Imagens das páginas

ClITM ».

of his wisest friends and counsellors urged their intimate knowledge of the characters of Francesca and Lancelot (alias Scanatus ) as an insurmountable obstacle to their union; 'your daughter7 (they added)' is lovely, and high-minded, and will never rest satisfied with such a husband;and certainly, if she come to see him previous to the consummation of the marriage, neither you , nor any one, will be able to bend her to it, and it is too probable that the attempt will end scandalously'1).' It was moreover observed, that it would involve him in much greater perplexities, than any that could be incurred by a mere rejection of Scanatus from the beginning, should things be permitted to come to that pass of the ceremony being performed, and the marriage not effectuated after all: for that then the whole family of Rimini would not fail to be highly irritated , and to consider the disappointment as a premeditated insult. These representations however, instead of dissuading Polenta from his purpose, served to make him seek the means of insuring its execution at whatever expense of honor and justice, to say nothing of paternal tenderness. Hence he determined to employ deception against his child; and endeavour to make her a party to her own ruin, by causing

(i) Voi avete male accompagnata questa vontra figlinola, ella e bellissima e di grancle anima , non stara contents rii Gianciotto: (M.S. in • upra ) a *e ella lo vede arantiche il matrimonio sia perfetto , ne voi , n* altri potra mai fare ch'clla il voglia per marito; e percib ne potrj seguire ccandalo. Boccaccio , ut supra .


euro T.

the beautiful Paul to court and marry her on the understanding ( without her privity) that he was only to be a proxy; and as to the consummation of the rite, it was resolved to effect it by substituting one brother for another on the bridal couch: so accomplished a young Prince, as Paul, could not, it was hoped, miss of achieving the maid's heart, nor a maid so pure, mild and simple, require much management to prevent her from exerting her timid eyes, and recognising her bed-fellow before it should be too late; by which contrivance she would, while believing to espouse Paul, make herself the lawful wife of Scanatus (0. In prosecution of this scheme, Paul came from Rimini with all the pomp and circumstance of feudal Chivalry; and Francesca, looking down from a latticed balcony on the numerous retinue that poured into the Castlecourt, and being struck with the appearance of Paul,who shone pre-eminent amid thesurrounding glitter, turned to her female attendant, and asked: 'who is that handsome knight on that milk-white courser, with such rich, silver housings, in whose hat waves that lofty, snowy plume, and whose beautiful green mantle is so slashed with gold tissue? See the pennon on his lance, and his silken sash deeply fringed with gold, and its heavy tassels

[ocr errors]

1;.\i»T<i r.

of gold bullion! who is he?' And she ( whether deceiving,or herself deceived, is not said) answered at once: ' it is the Signor Ma I a testa your ladyship's bridegroom (0. ' Hereupon Madonna Francesca became enamoured; and expressed the gratitude and content of her heart at her dearest parents' choice. Indeed when we consider the usual fate of Princesses, and the secluded education given to young ladies in Italy, nothing is more natural than this anecdote: and it is very likely that a cloistered virgin of sixteen should fall deeply in love, on beholding a youth of wondrous comeliness surpassing all of whom she had ever heard, or read, in ballads, novels, or fairytales, and realizing even her own pure dreams; to whom she was about to be allowed not only to speak, but whom she was to honor and regard as the future companion of her life. If it requires the sagest guardian to defend the heart of one, like her, young, innocent, replete with hope and fancy, and unconscious of any kind of guile, against the brilliant illusions of existence, what shall be able to control it when that yuardian himself not only permits, but prescribes its surrender to a beauteous object pronounced to be of still more sterling, than apparent value, to be still worthier in reality, than in idea? The nuptial ceremony over, it is said that a conversation between the interesting couple made the conquest

(i) Both Boccaccio, and M S. ut supra


I;»bto T.

of her affections irretrievable; but, since it took place in public, nothing transpired to undeceive her. It is said by some that Paul also was as deceived; and the conjecture that he was so, is strengthened by several circumstances, but particularly by that of both he and Scanatus being younger brothers; so that, as long as the claims of primogeniture prevailed, the eldest, Mala test :ino, was to be Lord of Rimini, and neither of them. Each however was splendidly provided for by their munificent father; so that 'Paul the beautiful,' with all his personal advantages,and acknowledged pretensions, might well have considered his union with the heiress of Ravenna as very natural. That he conceived an ardent attachment to her from the first moment of their meeting, and that she received his soothing attentions during that entire day as the first flattering tribute of connubial tenderness, is certain; and that he too was foully maltreated and, unaware of any procuration, was lulled with the persuasion that he was courting his own bride, is highly probable . Notwithstanding maiden bashfulness, and knighthood's proverbial delicacy, it is not imaginable, that,during the lapse of many hours, with their hands already linked in wedlock, their mutual affection should have been unrevealed, even had no words been tollerated between them: for there are other interpreters of admiration quite as eloquent as words; nor could sighs, or blushes, be condemned by the most fastidious on


an occasion like the present, when a couple already joined by the holiest bonds, were every moment expecting to be left at sacred liberty. Whether their conversation had lieu in Ravenna, or on the road to Rimini (0, is not stated, nor whether it was in this latter that the fraudulent spousals were consummated, or whether the sacrilege was shared between both those towns, nor to what precise extent the brutal ravisher was guilty; but if he was so profoundly implicated in the crime, as to post secretly to Ravenna, and, Tarquin-like, take advantage of the obscurity of night, then indeed the diabolical malefaction attained its full complement of horror, and not only the profanation of the marriage-vow, and the awful conspiracy of a father against his own virgin daughter, but even the last of infamies, her rape, was made to violate the sanctity of the paternal roof. Of the Mother's criminality I say nothing; for she was an unwilling instrument in the hands of a relentless, ambitionblinded lord and master: and those who would blame her pliability ought first to reflect on the unlimited power, which, in that age, a feudal sove

(i) Since writing this article, I have seen the novelle of Giraldo Giraldi; who in substance coincides with most of my relation, homnse he follows Boccaccio, and because the novella-writers in Italy possess much historical accuracy. Still Giraldi cannot be received when he adds any thing to Boccaccio and cites no authority; so that when he tells us the conversation ensued during the ride to Rimini , to which Francesca went in company with Paul and his escort of Gentlemen, we must take it, not as historical matter of fact, but as sufficiently probable for a novella . Novelle di Giral. Giral. Nov. 3. p. a5. Ed. i8i9.

« AnteriorContinuar »