« AnteriorContinuar »
By wondrous exertions, they ran the galley ashore, and, leaping out, bore the banner of St. Mark before him on the land. When the Venetians saw the banner of St. Mark on the land, and that their Duke's galley had been the first to touch the ground, they pushed on in shame and emulation; and the men of the palanders sprang to land, in rivalry with each other, and commenced a furious assault. And I, Geoffry de Villehardouin, Marshal of Champagne, the author of this work, affirm, that it was asserted by more than forty persons, that they beheld the banner of St. Mark planted upon one of the towers, and none could tell by what hand it was planted there; at which miraculous sight, the besieged fled and deserted the walls, while the invaders rushed in headlong, striving who should be foremost; seized upon twenty-five of the towers, and garrisoned them with their soldiers. And the Duke despatched a boat with the news of his success to the Barons of the army, letting them know that he was in possession of twenty-five towers, and in no danger of being dislodged.'
"The invisible standard-bearer, who struck terror into the besieged and animated his comrades, was probably some gallant soldier, killed (like one of our own brave countrymen, under similar circumstances, on the ramparts of Seringapatam) in the very moment of his triumph. The Venetians, when once established, with characteristic prudence, secured their booty, and began to send the horses and palfreys which they had captured, in boats to the camp; and while they were thus employed a fresh body of Greeks returned to the charge. In order to maintain their ground, the Venetians set fire to the houses between themselves and the approaching enemy, against whom this terrible expedient proved an insurmountable barrier.
"To change their attack, and to press upon that portion of the besiegers which had been already repulsed, was the obvious policy of the Greeks; and Alexius, in spite of his unwarlike temperament, placed himself at the head of his myriads, and directed a sally from three gates at once, in the hope of overwhelming the camp. Each of the sixty battalions which the Greeks brought into the field outnumbered any of the six opposed to it; and the whole plain seemed alive with armed men, who advanced slowly and in good order. Had the Crusaders moved forward, they must have been surrounded and swept away; but forming before their palisades, which effectually guarded their rear, they placed their line so that its flanks also were protected. The crossbowmen and archers ranged in front, the horses formed_the second line, and, behind these, were drawn up the infantry. Two hundred knights, whose horses had been slaughtered, either for food or in battle, served that day on foot; and, thus arrayed, they awaited their enemies, already within bow-shot. At that fearful crisis, intelligence of the peril of his friends was conveyed to Dandolo, and the noble-minded veteran lost not a moment in abandoning the towers which he had so hardly won, and in hastening to share the fate of his brethren in arms. Declaring that he would live or die with the Pilgrims, and himself descending the first from the walls, he rushed to the camp, bearing with him every hand that could be spared from his
fleet. Little, however, would this slender reinforcement have availed, if the courage of Alexius had equalled his overwhelming force. Whatever might have been his own loss (for there is no doubt that the Franks would have sold their lives most dearly), the total destruction of his enemies must have been the result of repeated charges; and these were urged upon him by the ardour of Lascaris. Yet, for a long time, the opposed lines gazed on each other without a movement; the Greeks too timorous to advance, the Pilgrims too prudent to quit their barricades. At length, the Emperor, despairing of success or apprehensive of disaster, gave the signal for retreat; and his steps were followed, slowly and cautiously, by the Latin knights, astonished at this unexpected good fortune. And indeed,' says the honest Villehardouin, God never delivered people from more imminent peril than that which this day threatened the Pilgrims, the boldest of whom rejoiced when it was passed.' Worn with toil and fatigue, they put off their armour; but their quarters were dreary and comfortless, they were straitened for provisions, and the danger which they had just escaped must again be confronted on the morrow. The Venetians, indeed, might console themselves with their glory. They had displayed the most eminent of all military virtues, courage, promptitude, fidelity; and, with a result which does not always accompany merit, they had not only deserved success, but they had also attained it.
"But, behold,' exclaims the pious chronicler, the miracles of our Lord! who displays them according to his pleasure.' Strange rumours from the city broke the night-watches of the camp, and intelligence the most joyous and the most unlooked-for was confirmed at dawn. Stragglers arrived, from time to time, all agreeing in the same story, that the usurper, terrified by the firmness of the besiegers, and, perhaps, also by the murmurs of his own citizens, had collected, during the night, such portable treasure as he could secure, a vast sum in gold, and the rich jewels of the crown; and, with his daughter Irene and a few followers whom he could trust, had hastily embarked and fled to Debeltos (Zagora), an obscure village in Bulgaria. The fear of general anarchy, so likely to be consequent upon this desertion of the throne, strongly impressed Constantine, the chief eunuch of the palace, to whom this shameful abandonment was earliest known. It was necessary to find some head of the state; and none appeared so fit, either to calm intestine discord or to conciliate the enemy under the walls, as the rightful but deposed prince. Isaac Angelus was awakened, at midnight, in his dungeon; and, in the messengers of his restoration to sovereignty, the sightless old man most probably anticipated, though falsely, the ministers of a bloody execution. After eight years' captivity, he was again invested with the imperial robes; led by the hand to the palace of Blachernæ, seated on his former throne, and deafened afresh with protestations of allegiance. The Barons and the young Alexius were overjoyed at this wondrous intelligence; so wondrous as, at first, to exceed belief. The Greeks, proverbially, were little to be trusted, and caution was requisite in
accepting their first report. The Chiefs, therefore, awaited its confirmation in the camp and under arms, till at length, when an exchange of couriers had removed all doubt, they gave way to their intense feelings of delight. Thanks were devoutly rendered by all to Heaven; and never, says the brave and sincere Marshal of Champagne, was greater joy manifested since the Creation."-vol. i. pp. 118-130.
We have selected the above extract as a specimen of the style in which these sketches are executed, because it is a passage not connected with preceding and succeeding events, and forming, therefore, a complete picture by itself, rather than on account of any merit which it possesses above other portions of the volumes. The account of the wars between Genoa and Venice, as well as of those which the Republic waged with Padua and Milan,—the history of the league of Cambray,-of the war of Chiozza, and of the siege and conquest of Candia by the Turks, are all of them passages of singular and pre-eminent merit. In like manner, the lively conception of individual characters which is conveyed into the reader's mind, without any formal portraiture, affords an equally striking proof of the author's peculiar historical talent. The account we have of Vecchio de Carrero, and his eventful life,-of Carlo Zeno,—of the Visconti,—of Francesco di Carmagnuole, of Francesco Sporza, and many others, are all marked with the same masterly pencil,-displaying a grace and lightness of touch, which is the more delightful because it is effected with so little labour or effort that we can fancy the author to be as unaware of his singular merit in this way, as the public in general seem to be, if we may judge from the attention which the book has excited. But the book is a golden book; as far above any of its competitors, in the list of works that have been published in the same form, as can well be expressed. The work will take its place, if we are not much mistaken, among the standard historical compositions of the language; and we hope, ere long, to see it printed in the form in which other standard works are commonly published.
ART. VII.-1. Essays, Moral and Political. By Robert Southey, Esq. LL.D. Poet Laureate, &c. Now first collected. 2 vols. small 8vo. London: Murray. 1832.
2. Observations on the Nature, Extent and Effects of Pauperism, and on the Means of Reducing it. By Thomas Walker, M.A. Barrister at Law, and one of the Police Magistrates of the Metropolis. Second Edition, Revised. London. Ridgway. 1832. 8vo. pp. 89.
3. Statement in regard to the Pauperism of Glasgow, from the
Experience of the last Eight Years. By Thomas Chalmers, D.D. Minister of St. John's Church, Glasgow. Chalmers and Collins, Glasgow; Waugh and Innes, Edinburgh; Tims, Dublin; Whittaker, London. 1823. 8vo. pp. 78.
4. The Eighth Report of the Committee of the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline, and for the Reformation of Juvenile Offenders. With an Appendix. Arch, London; Lizars, Edinburgh; Tims, Dublin. 1832. Svo.
5. Thoughts on Secondary Punishments, in a Letter to Earl Grey. By Richard Whately, D.D. Archbishop of Dublin. To which are appended two Articles, on Transportation to New South Wales, and on Secondary Punishments; and some Observations on Colonization. London. Fellowes. 1832. 8vo. pp. 204. THERE is one point connected with the Reform Bill on which all parties are agreed-an alteration of vital importance has been made in the constitution of this country, and it is a matter, not of curiosity only, but of primary interest, to see how that alteration will work. At present all is speculation. No one can certainly tell, and few will even venture to predict, what the results of the Reform will be. The hopes of one party, and the fears of the other, are qualified, as far as reasonable men are concerned, by great uncertainty and ignorance. The only infallible consequence of the measure appears to us to be an immense increase in the power of the Democracy. Whether that power will be exercised chiefly in correcting the abuses which have grown up under its predecessors, or in destroying the institutions which are deformed by those abuses,-whether a Reformed Parliament will content itself with doing what former Parliaments ought to have done, or will proceed in the work of innovation until Old England be no longer old,-whether Lord Grey and Mr. Stanley will succeed in preserving the limited monarchy and the aristocratical privileges now existing in this empire, or Mr. Hume and Mr. O'Connell will introduce their beloved American forms of government,-are questions which no cautious person will venture to answer without reserve. We know that the centre of gravity of our political system has changed, but where it is now situated, or how the various parts of the body will cohere under the new arrangement, is matter of conjecture only. Experiment after experiment must be tried, and year after year must elapse before confidence and security can return.
In the midst of this uncertainty two things may be looked upon as fixed: First, that the immediate result of the recent change will mainly depend upon the competence of our existing institutions to withstand the assault which will be made upon
them; and, secondly, that the ultimate and permanent welfare of this country are indissolubly connected with the instruction, and improvement, and happiness of the great body of the people. Old dams and breakwaters have been removed, and the stream of popular sentiment will henceforth rush along uncontrolled by those checks which have served to direct its progress and moderate its force. If the channels are deep enough to contain the boiling torrent with which they will now be filled-if the banks are strong enough to resist its fury, the land may yet be preserved. While, on the contrary supposition, the flood must prevail, and that large and beautiful field which has been enclosed with so much pains, and cultivated with so much skill and perseverance, and which, in spite of many barren spots, is yet so dear to the eye of benevolence, patriotism, and religion,-must once more become a wild waste of many waters, or rather, what is worse, an unreclaimed and irreclaimable morass, where the great sources of health and strength will be converted into the materials of infection and disease,-where desolation and death will be the only crop reaped from fields once fertile with every thing that can rejoice the heart of man.
With these forebodings as to what may possibly be the fate of this country, we confess that we are not among those who anticipate any immediate danger from the measure which has been passed in the late session of Parliament. It is true, that the Unions may be said to have carried the Reform Bill, but they could not have carried it unless they had been cordially supported by thousands who will not support them in the direct work of anarchy. The Democratic troops are not formidable except when they are officered by Whigs; and the Whigs, we suspect, are upon their guard against the possible machinations of their united friends. The flames of Bristol were not without an effect upon all who have houses over their heads. Ireland, with her O'Connells and her Doyles, has told the Lord Lieutenant that the time is come when he must either surrender to the Demagogues or defy them. The English Unions are, as yet, hardly prepared for extreme measures, and, even if they were, could hardly carry them into effect until they are headed by a wiser statesman than Mr. Attwood, and a better soldier than Colonel Jones.
But our belief in the non-existence of urgent danger does not blind us against the probability of its arising at no very distant day. Looking at the state of parties, Whig, Tory, and Radical, each nearly equal, and any two of them an overmatch for the third, who can doubt that the play of political combinations may throw a preponderating power into the hands of the Destructives: