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plain, it must be confessed, for us to suppose them otherwise, than highly criminal.*
Whether these promises were the outbursts of feeling, in moments of tenderness or weakness, when the idol of the poet felt the passion she inspired, or whether they were given merely to get rid of his importunities, is a question which we leave to the judgment of the reader, to be decided, only, by the love, or indifference of Laura herself.p
. . But the very existence of these promises, must certainly lead us to suppose, that Laura's love for the poet, was stronger than she would wish the world to imagine. The cause of their non-fulfillment, after they had been given, can only be the subject of plausible conjecture. .
In the period of time comprised between the years 1327 and 1348, embracing the pontificate of Clement VI., the Court of Avignon was notedly immoral, and indeed the scandalous character of the Holy See at that time forms the constant theme of the writers of the day, when profligacy of manners so far from being discountenanced or restrained, had every encouragement in the lives of even the supreme pontiffs themselves.
, There was, then, no enforcement of laws for the repulsion of crime, but in place of this, as a very consequence, private vengeance was substituted; a species of wild justice even more terrible to the evil doer, as it was circumscribed by neither time or
* See sonnets XLII and cxxxiv., part 1., particular the first, in which these lines occur :
Qual ombra è si crudel che il seme adugge
Fra la spiga e la man qual mura e messo ? , † The first seems proved in numerous passages in Petrarch's poem, we will quote but one, in this, the poet makes Laura say:
Più di mille fiate ira dipinse
Ma voglia in me, ragion giammai non vinse
: . Trionfo della morte. See Villaret Hist. de France, tom. VIII., p. 355, and de Sade Mem. de Petrarque, tom. I., p. 53.
place in the execution of its victim, and fell with the same severity upon the mere suspicion of guilt, as upon the actual evidence of the crime itself. These extra judicial satisfactions to justice, besides were instantaneous, or deferred ; in one, the penalty was immediately paid with life; in the other, death, by any means whatsoever, would be considered a blessing, while the unhappy wretch dragged out a lengthened existence, in every horrid refinement of cruelty, such as only the ingenuity of man could invent.
Aware of this, perhaps, from instances which might have occurred among her relatives or friends, and knowing too well the jealousy of her husband, Laura would be forced, from the ardor of her lover, to adopt a character which was not her own ; punishing the love she felt herself, almost to the verge of despair, from which promises, constantly broken, always renewed, only could recall it. The truth of this explanation is further apparent in her lover's confession, that she restrained his ardor by flattery, that he might not perish,* a mode of action even more necessary as Petrarch appears not to have been the most discreet of lovers, as Laura avows her eyes would have been more constantly on him, only she feared his tongue.†
If Laura de Sade was the Laura of Petrarch, and we neither acknowledge or desire the indentity, her will, thanks to the industry of a French writer, has been given to the world. But we look in vain through this, for the strength of mind which is said to have characterized the subject of Petrarch's muse, it seems only to display the weakness of one whose conduct as a mother had so little influence in her family, during her life-time, that a daughter was immured for the loss of that very virtue which has made her famous; while as a wife she merited so little the attachment of
* E l'empia voglia ardente
Son, xx, part II.
Trionfo della Morte, Cap. II.
her husband, that he married again in November, 1348, only seven months after her death.*
Without wishing to add to the wrath of virtuous indignation which has certainly been poured with most unsparing hands upon the devoted head of Laura, we will but notice the opinion expressed by one of her most ardent admirers, that Petrarch could have been famous as the lover of this lady.t If we believe 8 maxim which is proverbial, the poet took his greatness from his birth, and Laura owed it merely to chance that she was made the partner of it. Besides, one of the finest, if not the very finest, of Petrarch's poems is in its nature entirely political, I nor do we owe one half as much to Petrarch, the lover of a single woman, as perfect as you please, as to Petrarch, the restorer of learning to the world.
A word or two more upon the subject and we are done. Laura, from Petrarch's accounts of her, seems to have been exceedingly vain,|| capricious and indolent, and, what must appear far stranger than all, she had not the slightest fancy for poetry.**
* See the will at length apud de Sade Mem. de Petrarque, pieces justificatives.
† Mrs. Jamieson's " Lives of the Poets,” ed. Philadelphia, 1844, p. 52, and 64.
See the beautiful canzone XVI., part 1. ; also the canzone VIII., ed. ultimo, part II.
|| Sonnet xxxvII., and canzone xIII., part 1. In the first the poet says she actually wearied her looking-glass admiring herself.
& Sonnet LXXXVIII., part 1. | Sonnet Lxxv.
** See Sestina viii., and canzone vit., part 1. Although Petrarch's assertion is here positive enough, it seems to have been determined that Laura should write poetry in spite of it. Barth. Bonhomme published in 1555, a' Avignon, a collection of poems bearing the following title, “ Tontes les Euvres Vulgaires de Fr. Petrarque, contenans 4 livres de Mad. Laure d'Avignon sa maitresse jadis par lui composer en langage tocan et mis en francais par Vasquin Philieul, avec brief sommaires." From Brunet Manuel du libraire, it appears that the above was only an enlargement of 8 work of Vasquin Philieul, previously published at Paris 1548. Neither of these I have seen, but a beautiful volume now lies before me which bears this inscription upon its title-page, “I sonetti, le canzoni, e i triomfi di M. Laura in risposta di M. Francseco Petrarca per le sue rime in vita e
As her lover apparently remained doubtful whether more good or evil was the result of his passion,* it would be improper in us to give, upon the subject, any decided opinion of our own; the. reader can judge for himself, while we conclude in the words of the poet :
« Quinci nascon le lagrime, e i matiri
Le parole, e i sospiri,
ART. VIII.— POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF SOUTH CAROLINA."
It is undeniable that great evils were entailed on Europe by the founders of the feudal system. But this was reasonably to be expected. The Huns were as expert at scalping as BlackHawk or Tecumseh, and invariably attached the bloody scalps of their victims to their war-trappings as monuments of their valor. The Vandals are said, in an excursion of two years into Africa, to have destroyed no less than 5,000,000 human beings of every age and sex. The Goths and Lombards had a peculiar relish for the wine they drank out of goblets made of their enemies skulls, I
dopo la morte de lei pervenuti alle mani del Magnifico M. Stefano Colonna gentil huomo Romano, non per l'addietro dati in luce. A San Luca al segno del Diamante MDLII.” The work is divided into two parts, the first containing Laura's answers to all that Petrarch wrote before her death, and the other, strange to say, to all he wrote after. Crescimbeni, according to de Lade, (Mem. de Petrarque, tom. II., p. 473,) assigns these poems to Stephen Colonna, who lived in the 16th century. At all events they are dedicated to Vittoria, duchess of Urbino by Piero Antonio Miero, whom I would rather suppose to be the author of them. Who he was I have been unable to ascertain. Tiraboschi says nothing of him.
* See canzone vii., part I., with Tassoni's remarks thereon.
| Machiavelli relates a striking instance of this, “ History of Florence," B. I., ch. 2: The ferocious Alboin, king of the Lombards, having invaded Pannonia, conquered and slew the reigning king CUNIMUND, when “ finding RoSAMOND, daughter of CUNIMUND, amongst the captives, took her to wife, and made himself sovereign of Pannonia ; and, moved by his savage nature,
and such atrocities as Attila's murder of his brother as a title to empire, and such diabolical plots as that to which Longinus prompted the ill-fated Rosamond, were not only common but characteristic of the people and the age. Of course, then, we are not to be surprised at the universal love of war, and contempt of honest industry which plunged all Europe for a while into utter darkness. But it is nevertheless true, great benefit has resulted from the system, in spite of these evils. The checks to royal power, and the distribution of political influence through the community, which have resulted from their mode of parcelling the land and of administering justice, are, in fact, the chief cornerstones of modern civilization and representative government.
Military service, being at first the only tenure by which land was held, served, no doubt, to perpetuate the barbarous tastes and warlike predilections of these rude and ferocious people; but it operated no less powerfully in curbing those ambitious leaders who aimed at undue power, and who bent their designs in the direction of national consolidation, and the erection of extensive and despotic monarchies. So that while the manners of the people delayed the consummation of the systems, the very foundations of which they themselves were laying, their crude institutions were nurturing the elements which have combined to establish results far surpassing any previous contrivance of human sagacity or ingenuity. The very conditions imposed erected a sort of quid pro quo equality between the prince and the baron, which answered many of the conservative purposes of our modern constitutions. But soon tenure by service, either military or otherwise, gave way to tenure by inheritance, and this, in turn, gave rise to hereditary rank, in which was a strange mixture of the "natural" with the landed aristocracy. The barons became for
caused the skull of Cunimund to be framed into a cup, from which, in memmory of the victory, he drank.” After making several other conquests, "he gave a great feast at Verona, and having become elated with wine, ordered the skull of Cunimund to be filled, and caused it to be presented to the queen Rosamond, who sat opposite, saying loud enough for her to hear, that upon occasion of such great joy, she should drink with her father. These words were like a dagger to the lady's bosom, and she resolved to have revenge." The cruel sarcasm cost Alboin his life.