Mrs. (Margaret Oliphant Wilson) Oliphant.

The makers of Venice; doges, conquerors, painters, and men of letters online

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except what it pleased him to learn. And it was easy for
them to fill the mind of Philip with suspicions, for he
himself began to wish that Francesco Carmagnola should
not appear so great a man." Carmagnola received no
answer to his remonstrance, and by and by discovered,
what is galling in all circumstances, and in his especially
so, that the matter had been decided by the gossips of
the court, and that it was a conspiracy of his enemies
which was settling his fate. Fierce and full of irritation,
a man who could never at any time restrain his masterful
temper, and still, no doubt, with much in him of the arro-
gant rustic whom Facino could not make a captain of, lest
he should at once clutch at the baton, Carmagnola deter-
mined to face his enemies and plead his own cause before
his prince. The duke was at Abbiate-grasso, on the
borders of Piedmont, a frontier fortress, within easy reach
of Genoa, where Carmagnola was Governor; and thither
he rode with few attendants, no doubt breathing fire and
flame, and, in his consciousness of all he had done for
Philip, very confident of turning the tables upon his mis-
erable assailants, and making an end of them and their
wiles. His letters had not been answered no notice
whatever had been taken of his appeal; but still it seemed
impossible to doubt that Philip, with his trusty champion
before him, would remember all that had passed between
them, and all that Francesco had done, and do him jus-
tice. His swift setting out to put all right, with an angry
contempt of his assailants, but absolute confidence in the
renewal of his old influence as soon as Philip should see
him, might be paralleled in many a quarrel. For nothing
is so difficult as to teach a generous and impulsive man
that the friend for whom he has done too much may sud-
denly become incapable of bearing the burden of obliga-
tion and gratitude.

Arrived at Abbiate, he was about to ride over the
bridge into the castle, when he was stopped by the guards,
whose orders were to hinder his entrance. This to the
commander-in-chief was an extraordinary insult; but at


first astonishment was the only feeling Carmagnola
evidenced. He sent word to Philip that he was there
desiring an audience, and waited with his handful of men,
the horses pawing the ground, their riders chafing at the
compulsory pause, which no one understood. But instead
of being then admitted with apologies and excuses, as
perhaps Carmagnola still hoped, the answer sent him
was that Philip was busy, but that he might communicate
what he had to say to Riccio. Curbing his rage, the
proud soldier sent another message to the effect that he
had certain private matters for the duke's ear alone.
To this no reply was given. The situation is wonderfully
striking, and full of dramatic force. Carmagnola and
his handful of men on one side of the bridge; the castle
rising on the other with all its towers and bastions dark
against the sky; the half-frightened yet half-insolent
guards trembling at their own temerity, yet glad enough
to have a hand in the discomfiture of the rustic com-
mander, the arrogant and high-handed captain, who of
his origin was no better than they. The parley seems to
have gone on for some time, during which Carmagnola
was held at bay by the attendants, who would make him
no answer other than a continual reference to Riccio, his
well-known enemy. Then as he scanned the dark, unre-
sponsive towers with angry eyes, he saw, or thought he
saw, the face of Philip himself at a loophole. This lit
the smoldering fire of passion. He raised his voice no
small voice it may. well be believed and shouted forth
his message to his ungrateful master. " Since I cannot
speak before my lord the duke," he cried, "I call God
to witness my innocence and faithfulness to him. I have
not been guilty even of imagining evil against him. I
have never taken thought for myself, for my blood or my
life, in comparison with the name and power of Philip."
Then, "carried on in the insolence of his words," says
the chronicle, " he accused the perfidious traitors, and
called God to witness that in a short time he would
make them feel the want of one whom the duke refused
to hear."

So speaking, Carmagnola turned his horse and took
his way toward the river. When the conspirators in the
castle saw the direction he was taking, a thrill of alarm
seems to have moved them, and one of them, Oldrado,


dashed forth from the gate with a band of followers to
prevent Carmagnola from crossing the Ticino, which was
then the boundary of Savoy. But when he saw the great
captain "riding furiously across the fields" toward
Ticino, the heart of the pursuer failed him. Carmagnola
would seem never to have paused to think, which was
not the fashion of his time, but, carried along in head-
long impulse, wild with the thought of his dozen years of
service, all forgotten in a moment, did not draw bridle
till he reached the castle of the Duke of Savoy, his native
prince, to whom he immediately offered himself and his
services, telling the story of his wrong. Notwithstand-
ing his fury, he seems to have exonerated Philip a
doubtful compliment, since he held him up to the con-
tempt of his brother potentate as influenced by the rabble
of his court, "the singers, actors, and inventors of all
crimes, who make use of the labors of others in order to
live in sloth. " Mere vituperation of Philip's advisers, how-
ever, was not to the purpose, and Carmagnola artfully
suggested to Duke Amadeo certain towns more justly
his than Philip's: Asti, Alessandria, and others, which it
would be easy to withdraw from the yoke of Milan. It
must have been difficult for a fifteenth-century prince to
resist such an argument, but Amadeo, though strongly
tempted, was not powerful enough to declare war by
himself against the great Duke of Milan; and the fiery
visitor, leaving excitement and commotion behind him,
continued his journey, making his way across a spur of
the Pennine Alps, by Trient and Treviso (but as secretly
as possible, lest the Swiss, whom he had beaten, should
hear of his passage and rise against him), till he reached
Venice, to stir up a still more effectual ferment there.

We are now brought back to our city, where for some
time past the proceedings of Philip, and the progress he
was making, especially the downfall of Genoa, had filled
the Signoria with alarm. The Venetians must have
looked on with very mingled feelings at the overthrow of
the other republic, their own great and unfailing enemy,
with whom, over and over again, they had struggled
almost to the death, yet who could not be seen to fall
under the power of a conqueror with any kind of satis-
faction. The Florentines, too, had begun to stir in con-
sternation and amaze, and communications had passed


between the two great cities even in the time of the
Doge Mocenigo, the predecessor of Foscari, who was the
occupant of the ducal throne at the time of Carmagnola's
sudden appearance on the scene. Old Mocenigo had not
favored the alliance with the Florentines. There is a
long speech of his recorded by Sanudo which reminds us
of the pleadings in Racine's comedy, where the sham
advocates go back to the foundation of the world for
their arguments and which affords us a singular glimpse
of the garrulous and vehement old man, who hated his
probable successor, and the half of whose rambling dis-
course is addressed, it would seem, personally to Foscari,
then junior procurator, who had evidently taken up the
cause of the neighboring republics.

" Our junior procurator (i>rocuratore giovane), Ser Francesco Foscari,
Savio del Consiglio, has declared to the public (sopra Varringo) all that
the Florentines have said to the council and all that we have said to
your Excellencies in reply. He says that it is well to succor the
Florentines, because their good is our good, and, in consequence, their
evil is our evil. In due time and place we reply to this. Procuratore
giovane : God created and made the angelical nature, which is the most
noble of all created things, and gave it certain limits by which it should
follow the way of good and not of evil. The angels chose the bad
way that leads to evil. God punished them and banished them from
Paradise to the Inferno, and from being good they became bad. This
same thing we say to the Florentines who come here seeking the evil
way. Thus will it happen to us if we consent to that which our junior
procurator has said. But take comfort to yourselves that you live in
peace. If ever the Duke [of Milan] makes unjust war against you, God
is with you, Who sees all. He will so arrange it that you shall have
the victory. Let us live in peace, for God is peace ; and he who desires
war, let him go to perdition. Procuratore giovane : God created Adam
wise, good, and perfect, and gave him the earthly Paradise, where was
peace, with two commandments, saying, ' Enjoy peace with all that is
in Paradise, but eat not the fruit of a certain tree.' And he was dis-
obedient and sinned in pride, not being willing to acknowledge that
he was merely a creature. And God deprived him of Paradise, where
peace dwells, and drove him out and put him in war, which is this
world, and cursed him and all human generations. And one brother
killed the other, going from bad to worse. Thus it will happen to the
Florentines for their fighting which they have among themselves. And
if we follow the counsel of our junior procurator thus will it happen also
to us. Procuratore giovane : After the sin of Cain, who knew not his
Creator nor did His will, God punished the world by the flood, except,
ing Noah, whom He preserved. Thus will it happen to the Florentines
in their determination to have their own way, that God will destroy their
country and their possessions, and they will come to dwell here, in the
same way as families with their women and children came to dwell in


the city of Noah, who obeyed God and trusted in Him. Otherwise, if
we follow the counsel of our junior procurator, our people will have to
go away and dwell in strange lands. Procuratore giovane : Noah was a
holy man elect of God, and Cain departed from God ; the which slew
Japhet (Abel ?) and God punished him ; of whom were born the giants,
who were tyrants and did whatever seemed good in their own eyes, not
fearing God. God made of one language sixty-six, and at the end they
destroyed each other, so that there remained no one of the seed of the
giants. Thus will it happen to the Florentines for seeking their own
will and not fearing God. Of their language sixty-six languages will be
made. For they go out day by day into ranee, Germany, Languedoc,
Catalonia, Hungary, and throughout Italy ; and they will thus be dis-
persed, so that no man will be able to say that he is of Florence. Thus
will it be if we follow the advice of our junior procurator. Therefore,
fear God and hope in Him."

We can almost see the old man, with fiery eyes and
moist mouth, stammering forth these angry maunderings,
leaning across the council table, with his fierce personal
designation of the procuratore giovane, the proud young
man in his strength, whom not all the vituperations of
old Mocenigo, or his warnings to the council, could keep
out of the ducal chair so soon as death made it vacant.
And there is somewhat very curious in this confused
jumble of arguments, so inconsequent, so earnest the
old man's love of peace and a quiet life mingled with the
cunning of the aged mediaeval statesman who could not
disabuse his mind of the idea that the destruction of
Florence would swell the wealth of Venice. In the latter
part of the long, rambling discourse, mixed up with all
manner of Scripture parallels not much more to the
purpose than those above quoted, the speaker returns
to and insists upon the advantage to be gained by Venice
from the influx of refugees from all the neighboring cities.
" If the duke takes Florence," cries the old man, "the
Florentines, who are accustomed to live in equality, will
leave Florence and come to Venice, and bring with them
the silk trade, and the manufacture of wool, so that
their country will be without trade, and Venice will grow
rich, as happened in the case of Lucca when it fell into
the hands of a tyrant. The trade of Lucca and its
wealth came to Venice, and Lucca became poor. Where-
fore, remain in peace."

Romanin, always watchful for the credit of Venice,
attempts to throw some doubt upon this wonderful
speech, which, however, is given on the same authority


as that which gives us old Mocenigo's report of the
accounts of the republic and his words of warning
against Foscari, which are admitted to be authentic.
It gives us a remarkable view of the mixture of wisdom
and folly, astute calculation of the most fiercely selfish
kind, and irrelevant argument, which is characteristic of
the age.

It was in the year 1421 that Mocenigo thus discoursed.
He died two years later at the age of eighty, and the
procuratore giovane, whom he had addressed so fiercely,
succeeded as the old man foresaw. He was that Fran-
cesco Foscari whose cruel end we have already seen, but
at this time in all the force and magnificence of his man-
hood, and with a great career before him or, at least,
with a great episode of Venetian history, a period full of
agitation, victory, and splendor before the city under his
rule. When Carmagnola, in hot revolt, and breathing
nothing but projects of vengeance, arrived within the
precincts of the republic, a great change had taken place
in the views of the Venetians. The Florentine envoys
had been received with sympathy and interest, and as
Philip's troops approached nearer and nearer, threaten-
ing their very city, the Venetian government, though
not yet moved to active interference, had felt it neces-
sary to make a protest and appeal to Philip, to whom
they were still bound by old alliances made in Mocenigo's
time, in favor of the sister republic. Rivalships there
might be in time of peace; but the rulers of Venice could
not but regard " with much gravity and lament deeply
the adversity of a free people, determining that whoso-
ever would retain the friendship of Venice should be
at peace with Florence." The envoy or orator, Paolo
Cornaro, who was sent with this protest, presented it in
a speech reported by the chronicler Sabellico, in which,
with much dignity, he enjoins and urges upon Philip the
determination of the republic. Venetians and Floren-
tines both make short work with the independence of
others; but yet there is something noble in the air with
which they vindicate their own.

Nothing [says Cornaro] is more dear to the Venetians than freedom,
to the preservation of which they are called by justice, mercy, religion,
and every other law, both public and private ; counting nothing more
praiseworthy than what is done to this end. And neither treaties nor


laws, nor any other reason, divine or human, can make them depart
from this, that before everything freedom must be secured. And in so
far as regards the present case, the Venetians hold themselves as much
bound to bestir themselves when Florence is in danger as if the army of
Philip was on the frontier of their own dominion ; for it becomes those
who have freedom themselves to be careful of that of others ; and as the
republican forms of government possessed by Florence resemble greatly
their own, their case is like that of those who suffer no less in the suffer-
ings of their brethren and relations than if the misfortune was theirs.
Nor is there any doubt that he who in Tuscany contends against freedom
in every other place will do the same, as is the custom of tyrants who
have ever the name of freedom in abhorrence.

The speaker ends by declaring that if Philip carries on
his assaults against the Florentines, Venice for her own
safety, as well as for that of her sister city, will declare
war against him as a tyrant and an enemy. " This ora-
tion much disturbed the soul of Philip." But he was full
of the intoxication of success, and surrounded by a light-
hearted court, to whom victory had become a com-
mon-place. The giovanotti dishonestissimi, foolish young
courtiers who, from the time of King Rehoboam, have led
young princes astray, whose jeers and wiles had driven
Carmagnolo to despair, were not to be daunted by the
grave looks of the noble Venetian, whom, no doubt, they
felt themselves capable of laughing and flattering out of
his seriousness.

The next scene of the drama takes place in Venice, to
which Philip sent an embassy to answer the mission of
Cornaro, led by the same Oldrado who had made that
ineffectual rush after Carmagnola from the castle gates,
and who was one of his chief enemies. An embassy
from Florence arrived at the same time, and the pres-
ence of these two opposing bands filled with interest and
excitement the City of the Sea, where a new thing was
received with as much delight as in Athens of old, and
where the warlike spirit was always so ready to light up.
The keen eyes of the townsfolk seized at once upon the
difference so visible in the two parties. The Milanese,
ruffling in their fine clothes, went about the city gayly,
as if they had come for no other purpose than to see the
sights, which, says Bigli, who was himself of Milan, and
probably thought a great deal too much fuss was made
about this wonderful sea-city, seemed ridiculous to the
Venetians, so that they almost believed the duke was


making a jest of them. The Florentines, on the con-
trary, grave as was their fashion, and doubly serious in
the dangerous position of their affairs, went about the
streets "as if in mourning," eagerly addressing every-
body who might be of service to them. Sabellico gives a
similar account of the two parties:

There might then be seen in the city divers ambassadors of divers
demeanor [he says]. Lorenzo (the Florentine), as was befitting,
showed the sadness and humble condition of his country, seeking to
speak with the senators even in the streets, following them to their
houses, and neglecting nothing which might be to the profit of the
embassy. On the other hand, those of Philip, not to speak of their
pomp, and decorations of many kinds, full of hope and confidence,
went gazing about the city so marvelously built, such as they had never
seen before, full of wonder how all these things of the earth could be
placed upon the sea. And they replied cheerfully to all who saluted
them ; showing in their faces, in their eyes, by all they said, and, in
short, by every outward sign of satisfaction, the prosperity of their duke
and country.

The dark figure of the Florentine, awaiting anxiously
the red-robed senator as he made his way across the
Piazza, or hurrying after him through the narrow
thoroughfares, while this gay band, in all their finery,
swept by, must have made an impressive comment upon
the crisis in which so much was involved. While the
Milanese swam in a gondola, or gazed at the marbles on
the walls, or here and there an early mosaic, all blazing,
like themselves, in crimson and gold, the ambassador,
upon whose pleading hung the dear life of Florence,
haunted the bridges and the street-corners, letting
nobody pass that could help him. " How goes the cause
to-day, illustrious signor? " one can hear him saying.
" What hope for my country, lapatria mta? Will the noble
Signoria hear me speak? Will it be given me to plead
my cause before their Magnificences?" Or in a bolder
tone, "Our cause is yours, most noble sir, though it may
not seem so now. If Philip sets his foot on the neck of
Florence, which never shall be while I live, how long will
it be, think you, before his trumpets sound at Mestre
over the marshes; before he has stirred your Istrians to
revolt? " The senators passing to and fro, perhaps in
the early morning after a long night in the council
chamber, as happened sometimes, had their steps way-
laid by this earnest advocate. The Venetians were more


given to gayety than their brothers from the Arno,
but they were men who before everything else cared for
their constitution, so artfully and skillfully formed for
their freedom, such as it was, and the proud independ-
ence which no alien force had ever touched; and the
stranger with his rugged Tuscan features and dark dress,
and keen inharmonious accent, among all their soft
Venetian talk, no doubt impressed the imagination of a
susceptible race. Whereas the Milanese gallants, in
their gayety affecting to see no serious object in their
mission, commended themselves only to the light-minded,
not to the fathers of the city. And when Carmagnola,
the great soldier, known of all men, he who had set
Philip back upon his throne as everybody knew, and won
so many battles and cities, with all the romantic interest
of a hero and an injured man, came across the lagoon
and landed at the Piazzetta between the fatal pillars, how
he and his scarred and bearded men-at-arms must have
looked at the gay courtiers with their jests and laughter,
who, on their side, could scarcely fail to shrink a little
when the man whose ruin they had plotted went past
them to say his say before the Signoria, in a sense
fatally different from theirs, as they must have known.

The speeches of these contending advocates are all
given at length in the minute and graphic chronicle.
The first to appear before the doge and Senate was
Lorenzo Ridolfi, the Florentine, who conjoins his earnest
pleading for aid to his own state with passionate admoni-
tions and warnings, that if Venice gives no help to avert
the consequence, her fate will soon be the same.
" Serene Prince and illustrious senators," he cries, "even
if I were silent you would understand what I came here
to seek.

' ' And those also would understand who have seen us leave Tuscany
and come here in haste, ambassadors from a free city, to ask your favor,
and help for the protection of our liberties, from a free people like your-
selves. The object of all my speaking is this, to induce you to grant
safety to my country, which has brought forth and bred me, and given
me honor and credit which if I can attain, and that you should join the
confederation and friendship of the Florentines, and join your army with
our Tuscans against the crudest tyrant, enemy of our liberties, and
hating yours, happy shall be my errand, and my country will embrace
me with joy on my return. And our citizens, who live in this sole hope,
will hold themselves and their city by your bounty alone to be saved


from every peril. . . I tremble, noble Prince, in this place to say that
which I feel in my soul ; but, because it is necessary, I will say it. If
you will not make this alliance with us, Philip will find himself able
without help, having overthrown Florence, to secure also the dominion of
Venice. If it should be answered me that the Venetians always keep
their promises and engagements, I pray and implore the most high God
that, having given you goodness and faith to keep your promises, He
would give you to know the arts and motives of this tyrant, and after
discovering them, with mature prudence to restrain and overrule
them. . . That tyrant himself, who has so often broken all laws, both
divine and human, will himself teach you not to keep that which he, in
his perfidy, has not kept. But already your tacit consent gives me to
understand that I have succeeded in convincing you that in this oration
I seek not so much the salvation of my republic as the happiness, dignity,
and increase of your own."

This speech moved the senators greatly, but did not
settle the question, their minds being divided between
alarm, sympathy, and prudence, fear of Philip on the
one hand and of expense on the other, so that they
resolved to hear Philip's ambassadors first before coming
to any decision. Time was given to the orator of the
Milan party to prepare his reply to Ridolfi, which he
made in a speech full of bravado, declaring that he and
his fellows were sent, not to make any league or peace
with Venice, since their former treaties were still in full
force, and any renewal was unnecessary between such
faithful allies but simply to salute the illustrious Signo-
ria in Philip's name.

" But since these people, who have by nature the gift of speech, deli-
cate and false, have not only to the Senate, but in the Piazza and by the

Online LibraryMrs. (Margaret Oliphant Wilson) OliphantThe makers of Venice; doges, conquerors, painters, and men of letters → online text (page 19 of 35)