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to the person of Cosmo, preventing the assembly from
coining to any immediate determination of his destiny, ho

* Piffnotli Istor. rii Toscana, lib. iv. cap. f), as referred to by Tonelli.

CHAP. VI. j> 223

was for the present committed to the custody of Federigo
Malavolti. Finding himself thus in the power of his
enemies, and understanding that they had not been able to
prevail on the deputies to decree his death, he was appre-
hensive that they would attempt to take him off by poison.
Powerfully impressed by this idea, for the space of four
days he declined taking any food, except a small portion of
bread. The pride of Federigo was offended by this suspi-
cion of his prisoner, whom he is said to have addressed in
the following terms : " Through fear of dying by poison,
" Cosmo, you are destroying yourself by famine. And
" have you so little reliance on my honour as to think that 1
" would be accessary to such villainy ? So numerous are
" your friends, that I do not think your life is in any dan-
" ger ; but should your destruction be determined upon,
" rest assured, that your adversaries will find other means
" than my assistance to effect their purpose. I would not
" imbrue my hands in any one's blood, much less in yours,
" who have never offended me. Be of good courage
" take your food, and live for your friends and your
" country ; and that you may take your repast in full con-
" fidence, I will partake of whatsoever you eat.' 1 Overcome
by this manly address, Cosmo, with tears in his eyes,
embraced his keeper, and vowed, that if fortune should
ever put it in his power, he would testify his grateful sense
of his kindness.

When the adherents of Cosmo were informed of his
imprisonment, they took up arms with a determination to
effect his deliverance : but by the direction of his particular

224 H CHAP. VI.

friends, who were justly apprehensive that Rinaldo would
be provoked by any hostile attempt on their part to signalize
his vengeance by the murder of his prisoner, they retired
without accomplishing any thing in his favour. When
the news of the arrest of Cosmo reached Venice, the seig-
niory of that republic took such a lively interest in his fate,
that they sent to Florence three ambassadors, who were
instructed to exert all their influence in his favour. At last
these plenipotentiaries could obtain from the Florentine
magistracy nothing more than an assurance that the person of
Cosmo should be safe. When he was at length sentenced
to be banished to Padua for ten years, they requested from
the magistrates that during the term of his exile he might
be permitted to reside in their city. The petition of the
Venetians was granted ; but the triumphant nobles still
detained Cosmo in custody as an hostage, to secure the
acquiescence of his partizans in the new measures which
they intended to adopt for the regulation of the state.
They were also prompted to protract his imprisonment by
the malicious hope, that the hazardous nature of his situa-
tion would injure his commercial credit. When Cosmo
found himself thus unexpectedly detained, with the con-
nivance of his keeper he sent a message to his friends,
directing them to purchase the favour of Guadagni by the
timely application of a sum of money. Influenced by this
powerful motive, the mercenary chief magistrate, on the
night of the third of October, liberated his prisoner from
custody, and conducting him through one of the city gates,
suffered him without further molestation to proceed on his
route to Padua, from whence he proceeded to Venice. On his

(HAP. VI. 223

arrival at the latter city, the illustrious exile was met by the
principal citizens, who received him with every mark of
honour and respect; and he had not long resided there,
before the administrators of the Tuscan government were
persuaded, by the reiterated instances of the seigniory,
to enlarge the sphere of his liberty to the full extent of
the territories of the Venetian republic.*

In the days of his prosperity, Cosmo had been distin-
guished as the munificent patron of learned men. To them
his doors were constantly open ; and his purse was always
ready to assist their efforts to promote the diffusion of
literature. Poggio had long enjoyed the happiness of
being honoured by his particular favour. The pleasing
interchange of beneficence and gratitude, which had at an
early period taken place between the learned secretary and
the princely merchant of Florence, had been matured
into the intimacy of the most cordial friendship. Poggio
was not one of those sycophants who reserve their homage
for the prosperous ; and who, with the base foresight which
is too frequently dignified with the name of prudence,
studiously disengage themselves from the fortunes of a
falling family. When he received information that his
benefactor had been obliged to yield to the fury of his
enemies, he experienced all the emotions of affectionate
sympathy ; and hastened to testify his undiminished regard
for his persecuted friend in the following consolatory epistle.

* Machiavclli Istorie Florentine, p. 209, 210, 211. Ricordi di Cosmo
</' Medici, in the appendix to the 1st vol. of Roscae's Life of Lorenzo de'
Mgdici, No. ii.

2 G


" Though the serious misfortune in which you are
" involved is too great to be alleviated by consolation,
" especially by such consolation as can be administered
" by one of my moderate abilities yet, following the
" dictates of my affection for you, I had rather run the
" hazard of exposing the feebleness of my genius, than
" fail in the duty of friendship. It is said that trifling
" circumstances sometimes produce considerable effects in
" affairs of the greatest moment ; and I may be permitted
ft to indulge the hope, that this epistle may tend, in some
" small degree, to lighten the weight of your affliction.
" You have experienced the capriciousness of fortune, (for
" this goddess we may blame with impunity) and you
" are fallen from a station of considerable eminence.
" Now, though I have always observed that you are
" endowed with a strength of mind which enables you to
" regard with indifference afflictions which would over-
" whelm the generality of men, yet when I consider the
" magnitude of your misfortunes, I cannot but be appre-
" hensive of the effect which they may have upon your
" feelings. If in your present circumstances you rise
*' in the confidence of courage, superior to the assaults of
" fortune ; if you have placed your independence upon the
" security of a pure conscience, rather than upon external
" good ; and if you value the blessings of the present
" life at no higher a rate than is consistent with the die
" tates of true wisdom I congratulate you on the ac-
" quisition of that happy constitution of mind which
" renders consolation unnecessary. If, on the other hand,
" in consequence of the natural frailty incident to huma-

CHAP. VI. 227

" nity, this sudden change in your circumstances has
" disturbed the tranquillity of your temper, (and before
" this trial the constancy of the most illustrious men has
" been found to give way) you must have recourse to
" the principles of reason, which will suggest to you, that
" you have lost nothing which can be truly called your
" own. Dignities, authority, and honours, riches, power,
" and health, are liable to be impaired by the shocks of
" fortune, and the machinations of our enemies. But
" prudence, magnanimity, probity, fortitude, and fide-
" lity, are qualities which we obtain by our own exer-
" tions, and which we may retain in defiance of exter-
" nal injury and distress. These virtues you have culti-
" vated as your firmest defence in the hour of danger ;
" and whilst you are possessed of this rich endowment,
" you should rejoice in the enjoyment of such exquisite
" blessings, rather than grieve on account of the wrongs
" which you suffer from your foes. I am well assured,
" that you are not of the number of those who fix their
" hopes of happiness on the kindness of fortune. For,
" notwithstanding the ample possessions, and the exalted
" honours which you have formerly attained, (posses-
" sions and honours superior to any which have fallen to
" the lot of any other citizen of our state) you have
" always made it your study to acquire those good quali-
" ties of the heart, which render a man independent of
" externals. In public affairs, uniting prudence in deli-
" beration, with ability in execution, you have always
" acted with such good faith and integrity, that you
" reserved for yourself nothing, save honour and glory.

228 CHAP. VI.

" Would all men follow so worthy an example, our
" republic would enjoy much greater tranquillity than falls
'* to her lot at present. You have given the most ample
" proof of your dutifulness to your native country, of
" liberality to your friends, and benevolence to all men.
" You have been the support of the needy, the refuge of
" the oppressed, the patron and friend of the learned.
" You have used the gifts of fortune with such moderation,
" modesty, and kindness, that they appeared to be nothing
" more than the due reward paid to your virtue and merits.
" I forbear to dwell upon the literary pursuits in which
" you have been engaged from the days of your youth,
" and in which you have made such progress, that you are
" justly deemed an ornament and an honour to learning.
" When the important affairs of a public nature, by which
" your time has of late years been occupied, prevented
" you from dedicating to study as much time as you
" wished to have appropriated to that pursuit, you sought
" instruction and gratification in the conversation of
" learned men, whom you invited to partake of the hos-
" pitality of your house. From these eminent scholars
" you imbibed the precepts of wisdom, which you resolved
" to adopt as the rule of your conduct in all circumstances
" and situations.

" The consciousness of innocence, and the remein-
" brance of virtuous deeds, is the greatest source of con-
" solation in adversity. He who can appeal to his owp
" heart in proof of the uprightness of his intentions
" he who can truly say that he has acted honourably both

f 6 *-


" in his public and private capacity, that he has always
" studied the promotion of the general good, that he has
" assisted his friends with wholesome advice, and the poor
" with money ; that he has hurt no one, not even those
" who had injured him this man must be well prepared
" to endure the shock of adversity. A course of conduct,
" regulated by these principles, confers true and solid
" dignity. On this foundation you have established your
'* character as a worthy man and an excellent citizen.
" Acting on these principles, you have risen to immortal
" glory. Wherever you go, that best of blessings, the
" testimony of a good conscience, will attend you ; and
" the memory of your virtues will survive when you are
" laid in the grave.

" Now, since the retrospect of your past conduct
" affords you such a pure delight, you ought to feel your-
" self elated by conscious dignity : for on what can we
" justly pride ourselves, except on the reputation which
" we have acquired by our virtues ? Since, then, you
" have so strong a fortress, in which you can take refuge
" in time of trouble, turn your attention to those things
" which accompany you in your exile, namely, your libera-
" lity, your prudence, your gravity, your upright inten-
" tions, your discernment, your attachment to your native
" country, for which you have always testified the utmost
" affection ; and especially in the late civil broils to which
' you have fallen a victim- I need not remind you of ,
" your literary pursuits, which so signally contribute to the
" alleviation of sorrow, and to the strengthening of the

230 CHAP. VI.

" mind by the examples and precepts of the most worthy
" men. For you know that philosophers of old have
" maintained, that the mind of the wise man is beyond
" the reach of the impulses of fortune, and that it mocks
" the efforts of external violence that virtue is the chief
" good and that all other possessions are blessings, or
" the contrary, according to the disposition of the posses-
" sor. But I do not require that you should be of the
" number of those faultless friends of wisdom, who have,
" perhaps, never existed, excepting in idea. I only hope
" that you will be found worthy to class with those, who,
" according to common acceptation, and the general course
" of human conduct, are reputed wise.

" And, in the first place, consider how far fortune has
" exercised her tyranny in your case. For, if you could
" divest yourself of the first impressions of grief, and coolly
" consider what she has taken away, and what she has left,
" you will find that you have sustained little injury nay,
" that you have derived benefit from her caprice. She has
" banished you from your native country, which you have
" often voluntarily quitted but she has restored to you
' your liberty, which you did not enjoy when you seemed
" to be the freest man in the state. She has deprived you
" of a certain specious appearance of dignity, and of the
" respect of the vulgar, who are always mistaken in their

* " estimate of true felicity but she has left you your

" children, your wife, your riches, your good health, and
I " your excellent brother : and, surely, the pleasures which

*' these blessings bestow upon you ought far to outweigh the

CHAP. VI. 231

" mortification which you experience in consequence of
" your losses. She has taken away from you a kind of
" civic pomp, and a popularity full of trouble, labour,
" envy, anxiety, and continual cares. These honours
*' many men eminent for their prudence have despised.
" Their loss may be a matter of sorrow to those who have
" endeavoured to convert them into a source of gain ; but
" you, whom they involved in so much labour and diffi-
" culty, ought not to be concerned at being deprived of
" them, especially as they never were the objects of your
*' desire or ambition. For you did not enter upon public
"offices with a view of promoting your own interest,
" or of increasing your importance, but with an ardent
" desire of doing good to the public. Fortune has re- i
" stored you to real liberty. You were formerly, in fact,
" a mere slave. You could not follow your own incli-
" nations, either in sleeping or waking, in eating or in
" taking exercise- Frequently were you prevented, by
" the imperious claims of public business, from assisting,
" your friends, and indulging in the delights of retire-
" ment. Your time was at the disposal of others, and
" you were obliged to attend to every person's sentiments.
" Many favours you were compelled to grant, in direct
" opposition to your own wishes, nay, even in opposition
" to the dictates of equity ; and you were frequently re-
" duced to the disagreeable necessity of practising the
" art of dissimulation. This change of fortune has,
" however, set you at liberty, for it has certainly restored
" to you the freedom of your will. It has also en-
" abled you to put to the test the constancy of those

232 CHAP. VI.

" who professed themselves your friends ; and it has,
" moreover, called into exercise the steady fortitude of your

. " soul. All your acquaintance had seen with how great
" politeness, gentleness, clemency, equity, and moderation,
" you conducted yourself in the season of prosperity a
" season in which men who have attained to some eminence
" in wisdom have frequently been betrayed into evil. This
" new species of trial gives you an opportunity of showing
" the vigour with which you can struggle against the storms
" of adversity. Many can bear prosperity, who shrink
" before the impulse of misfortune. Others, who have shone
" conspicuously in the season of sorrow, have given way
" to the emotions of vanity and pride in the hour of their

i " exaltation. But you we have beheld neither inflated by
" arrogance in prosperity, nor sunk into dejection by adver-
" sity. In either fortune, you have exhibited an example
" of the most unruffled equanimity.

" Let the following consideration support you in the
fl midst of your trials that you are not the first, and that
" you will not be the last man whose services to his country
" have been repaid by unmerited exile- History abounds
" in instances of excellent men, who have been cruelly
" persecuted by their ungrateful fellow citizens. They who
" cannot bear the splendour of another's virtues are unwilling
I " to look upon it. Envy is commonly the companion of
" glory envy which always torments those who cannot
" attain to the eminence of honour ; and instigates them
" to persecute with slander and malevolence the illustrious
" characters whose virtues they are unable to imitate. Hence

(HAP. vr. ->33

" it happens, that very few men of superlative talents escape
'* the fury of civil tempests. The fear of giving offence
" deters me from dwelling upon the instances of this nature,
" which have occurred in modern times, and in our own
" republic. But whosoever examines the records of an-
" tiquity will find, that the odium excited by civil discord
" has occasioned the banishment of a considerable number
" of excellent citizens and that, not in our country alone,
" but in other states of the greatest eminence. To say
** nothing of the Greeks and Barbarians, the Roman re-
" public, even at the time when it is represented as having
" attained to the highest pitch of glory, was afflicted with
" this infirmity. A few examples will be sufficient to
" demonstrate the truth of my assertion. Which of his
" contemporaries was equal in valour, probity, and illus-
" trious deeds to Furius Camillus ? Yet, in consequence
" of the malevolence of the tribunes and the populace, he
" was compelled to retire into exile ; at a time too when
" his country stood very much in need of his assistance.
" You well remember the important services rendered to
t( the Roman commonwealth by Scipio Africanus ; you
" recollect the moderation, continence, and gravity, which
" shone so conspicuously in the life of the illustrious
" conqueror of Hannibal yet he too was driven from his
" native country by the rage of the tribunes. The upright-
" ness and sanctity of P. Rutilius were the very causes of
" his banishment. When this man had an opportunity of
" returning to his country in consequence of Sylla's victory,
" he had the honest pride to refuse to fix his residence in a
" state in which arms were superior to the laws. The

2 H

234 CHAP. VI.

" villany of Clodius expelled M. T. Cicero, the saviour of
" his country, who is said to have been accustomed to
" boast, that he was carried back to Rome on the shoulders
" of all Italy. History has recorded the names of several
" other renowned men who have shared the same fate : but
" I have only mentioned these four, the consideration of
" whose destiny may prevent you from being surprised at
" your own misfortunes. I shall not pretend to maintain
" that you are equal to these exalted characters in fame and
" splendour but this I will say, that, like them, you have
" experienced an ungrateful return for your good services
" to your fellow citizens ; and that in one respect your
" glory is not at all inferior to theirs. For, in my opinion,
" you deserve to be held in everlasting remembrance for the
" deference which you paid to the decree of the magistrates,
" though you knew the doom which awaited you. For
" when, as it is commonly reported, you could have repelled
" the meditated injury by the assistance of your partizans,
" and the interference of the populace, you thought it
" better to submit to wrong, than to avert it by violence.*
" And as civil tumults never end in good, consulting for

* The following extract from Cosmo's Ricordi proves that he could not
with a safe conscience accept this part of Poggio's panegyric. " Niccolo da
" Tolentino sentito il caso a di 8. venne la mattina con tutta la sua compagnia
" alia Lastra, e con animo di fare novita nella Terra, perche io fussi lasciato ; e
" cosi subito che si senti il caso nell' Alpi di Romagna e di piu altri luoghi,
" venne a Lorenzo gran quantita di fanti. Fu confortato il Capitano, e cosi
" Lorenzo a non fare novita, che poteva esser cagione di farmi fare novita nella
" persona, e cosi feciono ; e benche chi consiglio questo fussino parenti, e amici,
" e a buon fine, non fu buono consiglio ; perche se si fussino fatti inanzi, ero
" libero, e chi era stato cagione di questo restava disfatto." Ricordi ut supra.

CHAP. VI. 235

" the quiet of your country, and the tranquillity of your
" fellow citizens, you prudently suffered this sudden storm
" to waste its fury on yourself and your connections, rather
" than endanger the republic by exciting the flame of war.
" By this conduct you have attained to the height I say
te not of modern, but of ancient glory. For what is more
" laudable than that disposition which prompts a man to
" expose himself to the fury of the billows for the sake of
" the general safety? Under the influence of that virtue
" which prefers public to private good, other states have
" flourished , and the Roman republic attained to universal
" dominion.

" Protected then as you are by the most illustrious
" virtues, you ought not to complain. You ought to be
" thankful to fortune, which has called these virtues into
" exercise, and has summoned you to a contest, in which
" you will gain the highest commendation on earth, and
" eternal glory in heaven. These two things are the
" objects of the most ardent wishes of good men ; for they
" are the meed of virtue. During the remainder of your
" life, then, enjoy the blessings which you still possess
" with a tranquil and peaceful mind ; and in whatever land
" your lot may be cast, think that your country, ther
^* theatre of your dignity the spot where you are called
" to exert your talents for the promotion of the public

* Poygii Opera, p. 312317-

236 CHAP. vi.

Such were the counsels by which Poggio endeavoured
to fortify the mind of his banished patron against the
shafts of adverse fortune. His letter breathes the spirit
of enlightened friendship, and his choice of topics of
consolation evinces an accurate knowledge of the human
heart. It may be reasonably conjectured, that Cosmo was
highly gratified by this proof of his sincere attachment,
and that he profited by his good advice. But the admin-
istration of wholesome counsel was not the only mode in
which Poggio, on this occasion, testified his zeal in the
cause of his persecuted benefagtor. In the intercourses of
friendship, his temperament disposed him strongly to
sympathize with the resentment of those whom he regarded
with sentiments of esteem and affection. Consequently
the injuries sustained by Cosmo inspired him with the
utmost degree o^ animosity against the family of the
Albizzi, and all their partizans and abettors. This animo-
sity against the enemies of his exiled friend, which he took
no pains to disguise, soon involved him in a most violent
quarrel with the celebrated Francesco Filelfo, who had
been induced by the turbulence of his temper, to inter-
meddle in the political disputes which had for a long space
of time disturbed the tranquillity of Florence, and to
discharge the venom of his spleen against the house of
Medici and all its adherents. r<

This extraordinary man was born at Tolentino, on
the twenty-fifth of July, 1398. Having given early indi-
cations of a love of literature, he was sent to prosecute
his studies in the university of Padua. In this seminary

CHAP. VI. 237

he made such an uncommon proficiency, that when he
had attained the age of eighteen, he read lectures on
eloquence to numerous audiences. The reputation which
he had acquired by this early display of brilliant talents
procured him an invitation to instruct the noble, youth of
Venice in polite literature. This invitation he readily
accepted; and in the discharge of his public duties he
acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of his
employers, that he was presented with the freedom of the
state. In the course of a little time after his settlement
in Venice, the seigniory testified their sense of his merits
by appointing him to the office of secretary to the embassy
which they usually maintained at Constantinople. This
office he retained for the space of two years, at the end
of which period he entered into the service of the Greek

Online LibraryWilliam ShepherdThe life of Poggio Bracciolini → online text (page 16 of 31)