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ary, the entrance to the palace, and those marble stairs, so often glorified by solemn festivals or trophies torn from the enemy. Such was the place. I also mark the time. It was in this year 1355, on the 18th April. The excitement is so great, that whoever considers the manners and discipline of that city, and how great a change the death of a single man may threaten to bring about (though it is said that others are included in the same conspiracy), will acknowledge that no greater event has occurred in our times in Italy. I absolve the people, though perhaps they might have vindicated their rights with less severity. I pity and am indignant with the unhappy man, who was invested with an honour he had not strength to bear, and who seems to have acquired in earlier life a false repute for wisdom. But this event shows, as in a mirror, to the chiefs and rulers of States, that they may look upon themselves not as the lords, or even dukes, but as the honoured servants of the commonwealth. Farewell! and as public affairs are agitated, let us endeavour to guide our private life with moderation."1
1 Rawdon Brown's Preface to the Venetian State Papers. The details of the conspiracy (if conspiracy it was) for which Marino Faliero suffered have always remained, as they were to Petrarch, obscure, for the Council of Ten took especial care to conceal them. The fourth volume of the 'Misti Consiglio X.' contains its decrees for the year 1355. On Friday, 17th April, of that year (not, as Petrarch says, the 18th), Marino Faliero was beheaded. In the usual course the minutes of the trial should have been entered on the 33d page of that volume; but in their stead there is a blank space and the words
THE PAPAL POWER.
THE hopes which Petrarch had cherished of the restoration of a Roman republic under Rienzi, or a Roman empire under Charles IV., were, as we have seen, speedily blighted. Rienzi, indeed, did contrive to return to Rome in 1354, but only to be put to death by the people he had misled. A third element of Roman power remained that of the Church; but in the eyes of Petrarch, as well as of Dante, the Papacy itself was denationalised, and almost unchristianised, by the voluntary exile to Avignon, and by the successive election of five French prelates to the great Italian see. The hatred and contempt of the poets for the Popes, the cardinals, and the clergy, as long as they lived in a French palace and wore a French livery, were essentially the result of national jealousy and distrust. It may be doubted whether the great Catholic poet himself had in view any serious reformation of the discipline or doctrine of the Church, beyond the return of the Pontiff to the shrine of the Apostles and the throne of the Vatican. But the relations of Petrarch to the Popes differed widely from those of Dante. He was no outlawed and exiled
PETRARCH'S LIBERAL OPINIONS.
Ghibelline, who asks himself whether bread might not be wanting, but a favourite and a courtier of those same Pontiffs whom he accused. He accepted favours and benefices at their hands. He gave them counsel; and five times he refused one of the highest offices a Pope could bestow. In one of his garrulous but amusing letters, he relates the pressure put upon him to take office by two cardinals, and by the Pope himself. He pleaded his love of liberty and his contempt of money, for in those days political power meant enormous wealth; yet almost had the tempter prevailed, when he was suddenly asked whether he could bend his grand and oratorical style to the humble and subtle language befitting the Court of Rome. "Impossible," said the poet. "If my style is too good for the place, the place is not good enough for me;" and so he preserved his freedom.
It is extremely remarkable that in all Petrarch's political writings his sympathies are ever on the side of the people. One does not expect to find in a poet, a courtier, and a prebendary of the fourteenth century, raised to distinction by aristocratic patronage, and to wealth by Church preferment, so strong and faithful an adherence to liberal opinions. He derived them, with much of his philosophy, from the noble source of antiquity. The republics of Greece and Rome, with their grand traditions, their patriots, their liberties, and their glory, inspired him with admiration for popular government, and for models of virtue which nothing in his own times could claim to represent. Thus, in a letter to four cardinals who had asked his advice on the reform of the Roman commonwealth, he scrupled not to inveigh against the baronial houses which had usurped the su
preme power in Rome, and told them that the present welfare of the people could never be secured till this oppression was removed.
"Wrest, therefore," he went on, "this pestilent tyranny from their grasp, in spite of them; and not only admit the common people of Rome to a share of public honours, but take the ill-administered functions of the Senate from unworthy hands. These nobles, if they were citizens, and good citizens, could lawfully claim but a part of this authority; but, behaving as they do, they are unworthy of the State, which they destroy, and of the fellowship of the citizens, whom they oppress-to say nothing of honour. How vain is the boast of nobility and wealth by those who have no claim of virtue! for even the old Romans, whose virtue was great and excellent, failed to exclude the people from the honours of the State. As often as this contest was renewed, the proud nobility was always beaten by the humble multitude."
Whatever may have been the position of Petrarch under John XXII. and Benedict XII., who were the Popes of his earlier years, he certainly enjoyed considerable influence under Clement VI., who was a cultivated prelate. Innocent VI. took him for a magician, because he read Virgil; and Virgil had in the middle ages the mystical character of a Sibylline prophet. This, as Petrarch says in a letter to Cardinal Talleyrand, was no joke, when this same personage was elected Pope. If he was a magician, there were two things to be done-he might be burnt, or he might be made a Minister of the Holy See. Innocent offered to take the latter course. The poet replied, rather sarcastically, "It cannot be that the man who is chosen by the Pope to be his secretary should be deemed a necromancer, or that one who is initiated in his secret counsels, and even writes his sacred name,
should be supposed to practise sorcery." To all such offers Petrarch opposed his modesty, his disinterestedness, and above all, and with greater truth, his aversion to responsibility and fatigue.
Yet this same Pontiff, Innocent VI., not only conferred two benefices on Petrarch, and offered several more, but repeatedly pressed on him the political office the poet had so often declined. Pope Clement VI., as we learn from a letter written nearly at the close of his life from Arquà, had intended to make him a bishop; but the poet declares that he never would consent to be a prelate, or to hold a benefice with cure of souls, however rich. In fact, he never was in priest's orders; and the appointments he held in the Church, though sufficiently lucrative, were stalls and canonries in several chapters. Even at Arquà, he says
"I have here a prebend which gives me bread and wine, not only for my own use, but to sell. Residence would increase my income: but I detest the life of cities; and I had rather hunger in the solitude of the country than live in abundance in towns, though I never can escape from the people who flock about me. I have some servants, whom I cannot do without; a few horses-that is, at present, two; and generally five or six amanuenses, though at present only three, for they are not easily to be met with, and I like to have illuminators (pictores) who are not blockheads. Then I have one old priest, who does duty for me in church; and just as I am sitting down to dine alone with him, down comes a host of guests to be entertained with meat and good stories. The thing cannot be avoided, without my appearing either prouder or poorer than I really am. My chief desire is to build a little oratory to the Blessed Virgin here. I am setting about it, though I should have to pawn or sell my books for it."