, though he
forget our ancient friendship, cease to love thee less."
"Signora! Signora! child! it is time! we must go!" said the shrill voice of
Benedetta, now peering through the foliage. "The working men pass home
this way; I see them approaching."
The lovers parted; for the first time the serpent had penetrated into their
Eden, - they had conversed, they had thought, of other things than Love.
Chapter 2.III. The Situation of a Popular Patrician in Times of Popular
Discontent. - Scene of the Lateran.
The situation of a Patrician who honestly loves the people is, in those
evil times, when power oppresses and freedom struggles, - when the two
divisions of men are wrestling against each other, - the most irksome and
perplexing that destiny can possibly contrive. Shall he take part with the
nobles? - he betrays his conscience! With the people? - he deserts his
friends! But that consequence of the last alternative is not the sole -
nor, perhaps, to a strong mind, the most severe. All men are swayed and
chained by public opinion - it is the public judge; but public opinion is
not the same for all ranks. The public opinion that excites or deters the
plebeian, is the opinion of the plebeians, - of those whom he sees, and
meets, and knows; of those with whom he is brought in contact, - those with
whom he has mixed from childhood, - those whose praises are daily heard, -
whose censure frowns upon him with every hour. (It is the same in still
smaller divisions. The public opinion for lawyers is that of lawyers; of
soldiers, that of the army; of scholars, it is that of men of literature
and science. And to the susceptible amongst the latter, the hostile
criticism of learning has been more stinging than the severest moral
censures of the vulgar. Many a man has done a great act, or composed a
great work, solely to please the two or three persons constantly present to
him. Their voice was his public opinion. The public opinion that operated
on Bishop, the murderer, was the opinion of the Burkers, his comrades. Did
that condemn him? No! He knew no other public opinion till he came to be
hanged, and caught the loathing eyes, and heard the hissing execrations of
the crowd below his gibbet.) So, also, the public opinion of the great is
the opinion of their equals, - of those whom birth and accident cast for
ever in their way. This distinction is full of important practical
deductions; it is one which, more than most maxims, should never be
forgotten by a politician who desires to be profound. It is, then, an
ordeal terrible to pass - which few plebeians ever pass, which it is
therefore unjust to expect patricians to cross unfaulteringly - the ordeal
of opposing the public opinion which exists for them. They cannot help
doubting their own judgment, - they cannot help thinking the voice of
wisdom or of virtue speaks in those sounds which have been deemed oracles
from their cradle. In the tribunal of Sectarian Prejudice they imagine
they recognise the court of the Universal Conscience. Another powerful
antidote to the activity of a patrician so placed, is in the certainty that
to the last the motives of such activity will be alike misconstrued by the
aristocracy he deserts and the people he joins. It seems so unnatural in a
man to fly in the face of his own order, that the world is willing to
suppose any clue to the mystery save that of honest conviction or lofty
patriotism. "Ambition!" says one. "Disappointment!" cries another. "Some
private grudge!" hints a third. "Mob-courting vanity!" sneers a fourth.
The people admire at first, but suspect afterwards. The moment he thwarts
a popular wish, there is no redemption for him: he is accused of having
acted the hypocrite, - of having worn the sheep's fleece: and now, say
they, - "See! the wolf's teeth peep out!" Is he familiar with the people?
- it is cajolery! Is he distant? - it is pride! What, then, sustains a
man in such a situation, following his own conscience, with his eyes opened
to all the perils of the path? Away with the cant of public opinion, -
away with the poor delusion of posthumous justice; he will offend the
first, he will never obtain the last. What sustains him? HIS OWN SOUL! A
man thoroughly great has a certain contempt for his kind while he aids
them: their weal or woe are all; their applause - their blame - are
nothing to him. He walks forth from the circle of birth and habit; he is
deaf to the little motives of little men. High, through the widest space
his orbit may describe, he holds on his course to guide or to enlighten;
but the noises below reach him not! Until the wheel is broken, - until the
dark void swallow up the star, - it makes melody, night and day, to its own
ear: thirsting for no sound from the earth it illumines, anxious for no
companionship in the path through which it rolls, conscious of its own
glory, and contented, therefore, to be alone!
But minds of this order are rare. All ages cannot produce them. They are
exceptions to the ordinary and human virtue, which is influenced and
regulated by external circumstance. At a time when even to be merely
susceptible to the voice of fame was a great pre-eminence in moral energies
over the rest of mankind, it would be impossible that any one should ever
have formed the conception of that more refined and metaphysical sentiment,
that purer excitement to high deeds - that glory in one's own heart, which
is so immeasurably above the desire of a renown that lackeys the heels of
others. In fact, before we can dispense with the world, we must, by a long
and severe novitiate - by the probation of much thought, and much sorrow -
by deep and sad conviction of the vanity of all that the world can give us,
have raised our selves - not in the fervour of an hour, but habitually -
above the world: an abstraction - an idealism - which, in our wiser age,
how few even of the wisest, can attain! Yet, till we are thus fortunate,
we know not the true divinity of contemplation, nor the all-sufficing
mightiness of conscience; nor can we retreat with solemn footsteps into
that Holy of Holies in our own souls, wherein we know, and feel, how much
our nature is capable of the self-existence of a God!
But to return to the things and thoughts of earth. Those considerations,
and those links of circumstance, which, in a similar situation have changed
so many honest and courageous minds, changed also the mind of Adrian. He
felt in a false position. His reason and conscience shared in the schemes
of Rienzi, and his natural hardihood and love of enterprise would have led
him actively to share the danger of their execution. But this, all his
associations, his friendships, his private and household ties, loudly
forbade. Against his order, against his house, against the companions of
his youth, how could he plot secretly, or act sternly? By the goal to
which he was impelled by patriotism, stood hypocrisy and ingratitude. Who
would believe him the honest champion of his country who was a traitor to
his friends? Thus, indeed,
"The native hue of resolution
Was sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought!"
And he who should have been by nature a leader of the time became only its
spectator. Yet Adrian endeavoured to console himself for his present
passiveness in a conviction of the policy of his conduct. He who takes no
share in the commencement of civil revolutions, can often become, with the
most effect, a mediator between the passions and the parties subsequently
formed. Perhaps, under Adrian's circumstances, delay was really the part
of a prudent statesman; the very position which cripples at the first,
often gives authority before the end. Clear from the excesses, and saved
from the jealousies, of rival factions, all men are willing to look with
complaisance and respect to a new actor in a turbulent drama; his
moderation may make him trusted by the people; his rank enable him to be a
fitting mediator with the nobles; and thus the qualities that would have
rendered him a martyr at one period of the Revolution, raise him perhaps
into a saviour at another.
Silent, therefore, and passive, Adrian waited the progress of events. If
the projects of Rienzi failed, he might, by that in activity, the better
preserve the people from new chains, and their champion from death. If
those projects succeeded, he might equally save his house from the popular
wrath - and, advocating liberty, check disorder. Such, at least, were his
hopes; and thus did the Italian sagacity and caution of his character
control and pacify the enthusiasm of youth and courage.
The sun shone, calm and cloudless, upon the vast concourse gathered before
the broad space that surrounds the Church of St. John of Lateran. Partly
by curiosity - partly by the desire of the Bishop of Orvietto - partly
because it was an occasion in which they could display the pomp of their
retinues - many of the principal Barons of Rome had gathered to this spot.
On one of the steps ascending to the church, with his mantle folded round
him, stood Walter de Montreal, gazing on the various parties that, one
after another, swept through the lane which the soldiers of the Church
preserved unimpeded, in the middle of the crowd, for the access of the
principal nobles. He watched with interest, though with his usual
carelessness of air and roving glance, the different marks and looks of
welcome given by the populace to the different personages of note. Banners
and penons preceded each Signor, and, as they waved aloft, the witticisms
or nicknames - the brief words of praise or censure, that imply so much -
which passed to and fro among that lively crowd, were treasured carefully
in his recollection.
"Make way, there! - way for my Lord Martino Orsini - Baron di Porto!"
"Peace, minion! - draw back! way for the Signor Adrian Colonna, Baron di
Castello, and Knight of the Empire."
And at those two rival shouts, you saw waving on high the golden bear of
the Orsini, with the motto - "Beware my embrace!" and the solitary column
on an azure ground, of the Colonna, with Adrian's especial device - "Sad,
but strong." The train of Martino Orsini was much more numerous than that
of Adrian, which last consisted but of ten servitors. But Adrian's men
attracted far greater admiration amongst the crowd, and pleased more the
experienced eye of the warlike Knight of St. John. Their arms were
polished like mirrors; their height was to an inch the same; their march
was regular and sedate; their mien erect; they looked neither to the right
nor left; they betrayed that ineffable discipline - that harmony of order -
which Adrian had learned to impart to his men during his own apprenticeship
of arms. But the disorderly train of the Lord of Porto was composed of men
of all heights. Their arms were ill-polished and ill-fashioned, and they
pressed confusedly on each other; they laughed and spoke aloud; and in
their mien and bearing expressed all the insolence of men who despised
alike the master they served and the people they awed. The two bands
coming unexpectedly on each other through this narrow defile, the jealousy
of the two houses presently declared itself. Each pressed forward for the
precedence; and, as the quiet regularity of Adrian's train, and even its
compact paucity of numbers, enabled it to pass before the servitors of his
rival, the populace set up a loud shout - "A Colonna for ever!" - "Let the
Bear dance after the Column!"
"On, ye knaves!" said Orsini aloud to his men. "How have ye suffered this
affront?" And passing himself to the head of his men, he would have
advanced through the midst of his rival's train, had not a tall guard, in
the Pope's livery, placed his baton in the way.
"Pardon, my Lord! we have the Vicar's express commands to suffer no
struggling of the different trains one with another."
"Knave! dost thou bandy words with me?" said the fierce Orsini; and with
his sword he clove the baton in two.
"In the Vicar's name, I command you to fall back!" said the sturdy guard,
now placing his huge bulk in the very front of the noble's path.
"It is Cecco del Vecchio!" cried those of the populace, who were near
enough to perceive the interruption and its cause.
"Ay," said one, "the good Vicar has put many of the stoutest fellows in the
Pope's livery, in order the better to keep peace. He could have chosen
none better than Cecco."
"But he must not fall!" cried another, as Orsini, glaring on the smith,
drew back his sword as if to plunge it through his bosom.
"Shame - shame! shall the Pope be thus insulted in his own city?" cried
several voices. "Down with the sacrilegious - down!" And, as if by a
preconcerted plan, a whole body of the mob broke at once through the lane,
and swept like a torrent over Orsini and his jostled and ill-assorted
train. Orsini himself was thrown on the ground with violence, and trampled
upon by a hundred footsteps; his men, huddled and struggling as much
against themselves as against the mob, were scattered and overset; and
when, by a great effort of the guards, headed by the smith himself, order
was again restored, and the line reformed, Orsini, well nigh choked with
his rage and humiliation, and greatly bruised by the rude assaults he had
received, could scarcely stir from the ground. The officers of the Pope
raised him, and, when he was on his legs, he looked wildly around for his
sword, which, falling from his hand, had been kicked amongst the crowd, and
seeing it not, he said, between his ground teeth, to Cecco del Vecchio -
"Fellow, thy neck shall answer this outrage, or may God desert me!" and
passed along through the space; while a half-suppressed and exultant hoot
from the bystanders followed his path.
"Way there!" cried the smith, "for the Lord Martino di Porto, and may all
the people know that he has threatened to take my life for the discharge of
my duty in obedience to the Pope's Vicar!"
"He dare not!" shouted out a thousand voices; "the people can protect their
This scene had not been lost on the Provencal, who well knew how to
construe the wind by the direction of straws, and saw at once, by the
boldness of the populace, that they themselves were conscious of a coming
tempest. "Par Dieu," said he, as he saluted Adrian, who, gravely, and
without looking behind, had now won the steps of the church, "yon tall
fellow has a brave heart, and many friends, too. What think you," he
added, in a low whisper, "is not this scene a proof that the nobles are
less safe than they wot of?"
"The beast begins to kick against the spur, Sir Knight," answered Adrian, "
a wise horseman should, in such a case, take care how he pull the rein too
tight, lest the beast should rear, and he be overthrown - yet that is the
policy thou wouldst recommend."
"You mistake," returned Montreal, "my wish was to give Rome one sovereign
instead of many tyrants, - but hark! what means that bell?"
"The ceremony is about to begin," answered Adrian. "Shall we enter the
Seldom had a temple consecrated to God witnessed so singular a spectacle as
that which now animated the solemn space of the Lateran.
In the centre of the church, seats were raised in an amphitheatre, at the
far end of which was a scaffolding, a little higher than the rest; below
this spot, but high enough to be in sight of all the concourse, was placed
a vast table of iron, on which was graven an ancient inscription, and
bearing in its centre a clear and prominent device, presently to be
The seats were covered with cloth and rich tapestry. In the rear of the
church was drawn a purple curtain. Around the amphitheatre were the
officers of the Church, in the party-coloured liveries of the Pope. To the
right of the scaffold sate Raimond, Bishop of Orvietto, in his robes of
state. On the benches round him you saw all the marked personages of Rome
- the judges, the men of letters, the nobles, from the lofty rank of the
Savelli to the inferior grade of a Raselli. The space beyond the
amphitheatre was filled with the people, who now poured fast in, stream
after stream: all the while rang, clear and loud, the great bell of the
At length, as Adrian and Montreal seated themselves at a little distance
from Raimond, the bell suddenly ceased - the murmurs of the people were
stilled - the purple curtain was withdrawn, and Rienzi came forth with slow
and majestic steps. He came - but not in his usual sombre and plain
attire. Over his broad breast he wore a vest of dazzling whiteness - a
long robe, in the ample fashion of the toga, descended to his feet and
swept the floor. On his head he wore a fold of white cloth, in the centre
of which shone a golden crown. But the crown was divided, or cloven, as it
were, by the mystic ornament of a silver sword, which, attracting the
universal attention, testified at once that this strange garb was worn, not
from the vanity of display, but for the sake of presenting to the concourse
- in the person of the citizen - a type and emblem of that state of the
city on which he was about to descant.
"Faith," whispered one of the old nobles to his neighbour, "the plebeian
assumes it bravely."
"It will be rare sport," said a second. "I trust the good man will put
some jests in his discourse."
"What showman's tricks are these?" said a third.
"He is certainly crazed!" said a fourth.
"How handsome he is!" said the women, mixed with the populace.
"This is a man who has learned the people by heart," observed Montreal to
Adrian. "He knows he must speak to the eye, in order to win the mind: a
knave, - a wise knave!"
And now Rienzi had ascended the scaffold; and as he looked long and
steadfastly around the meeting, the high and thoughtful repose of his
majestic countenance, its deep and solemn gravity, hushed all the murmurs,
and made its effect equally felt by the sneering nobles as the impatient
"Signors of Rome," said he, at length, "and ye, friends, and citizens, you
have heard why we are met together this day; and you, my Lord Bishop of
Orvietto, - and ye, fellow labourers with me in the field of letters, - ye,
too, are aware that it is upon some matter relative to that ancient Rome,
the rise and the decline of whose past power and glories we have spent our
youth in endeavouring to comprehend. But this, believe me, is no vain
enigma of erudition, useful but to the studious, - referring but to the
dead. Let the Past perish! - let darkness shroud it! - let it sleep for
ever over the crumbling temples and desolate tombs of its forgotten sons, -
if it cannot afford us, from its disburied secrets, a guide for the Present
and the Future. What, my Lords, ye have thought that it was for the sake
of antiquity alone that we have wasted our nights and days in studying what
antiquity can teach us! You are mistaken; it is nothing to know what we
have been, unless it is with the desire of knowing that which we ought to
be. Our ancestors are mere dust and ashes, save when they speak to our
posterity; and then their voices resound, not from the earth below, but the
heaven above. There is an eloquence in Memory, because it is the nurse of
Hope. There is a sanctity in the Past, but only because of the chronicles
it retains, - chronicles of the progress of mankind, - stepping-stones in
civilisation, in liberty, and in knowledge. Our fathers forbid us to
recede, - they teach us what is our rightful heritage, - they bid us
reclaim, they bid us augment, that heritage, - preserve their virtues, and
avoid their errors. These are the true uses of the Past. Like the sacred
edifice in which we are, - it is a tomb upon which to rear a temple. I see
that you marvel at this long beginning; ye look to each other - ye ask to
what it tends. Behold this broad plate of iron; upon it is graven an
inscription but lately disinterred from the heaps of stone and ruin, which
- O shame to Rome! - were once the palaces of empire, and the arches of
triumphant power. The device in the centre of the table, which you behold,
conveys the act of the Roman Senators, - who are conferring upon Vespasian
the imperial authority. It is this inscription which I have invited you to
hear read! It specifies the very terms and limits of the authority thus
conferred. To the Emperor was confided the power of making laws and
alliances with whatsoever nation, - of increasing, or of diminishing the
limits of towns and districts, - of - mark this, my Lords! - exalting men
to the rank of dukes and kings, - ay, and of deposing and degrading them; -
of making cities, and of unmaking: in short, of all the attributes of
imperial power. Yes, to that Emperor was confided this vast authority;
but, by whom? Heed - listen, I pray you - let not a word be lost; - by
whom, I say? By the Roman Senate! What was the Roman Senate? The
Representative of the Roman People!"
"I knew he would come to that!" said the smith, who stood at the door with
his fellows, but to whose ear, clear and distinct, rolled the silver voice
"Brave fellow! and this, too, in the hearing of the Lords!"
"Ay, you see what the people were! and we should never have known this but
"Peace, fellows;" said the officer to those of the crowd, from whom came
these whispered sentences.
Rienzi continued. - "Yes, it is the people who intrusted this power - to
the people, therefore, it belongs! Did the haughty Emperor arrogate the
crown? Could he assume the authority of himself? Was it born with him?
Did he derive it, my Lord Barons, from the possession of towered castles -
of lofty lineage? No! all-powerful as he was, he had no right to one atom
of that power, save from the voice and trust of the Roman people. Such, O
my countrymen! such was even that day, when Liberty was but the shadow of
her former self, - such was the acknowledged prerogative of your fathers!
All power was the gift of the people. What have ye to give now? Who, who,
I say, - what single person, what petty chief, asks you for the authority
he assumes? His senate is his sword; his chart of license is written, not
with ink, but blood. The people! - there is no people! Oh! would to God
that we might disentomb the spirit of the Past as easily as her records!"
"If I were your kinsman," whispered Montreal to Adrian, "I would give this
man short breathing-time between his peroration and confession."
"What is your Emperor?" continued Rienzi; "a stranger! What the great head
of your Church? - an exile! Ye are without your lawful chiefs; and why?
Because ye are not without your law-defying tyrants! The licence of your
nobles, their discords, their dissensions, have driven our Holy Father from
the heritage of St. Peter; - they have bathed your streets in your own
blood; they have wasted the wealth of your labours on private quarrels and
the maintenance of hireling ruffians! Your forces are exhausted against
yourselves. You have made a mockery of your country, once the mistress of
the world. You have steeped her lips in gall - ye have set a crown of
thorns upon her head! What, my Lords!" cried he, turning sharply round
towards the Savelli and Orsini, who, endeavouring to shake off the thrill
which the fiery eloquence of Rienzi had stricken to their hearts, now, by
contemptuous gestures and scornful smiles, testified the displeasure they
did not dare loudly to utter in the presence of the Vicar and the people. -
"What! even while I speak - not the sanctity of this place restrains you!
I am an humble man - a citizen of Rome; - but I have this distinction: I
have raised against myself many foes and scoffers for that which I have
done for Rome. I am hated, because I love my country; I am despised,
because I would exalt her. I retaliate - I shall be avenged. Three
traitors in your own palaces shall betray you: their names are - Luxury,
Envy, and Dissension!"
"There he had them on the hip!"
"Ha, ha! by the Holy Cross, that was good!"
"I would go to the hangman for such another keen stroke as that!"
"It is a shame if we are cowards, when one man is thus brave," said the
"This is the man we have always wanted!"
"Silence!" proclaimed the officer.
"O Romans!" resumed Rienzi, passionately - "awake! I conjure you! Let
this memorial of your former power - your ancient liberties - sink deep
into your souls. In a propitious hour, if ye seize it, - in an evil one,
if ye suffer the golden opportunity to escape, - has this record of the
past been unfolded to your eyes. Recollect that the Jubilee approaches."
The Bishop of Orvietto smiled, and bowed approvingly; the people, the
citizens, the inferior nobles, noted well those signs of encouragement;
and, to their minds, the Pope himself, in the person of his Vicar, looked
benignly on the daring of Rienzi.
"The Jubilee approaches, - the eyes of all Christendom will be directed
hither. Here, where, from all quarters of the globe, men come for peace,
shall they find discord? - seeking absolution, shall they perceive but
crime? In the centre of God's dominion, shall they weep at your weakness?
- in the seat of the martyred saints, shall they shudder at your vices? -
in the fountain and source of Christ's law, shall they find all law
unknown? You were the glory of the world - will you be its by-word? You
were its example - will you be its warning? Rise, while it is yet time! -
clear your roads from the bandits that infest them! - your walls from the
hirelings that they harbour! Banish these civil discords, or the men - how
proud, how great, soever - who maintain them! Pluck the scales from the
hand of Fraud! - the sword from the hand of Violence! - the balance and the
sword are the ancient attributes of Justice! - restore them to her again!
This be your high task, - these be your great ends! Deem any man who
opposes them a traitor to his country. Gain a victory greater than those
of the Caesars - a victory over yourselves! Let the pilgrims of the world
behold the resurrection of Rome! Make one epoch of the Jubilee of Religion
and the Restoration of Law! Lay the sacrifice of your vanquished passions
- the first-fruits of your renovated liberties - upon the very altar that
these walls contain! and never! oh, never! since the world began, shall men
have made a more grateful offering to their God!"
So intense was the sensation these words created in the audience - so
breathless and overpowered did they leave the souls with they took by storm
- that Rienzi had descended the scaffold, and already disappeared behind
the curtain from which he had emerged, ere the crowd were fully aware that
he had ceased.
The singularity of this sudden apparition - robed in mysterious splendour,
and vanishing the moment its errand was fulfilled - gave additional effect
to the words it had uttered. The whole character of that bold address
became invested with a something preternatural and inspired; to the minds
of the vulgar, the mortal was converted into the oracle; and, marvelling at
the unhesitating courage with which their idol had rebuked and conjured the
haughty barons, - each of whom they regarded in the light of sanctioned
executioners, whose anger could be made manifest at once by the gibbet or
the axe, - the people could not but superstitiously imagine that nothing
less than authority from above could have gifted their leader with such
hardihood, and preserved him from the danger it incurred. In fact, it was
in this very courage of Rienzi that his safety consisted; he was placed in
those circumstances where audacity is prudence. Had he been less bold, the
nobles would have been more severe; but so great a license of speech in an
officer of the Holy See, they naturally imagined, was not unauthorised by
the assent of the Pope, as well as by the approbation of the people. Those
who did not (like Stephen Colonna) despise words as wind, shrank back from
the task of punishing one whose voice might be the mere echo of the wishes
of the pontiff. The dissensions of the nobles among each other, were no
less favourable to Rienzi. He attacked a body, the members of which had no
"It is not my duty to slay him!" said one.
"I am not the representative of the barons!" said another.
"If Stephen Colonna heeds him not, it would be absurd, as well as
dangerous, in a meaner man to make himself the champion of the order!" said
The Colonna smiled approval, when Rienzi denounced an Orsini - an Orsini
laughed aloud, when the eloquence burst over a Colonna. The lesser nobles
were well pleased to hear attacks upon both: while, on the other hand, the
Bishop, by the long impunity of Rienzi, had taken courage to sanction the
conduct of his fellow-officer. He affected, indeed, at times, to blame the
excess of his fervour, but it was always accompanied by the praises of his
honesty; and the approbation of the Pope's Vicar confirmed the impression
of the nobles as to the approbation of the Pope. Thus, from the very
rashness of his enthusiasm had grown his security and success.
Still, however, when the barons had a little recovered from the stupor into
which Rienzi had cast them, they looked round to each other; and their
looks confessed their sense of the insolence of the orator, and the affront
offered to themselves.
"Per fede!" quoth Reginaldo di Orsini, "this is past bearing, - the
plebeian has gone too far!"
"Look at the populace below! how they murmur and gape, - and how their eyes
sparkle - and what looks they bend at us!" said Luca di Savelli to his
mortal enemy, Castruccio Malatesta: the sense of a common danger united in
one moment, but only for a moment, the enmity of years.
"Diavolo!" muttered Raselli (Nina's father) to a baron, equally poor, "but
the clerk has truth in his lips. 'Tis a pity he is not noble."
"What a clever brain marred!" said a Florentine merchant. "That man might
be something, if he were sufficiently rich."
Adrian and Montreal were silent: the first seemed lost in thought, - the
last was watching the various effects produced upon the audience.
"Silence!" proclaimed the officers. "Silence, for my Lord Vicar."
At this announcement, every eye turned to Raimond, who, rising with much
clerical importance, thus addressed the assembly: -
"Although, Barons and Citizens of Rome, my well-beloved flock, and
children, - I, no more than yourselves, anticipated the exact nature of the
address ye have just heard, - and, albeit, I cannot feel unalloyed
contentment at the manner, nor, I may say, at the whole matter of that
fervent exhortation - yet (laying great emphasis on the last word), I
cannot suffer you to depart without adding to the prayers of our Holy
Father's servant, those, also, of his Holiness's spiritual representative.
It is true! the Jubilee approaches! The Jubilee approaches - and yet our
roads, even to the gates of Rome, are infested with murderous and godless
ruffians! What pilgrim can venture across the Apennines to worship at the
altars of St. Peter? The Jubilee approaches: what scandal shall it be to
Rome if these shrines be without pilgrims - if the timid recoil from, if
the bold fall victims to, the dangers of the way! Wherefore, I pray you
all, citizens and chiefs alike, - I pray you all to lay aside those unhappy
dissensions which have so long consumed the strength of our sacred city;
and, uniting with each other in the ties of amity and brotherhood, to form
a blessed league against the marauders of the road. I see amongst you, my
Lords, many of the boasts and pillars of the state; but, alas! I think with
grief and dismay on the causeless and idle hatred that has grown up between
you! - a scandal to our city, and reflecting, let me add, my Lords, no
honour on your faith as Christians, nor on your dignity as defenders of the
Amongst the inferior nobles - along the seats of the judges and the men of
letters - through the vast concourse of the people - ran a loud murmur of
approbations at these words. The greater barons looked proudly, but not
contemptuously, at the countenance of the prelate, and preserved a strict
and unrevealing silence.
"In this holy spot," continued the Bishop, "let me beseech you to bury
those fruitless animosities which have already cost enough of blood and
treasure; and let us quit these walls with one common determination to
evince our courage and display our chivalry only against our universal
foes; - those ruffians who lay waste our fields, and infest our public
ways, - the foes alike of the people we should protect, and the God whom we
The Bishop resumed his seat; the nobles looked at each other without reply;
the people began to whisper loudly among themselves; when, after a short
pause, Adrian di Castello rose.
"Pardon me, my Lords, and you, reverend Father, if I, inexperienced in
years and of little mark or dignity amongst you, presume to be the first to
embrace the proposal we have just heard. Willingly do I renounce all
ancient cause of enmity with any of my compeers. Fortunately for me, my
long absence from Rome has swept from my remembrance the feuds and
rivalries familiar to my early youth; and in this noble conclave I see but
one man (glancing at Martino di Porto, who sat sullenly looking down)
against whom I have, at any time, deemed it a duty to draw my sword; the
gage that I once cast to that noble is yet, I rejoice to think, unredeemed.
I withdraw it. Henceforth my only foes shall be the foes of Rome!"
"Nobly spoken!" said the Bishop, aloud.
"And," continued Adrian, casting down his glove amongst the nobles, "I
throw, my Lords, the gage, thus resumed, amongst you all, in challenge to a
wider rivalry, and a more noble field. I invite any man to vie with me in
the zeal that he shall show to restore tranquillity to our roads, and order
to our state. It is a contest in which, if I be vanquished with
reluctance, I will yield the prize without envy. In ten days from this
time, reverend Father, I will raise forty horsemen-at-arms, ready to obey
whatever orders shall be agreed upon for the security of the Roman state.
And you, O Romans, dismiss, I pray you, from your minds, those eloquent
invectives against your fellow-citizens which ye have lately heard. All of
us, of what rank soever, may have shared in the excesses of these unhappy
times; let us endeavour, not to avenge nor to imitate, but to reform and to
unite. And may the people hereafter find, that the true boast of a
patrician is, that his power the better enables him to serve his country."
"Brave words!" quoth the smith, sneeringly.
"If they were all like him!" said the smith's neighbour.
"He has helped the nobles out of a dilemma," said Pandulfo.
"He has shown grey wit under young hairs," said an aged Malatesta.
"You have turned the tide, but not stemmed it, noble Adrian," whispered the
ever-boding Montreal, as, amidst the murmurs of the general approbation,
the young Colonna resumed his seat.
"How mean you?" said Adrian.
"That your soft words, like all patrician conciliations, have come too
Not another noble stirred, though they felt, perhaps, disposed to join in
the general feeling of amnesty, and appeared, by signs and whispers, to
applaud the speech of Adrian. They were too habituated to the
ungracefulness of an unlettered pride, to bow themselves to address
conciliating language either to the people or their foes. And Raimond,
glancing round, and not willing that their unseemly silence should be long
remarked, rose at once, to give it the best construction in his power.
"My son, thou hast spoken as a patriot and a Christian; by the approving
silence of your peers we all feel that they share your sentiments. Break
we up the meeting - its end is obtained. The manner of our proceeding
against the leagued robbers of the road requires maturer consideration
elsewhere. This day shall be an epoch in our history."
"It shall," quoth Cecco del Vecchio, gruffly, between his teeth.
"Children, my blessing upon you all!" concluded the Vicar, spreading his
And in a few minutes more the crowd poured from the church. The different
servitors and flag-bearers ranged themselves on the steps without, each
train anxious for their master's precedence; and the nobles, gravely
collecting in small knots, in the which was no mixture of rival blood,
followed the crowd down the aisles. Soon rose again the din, and the
noise, and the wrangling, and the oaths, of the hostile bands, as, with
pain and labour, the Vicar's officers marshalled them in "order most
But so true were Montreal's words to Adrian, that the populace already half
forgot the young noble's generous appeal, and were only bitterly commenting
on the ungracious silence of his brother Lords. What, too, to them was
this crusade against the robbers of the road? They blamed the good Bishop
for not saying boldly to the nobles - "Ye are the first robbers we must
march against!" The popular discontents had gone far beyond palliatives;
they had arrived at that point when the people longed less for reform than
change. There are times when a revolution cannot be warded off; it must
come - come alike by resistance or by concession. Wo to that race in which
a revolution produces no fruits! - in which the thunderbolt smites the high
place, but does not purify the air! To suffer in vain is often the lot of
the noblest individuals; but when a People suffer in vain, let them curse
Chapter 2.IV. The Ambitious Citizen, and the Ambitious Soldier.
The Bishop of Orvietto lingered last, to confer with Rienzi, who awaited
him in the recesses of the Lateran. Raimond had the penetration not to be
seduced into believing that the late scene could effect any reformation
amongst the nobles, heal their divisions, or lead them actively against the
infestors of the Campagna. But, as he detailed to Rienzi all that had
occurred subsequent to the departure of that hero of the scene, he
concluded with saying: -
"You will perceive from this, one good result will be produced: the first
armed dissension - the first fray among the nobles - will seem like a
breach of promise; and, to the people and to the Pope, a reasonable excuse
for despairing of all amendment amongst the Barons, - an excuse which will
sanction the efforts of the first, and the approval of the last."
"For such a fray we shall not long wait," answered Rienzi.
"I believe the prophecy," answered Raimond, smiling; "at present all runs
well. Go you with us homeward?"
"Nay, I think it better to tarry here till the crowd is entirely dispersed;
for if they were to see me, in their present excitement, they might insist
on some rash and hasty enterprise. Besides, my Lord," added Rienzi, "with
an ignorant people, however honest and enthusiastic, this rule must be
rigidly observed - stale not your presence by custom. Never may men like
me, who have no external rank, appear amongst the crowd, save on those
occasions when the mind is itself a rank."
"That is true, as you have no train," answered Raimond, thinking of his own
well-liveried menials. "Adieu, then! we shall meet soon."
"Ay, at Philippi, my Lord. Reverend Father, your blessing!"
It was some time subsequent to this conference that Rienzi quitted the
sacred edifice. As he stood on the steps of the church - now silent and
deserted - the hour that precedes the brief twilight of the South lent its
magic to the view. There he beheld the sweeping arches of the mighty
Aqueduct extending far along the scene, and backed by the distant and
purpled hills. Before - to the right - rose the gate which took its Roman
name from the Coelian Mount, at whose declivity it yet stands. Beyond -
from the height of the steps - he saw the villages scattered through the
grey Campagna, whitening in the sloped sun; and in the furthest distance
the mountain shadows began to darken over the roofs of the ancient
Tusculum, and the second Alban (The first Alba - the Alba Longa - whose
origin Fable ascribes to Ascanius, was destroyed by Tullus Hostilius. The
second Alba, or modern Albano, was erected on the plain below the ancient
town, a little before the time of Nero.) city, which yet rises, in desolate
neglect, above the vanished palaces of Pompey and Domitian.
The Roman stood absorbed and motionless for some moments, gazing on the
scene, and inhaling the sweet balm of the mellow air. It was the soft
springtime - the season of flowers, and green leaves, and whispering winds
- the pastoral May of Italia's poets: but hushed was the voice of song on
the banks of the Tiber - the reeds gave music no more. From the sacred
Mount in which Saturn held his home, the Dryad and the Nymph, and Italy's
native Sylvan, were gone for ever. Rienzi's original nature - its
enthusiasm - its veneration for the past - its love of the beautiful and
the great - that very attachment to the graces and pomp which give so
florid a character to the harsh realities of life, and which power
afterwards too luxuriantly developed; the exuberance of thoughts and
fancies, which poured itself from his lips in so brilliant and
inexhaustible a flood - all bespoke those intellectual and imaginative
biasses, which, in calmer times, might have raised him in literature to a
more indisputable eminence than that to which action can ever lead; and
something of such consciousness crossed his spirit at that moment.
"Happier had it been for me," thought he, "had I never looked out from my
own heart upon the world. I had all within me that makes contentment of
the present, because I had that which can make me forget the present. I
had the power to re-people - to create: the legends and dreams of old -
the divine faculty of verse, in which the beautiful superfluities of the
heart can pour themselves - these were mine! Petrarch chose wisely for
himself! To address the world, but from without the world; to persuade -
to excite - to command, - for these are the aim and glory of ambition; -
but to shun its tumult, and its toil! His the quiet cell which he fills
with the shapes of beauty - the solitude, from which he can banish the evil
times whereon we are fallen, but in which he can dream back the great
hearts and the glorious epochs of the past. For me - to what cares I am
wedded! to what labours I am bound! what instruments I must use! what
disguises I must assume! to tricks and artifice I must bow my pride! base
are my enemies - uncertain my friends! and verily, in this struggle with
blinded and mean men, the soul itself becomes warped and dwarfish. Patient
and darkling, the Means creep through caves and the soiling mire, to gain
at last the light which is the End."
In these reflections there was a truth, the whole gloom and sadness of
which the Roman had not yet experienced. However august be the object we
propose to ourselves, every less worthy path we take to insure it distorts
the mental sight of our ambition; and the means, by degrees, abase the end
to their own standard. This is the true misfortune of a man nobler than
his age - that the instruments he must use soil himself: half he reforms
his times; but half, too, the times will corrupt the reformer. His own
craft undermines his safety; - the people, whom he himself accustoms to a
false excitement, perpetually crave it; and when their ruler ceases to
seduce their fancy, he falls their victim. The reform he makes by these
means is hollow and momentary - it is swept away with himself: it was but
the trick - the show - the wasted genius of a conjuror: the curtain falls
- the magic is over - the cup and balls are kicked aside. Better one slow
step in enlightenment, - which being made by the reason of a whole people,
cannot recede, - than these sudden flashes in the depth of the general
night, which the darkness, by contrast doubly dark, swallows up
As, slowly and musingly, Rienzi turned to quit the church, he felt a light
touch upon his shoulder.
"Fair evening to you, Sir Scholar," said a frank voice.
"To you, I return the courtesy," answered Rienzi, gazing upon the person
who thus suddenly accosted him, and in whose white cross and martial
bearing the reader recognises the Knight of St. John.
"You know me not, I think?" said Montreal; "but that matters little, we may
easily commence our acquaintance: for me, indeed, I am fortunate enough to
have made myself already acquainted with you."
"Possibly we have met elsewhere, at the house of one of those nobles to
whose rank you seem to belong?"
"Belong! no, not exactly!" returned Montreal, proudly. "Highborn and great
as your magnates deem themselves, I would not, while the mountains can
yield one free spot for my footstep, change my place in the world's many
grades for theirs. To the brave, there is but one sort of plebeian, and
that is the coward. But you, sage Rienzi," continued the Knight, in a
gayer tone, "I have seen in more stirring scenes than the hall of a Roman
Rienzi glanced keenly at Montreal, who met his eye with an open brow.
"Yes!" resumed the Knight - "but let us walk on; suffer me for a few
moments to be your companion. Yes! I have listened to you - the other eve,
when you addressed the populace, and today, when you rebuked the nobles;
and at midnight, too, not long since, when (your ear, fair Sir! - lower, it
is a secret!) - at midnight, too, when you administered the oath of
brotherhood to the bold conspirators, on the ruined Aventine!"
As he concluded, the Knight drew himself aside to watch, upon Rienzi's
countenance, the effect which his words might produce.
A slight tremor passed over the frame of the conspirator - for so, unless
the conspiracy succeed, would Rienzi be termed, by others than Montreal:
he turned abruptly round to confront the Knight, and placed his hand
involuntarily on his sword, but presently relinquished the grasp.
"Ha!" said the Roman, slowly, "if this be true, fall Rome! There is
treason even among the free!"
"No treason, brave Sir!" answered Montreal; "I possess thy secret - but
none have betrayed it to me."
"And is it as friend or foe that thou hast learned it?"
"That as it may be," returned Montreal, carelessly. "Enough, at present,
that I could send thee to the gibbet, if I said but the word, - to show my
power to be thy foe; enough, that I have not done it, to prove my
disposition to be thy friend."
"Thou mistakest, stranger! that man does not live who could shed my blood
in the streets of Rome! The gibbet! Little dost thou know of the power
which surrounds Rienzi."
These words were said with some scorn and bitterness; but, after a moment's
pause, Rienzi resumed, more calmly: -
"By the cross on thy mantle, thou belongest to one of the proudest orders
of knighthood: thou art a foreigner, and a cavalier. What generous
sympathies can convert thee into a friend of the Roman people?"
"Cola di Rienzi," returned Montreal, "the sympathies that unite us are
those which unite all men who, by their own efforts, rise above the herd.
True, I was born noble - but powerless and poor: at my beck now move, from
city to city, the armed instruments of authority: my breath is the law of
thousands. This empire I have not inherited; I won it by a cool brain and
a fearless arm. Know me for Walter de Montreal; is it not a name that
speaks a spirit kindred to thine own? Is not ambition a common sentiment
between us? I do not marshal soldiers for gain only, though men have
termed me avaricious - nor butcher peasants for the love of blood, though
men have called me cruel. Arms and wealth are the sinews of power; it is
power that I desire; - thou, bold Rienzi, strugglest thou not for the same?
Is it the rank breath of the garlic-chewing mob - is it the whispered envy
of schoolmen - is it the hollow mouthing of boys who call thee patriot and
freeman, words to trick the ear - that will content thee? These are but
thy instruments to power. Have I spoken truly?"
Whatever distaste Rienzi might conceive at this speech he masked
effectually. "Certes," said he, "it would be in vain, renowned Captain, to
deny that I seek but that power of which thou speakest. But what union can
there be between the ambition of a Roman citizen and the leader of paid
armies that take their cause only according to their hire - today, fight
for liberty in Florence - tomorrow, for tyranny in Bologna? Pardon my
frankness; for in this age that is deemed no disgrace which I impute to thy
armies. Valour and generalship are held to consecrate any cause they
distinguish; and he who is the master of princes, may be well honoured by
them as their equal."
"We are entering into a less deserted quarter of the town," said the
Knight; "is there no secret place - no Aventine - in this direction, where
we can confer?"
"Hush!" replied Rienzi, cautiously looking round. "I thank thee, noble
Montreal, for the hint; nor may it be well for us to be seen together.
Wilt thou deign to follow me to my home, by the Palatine Bridge? (The
picturesque ruins shown at this day as having once been the habitation of
the celebrated Cola di Rienzi, were long asserted by the antiquarians to
have belonged to another Cola or Nicola. I believe, however, that the
dispute has been lately decided: and, indeed, no one but an antiquary, and
that a Roman one, could suppose that there were two Colas to whom the
inscription on the house would apply.) there we can converse undisturbed
"Be it so," said Montreal, falling back.
With a quick and hurried step, Rienzi passed through the town, in which,
wherever he was discovered, the scattered citizens saluted him with marked
respect; and, turning through a labyrinth of dark alleys, as if to shun the
more public thoroughfares, arrived at length at a broad space near the
river. The first stars of night shone down on the ancient temple of
Fortuna Virilis, which the chances of Time had already converted into the
Church of St. Mary of Egypt; and facing the twice-hallowed edifice stood
the house of Rienzi.
"It is a fair omen to have my mansion facing the ancient Temple of
Fortune," said Rienzi, smiling, as Montreal followed the Roman into the
chamber I have already described.
"Yet Valour need never pray to Fortune," said the Knight; "the first
commands the last."
Long was the conference between these two men, the most enterprising of
their age. Meanwhile, let me make the reader somewhat better acquainted
with the character and designs of Montreal, than the hurry of events has
yet permitted him to become.
Walter de Montreal, generally known in the chronicles of Italy by the
designation of Fra Moreale, had passed into Italy - a bold adventurer,
worthy to become a successor of those roving Normans (from one of the most
eminent of whom, by the mother's side, he claimed descent) who had formerly
played so strange a part in the chivalric errantry of Europe, - realizing
the fables of Amadis and Palmerin - (each knight, in himself a host),
winning territories and oversetting thrones; acknowledging no laws save
those of knighthood; never confounding themselves with the tribe amongst
which they settled; incapable of becoming citizens, and scarcely contented
with aspiring to be kings. At that time, Italy was the India of all those
well-born and penniless adventurers who, like Montreal, had inflamed their
imagination by the ballads and legends of the Roberts and the Godfreys of
old; who had trained themselves from youth to manage the barb, and bear,
through the heats of summer, the weight of arms; and who, passing into am
effeminate and distracted land, had only to exhibit bravery in order to
command wealth. It was considered no disgrace for some powerful chieftain
to collect together a band of these hardy aliens, - to subsist amidst the
mountains on booty and pillage, - to make war upon tyrant or republic, as
interest suggested, and to sell, at enormous stipends, the immunities of
peace. Sometimes they hired themselves to one state to protect it against
the other; and the next year beheld them in the field against their former
employers. These bands of Northern stipendiaries assumed, therefore, a
civil, as well as a military, importance; they were as indispensable to the
safety of one state as they were destructive to the security of all. But
five years before the present date, the Florentine Republic had hired the
services of a celebrated leader of these foreign soldiers, - Gualtier, duke
of Athens. By acclamation, the people themselves had elected that warrior
to the state of prince, or tyrant, of their state; before the year was
completed, they revolted against his cruelties, or rather against his
exactions, - for, despite all the boasts of their historians, they felt an
attack on their purses more deeply than an assault on their liberties, -
they had chased him from their city, and once more proclaimed themselves a
Republic. The bravest, and most favoured of the soldiers of the Duke of
Athens had been Walter de Montreal; he had shared the rise and the downfall
of his chief. Amongst popular commotions, the acute and observant mind of
the Knight of St. John had learned no mean civil experience; he had learned
to sound a people - to know how far they would endure - to construe the
signs of revolution - to be a reader of the times. After the downfall of
the Duke of Athens, as a Free Companion, in other words a Freebooter,
Montreal had augmented under the fierce Werner his riches and his renown.
At present without employment worthy his spirit of enterprise and intrigue,
the disordered and chiefless state of Rome had attracted him thither. In
the league he had proposed to Colonna - in the suggestions he had made to
the vanity of that Signor - his own object was to render his services
indispensable - to constitute himself the head of the soldiery whom his
proposed designs would render necessary to the ambition of the Colonna,
could it be excited - and, in the vastness of his hardy genius for
enterprise, he probably foresaw that the command of such a force would be,
in reality, the command of Rome; - a counter-revolution might easily unseat
the Colonna and elect himself to the principality. It had sometimes been
the custom of Roman, as of other Italian, States, to prefer for a chief
magistrate, under the title of Podesta, a foreigner to a native. And
Montreal hoped that he might possibly become to Rome what the Duke of
Athens had been to Florence - an ambition he knew well enough to be above
the gentleman of Provence, but not above the leader of an army. But, as we
have already seen, his sagacity perceived at once that he could not move
the aged head of the patricians to those hardy and perilous measures which
were necessary to the attainment of supreme power. Contented with his
present station, and taught moderation by his age and his past reverses,
Stephen Colonna was not the man to risk a scaffold from the hope to gain a
throne. The contempt which the old patrician professed for the people, and
their idol, also taught the deep-thinking Montreal that, if the Colonna
possessed not the ambition, neither did he possess the policy, requisite
for empire. The Knight found his caution against Rienzi in vain, and he
turned to Rienzi himself. Little cared the Knight of St. John which party
were uppermost - prince or people - so that his own objects were attained;
in fact, he had studied the humours of a people, not in order to serve, but
to rule them; and, believing all men actuated by a similar ambition, he
imagined that, whether a demagogue or a patrician reigned, the people were
equally to be victims, and that the cry of "Order" on the one hand, or of
"Liberty" on the other, was but the mere pretext by which the energy of one
man sought to justify his ambition over the herd. Deeming himself one of
the most honourable spirits of his age, he believed in no honour which he
was unable to feel; and, sceptic in virtue, was therefore credulous of
But the boldness of his own nature inclined him, perhaps, rather to the
adventurous Rienzi than to the self-complacent Colonna; and he considered
that to the safety of the first he and his armed minions might be even more
necessary than to that of the last. At present his main object was to
learn from Rienzi the exact strength which he possessed, and how far he was
prepared for any actual revolt.
The acute Roman took care, on the one hand, how he betrayed to the Knight
more than he yet knew, or he disgusted him by apparent reserve on the
other. Crafty as Montreal was, he possessed not that wonderful art of
mastering others which was so preeminently the gift of the eloquent and
profound Rienzi, and the difference between the grades of their intellect
was visible in their present conference.
"I see," said Rienzi, "that amidst all the events which have lately smiled
upon my ambition, none is so favourable as that which assures me of your
countenance and friendship. In truth, I require some armed alliance.
Would you believe it, our friends, so bold in private meetings, yet shrink
from a public explosion. They fear not the patricians, but the soldiery of
the patricians; for it is the remarkable feature in the Italian courage,
that they have no terror for each other, but the casque and sword of a
foreign hireling make them quail like deer."
"They will welcome gladly, then, the assurance that such hirelings shall be
in their service - not against them; and as much as you desire for the
revolution, so many shall you receive."
"But the pay and the conditions," said Rienzi, with his dry, sarcastic
smile. "How shall we arrange the first, and what shall we hold to be the
"That is an affair easily concluded," replied Montreal. "For me, to tell
you frankly, the glory and excitement of so great a revulsion would alone
suffice. I like to feel myself necessary to the completion of high events.
For my men it is otherwise. Your first act will be to seize the revenues
of the state. Well, whatever they amount to, the product of the first
year, great or small, shall be divided amongst us. You the one half, I and
my men the other half."
"It is much," said Rienzi, gravely, and as if in calculation, - "but Rome
cannot purchase her liberties too dearly. So be it then decided."
"Amen! - and now, then, what is your force? for these eighty or a hundred
signors of the Aventine, - worthy men, doubtless, - scarce suffice for a
Gazing cautiously round the room, the Roman placed his hand on Montreal's
"Between you and me, it requires time to cement it. We shall be unable to
stir these five weeks. I have too rashly anticipated the period. The corn
is indeed cut, but I must now, by private adjuration and address, bind up
the scattered sheaves."
"Five weeks," repeated Montreal; "that is far longer than I anticipated."
"What I desire," continued Rienzi, fixing his searching eyes upon Montreal,
"is, that, in the meanwhile, we should preserve a profound calm, - we
should remove every suspicion. I shall bury myself in my studies, and
convoke no more meetings."
"Well - "
"And for yourself, noble Knight, might I venture to dictate, I would pray
you to mix with the nobles - to profess for me and for the people the
profoundest contempt - and to contribute to rock them yet more in the
cradle of their false security. Meanwhile, you could quietly withdraw as
many of the armed mercenaries as you influence from Rome, and leave the
nobles without their only defenders. Collecting these hardy warriors in
the recesses of the mountains, a day's march from hence, we may be able to
summon them at need, and they shall appear at our gates, and in the midst
of our rising - hailed as deliverers by the nobles, but in reality allies
with the people. In the confusion and despair of our enemies at
discovering their mistake, they will fly from the city."
"And its revenues and its empire will become the appanage of the hardy
soldier and the intriguing demagogue!" cried Montreal, with a laugh.
"Sir Knight, the division shall be equal."
"And now, noble Montreal, a flask of our best vintage!" said Rienzi,
changing his tone.
"You know the Provencals," answered Montreal, gaily.
The wine was brought, the conversation became free and familiar, and
Montreal, whose craft was acquired, and whose frankness was natural,
unwittingly committed his secret projects and ambition more nakedly to
Rienzi than he had designed to do. They parted apparently the best of
"By the way," said Rienzi, as they drained the last goblet. "Stephen
Colonna betakes him to Corneto, with a convoy of corn, on the 19th. Will
it not be as well if you join him? You can take that opportunity to
whisper discontent to the mercenaries that accompany him on his mission,
and induce them to our plan."
"I thought of that before," returned Montreal; "it shall be done. For the
"'His barb, and his sword,
And his lady, the peerless,
Are all that are prized
By Orlando the fearless.
"'Success to the Norman,
The darling of story;
His glory is pleasure -
His pleasure is glory.'"
Chanting this rude ditty as he resumed his mantle, the Knight waved his
hand to Rienzi, and departed.
Rienzi watched the receding form of his guest with an expression of hate
and fear upon his countenance. "Give that man the power," he muttered,
"and he may be a second Totila. (Innocent VI., some years afterwards,
proclaimed Montreal to be worse than Totila.) Methinks I see, in his
griping and ferocious nature, - through all the gloss of its gaiety and
knightly grace, - the very personification of our old Gothic foes. I trust
I have lulled him! Verily, two suns could no more blaze in one hemisphere,
than Walter de Montreal and Cola di Rienzi live in the same city. The
star-seers tell us that we feel a secret and uncontrollable antipathy to
those whose astral influences destine them to work us evil; such antipathy
do I feel for yon fair-faced homicide. Cross not my path, Montreal! -
cross not my path!"
With this soliloquy Rienzi turned within, and, retiring to his apartment,
was seen no more that night.
Chapter 2.V. The Procession of the Barons. - The Beginning of the End.
It was the morning of the 19th of May, the air was brisk and clear, and the
sun, which had just risen, shone cheerily upon the glittering casques and
spears of a gallant procession of armed horsemen, sweeping through the long
and principal street of Rome. The neighing of the horses, the ringing of
the hoofs, the dazzle of the armour, and the tossing to and fro of the
standards, adorned with the proud insignia of the Colonna, presented one of
the gay and brilliant spectacles peculiar to the middle ages.
At the head of the troop, on a stout palfrey, rode Stephen Colonna. At his
right was the Knight of Provence, curbing, with an easy hand, a slight, but
fiery steed of the Arab race: behind him followed two squires, the one
leading his war-horse, the other bearing his lance and helmet. At the left
of Stephen Colonna rode Adrian, grave and silent, and replying only by
monosyllables to the gay bavardage of the Knight of Provence. A
considerable number of the flower of the Roman nobles followed the old
Baron; and the train was closed by a serried troop of foreign horsemen,
There was no crowd in the street, - the citizens looked with seeming apathy
at the procession from their half-closed shops.
"Have these Romans no passion for shows?" asked Montreal; "if they could be
more easily amused they would be more easily governed."
"Oh, Rienzi, and such buffoons, amuse them. We do better, - we terrify!"
"What sings the troubadour, Lord Adrian?" said Montreal.
"'Smiles, false smiles, should form the school
For those who rise, and those who rule:
The brave they trick, and fair subdue,
Kings deceive, the States undo.
Smiles, false smiles!
"'Frowns, true frowns, ourselves betray,
The brave arouse, the fair dismay,
Sting the pride, which blood must heal,
Mix the bowl, and point the steel.
Frowns, true frowns!'
"The lay is of France, Signor; yet methinks it brings its wisdom from
Italy; - for the serpent smile is your countrymen's proper distinction, and
the frown ill becomes them."
"Sir Knight," replied Adrian, sharply, and incensed at the taunt, "you
Foreigners have taught us how to frown: - a virtue sometimes."
"But not wisdom, unless the hand could maintain what the brow menaced,"
returned Montreal, with haughtiness; for he had much of the Franc vivacity
which often overcame his prudence; and he had conceived a secret pique
against Adrian since their interview at Stephen's palace.
"Sir Knight," answered Adrian, colouring, "our conversation may lead to
warmer words than I would desire to have with one who has rendered me so
gallant a service."
"Nay, then, let us go back to the troubadours," said Montreal,
indifferently. "Forgive me if I do not think highly, in general, of
Italian honour, or Italian valour; your valour I acknowledge, for I have
witnessed it, and valour and honour go together, - let that suffice!"
As Adrian was about to answer, his eye fell suddenly on the burly form of
Cecco del Vecchio, who was leaning his bare and brawny arms over his anvil,
and gazing, with a smile, upon the group. There was something in that
smile which turned the current of Adrian's thoughts, and which he could not
contemplate without an unaccountable misgiving.
"A strong villain, that," said Montreal, also eyeing the smith. "I should
like to enlist him. Fellow!" cried he, aloud, "you have an arm that were
as fit to wield the sword as to fashion it. Desert your anvil, and follow
the fortunes of Fra Moreale!"
The smith nodded his head. "Signor Cavalier," said he, gravely, "we poor
men have no passion for war; we want not to kill others - we desire only
ourselves to live, - if you will let us!"
"By the Holy Mother, a slavish answer! But you Romans - "
"Are slaves!" interrupted the smith, turning away to the interior of his
"The dog is mutinous!" said the old Colonna. And as the band swept on, the
rude foreigners, encouraged by their leaders, had each some taunt or jest,
uttered in a barbarous attempt at the southern patois, for the lazy giant,
as he again appeared in front of his forge, leaning on his anvil as before,
and betraying no sign of attention to his insultors, save by a heightened
glow of his swarthy visage; - and so the gallant procession passed through
the streets, and quitted the Eternal City.
There was a long interval of deep silence - of general calm - throughout
the whole of Rome: the shops were still but half-opened; no man betook
himself to his business; it was like the commencement of some holyday, when
indolence precedes enjoyment.
About noon, a few small knots of men might be seen scattered about the
streets, whispering to each other, but soon dispersing; and every now and
then, a single passenger, generally habited in the long robes used by the
men of letters, or in the more sombre garb of monks, passed hurriedly up
the street towards the Church of St. Mary of Egypt, once the Temple of
Fortune. Then, again, all was solitary and deserted. Suddenly, there was
heard the sound of a single trumpet! It swelled - it gathered on the ear.
Cecco del Vecchio looked up from his anvil! A solitary horseman paced
slowly by the forge, and wound a long loud blast of the trumpet suspended
round his neck, as he passed through the middle of the street. Then might
you see a crowd, suddenly, and as by magic, appear emerging from every
corner; the street became thronged with multitudes; but it was only by the
tramp of their feet, and an indistinct and low murmur, that they broke the
silence. Again the horseman wound his trump, and when the note ceased, he
cried aloud - "Friends and Romans! tomorrow, at dawn of day, let each man
find himself unarmed before the Church of St. Angelo. Cola di Rienzi
convenes the Romans to provide for the good state of Rome." A shout, that
seemed to shake the bases of the seven hills, broke forth at the end of
this brief exhortation; the horseman rode slowly on, and the crowd
followed. - This was the commencement of the Revolution!
Chapter 2.VI. The Conspirator Becomes the Magistrate.
At midnight, when the rest of the city seemed hushed in rest, lights were
streaming from the windows of the Church of St. Angelo. Breaking from its
echoing aisles, the long and solemn notes of sacred music stole at frequent
intervals upon the air. Rienzi was praying within the church; thirty
masses consumed the hours from night till morn, and all the sanction of
religion was invoked to consecrate the enterprise of liberty. (In fact, I
apprehend that if ever the life of Cola di Rienzi shall be written by a
hand worthy of the task, it will be shown that a strong religious feeling
was blended with the political enthusiasm of the people, - the religious
feeling of a premature and crude reformation, the legacy of Arnold of
Brescia. It was not, however, one excited against the priests, but
favoured by them. The principal conventual orders declared for the
Revolution.) The sun had long risen, and the crowd had long been assembled
before the church door, and in vast streams along every street that led to
it, - when the bell of the church tolled out long and merrily; and as it
ceased, the voices of the choristers within chanted the following hymn, in
which were somewhat strikingly, though barbarously, blended, the spirit of
the classic patriotism with the fervour of religious zeal: -
The Roman Hymn of Liberty.
Let the mountains exult around!
("Exultent in circuito Vestro Montes," &c. - Let the mountains exult
around! So begins Rienzi's letter to the Senate and Roman people:
preserved by Hocsemius.)
On her seven-hill'd throne renown'd,
Once more old Rome is crown'd!
Sing out, O Vale and Wave!
Look up from each laurell'd grave,
Bright dust of the deathless brave!
Pale Vision, what art thou? - Lo,
From Time's dark deeps,
Like a Wind, It sweeps,
Like a Wind, when the tempests blow:
A shadowy form - as a giant ghost -
It stands in the midst of the armed host!
The dead man's shroud on Its awful limbs;
And the gloom of Its presence the daylight dims:
And the trembling world looks on aghast -
All hail to the SOUL OF THE MIGHTY PAST!
Hail! all hail!
As we speak - as we hallow - It moves, It breathes;
From its clouded crest bud the laurel wreaths -
As a Sun that leaps up from the arms of Night,
The shadow takes shape, and the gloom takes light.
Hail! all hail!
The Soul of the Past, again
To its ancient home,
In the hearts of Rome,
Hath come to resume its reign!
O Fame, with a prophet's voice,
Bid the ends of the Earth rejoice!
Wherever the Proud are Strong,
And Right is oppress'd by Wrong; -
Wherever the day dim shines
Through the cell where the captive pines; -
Go forth, with a trumpet's sound!
And tell to the Nations round -
On the Hills which the Heroes trod -
In the shrines of the Saints of God -
In the Caesars' hall, and the Martyrs' prison -
That the slumber is broke, and the Sleeper arisen!
That the reign of the Goth and the Vandal is o'er:
And Earth feels the tread of THE ROMAN once more!
As the hymn ended, the gate of the church opened; the crowd gave way on
either side, and, preceded by three of the young nobles of the inferior
order, bearing standards of allegorical design, depicting the triumph of
Liberty, Justice, and Concord, forth issued Rienzi, clad in complete
armour, the helmet alone excepted. His face was pale with watching and
intense excitement - but stern, grave, and solemnly composed; and its
expression so repelled any vociferous and vulgar burst of feeling, that
those who beheld it hushed the shout on their lips, and stilled, by a
simultaneous cry of reproof, the gratulations of the crowd behind. Side by
side with Rienzi moved Raimond, Bishop of Orvietto: and behind, marching
two by two, followed a hundred men-at-arms. In complete silence the
procession began its way, until, as it approached the Capitol, the awe of
the crowd gradually vanished, and thousands upon thousands of voices rent
the air with shouts of exultation and joy.
Arrived at the foot of the great staircase, which then made the principal
ascent to the square of the Capitol, the procession halted; and as the
crowd filled up that vast space in front - adorned and hallowed by many of
the most majestic columns of the temples of old - Rienzi addressed the
Populace, whom he had suddenly elevated into a People.
He depicted forcibly the servitude and misery of the citizens - the utter
absence of all law - the want even of common security to life and property.
He declared that, undaunted by the peril he incurred, he devoted his life
to the regeneration of their common country; and he solemnly appealed to
the people to assist the enterprise, and at once to sanction and
consolidate the Revolution by an established code of law and a
Constitutional Assembly. He then ordered the chart and outline of the
Constitution he proposed, to be read by the Herald to the multitude.
It created, - or rather revived, with new privileges and powers, - a
Representative Assembly of Councillors. It proclaimed, as its first law,
one that seems simple enough to our happier times, but never hitherto
executed at Rome: Every wilful homicide, of whatever rank, was to be
punished by death. It enacted, that no private noble or citizen should be
suffered to maintain fortifications and garrisons in the city or the
country; that the gates and bridges of the State should be under the
control of whomsoever should be elected Chief Magistrate. It forbade all
harbour of brigands, mercenaries, and robbers, on payment of a thousand
marks of silver; and it made the Barons who possessed the neighbouring
territories responsible for the safety of the roads, and the transport of
merchandise. It took under the protection of the State the widow and the
orphan. It appointed, in each of the quarters of the city, an armed
militia, whom the tolling of the bell of the Capitol, at any hour, was to
assemble to the protection of the State. It ordained, that in each harbour
of the coast, a vessel should be stationed, for the safeguard of commerce.
It decreed the sum of one hundred florins to the heirs of every man who
died in the defence of Rome; and it devoted the public revenues to the
service and protection of the State.
Such, moderate at once and effectual, was the outline of the New
Constitution; and it may amuse the reader to consider how great must have
been the previous disorders of the city, when the common and elementary
provisions of civilisation and security made the character of the code
proposed, and the limit of a popular revolution.
The most rapturous shouts followed this sketch of the New Constitution:
and, amidst the clamour, up rose the huge form of Cecco del Vecchio.
Despite his condition, he was a man of great importance at the present
crisis: his zeal and his courage, and, perhaps, still more, his brute
passion and stubborn prejudice, had made him popular. The lower order of
mechanics looked to him as their head and representative; out, then, he
spake loud and fearlessly, - speaking well, because his mind was full of
what he had to say.
"Countrymen and Citizens! - This New Constitution meets with your
approbation - so it ought. But what are good laws, if we do not have good
men to execute them? Who can execute a law so well as the man who designs
it? If you ask me to give you a notion how to make a good shield, and my
notion pleases you, would you ask me, or another smith, to make it for you?
If you ask another, he may make a good shield, but it would not be the same
as that which I should have made, and the description of which contented
you. Cola di Rienzi has proposed a Code of Law that shall be our shield.
Who should see that the shield become what he proposes, but Cola di Rienzi?
Romans! I suggest that Cola di Rienzi be intrusted by the people with the
authority, by whatsoever name he pleases, of carrying the New Constitution
into effect; - and whatever be the means, we, the People, will bear him
"Long life to Rienzi! - long live Cecco del Vecchio! He hath spoken well!
- none but the Law-maker shall be the Governor!"
Such were the acclamations which greeted the ambitious heart of the
Scholar. The voice of the people invested him with the supreme power. He
had created a Commonwealth - to become, if he desired it, a Despot!
Chapter 2.VII. Looking after the Halter when the Mare is Stolen.
While such were the events at Rome, a servitor of Stephen Colonna was
already on his way to Corneto. The astonishment with which the old Baron
received the intelligence may be easily imagined. He lost not a moment in
convening his troop; and, while in all the bustle of departure, the Knight
of St. John abruptly entered his presence. His mien had lost its usual
"How is this?" said he, hastily; "a revolt? - Rienzi sovereign of Rome? -
can the news be believed?"
"It is too true!" said Colonna, with a bitter smile. "Where shall we hang
him on our return?"
"Talk not so wildly, Sir Baron," replied Montreal, discourteously; "Rienzi
is stronger than you think for. I know what men are, and you only know
what noblemen are! Where is your kinsman, Adrian?"
"He is here, noble Montreal," said Stephen, shrugging his shoulders, with a
half-disdainful smile at the rebuke, which he thought it more prudent not
to resent; "he is here! - see him enter!"
"You have heard the news?" exclaimed Montreal.
"And despise the revolution?"
"I fear it!"
"Then you have some sense in you. But this is none of my affair: I will
not interrupt your consultations. Adieu for the present!" and, ere Stephen
could prevent him, the Knight had quitted the chamber.
"What means this demagogue?" Montreal muttered to himself. "Would he trick
me? - has he got rid of my presence in order to monopolise all the profit
of the enterprise? I fear me so! - the cunning Roman! We northern
warriors could never compete with the intellect of these Italians but for
their cowardice. But what shall be done? I have already bid Rodolf
communicate with the brigands, and they are on the eve of departure from
their present lord. Well! let it be so! Better that I should first break
the power of the Barons, and then make my own terms, sword in hand, with
the plebeian. And if I fail in this, - sweet Adeline! I shall see thee
again! - that is some comfort! - and Louis of Hungary will bid high for the
arm and brain of Walter de Montreal. What, ho! Rodolf!" he exclaimed
aloud, as the sturdy form of the trooper, half-armed and half-intoxicated,
reeled along the courtyard. "Knave! art thou drunk at this hour?"
"Drunk or sober," answered Rodolf, bending low, "I am at thy bidding."
"Well said! - are thy friends ripe for the saddle?"
"Eighty of them already tired of idleness and the dull air of Rome, will
fly wherever Sir Walter de Montreal wishes."
"Hasten, then, - bid them mount; we go not hence with the Colonna - we
leave while they are yet talking! Bid my squires attend me!"
And when Stephen Colonna was settling himself on his palfrey, he heard, for
the first time, that the Knight of Provence, Rodolf the trooper, and eighty
of the stipendiaries, had already departed, - whither, none knew.
"To precede us to Rome! gallant barbarian! said Colonna. "Sirs, on!"
Chapter 2.VIII. The Attack - the Retreat - the Election - and the
Arriving at Rome, the company of the Colonna found the gates barred, and
the walls manned. Stephen bade advance his trumpeters, with one of his
captains, imperiously to demand admittance.
"We have orders," replied the chief of the town-guard, "to admit none who
bear arms, flags, or trumpets. Let the Lords Colonna dismiss their train,
and they are welcome."
"Whose are these insolent mandates?" asked the captain.
"Those of the Lord Bishop of Orvietto and Cola di Rienzi, joint protectors
of the Buono Stato." (Good Estate.)
The captain of the Colonna returned to his chief with these tidings. The
rage of Stephen was indescribable. "Go back," he cried, as soon as he
could summon voice, "and say, that, if the gates are not forthwith opened
to me and mine, the blood of the plebeians be on their own head. As for
Raimond, Vicars of the Pope have high spiritual authority, none temporal.
Let him prescribe a fast, and he shall be obeyed; but, for the rash Rienzi,
say that Stephen Colonna will seek him in the Capitol tomorrow, for the
purpose of throwing him out of the highest window."
These messages the envoy failed not to deliver.
The captain of the Romans was equally stern in his reply.
"Declare to your Lord," said he, "that Rome holds him and his as rebels and
traitors; and that the moment you regain your troop, our archers receive
our command to draw their bows - in the name of the Pope, the City, and the
This threat was executed to the letter; and ere the old Baron had time to
draw up his men in the best array, the gates were thrown open, and a well-
armed, if undisciplined, multitude poured forth, with fierce shouts,
clashing their arms, and advancing the azure banners of the Roman State.
So desperate their charge, and so great their numbers, that the Barons,
after a short and tumultuous conflict, were driven back, and chased by
their pursuers for more than a mile from the walls of the city.
As soon as the Barons recovered their disorder and dismay, a hasty council
was held, at which various and contradictory opinions were loudly urged.
Some were for departing on the instant to Palestrina, which belonged to the
Colonna, and possessed an almost inaccessible fortress. Others were for
dispersing, and entering peaceably, and in detached parties, through the
other gates. Stephen Colonna - himself incensed and disturbed from his
usual self-command - was unable to preserve his authority; Luca di Savelli,
(The more correct orthography were Luca di Savello, but the one in the text
is preserved as more familiar to the English reader.) a timid, though
treacherous and subtle man, already turned his horse's head, and summoned
his men to follow him to his castle in Romagna, when the old Colonna
bethought himself of a method by which to keep his band from a disunion
that he had the sense to perceive would prove fatal to the common cause.
He proposed that they should at once repair to Palestrina, and there
fortify themselves; while one of the chiefs should be selected to enter
Rome alone, and apparently submissive, to examine the strength of Rienzi;
and with the discretionary power to resist if possible, - or to make the
best terms he could for the admission of the rest.
"And who," asked Savelli, sneeringly, "will undertake this dangerous
mission? Who, unarmed and alone, will expose himself to the rage of the
fiercest populace of Italy, and the caprice of a demagogue in the first
flush of his power?"
The Barons and the Captains looked at each other in silence. Savelli
Hitherto Adrian had taken no part in the conference, and but little in the
previous contest. He now came to the support of his kinsman.
"Signors!" said he, "I will undertake this mission, - but on mine own
account, independently of yours; - free to act as I may think best, for the
dignity of a Roman noble, and the interests of a Roman citizen; free to
raise my standard on mine own tower, or to yield fealty to the new estate."
"Well said!" cried the old Colonna, hastily. "Heaven forbid we should
enter Rome as foes, if to enter it as friends be yet allowed us! What say
"A more worthy choice could not be selected," said Savelli; "but I should
scarce deem it possible that a Colonna could think there was an option
between resistance and fealty to this upstart revolution."
"Of that, Signor, I will judge for myself; if you demand an agent for
yourselves, choose another. I announce to ye frankly, that I have seen
enough of other states to think the recent condition of Rome demanded some
redress. Whether Rienzi and Raimond be worthy of the task they have
assumed, I know not."
Savelli was silent. The old Colonna seized the word.
"To Palestrina, then! - are ye all agreed on this? At the worst, or at the
best, we should not be divided! On this condition alone I hazard the
safety of my kinsman!"
The Barons murmured a little among themselves; - the expediency of
Stephen's proposition was evident, and they at length assented to it.
Adrian saw them depart, and then, attended only by his squire, slowly rode
towards a more distant entrance into the city. On arriving at the gates,
his name was demanded - he gave it freely.
"Enter, my Lord," said the warder, "our orders were to admit all that came
unarmed and unattended. But to the Lord Adrian di Castello, alone, we had
a special injunction to give the honours due to a citizen and a friend."
Adrian, a little touched by this implied recollection of friendship, now
rode through a long line of armed citizens, who saluted him respectfully as
he passed, and, as he returned the salutation with courtesy, a loud and
approving shout followed his horse's steps.
So, save by one attendant, alone, and in peace, the young patrician
proceeded leisurely through the long streets, empty and deserted, - for
nearly one half of the inhabitants were assembled at the walls, and nearly
the other half were engaged in a more peaceful duty, - until, penetrating
the interior, the wide and elevated space of the Capitol broke upon his
sight. The sun was slowly setting over an immense multitude that
overspread the spot, and high above a scaffold raised in the centre, shone,
to the western ray, the great Gonfalon of Rome, studded with silver stars.
Adrian reined in his steed. "This," thought he, is scarcely the hour thus
publicly to confer with Rienzi; yet fain would I, mingled with the crowd,
judge how far his power is supported, and in what manner it is borne."
Musing a little, he withdrew into one of the obscurer streets, then wholly
deserted, surrendered his horse to his squire, and, borrowing of the latter
his morion and long mantle, passed to one of the more private entrances of
the Capitol, and, enveloped in his cloak, stood - one of the crowd - intent
upon all that followed.
"And what," he asked of a plainly dressed citizen, "is the cause of this
"Heard you not the proclamation?" returned the other in some surprise. "Do
you not know that the Council of the City and the Guilds of the Artisans
have passed a vote to proffer to Rienzi the title of king of Rome?"
The Knight of the Emperor, to whom belonged that august dignity, drew back
"And," resumed the citizen, "this assembly of all the lesser Barons,
Councillors, and Artificers, is convened to hear the answer."
"Of course it will be assent?"
"I know not - there are strange rumours; hitherto the Liberator has
concealed his sentiments."
At that instant a loud flourish of martial music announced the approach of
Rienzi. The crowd tumultuously divided, and presently, from the Palace of
the Capitol to the scaffold, passed Rienzi, still in complete armour, save
the helmet, and with him, in all the pomp of his episcopal robes, Raimond
As soon as Rienzi had ascended the platform, and was thus made visible to
the whole concourse, no words can suffice to paint the enthusiasm of the
scene - the shouts, the gestures, the tears, the sobs, the wild laughter,
in which the sympathy of those lively and susceptible children of the South
broke forth. The windows and balconies of the Palace were thronged with
the wives and daughters of the lesser Barons and more opulent citizens; and
Adrian, with a slight start, beheld amongst them, - pale - agitated -
tearful, - the lovely face of his Irene - a face that even thus would have
outshone all present, but for one by her side, whose beauty the emotion of
the hour only served to embellish. The dark, large, and flashing eyes of
Nina di Raselli, just bedewed, were fixed proudly on the hero of her
choice: and pride, even more than joy, gave a richer carnation to her
cheek, and the presence of a queen to her noble and rounded form. The
setting sun poured its full glory over the spot; the bared heads - the
animated faces of the crowd - the grey and vast mass of the Capitol; and,
not far from the side of Rienzi, it brought into a strange and startling
light the sculptured form of a colossal Lion of Basalt, (The existent
Capitol is very different from the building at the time of Rienzi; and the
reader must not suppose that the present staircase, designed by Michael
Angelo, at the base of which are two marble lions, removed by Pius IV. from
the Church of St. Stephen del Cacco, was the staircase of the Lion of
Basalt, which bears so stern a connexion with the history of Rienzi. That
mute witness of dark deeds is no more.) which gave its name to a staircase
leading to the Capitol. It was an old Egyptian relic, - vast, worn, and
grim; some symbol of a vanished creed, to whose face the sculptor had
imparted something of the aspect of the human countenance. And this
producing the effect probably sought, gave at all times a mystic,
preternatural, and fearful expression to the stern features, and to that
solemn and hushed repose, which is so peculiarly the secret of Egyptian
sculpture. The awe which this colossal and frowning image was calculated
to convey, was felt yet more deeply by the vulgar, because "the Staircase
of the Lion" was the wonted place of the state executions, as of the state
ceremonies. And seldom did the stoutest citizen forget to cross himself,
or feel unchilled with a certain terror, whenever, passing by the place, he
caught, suddenly fixed upon him, the stony gaze and ominous grin of that
old monster from the cities of the Nile.
It was some minutes before the feelings of the assembly allowed Rienzi to
be heard. But when, at length, the last shout closed with a simultaneous
cry of "Long live Rienzi! Deliverer and King of Rome!" he raised his hand
impatiently, and the curiosity of the crowd procured a sudden silence.
"Deliverer of Rome, my countrymen!" said he. "Yes! change not that title -
I am too ambitious to be a King! Preserve your obedience to your Pontiff -
your allegiance to your Emperor - but be faithful to your own liberties.
Ye have a right to your ancient constitution; but that constitution needed
not a king. Emulous of the name of Brutus, I am above the titles of a
Tarquin! Romans, awake! awake! be inspired with a nobler love of liberty
than that which, if it dethrones the tyrant of today, would madly risk the
danger of tyranny for tomorrow! Rome wants still a liberator - never an
usurper! - Take away yon bauble!"
There was a pause; the crowd were deeply affected - but they uttered no
shouts; they looked anxiously for a reply from their councillors, or
"Signor," said Pandulfo di Guido, who was one of the Caporioni, "your
answer is worthy of your fame. But, in order to enforce the law, Rome must
endow you with a legal title - if not that of King, deign to accept that of
Dictator or of Consul."
"Long live the Consul Rienzi!" cried several voices.
Rienzi waved his hand for silence.
"Pandulfo di Guido! and you, honoured Councillors of Rome! such title is at
once too august for my merits, and too inapplicable to my functions. I am
one of the people - the people are my charge; the nobles can protect
themselves. Dictator and Consul are the appellations of patricians. "No,"
he continued after a short pause, "if ye deem it necessary, for the
preservation of order, that your fellow-citizen should be intrusted with a
formal title and a recognised power, be it so: but let it be such as may
attest the nature of our new institutions, the wisdom of the people, and
the moderation of their leaders. Once, my countrymen, the people elected,
for the protectors of their rights and the guardians of their freedom,
certain officers responsible to the people, - chosen from the people, -
provident for the people. Their power was great, but it was delegated: a
dignity, but a trust. The name of these officers with that of Tribune.
Such is the title that conceded, not by clamour alone, but in the full
Parliament of the people, and accompanied by, such Parliament, ruling with
such Parliament, - such is the title I will gratefully accept." (Gibbon
and Sismondi alike, (neither of whom appears to have consulted with much
attention the original documents preserved by Hocsemius,) say nothing of
the Representative Parliament, which it was almost Rienzi's first public
act to institute or model. Six days from the memorable 19th of May, he
addressed the people of Viterbo in a letter yet extant. He summons them to
elect and send two syndics, or ambassadors, to the general Parliament.)
The speech, the sentiments of Rienzi were rendered far more impressive by a
manner of earnest and deep sincerity; and some of the Romans, despite their
corruption, felt a momentary exultation in the forbearance of their chief.
"Long live the Tribune of Rome!" was shouted, but less loud than the cry of
"Live the King!" And the vulgar almost thought the revolution was
incomplete, because the loftier title was not assumed. To a degenerate and
embruted people, liberty seems too plain a thing, if unadorned by the pomp
of the very despotism they would dethrone. Revenge is their desire, rather
than Release; and the greater the new power they create, the greater seems
their revenge against the old. Still all that was most respected,
intelligent, and powerful amongst the assembly, were delighted at a
temperance which they foresaw would free Rome from a thousand dangers,
whether from the Emperor or the Pontiff. And their delight was yet
increased, when Rienzi added, so soon as returning silence permitted - "And
since we have been equal labourers in the same cause, whatever honours be
awarded to me, should be extended also to the Vicar of the Pope, Raimond,
Lord Bishop of Orvietto. Remember, that both Church and State are properly
the rulers of the people, only because their benefactors. - Long live the
first Vicar of a Pope that was ever also the Liberator of a State!"
Whether or not Rienzi was only actuated by patriotism in his moderation,
certain it is, that his sagacity was at least equal to his virtue; and
perhaps nothing could have cemented the revolution more strongly, than thus
obtaining for a colleague the Vicar, and Representative of the Pontifical
power: it borrowed, for the time, the sanction of the Pope himself - thus
made to share the responsibility of the revolution, without monopolising
the power of the State.
While the crowd hailed the proposition of Rienzi; while their shouts yet
filled the air; while Raimond, somewhat taken by surprise, sought by signs
and gestures to convey at once his gratitude and his humility, the Tribune-
Elect, casting his eyes around, perceived many hitherto attracted by
curiosity, and whom, from their rank and weight, it was desirable to secure
in the first heat of the public enthusiasm. Accordingly, as soon as
Raimond had uttered a short and pompous harangue, - in which his eager
acceptance of the honour proposed him was ludicrously contrasted by his
embarrassed desire not to involve himself or the Pope in any untoward
consequences that might ensue, - Rienzi motioned to two heralds that stood
behind upon the platform, and one of these advancing, proclaimed - "That as
it was desirable that all hitherto neuter should now profess themselves
friends or foes, so they were invited to take at once the oath of obedience
to the laws, and subscription to the Buono Stato."
So great was the popular fervour, and so much had it been refined and
deepened in its tone by the addresses of Rienzi, that even the most
indifferent had caught the contagion: and no man liked to be seen
shrinking from the rest: so that the most neutral, knowing themselves the
most marked, were the most entrapped into allegiance to the Buono Stato.
The first who advanced to the platform and took the oath was the Signor di
Raselli, the father of Nina. - Others of the lesser nobility followed his
The presence of the Pope's Vicar induced the aristocratic; the fear of the
people urged the selfish; the encouragement of shouts and gratulations
excited the vain. The space between Adrian and Rienzi was made clear. The
young noble suddenly felt the eyes of the Tribune were upon him; he felt
that those eyes recognised and called upon him - he coloured - he breathed
short. The noble forbearance of Rienzi had touched him to the heart; - the
applause - the pageant - the enthusiasm of the scene, intoxicated -
confused him. - He lifted his eyes and saw before him the sister of the
Tribune - the lady of his love! His indecision - his pause - continued,
when Raimond, observing him, and obedient to a whisper from Rienzi,
artfully cried aloud - "Room for the Lord Adrian di Castello! a Colonna! a
Colonna! " Retreat was cut off. Mechanically, and as if in a dream,
Adrian ascended to the platform: and to complete the triumph of the
Tribune, the sun's last ray beheld the flower of the Colonna - the best and
bravest of the Barons of Rome - confessing his authority, and subscribing
to his laws!
BOOK III. THE FREEDOM WITHOUT LAW.
"Ben furo avventurosi i cavalieri