Page images


Yes, Italy! 'twas thee, by all confess'd,
Who beckon'd back the Muses-long, long fled;
Second birth Gave science second birth, and first carest,

of Science.

And brought to life, what had been almost dead!
Who has not great Aurispa's1 story read?
Who taught and reap'd the meed of all his toil;
His only care, perhaps his only dread,

Was how he best could bear the classic spoil
From Stambol 2 to his own luxuriant soil:

that Emanuel Chrysolorus, a learned Greek, had been sent to Italy by the then Emperor (John Palæologus), where he remained for twenty years, teaching Greek literature, in Pavia, Rome, Venice, and Florence. For much valuable information regarding this period, the reader is referred to Emerson's History of Modern Greece, vol. ii. page 140 to 144.

1 We have just seen, that a short period before the end of the fourteenth century, Emanuel Chrysolorus had taught the Grecian literature in different cities of Italy; but, as Hallam (vol. iii. page 590), has observed, some not content with being the disciples of this accomplished man, went themselves to Constantinople, and returned to Italy laden with various valuable manuscripts, few if any of which at that time existed in Italy, where none had then ability or talent enough to read or value them. Amongst the most distinguished of these was Aurispa and Tilelfo, the second of whom brought home to Venice, in 1423, no less than 238 volumes. -See Roscoe's Lorenzo de Medici, vol. i. page 43.

2 Constantinople.


Where first reviv'd the soul-inspiring fire

Which warm'd the bosoms of the Bards of old?

What heart beats high, which would not beat still higher, Poesy beck

At Dante's song, sublime, pathetic, bold?

Who would not glow with Tasso must be cold!

Was not a Titian thine, and Nature's boast ?

Whose glowing tints, e'en now, are sought and sold

As precious gems, at a most precious cost;

And, saving Raphael's relics, priz'd the most!

oned back.



Thy sons were brilliant stars! Yet not less great

The patriot patrons of that brightening day— Those Florentines, who did regenerate

Degraded Europe by their splendid sway.

[blocks in formation]

1 To Cosmo de Medici, a Florentine, is certainly due the revival of the fine arts in Italy; and he is supposed, though but the private subject of a republic, to have died richer than any king in Europe, and, at the same


Bright stars of Italy.

For that Medici, still of nobler fame,

Lorenzo1! whose magnificent display
Of all that's excellent, won him the name

Of Pater Patriæ, which he well became.


of ancient literature.

The storm which burst on Stambol's lofty towers—

The pitiless storm !-had not been unforeseen;

Restoration When Genius had her fairest fruits and flowers
Triumphant borne to Rome-her guardian queen-
Then Cosmo 2 gave a home, a heart, a screen,

time, to have expended more money in works of taste, magnificence, learning, and charity, than all the sovereigns, princes, and states of that or the subsequent age, those of his own family excepted. He died A. D. 1464.

1 Lorenzo de Medici, grandson of Cosmo. His life has been admirably written, as every one knows, by Mr Roscoe, who informs us, that he was remarkable for countenancing the revival of the Platonic Philosophy, on having heard the discourses of the famous Greek scholar Genistus Pletho. He died in 1472.

2 Not only Cosmo of Florence, but Alfonso of Naples, and Pope Nicholas V., were remarkable for the protection they afforded to the learned Greek exiles, especially to Bessarion, Gaza, George of Trebisond, and Ge. nistus Pletho, all men, however, who had emigrated from Constantinople, before the destruction of the Greek empire by Mahomet II. in 1452.

To every

classic Greek and letter'd sage. And well it was for after times, I ween, That Gaza scap'd the fierce barbaric1 rage,

And Pletho, too, with his yet kindling page.


While many a lovely Helen 2, anguish-torn,
Rav'd o'er the last fond look, or mangl'd corse,

Of some brave hero, by affection borne

From where the whelming Islamitic force

Triumphant sway'd ;-nor pity, nor remorse

Could stay the horrors.-Soon the Crescent rear'd!-
The Koran conn'd-that still abhorred source

Of fatal error; ever to be fear'd,

As fellest foe to all the most rever'd!



1 Constantinople was taken by assault, when many must have been slaughtered; yet, to the honour of Mahomet II. be it said, he did all in his power to arrest barbaric rage, and granted conditions to the inhabitants. The Greek Emperor, Constantine Polæologus, was killed, bravely fighting in the breach.

2 Greek.



Yet were not wanting those who linger'd on,

Spell-bound and trembling, through the furious fight, When Mahomet was seated on that throne,

Still held by Turkish rule and tyrant might :

Till forc'd by superstition's hateful sight,

They, too, took refuge on thy genial shore.

Had I thy pen, Musurus 1, with delight
Would I now tell of all thy Attic lore,

O'er which you fondly hung in days of yore!


Now were it foul injustice to withhold
The liberal meed of an impartial praise

From that great Pontiff, sent but to diffuse
A tide of joy to all within the rays

1 A learned Greek poet and critic, who, with Lascaris and other distinguished individuals, did not come to Rome till after the taking of Constantinople by the Turks. To Musurus we are indebted for the first edition of Aristophanes.

« PreviousContinue »