Page images
PDF
EPUB

They who had fought so often by thy side,
Staining the mountain-billows, bore thee back;
And thou art sleeping in thy funeral-chamber.
Thine was a glorious course; but couldst thou there,
Clad in thy cere-cloth-in that silent vault,
Where thou art gathered to thy ancestors—
Open thy secret heart and tell us all,

Then should we hear thee with a sigh confess,
A sigh how heavy, that thy happiest hours
Were passed before these sacred walls were left,
Before the ocean-wave thy wealth reflected,*
And pomp and power drew envy, stirring up
The ambitious man,† that in a perilous hour
Fell from the plank.

Alluding to the Palace which he built afterwards, and in which he twice entertained the Emperor Charles the Fifth. It is the most magnificent edifice on the bay of Genoa.

+ Fiesco. For an account of his Conspiracy, see Robertson's History of Charles the Fifth.

MARCO GRIFFONI.

WAR is a game at which all are sure to lose, sooner or later, play they how they will; yet every nation has delighted in war, and none more in their day than the little republic of GENOA, whose galleys, while she had any, were always burning and sinking those of the Pisans, the Venetians, the Greeks, or the Turks; Christian and Infidel alike to her.

But experience, when dearly bought, is seldom thrown away altogether. A moment of sober reflection came at last; and after a victory, the most splendid and ruinous of any in her annals, she resolved from that day and for ever to live at peace with all mankind; having in her long career acquired nothing but glory and a tax on every article of life.

No

Peace came, but with none of its blessings. stir in the harbour, no merchandise in the mart or on the quay; no song as the shuttle was thrown or the ploughshare broke the furrow. The frenzy had left a

after

languor more alarming than itself. Yet the burden must be borne, the taxes be gathered; and, year year, they lay like a curse on the land, the prospect on every side growing darker and darker, till an old man entered the senate-house on his crutches and all was changed.

MARCO GRIFFONI was the last of an ancient family, a family of royal merchants; and the richest citizen in GENOA, perhaps in Europe. His parents dying while yet he lay in the cradle, his wealth had accumulated from the year of his birth; and so noble a use did he make of it when he arrived at manhood, that wherever he went, he was followed by the blessings of the people. He would often say, 'I hold it only in trust for others;' but GENOA was then at her old amusement, and the work grew on his hands. Strong as he was, the evil he had to struggle with, was stronger than he. His cheerfulness, his alacrity left him; and, having lifted up his voice for Peace, he withdrew at once from the sphere of life he had moved in-to become, as it were, another man.

From that time and for full fifty years he was to be seen sitting, like one of the founders of his House, at his desk among his money-bags, in a narrow street near

the Porto Franco; and he, who in a famine had filled the granaries of the State, sending to Sicily and even to Egypt, now lived only as for his heirs, though there were none to inherit; giving no longer to any -but lending to all-to the rich on their bonds and the poor on their pledges; lending at the highest rate and exacting with the utmost rigour. No longer relieving the miserable, he sought only to enrich himself by their misery; and there he sate in his gown of frieze, till every finger was pointed at him in passing and every tongue exclaimed, There sits the Miser!'

6

But in that character and amidst all that obloquy he was still the same as ever, still acting to the best of his judgment for the good of his fellow-citizens ; and when the measure of their calamities was full, when Peace had come, but had come to no purpose, and the lesson, as he flattered himself, was graven deep in their minds, then, but not till then, though his hair had long grown grey, he threw off the mask and gave up all he had, to annihilate at a blow his great and cruel adversaries,* those taxes which, when

* Such as the Gabelles formerly in France; "où le droit," says Montesquieu, "excédoit de dix-sept fois la valeur de la

excessive, break the hearts of the people; a glorious achievement for an individual, though a bloodless one, and such as only can be conceived possible in a small community like theirs.

Alas, how little did he know of human nature! How little had he reflected on the ruling passion of his countrymen, so injurious to others and at length so fatal to themselves! Almost instantly they grew arrogant and quarrelsome; almost instantly they were in arms again; and, before the statue was up, that had been voted to his memory, every tax, if we may believe the historian,* was laid on as before, to awaken vain regrets and wise resolutions.

marchandise." Salt is an article, of which none know the value, who have not known the want of it.

* Who he is, I have yet to learn. The story was told to me many years ago by a great reader of the old annalists; but I have searched every where for it in vain.

« PreviousContinue »