« AnteriorContinuar »
reached Rome from all quarters that Sulla had finished the war with Mithridates, and recovered the provinces, and was sailing against the city with a large force. This intelligence caused a brief cessation and pause to unspeakable calamities, for Marius and his faction were in expectation of the immediate arrival of their enemies. Now being elected consul for the seventh time, on the very Calends of January, which is the beginning of the year, Marius caused one Sextus Lucinus to be thrown down the Tarpeian rock, which appeared to be a presage of the great misfortunes that were again to befall the partisans of Marius and the State. But Marius was now worn out with labour, and, as it were, drowned with cares, and cowed in his spirit; and the experience of past dangers and toil made him tremble at the thoughts of a new war, and fresh struggles and alarms; and he could not sustain himself when he reflected that now he would have to hazard a contest, not with Octavius or Merula at the head of a tumultuous crowd and seditious rabble, but that Sulla was advancing—Sulla, who had once driven him from Rome, and had now confined Mithridates within the limits of his kingdom of Pontus. With his mind crushed by such reflections, and placing before his eyes his long wanderings and escapes and dangers in his flight by sea and by land, he fell into a state of deep despair, and was troubled with nightly alarms and terrific dreams, in which he thought he heard a voice continually calling out
Dreadful is the lion's lair
As he greatly dreaded wakeful nights, he gave
to drinking and intoxication at unseasonable hours and to a degree unsuited to his age, in order to procure sleep, as if he could thus elude his
At last, when a man arrived with news from the sea, fresh terrors seized him, partly from fear of the future and partly from feeling the burden and the weariness of the present state of affairs; and while he was in this condition a slight disturbance sufficed to bring on a kind of pleurisy, as the philosopher Posidonius relates, who also says that he had an interview and talked with him on the subject of his embassy, while Marius was sick. But one Caius Piso, an historian, says that Marius, while walking about with some friends after supper, fell to talking of the incidents of his life, beginning with his boyhood, and after enumerating his many vicissitudes of fortune, he
said that no man of sense ought to trust fortune after such reverses ; upon which he took leave of his friends, and keeping his bed for seven successive days, thus died. Some say that his ambitious character was most completely disclosed during his illness by his falling into the extravagant delusion that he was conducting the war against Mithridates, and he would then put his body into all kinds of attitudes and movements, as he used to do in battle, and accompany them with loud shouts and frequent cheers. So strong and unconquerable a desire to be engaged in that war had his ambitious and jealous character instilled into him; and therefore, though he had lived to be seventy years
and was the first Roman who had been seven times consul, and had made himself a family, and wealth enough for several kings, he still bewailed his fortune, and complained of dying before he had attained the fulness and completion of his desires.
BOCCACCIO. [GIOVANNI Boccaccio, a Florentine, was born in 1313. literary reputation chiefly rests upon his · Decameron,' a collection of Tales written in his youth. He has been called “the father of Italian prose;" for the · Decameron' is the earliest
pure Italian. No book has afforded greater materials for narrative and dramatic poetry. It is to be deplored that, with few exceptions, this remarkable book contains so many stories that are licentious in their whole construction. It must therefore be necessarily a sealed book in all well-ordered families. Boccaccio himself, who in his forty-eighth year received a solemn warning from a monk to reform his life, and did reform, saw the evil tendency of his early writings, and implored one of his friends not to allow the · Decameron' to be read by the females of his household. The story of Griselda' is one of the few of these tales which are wholly unexceptionable. It has had the distinction of being the foundation of the exquisitely beautiful • Clerk's Tale' of Chaucer. Our first great poet says,
“I will tell you a tale, which that I
Petrarch, in writing to Boccaccio in 1373, says that the story of Griselda “ had always pleased him when he heard it many years ago." It has been hence inferred that the story was not invented by Boccaccio, because Petrarch also says that he had only seen the • Decameron' a short time before. Still Petrarch might have heard the story from some of the Italian reciters, who had read it in the * Decameron,' which was written about 1348. Boccaccio died in 1375, sixteen months after the death of his constant friend Petrarch.
The translation from which we take our extract was originally published by Dodsley in 1741; but was revised and re-published in 1804.]
It is a long time ago, that, amongst the marquisses of Saluzzo, the principal or head of the family was a youth, called Gualtieri, who, as he was a bachelor, spent his whole time in hawking and hunting, without any thought of ever being incumbered with a wife and children ; in which respect, no doubt, he was very wise. But this being disagreeable to his subjects, they often pressed him to marry, to the end that he might neither die without a heir, nor they be left without a lord; offering themselves to provide such a lady for him, and of such a family, that they should have great hopes from her, and he reason enough to be satisfied. Worthy friends,” he replied, “you urge me to do a thing which I was fully resolved against, considering what a difficult matter it is to find a person of suitable temper, with the great abundance everywhere of such as are otherwise, and how miserable also the man's life must be who is tied to a disagreeable woman. As to your getting at a woman's temper from her family, and so choosing one to please me, that seems quite a ridiculous fancy; for, besides the uncertainty with regard to their true fathers, how many daughters do we see resembling neither father nor mother? Nevertheless, as you are so fond of having me noosed, I will agree to be so. Therefore, that I may have nobody to blame but myself, should it happen amiss, I will make my own choice; and I protest, let me marry who I will, that, unless you show her the respect that is due to her as my lady, you shall know, to your cost, how grievous it is to me to have taken a wife at your request, contrary to my own inclination.” The honest men replied, that they were well satisfied, provided he would but make the trial. Now he had taken a fancy some time before to the behaviour of a poor country girl, who lived in a village not far from his palace and thinking that he might live comfortably enough with
her, he determined, without seeking any farther, to marry her. Accordingly, he sent for her father, who was a very poor man, and acquainted him with it. Afterwards he summoned all his subjects together, and said to them, “Gentlemen, it was and is your desire that I take a wife : I do it rather to please you, than out of any liking I have to matrimony. You know that you promised me to be satisfied, and to pay her due honour, whoever she is that I shall make choice of. The time is now come when I shall fulfil my promise to you, and expect you to do the like to me: I have found a young woman in the neighbourhood after my own heart, whom I intend to espouse and bring home in a very few days. Let it be your care, then, to do honour to my nuptials, and to respect her as your sovereign lady: so that I may be satisfied with the performance of your promise, even as you are with that of mine." The people all declared themselves pleased, and promised to regard her in all things as their mistress. Afterwards they made preparations for a most noble feast, and the like did the prince, inviting all his relations, and the great lords in all parts and provinces about him: he had also most rich and costly robes made, shaped by a person that seemed to be of the same size with his intended spouse; and provided a girdle, ring, and fine coronet, with everything requisite for a bride. And when the day appointed was come, about the third hour he mounted his horse, attended by all his friends and vassals; and having everything in readiness, he said, "My lords and gentlemen, it is now time to go for my new spouse. they rode to the village, and when he was come near the father's house, he saw her carrying some water from the well, in great haste, to go afterwards with some of her acquaintance to see the new marchioness; when he called her by name, which was Griselda, and inquired where her father was. She modestly replied, “My gracious lord, he is in the house." He then alighted from his horse, commanding them all to wait for him, and went alone into the cottage, where he found the father, who was called Giannucolo, and said to him, “Honest man, I am come to espouse thy daughter, but would first ask her some questions before thee." He then inquired, whether she would make it her study to please him, and not be uneasy at any time, whatever he should do or say; and whether she would always be obedient; with more to that purpose. To which she answered “ Yes." He then led her out by the hand, and made her strip before them all; and, ordering
the rich apparel to be brought which he had provided, he had her clothed completely, and a coronet set upon her head, all disordered as her hair was; after which, every one being in amaze, he said, “ Be. hold, this is the person whom I intend for my wife, provided she will accept of me for her husband.” Then, turning towards her, who stood quite abashed, Will you,” said he, “have me for your husband ?” She replied, “Yes, if it so please your lordship.”—“Well,” he replied, " and I take you for my wife.” So he espoused her in that public manner, and, mounting her on a palfrey, conducted her honourably to his palace, celebrating the nuptials with as much pomp and grandeur as though he had been married to the daughter of the King of France; and the young bride showed apparently that with her garments she had changed both her mind and behaviour.
She had a most agreeable person, and was so amiable, and so good-natured withal, that she seemed rather a lord's daughter than that of a poor shepherd; at which every one that knew her before was greatly surprised.
She was too so obedient to her husband, and so obliging in all respects, that he thought himself the happiest man in the world; and to her subjects likewise so gracious and condescending, that they all honoured and loved her as their own lives, praying for her health and prosperity, and declaring, contrary to their former opinion, that Gualtieri was the most prudent and sharp-sighted prince in the whole world; for that no one could have discerned such virtues under a mean habit, and a country disguise, but himself. In a very short time her discreet bebaviour and good works were the common subject of discourse, not in the country only, but everywhere else; and what had been objected to the prince, with regard to his marrying her, now took a contrary turn. They had not lived long together before she proved with child, and at length brought forth a daughter, for which he made great rejoicings. But soon afterwards a new fancy came into his head, and that was, to make trial of her patience by long and intolerable sufferings : so he began with harsh words, and an appearance of great uneasiness ; telling her, that his subjects were greatly displeased with her for her mean parentage, especially as they saw she bore children; and that they did nothing but murmur at the daughter already born. Which, when she heard, without changing countenance, or her resolution, in any respect, she replied, “ My lord, pray dispose of me as you think most for your honour and happiness :