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The old tales in their simplicity have something pleasing and delightful; but how different the pleasure of abandoning oneself to the harmony of Ariosto's stanzas, and hurrying on from scene to scene, in the companionship of a frank and accomplished mind! The unlovely and the shapeless has moulded itself into a distinct outline-into form and music. 4
The same admiration of the majesty of the ancient forms, struggling with, but never taming, the inventive boldness of genius, harmonized the sculpture of Michael Angelo. It was Bramante's sublime notion to rival the proportions of the Pantheon, but to suspend its dome in the air. The dispute whether Raffaelle borrowed the exquisite arabesques of the Loggie from the antique shows how deeply he had imbibed the beauty of the Grecian form : still it only imperceptibly blends with his own free and graceful conceptions; it is the same principle working within him-from whatever source derived, however influenced in its secret development, the sense of beauty is in him an attribute of his nature—it is become himself. Tragedy alone in Italy wanted its Ariosto or Michael Angelo. In the cold and feeble hands of Trissino and Rucellai, it gave the form and outline of antiquity, but the form alone; all was dead and cold within-a direct, tame, and lifeless copy from the antique. Even comedy, though too fond of casting its rich metal in the moulds of Plautus and Terence, preserved some originality of invention, some gaiety and freedom of expression.
The manners of the court of Leo X. exhibited the same singular combination—the same struggle for the mastery between the spirit of antiquity and the barbaric Christianity of the middle ages. The splendid ceremonial went on in all its pomp; architecture and sculpture lavished their invention in building and decorating Christian churches. Yet the Vatican was visited less for the purpose of worshipping the footsteps of the Apostles than to admire the great works of ancient art in the papal palace—the Belvedere Apollo and the Laocoon. The Pope was strongly urged to undertake a holy war against the Infidels, but the scholars of his court (Mr. Ranke quotes a remarkable passage from a preface of Navagero) thought little of the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre ; their hope was that the Pope might recover some of the lost writings of the Greeks, or even of the Romans. The character of Leo himself is thus struck out in the journal of a Venetian ambassador. He is a learned man, and a lover of learned men, very religious, but he will live-( È docto e amador di docti, ben religioso, ma vol viver).' The acute Venetian calls him buona persona, which we may English, a good fellow.
* It is remarkable that the first reprint of Bojardo's genuine poem has been made in England by Sig. Panizzi. We admire the professor's taste and courage. The difference between the original work and the long-popular rifacciamento of Borni is, that one is in earnest, the other in jest-the one the work of a poet, the other of a satirist.
And Leo X. knew how to live;—his summers were passed in the most beautiful parts of the Roman territory, in hunting, shooting, and fishing-men of agreeable talents, improvisatores, enlivened the pleasant hours :-
In the winter he returned to the city : it was in the highest state of prosperity. The number of inhabitants increased a third in a few years. Manufactures found their profit-art, honour-every one security. Never was the court more lively, more agreeable, more intellectual; no expenditure was too great to be lavished on religious and secular festivals-on amusements and theatres—on presents and marks of favour. It was heard with pleasure that Juliano Medici, with his young wife, thought of making Rome his residence. “Praised be God !' Cardinal Bibiena writes to him: 'the only thing we want is a court with ladies.'
Ariosto had been known to Leo in his youth—(Mr. Ranke has not noticed that the satires of the poet are not so favourable to Leo's court). Tragedies, such as they were, and comedies, by no means wanting in talent, whatever might be said as to their decency, were written, and by the pens of cardinals. To Leo, Machiavelli had addressed his writings; for him Raffaelle was peopling the Vatican with his more than human forms. Leo possessed an exquisite taste, and was passionately fond of music; and Leo, the most fortunate of the Popes, as Ranke observes, was not least fortunate in his early
death, before these splendid scenes were disturbed by the sad reverses which were in some respects their inevitable consequence.
Had Rome been merely the metropolis of the Christian world, from which emanated the laws and the decrees which were to regulate the religious concerns of mankind, this classical and Epicurean character of the court would have been of less importance; but it was likewise the centre of confluence to the whole Christian world. Ecclesiastics, or those destined for the ecclesiastical profession, and even religious men of all classes, undertook pilgrimages to Rome from all parts of Europe. To such persons, only accustomed to the rude and coarse habits which then generally prevailed in the northern nations—to men perhaps trained in the severest monastic rules, who had been taught to consider the austerest asceticism as the essence, the perfection of Christianity — what must have been their impressions on entering this splendid and festive city-on beholding the Father of the Faithful in the midst of his sumptuous entertainments, amid all the luxuries of modern art, with heathen idols in his chambers, and heathen poets superseding the study of St. Augustine and St. Bernard ? 5 No doubt much relaxation of morals prevailed in this gay and intellectual court-circle, though Leo at least respected outward decency: yet it must be remembered how thoroughly the whole city had been vitiated by Alexander VI.; and since the days of Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, the atmosphere of Rome had not been too favourable to matronly virtue. No doubt much freedom of opinion was permitted among the scholars of the day. The philosophy as well as the art of Greece had revived in all its captivating influence; but its attempts to harmonize with Christianity did not meet with equal success.
• Ranke does not seem to be acquainted with the poem of Ludovisi, the Triomphi di Carlo Magno--to which, on the authority of Daru, he ascribes a passage of pure materialism. The passage is genuine; and indeed the general tone of Ludovisi's poem is strange enough ; but if Ranke had read it to the end (a severe trial, we must admit, even to German perseverance), he would have found a most orthodox conclusion-a fervent address to the Virgin! This is another remarkable illustration of the conflict between the spirit of antiquity with the Christianity of the day.
The priesthood itself had imbibed irreligious or sceptical opinions.
How astonished was the youthful Luther when he visited Italy! At the moment, at the instant that the offering of the mass was finished, the priests uttered words of blasphemy, which denied its value. It was the tone of good society to question the evidences of Christianity. No one passed (says P. Ant. Bandino) for an accomplished man who did not entertain erroneous opinions about Christianity. At the court, the ordinances of the Catholic Church and passages of Holy Writ were spoken of only in a jesting manner—the mysteries of the faith were despised.
To the coarse and barbarous minds of the less civilized nations of Europe, the elegancies and refinements of the Roman court would be no less offensive and ireligious than their laxity of morals and belief. Luxury is the indefinite and comprehensive term of reproach with which the vulgar, in all ages and all classes, brand whatever is beyond their own tastes and habits. What is luxury to some is but refinement and civilization to others. In nothing are men more intolerant than as to the amusements and less serious pursuits of others. The higher orders mingle up with their disgust at the boorish and noisy pastimes of the lower a kind of latent feeling of their immorality; the lower revenge themselves by considering as things absolutely sinful the more splendid entertainments and elegant festivities of their superiors in wealth and refinement. All think they have a right to demand from the clergy an exact conformity to their own prejudices with regard to their less severe and even their intellectual occupations; and the priesthood, which is, as a body, far in advance of the national standard in refinement and in elegance of manners and in taste, has already lost its hold on the general feeling. Hence Leo X. and his court, even if its morals had been less questionable—its philosophy more in unison with the doctrines of Christianity--and if sacred subjects had been constantly treated with the most reverential decency—would have stood in such direct opposition to the tastes, habits, and manners of the rest of Europe, as scarcely to have escaped the suspicion of an
irreligious and anti-Christian tendency. As it was, the intelligence of the mode of life practised at Rome by the Cardinals, and by the Pope himself, darkening of course as it spread, reached every part of the Christian world; and thus, even if the lavish expenditure of Leo, in his gorgeous court and in his splendid designs for the embellishment of Rome, had not increased the burthen of ecclesiastical taxation throughout Christendom beyond endurance, his pontificate must greatly have loosened the hold of Popery on the general veneration.
The effects of all this on the Reformation are well known; but the strong reaction which, with the other circumstances of the period, it produced in Italy and Rome itself, and the permanent influence of that strong reaction on the Papacy, have been traced with much less attention. Dr. Macrie, in his • History of the Reformation in Italy,' entered at some length, and with praiseworthy diligence, into part of the subject; but the controversial design of his volume, however able, was not consistent with a calm and comprehensive view of the whole bearings of this silent revolution in the character and policy of the Roman government. Christianity was too deeply rooted in the minds of men not to resist, and rally its dormant energies against the Epicurean or sceptical spirit of the age. Even during the reign of Leo an association was formed, comprehending some of the most distinguished and learned men of the times, for the purpose of re-awakening in their own minds and in those of others the fervour of Christian piety.
In the Transtevere, in the church of S. Silvestro and Dorotea, not far from the place where the Apostle Peter, according to the general belief, had his residence, and presided over the first assemblies of the Christians, they met for the purpose of divine worship, preaching, and spiritual exercises. Their numbers were from fifty to sixty. Among them were Contarini, Sadolet, Giberto, Caraffa, afterwards, or at the same time, Cardinals; Gaetano da Thiene, who was canonized; Lippomano, a religious writer of great reputation and influence, and some other men of note. Julian Bathi, the pastor of the church, was their bond of union. Some of these remarkable men met, some years later, in the Venetian territory, at that critical period the only secure re