"Ogni Lascivia, ogni male, nulla giustizia, nullo freno. Non c'era piu remedia, ogni persona periva. Allora Cola di Rienzi." &c. - "Vita di Cola di Rienzi", lib. i. chap. 2.
"Every kind of lewdness, every form of evil; no justice, no restraint. Remedy there was none; perdition fell on all. Then Cola di Rienzi," &c. - "Life of Cola di Rienzi".
Chapter 2.I. The Knight of Provence, and his Proposal.
It was nearly noon as Adrian entered the gates of the palace of Stephen Colonna. The palaces of the nobles were not then as we see them now, receptacles for the immortal canvas of Italian, and the imperishable sculpture of Grecian Art; but still to this day are retained the massive walls, and barred windows, and spacious courts, which at that time protected their rude retainers. High above the gates rose a lofty and solid tower, whose height commanded a wide view of the mutilated remains of Rome: the gate itself was adorned and strengthened on either side by columns of granite, whose Doric capitals betrayed the sacrilege that had torn them from one of the many temples that had formerly crowded the sacred Forum. From the same spoils came, too, the vast fragments of travertine which made the walls of the outer court. So common at that day were these barbarous appropriations of the most precious monuments of art, that the columns and domes of earlier Rome were regarded by all classes but as quarries, from which every man was free to gather the materials, whether for his castle or his cottage, - a wantonness of outrage far greater than the Goths', to whom a later age would fain have attributed all the disgrace, and which, more perhaps than even heavier offences, excited the classical indignation of Petrarch, and made him sympathise with Rienzi in his hopes of Rome. Still may you see the churches of that or even earlier dates, of the most shapeless architecture, built on the sites, and from the marbles, consecrating (rather than consecrated by) the names of Venus, of Jupiter, of Minerva. The palace of the Prince of the Orsini, duke of Gravina, is yet reared above the graceful arches (still visible) of the theatre of Marcellus; then a fortress of the Savelli.
As Adrian passed the court, a heavy waggon blocked up the way, laden with huge marbles, dug from the unexhausted mine of the Golden House of Nero: they were intended for an additional tower, by which Stephen Colonna proposed yet more to strengthen the tasteless and barbarous edifice in which the old noble maintained the dignity of outraging the law.
The friend of Petrarch and the pupil of Rienzi sighed deeply as he passed this vehicle of new spoliations, and as a pillar of fluted alabaster, rolling carelessly from the waggon, fell with a loud crash upon the pavement. At the foot of the stairs grouped some dozen of the bandits whom the old Colonna entertained: they were playing at dice upon an ancient tomb, the clear and deep inscription on which (so different from the slovenly character of the later empire) bespoke it a memorial of the most powerful age of Rome, and which, now empty even of ashes, and upset, served for a table to these foreign savages, and was strewn, even at that early hour, with fragments of meat and flasks of wine. They scarcely stirred, they scarcely looked up, as the young noble passed them; and their fierce oaths and loud ejaculations, uttered in a northern patois, grated harsh upon his ear, as he mounted, with a slow step, the lofty and unclean stairs. He came into a vast ante-chamber, which was half-filled with the higher class of the patrician's retainers: some five or six pages, chosen from the inferior noblesse, congregated by a narrow and deep-sunk casement, were discussing the grave matters of gallantry and intrigue; three petty chieftains of the band below, with their corselets donned, and their swords and casques beside them, were sitting, stolid and silent, at a table, in the middle of the room, and might have been taken for automatons, save for the solemn regularity with which they ever and anon lifted to their moustachioed lips their several goblets, and then, with a complacent grunt, re-settled to their contemplations. Striking was the contrast which their northern phlegm presented to a crowd of Italian clients, and petitioners, and parasites, who walked restlessly to and fro, talking loudly to each other, with all the vehement gestures and varying physiognomy of southern vivacity. There was a general stir and sensation as Adrian broke upon this miscellaneous company. The bandit captains nodded their heads mechanically; the pages bowed, and admired the fashion of his plume and hose; the clients, and petitioners, and parasites, crowded round him, each with a separate request for interest with his potent kinsman. Great need had Adrian of his wonted urbanity and address, in extricating himself from their grasp; and painfully did he win, at last, the low and narrow door, at which stood a tall servitor, who admitted or rejected the applicants, according to his interest or caprice.
"Is the Baron alone?" asked Adrian.
"Why, no, my Lord: a foreign signor is with him - but to you he is of course visible."
"Well, you may admit me. I would inquire of his health."
The servitor opened the door - through whose aperture peered many a jealous and wistful eye - and consigned Adrian to the guidance of a page, who, older and of greater esteem than the loiterers in the ante-room, was the especial henchman of the Lord of the Castle. Passing another, but empty chamber, vast and dreary, Adrian found himself in a small cabinet, and in the presence of his kinsman.
Before a table, bearing the implements of writing, sate the old Colonna: a robe of rich furs and velvet hung loose upon his tall and stately frame; from a round skull-cap, of comforting warmth and crimson hue, a few grey locks descended, and mixed with a long and reverent beard. The countenance of the aged noble, who had long passed his eightieth year, still retained the traces of a comeliness for which in earlier manhood he was remarkable. His eyes, if deep-sunken, were still keen and lively, and sparkled with all the fire of youth; his mouth curved upward in a pleasant, though half- satiric, smile; and his appearance on the whole was prepossessing and commanding, indicating rather the high blood, the shrewd wit, and the gallant valour of the patrician, than his craft, hypocrisy, and habitual but disdainful spirit of oppression.
Stephen Colonna, without being absolutely a hero, was indeed far braver than most of the Romans, though he held fast to the Italian maxim - never to fight an enemy while it is possible to cheat him. Two faults, however, marred the effect of his sagacity: a supreme insolence of disposition, and a profound belief in the lights of his experience. He was incapable of analogy. What had never happened in his time, he was perfectly persuaded never could happen. Thus, though generally esteemed an able diplomatist, he had the cunning of the intriguant, and not the providence of a statesman. If, however, pride made him arrogant in prosperity, it supported him in misfortune. And in the earlier vicissitudes of a life which had partly been consumed in exile, he had developed many noble qualities of fortitude, endurance, and real greatness of soul; which showed that his failings were rather acquired by circumstance than derived from nature. His numerous and highborn race were proud of their chief; and with justice; for he was the ablest and most honoured, not only of the direct branch of the Colonna, but also, perhaps, of all the more powerful barons.
Seated at the same table with Stephen Colonna was a man of noble presence, of about three or four and thirty years of age, in whom Adrian instantly recognised Walter de Montreal. This celebrated knight was scarcely of the personal appearance which might have corresponded with the terror his name generally excited. His face was handsome, almost to the extreme of womanish delicacy. His fair hair waved long and freely over a white and unwrinkled forehead: the life of a camp and the suns of Italy had but little embrowned his clear and healthful complexion, which retained much of the bloom of youth. His features were aquiline and regular; his eyes, of a light hazel, were large, bright, and penetrating; and a short, but curled beard and moustachio, trimmed with soldier-like precision, and very little darker than the hair, gave indeed a martial expression to his comely countenance, but rather the expression which might have suited the hero of courts and tournaments, than the chief of a brigand's camp. The aspect, manner, and bearing, of the Provencal were those which captivate rather than awe, - blending, as they did, a certain military frankness with the easy and graceful dignity of one conscious of gentle birth, and accustomed to mix, on equal terms, with the great and noble. His form happily contrasted and elevated the character of a countenance which required strength and stature to free its uncommon beauty from the charge of effeminacy, being of great height and remarkable muscular power, without the least approach to clumsy and unwieldy bulk: it erred, indeed, rather to the side of leanness than flesh, - at once robust and slender. But the chief personal distinction of this warrior, the most redoubted lance of Italy, was an air and carriage of chivalric and heroic grace, greatly set off at this time by his splendid dress, which was of brown velvet sown with pearls, over which hung the surcoat worn by the Knights of the Hospital, whereon was wrought, in white, the eight-pointed cross that made the badge of his order. The Knight's attitude was that of earnest conversation, bending slightly forward towards the Colonna, and resting both his hands - which (according to the usual distinction of the old Norman race, (Small hands and feet, however disproportioned to the rest of the person, were at that time deemed no less a distinction of the well-born, than they have been in a more refined age. Many readers will remember the pain occasioned to Petrarch by his tight shoes. The supposed beauty of this peculiarity is more derived from the feudal than the classic time.) from whom, though born in Provence, Montreal boasted his descent) were small and delicate, the fingers being covered with jewels, as was the fashion of the day - upon the golden hilt of an enormous sword, on the sheath of which was elaborately wrought the silver lilies that made the device of the Provencal Brotherhood of Jerusalem.
"Good morrow, fair kinsman!" said Stephen. "Seat thyself, I pray; and know in this knightly visitor the celebrated Sieur de Montreal."
"Ah, my Lord," said Montreal, smiling, as he saluted Adrian; "and how is my lady at home?"
"You mistake, Sir Knight," quoth Stephen; "my young kinsman is not yet married: faith, as Pope Boniface remarked, when he lay stretched on a sick bed, and his confessor talked to him about Abraham's bosom, 'that is a pleasure the greater for being deferred.'"
"The Signor will pardon my mistake," returned Montreal.
"But not," said Adrian, "the neglect of Sir Walter in not ascertaining the fact in person. My thanks to him, noble kinsman, are greater than you weet of; and he promised to visit me, that he might receive them at leisure."
"I assure you, Signor," answered Montreal, "that I have not forgotten the invitation; but so weighty hitherto have been my affairs at Rome, that I have been obliged to parley with my impatience to better our acquaintance."
"Oh, ye knew each other before?" said Stephen. "And how?"
"My Lord, there is a damsel in the case!" replied Montreal. "Excuse my silence."
"Ah, Adrian, Adrian! when will you learn my continence!" said Stephen, solemnly stroking his grey beard. "What an example I set you! But a truce to this light conversation, - let us resume our theme. You must know, Adrian, that it is to the brave band of my guest I am indebted for those valiant gentlemen below, who keep Rome so quiet, though my poor habitation so noisy. He has called to proffer more assistance, if need be; and to advise me on the affairs of Northern Italy. Continue, I pray thee, Sir Knight; I have no disguises from my kinsman."
"Thou seest," said Montreal, fixing his penetrating eyes on Adrian, "thou seest, doubtless, my Lord, that Italy at this moment presents to us a remarkable spectacle. It is a contest between two opposing powers, which shall destroy the other. The one power is that of the unruly and turbulent people - a power which they call 'Liberty;' the other power is that of the chiefs and princes - a power which they more appropriately call 'Order.' Between these parties the cities of Italy are divided. In Florence, in Genoa, in Pisa, for instance, is established a Free State - a Republic, God wot! and a more riotous, unhappy state of government, cannot well be imagined."
"That is perfectly true," quoth Stephen; "they banished my own first cousin from Genoa."
"A perpetual strife, in short," continued Montreal, "between the great families; an alternation of prosecutions, and confiscations, and banishments: today, the Guelfs proscribe the Ghibellines - tomorrow, the Ghibellines drive out the Guelfs. This may be liberty, but it is the liberty of the strong against the weak. In the other cities, as Milan, as Verona, as Bologna, the people are under the rule of one man, - who calls himself a prince, and whom his enemies call a tyrant. Having more force than any other citizen, he preserves a firm government; having more constant demand on his intellect and energies than the other citizens, he also preserves a wise one. These two orders of government are enlisted against each other: whenever the people in the one rebel against their prince, the people of the other - that is, the Free States - send arms and money to their assistance."
"You hear, Adrian, how wicked those last are," quoth Stephen.
"Now it seems to me," continued Montreal, "that this contest must end some time or other. All Italy must become republican or monarchical. It is easy to predict which will be the result."
"Yes, Liberty must conquer in the end!" said Adrian, warmly.
"Pardon me, young Lord; my opinion is entirely the reverse. You perceive that these republics are commercial, - are traders; they esteem wealth, they despise valour, they cultivate all trades save that of the armourer. Accordingly, how do they maintain themselves in war: by their own citizens? Not a whit of it! Either they send to some foreign chief, and promise, if he grant them his protection, the principality of the city for five or ten years in return; or else they borrow from some hardy adventurer, like myself, as many troops as they can afford to pay for. Is it not so, Lord Adrian?"
Adrian nodded his reluctant assent.
"Well, then, it is the fault of the foreign chief if he do not make his power permanent; as has been already done in States once free by the Visconti and the Scala: or else it is the fault of the captain of the mercenaries if he do not convert his brigands into senators, and himself into a king. These are events so natural, that one day or other they will occur throughout all Italy. And all Italy will then become monarchical. Now it seems to me the interest of all the powerful families - your own, at Rome, as that of the Visconti, at Milan - to expedite this epoch, and to check, while you yet may with ease, that rebellious contagion amongst the people which is now rapidly spreading, and which ends in the fever of licence to them, but in the corruption of death to you. In these free States, the nobles are the first to suffer: first your privileges, then your property, are swept away. Nay, in Florence, as ye well know, my Lords, no noble is even capable of holding the meanest office in the State!"
"Villains!" said Colonna, "they violate the first law of nature!"
"At this moment," resumed Montreal, who, engrossed with his subject, little heeded the interruptions he received from the holy indignation of the Baron: "at this moment, there are many - the wisest, perhaps, in the free States - who desire to renew the old Lombard leagues, in defence of their common freedom everywhere, and against whosoever shall aspire to be prince. Fortunately, the deadly jealousies between these merchant States - the base plebeian jealousies - more of trade than of glory - interpose at present an irresistible obstacle to this design; and Florence, the most stirring and the most esteemed of all, is happily so reduced by reverses of commerce as to be utterly unable to follow out so great an undertaking. Now, then, is the time for us, my Lords; while these obstacles are so great for our foes, now is the time for us to form and cement a counter-league between all the princes of Italy. To you, noble Stephen, I have come, as your rank demands, - alone, of all the barons of Rome, - to propose to you this honourable union. Observe what advantages it proffers to your house. The popes have abandoned Rome for ever; there is no counterpoise to your ambition, - there need be none to your power. You see before you the examples of Visconti and Taddeo di Pepoli. You may found in Rome, the first city of Italy, a supreme and uncontrolled principality, subjugate utterly your weaker rivals, - the Savelli, the Malatesta, the Orsini, - and leave to your sons' sons an hereditary kingdom that may aspire once more, perhaps, to the empire of the world."
Stephen shaded his face with his hand as he answered: "But this, noble Montreal, requires means: - money and men."
"Of the last, you can command from me enow - my small company, the best disciplined, can (whenever I please) swell to the most numerous in Italy: in the first, noble Baron, the rich House of Colonna cannot fail; and even a mortgage on its vast estates may be well repaid when you have possessed yourselves of the whole revenues of Rome. You see," continued Montreal, turning to Adrian, in whose youth he expected a more warm ally than in the his hoary kinsman: "you see, at a glance, how feasible is this project, and what a mighty field it opens to your House."
"Sir Walter de Montreal," said Adrian, rising from his seat, and giving vent to the indignation he had with difficulty suppressed, "I grieve much that, beneath the roof of the first citizen of Rome, a stranger should attempt thus calmly, and without interruption, to excite the ambition of emulating the execrated celebrity of a Visconti or a Pepoli. Speak, my Lord! (turning to Stephen) - speak, noble kinsman! and tell this Knight of Provence, that if by a Colonna the ancient grandeur of Rome cannot be restored, it shall not be, at least, by a Colonna that her last wrecks of liberty shall be swept away."
"How now, Adrian! - how now, sweet kinsman!" said Stephen, thus suddenly appealed to, "calm thyself, I pr'ythee. Noble Sir Walter, he is young - young, and hasty - he means not to offend thee."
Of that I am persuaded," returned Montreal, coldly, but with great and courteous command of temper. "He speaks from the impulse of the moment, - a praiseworthy fault in youth. It was mine at his age, and many a time have I nearly lost my life for the rashness. Nay, Signor, nay! - touch not your sword so meaningly, as if you fancied I intimated a threat; far from me such presumption. I have learned sufficient caution, believe me, in the wars, not wantonly to draw against me a blade which I have seen wielded against such odds."
Touched, despite himself, by the courtesy of the Knight, and the allusion to a scene in which, perhaps, his life had been preserved by Montreal, Adrian extended his hand to the latter.
"I was to blame for my haste," said he, frankly; "but know, by my very heat," he added more gravely, "that your project will find no friends among the Colonna. Nay, in the presence of my noble kinsman, I dare to tell you, that could even his high sanction lend itself to such a scheme, the best hearts of his house would desert him; and I myself, his kinsman, would man yonder castle against so unnatural an ambition!"
A slight and scarce perceptible cloud passed over Montreal's countenance at these words; and he bit his lip ere he replied:
"Yet if the Orsini be less scrupulous, their first exertion of power would be heard in the crashing house of the Colonna."
Know you," returned Adrian, "that one of our mottoes is this haughty address to the Romans, - 'If we fall, ye fall also?' And better that fate, than a rise upon the wrecks of our native city."
"Well, well, well!" said Montreal, reseating himself, "I see that I must leave Rome to herself, - the League must thrive without her aid. I did but jest, touching the Orsini, for they have not the power that would make their efforts safe. Let us sweep, then, our past conference from our recollection. It is the nineteenth, I think, Lord Colonna, on which you propose to repair to Corneto, with your friends and retainers, and on which you have invited my attendance?"
"It is on that day, Sir Knight," replied the Baron, evidently much relieved by the turn the conversation had assumed. "The fact is, that we have been so charged with indifference to the interests of the good people, that I strain a point in this expedition to contradict the assertion; and we propose, therefore, to escort and protect, against the robbers of the road, a convoy of corn to Corneto. In truth, I may add another reason, besides fear of the robbers, that makes me desire as numerous a train as possible. I wish to show my enemies, and the people generally, the solid and growing power of my house; the display of such an armed band as I hope to levy, will be a magnificent occasion to strike awe into the riotous and refractory. Adrian, you will collect your servitors, I trust, on that day; we would not be without you."
"And as we ride along, fair Signor," said Montreal, inclining to Adrian, "we will find at least one subject on which we can agree: all brave men and true knights have one common topic, - and its name is Woman. You must make me acquainted with the names of the fairest dames of Rome; and we will discuss old adventures in the Parliament of Love, and hope for new. By the way, I suppose, Lord Adrian, you, with the rest of your countrymen, are Petrarch-stricken?"
"Do you not share our enthusiasm? slur not so your gallantry, I pray you."
"Come, we must not again disagree; but, by my halidame, I think one troubadour roundel worth all that Petrarch ever wrote. He has but borrowed from our knightly poesy, to disguise it, like a carpet coxcomb."
"Well," said Adrian, gaily, "for every line of the troubadours that you quote, I will cite you another. I will forgive you for injustice to Petrarch, if you are just to the troubadours."
"Just!" cried Montreal, with real enthusiasm: "I am of the land, nay the very blood of the troubadour! But we grow too light for your noble kinsman; and it is time for me to bid you, for the present, farewell. My Lord Colonna, peace be with you; farewell, Sir Adrian, - brother mine in knighthood, - remember your challenge."
And with an easy and careless grace the Knight of St. John took his leave. The old Baron, making a dumb sign of excuse to Adrian, followed Montreal into the adjoining room.
"Sir Knight!" said he, "Sir Knight!" as he closed the door upon Adrian, and then drew Montreal to the recess of the casement, - "a word in your ear. Think not I slight your offer, but these young men must be managed; the plot is great - noble, - grateful to my heart; but it requires time and caution. I have many of my house, scrupulous as yon hot-skull, to win over; the way is pleasant, but must be sounded well and carefully; you understand?"
From under his bent brows, Montreal darted one keen glance at Stephen, and then answered:
"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 black proposition?"
"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 sweat."
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 kinsman's hand.
"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 talks well."
"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 own question.
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 noble.
"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 fail?"
"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 letters."
"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
"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; "forgive me!"
"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?
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 own!"
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 church together?"
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 explained.
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
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
"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 populace.
"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
"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 of Rienzi.
"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 for him."
"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 smith.
"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?
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
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 union.
"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 a third.
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 Church."
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 should serve!"
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 late."
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 arms.
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 disorderly."
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 themselves!
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
"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
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 Baron."
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 and secure."
"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 vice.
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 second?"
"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 revolt!"
Gazing cautiously round the room, the Roman placed his hand on Montreal's arm -
"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 friends.
"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 present, farewell!"
"'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, completely armed.
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!" replied Stephen.
"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 forge.
"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! Jubilate!
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 harmless."
"Long life to Rienzi! - long live Cecco del Vecchio! He hath spoken well!
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 frank composure.
"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 Adhesion.
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 Liberator."
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 laughed.
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 ye, gentles?"
"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 assembly?"
"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 in dismay.
"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 of Orvietto.
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 popular leaders.
"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 example.
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!