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he has had great support, his patrons will be sick of maintaining him. He must either sink to poverty and a gaol, or commit new excesses, for which he will get knocked on the head. A Rienzi cannot stop: their histories are summed up in two words—a triumph and an assassination.”* Like Wordsworth's
which is seen to
paper kite high among fleecy clouds,
Pull at her rein like an impetuous courser,
Behold them breast the wind, then suddenly
It would, indeed, have been a social and religious miracle, as Dean Milman remarks-alluding to Rienzi's career as Tribune-if the Romans, after centuries of misrule, degradation, slavery, superstition, had suddenly appeared worthy of freedom; or able to maintain and wisely and moderately to enjoy the blessings of a just and equal civilisation. "They had lived too long in the malaria of servitude. Of the old vigorous plebeian Roman, they had nothing but the turbulence; the frugality, the fortitude, the discipline, the love of order, and respect for law, are virtues of slow growth. They had been depressed too long, too low. If victims of the profligacy and tyranny of the nobles, submission to such outrages, however reluctant, however cast off in an excess of indignation, is no school of high and enduring dignity of morals, that only safeguard of sound republican institutions. The number, wealth, license of the Roman clergy, were even more fatally corruptive. Still, as for centuries, the Romans were a fierce, fickle populace." Whoso counted on the stability of their fervid impulses, made the fatal error of
Proud spring-tide swellings for a regular sea.§
him sit down as comfortably as an Alderman of London!-If he should die of a surfeit of custard at last!"-Letters of Hor. Walpole, vol. vii. p. 283.
In his Character of Lord Shelburne, again, Walpole has another side-wind shot at Rienzi. Shelburne, he says, shook off his few real adherents, offended or flattered his associates as any little momentary view prompted, precipitated his measures before his schemes were digested, "and, like the frantic Tribune, Nicolo Rienzi, seemed to think that the trappings of his post were the buttresses of his power."-Last Journals of Hor. Walpole, vol. ii. p. 623.
As to Rienzi's attention to the "trappings of his post," we might do worse than adopt, on his behalf, and to some extent, the philosophy of Mr. Henry Taylor's hero:
"Perhaps the state
And royal splendour I affect, is deemed
A proof of pride-yet they that these contemn
That strips itself and casts such things aside,
Which, be they in themselves or vile or precious,
TAYLOR'S Philip van Artevelde, Second Part, Act II. Scene 1.
* Walpole's Letters, vol. v. p. 93.
†The Prelude, book i.
Latin Christianity, vol. v. book xii. ch. x.
§ Wordsworth, Introd. to the Prelude.
And we doubt whether a better portrait, on the whole, has ever been drawn of the belated Tribune than that by the learned Dean of St. Paul's. "Nor was Rienzi himself, though his morals were blameless, though he incurred no charge of avarice or rapacity, a model of the sterner republican virtues. He wanted simplicity, solidity, self-command. His ostentation, in some respects politic, became puerile. His processions, of which himself was still the centre, at first excited, at length palled on the popular feeling. His luxury-for his table became sumptuous, his dress, his habits splendid-was costly, burthensome to the people, as well as offensive and invidious. The advancement of his family, the rock on which demagogues constantly split, unwise. Even his religion, the indispensable, dominant influence in such times, was showy and theatrical; it wanted that depth and fervour which spreads by contagion, hurries away, and binds to blind obedience its unthinking partisans. Fanaticism brooks no rivals in the human heart."* Referring to his victory over the Colonnas, and the captivity of his other foes, the historian elsewhere observes that Rienzi might now seem 66 secure at the height of his greatness." But before a month has passed, he is a lonely exile: everything seems suddenly, unaccountably, desperately, to break down beneath him; the bubble of his glory bursts, and becomes thin air. "And yet within a month!-let me not think on't!" Substituting a month for a year, one remembers Robert Browning's stanzas, wherein a discarded patriot contrasts present with past-recalling his triumphal entry into the now frowning, ungrateful city:
The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowds and cries.
They had answered, "And afterward, what else?"
Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun,
To give it my loving friends to keep.
He had dark and inward presentiments, we are told, of his approaching fall. "Weakened by want of sleep, and these perpetual terrors, I was no longer fit to bear arms, or give audience to the people." To this prostration of mind Rienzi attributes his hasty desperate abandonment of his power. For more than two "dismal, disastrous years" (1348, 1349) of plague and earthquake, Rienzi "couched unknown" among the wild Apennines, a tertiary of the Order of the Fraticelli, those "austerest of the austere Franciscans." In the Jubilee year he is said to have stolen
* Milman, v. 528.
† Ibid., p. 532.
Browning's Men and Women: The Patriot, An Old Story. "An awful thing it is the failure of the energies of a master-mind. He who places implicit confidence in his genius will find himself some day utterly defeated and deserted. "Tis bitter! Every paltry hind seems but to breathe to mock you. Slow, indeed, is such a mind to credit that the never-failing resource can at least [last?] be wanting. But so it is. Like a dried-up fountain, the perennial flow and bright fertility have ceased.. Then comes the madness of retrospection."-Disraeli's "Alroy," pt. ix. ch. xvii.
into Rome in disguise: "the Tribune was lost in the multitude of adoring strangers." Anon he is the Pope's prisoner, and consoles himself, in his gloomy cell, with the Bible and Livy. Who could have supposed, it may well be asked, that this man, hardly escaped from death as a dangerous usurper of the papal authority, and who had endeavoured to incite the Emperor to reduce the papal power within the strict limits of papal jurisdiction, that the writer of those stern and uncompromising invectives against the desertion of Italy by the Popes, the unsparing castigator of the vices of the clergy, the heaven-appointed reformer (as he advanced) of the Church, the harbinger of the new kingdom of the Holy Ghost; that he should emerge from his dungeon to reappear in Italy as the follower of the papal Legate, and reassume the supreme government in Rome with the express sanction of the Pope ?* Under this phase he is scarcely recognisable as Byron's last of Tribunes and last of Romans :
Then turn we to Rome's latest tribune's name,
The forum's champion, and the people's chief
Her new-born Numa thou-with reign, alas! too brief.†
With Dr. Milman's portrayal of the Senator's brief sway, we take our last look of Nicolas Lorenzo. "But Rienzi had not learned wisdom.
He was again bewildered by the intoxication of power; he returned to his old pomp, and his fatal luxury. He extorted the restoration of his confiscated property, and wasted it in idle expenditure. He was constantly encircled by his armed guard; he passed his time in noisy drunken banquets. His person became gross, hateful, and repulsive. Again called on to show his military prowess against the refractory Colonnas, he was again found wanting. The stern and equal vigour which had before given a commanding majesty to his wild justice, now seemed to turn to caprice and wantonness of power. His great measure, by which he seemed determined, this time at least, to escape the imputation of pusillanimity as shrinking from the extermination of his enemies, was sullied with ingratitude, as well as treachery. . . . The second government of Rienzi was an unmitigated tyranny, and ended in his murder in a popular insurrection. With the cry of Long live the people' was now mingled Death to the Tribune, to the traitor Rienzi." And death there was, in that death-cry. Nor were the mob appeased with death pure and simple. The poor corpse they abused with shameful rancour, frienzied and foul.
* Milman, v. 550.
CURIOSITIES OF PERSIAN GEOGRAPHY.*
THE Arab tribes of the Hedjaz, called by the birth of Islamism to preach the Koran beyond the desert, and to conquer a fourth of the globe, started upon their adventurous career with but a very indifferent acquaintance with the routes followed by the caravans between the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. It was not till after the death of the Prophet, and till the regenerated monotheism of the Semites had overthrown the old civilisation of the Cæsars and of the Chosroes, that the victors felt the necessity of becoming acquainted with the extent of their new acquisitions, of estimating their resources, and of marking out highways which should converge from all points of their frontiers to the sacred shrine at Mekkah. But even then the progress made was trifling; and it was not till the brilliant reign of Al Mansur and Al Mamum, whose "castles of the stars" (as the Orientals delight to designate an astronomical observatory) still adorn the long valley of the Euphrates, that geography took its place, in the next rank to the mathematical sciences, at the colleges of Baghdad.
The khalifs enriched their libraries with translations of Euclid, Archimedes, and Ptolemy; and these, with the Indian astronomical tables, became the point of departure for the labours of Abu Mansur Yahia, of Ahmed Habesch (the Abyssinian), and of Ferghani. The extension taken by the Arabian commerce towards the end of the eighth century became a powerful auxiliary to science. The narratives of the merchant Sulaiman and Abu Zaid, as also those of the dragoman Sallen, and the "Book of Cities" (Kitab al Amsar) of Jahez, were the first-fruits of these distant journeys, and their popularity has saved them from oblivion. Whilst these simple stories upheld the taste for travel and the love of the marvellous, others, among whom were some Neo-Mussulmans, as Kodamah and Ibn Khordadbeh, were employed in reducing into form the financial, agricultural, and industrial resources of the provinces subjected to the Koran.
It is to this happy concurrence in the progress of travel abroad, with scientific labours at home, that we are indebted for the summaries that signalised the tenth century, more especially the Cyclopædias of Masudi. Two other writers appeared at the same time, who occupy an important place in the history of geography in the middle ages, and whose names frequently appear in the "Mo'djem." The first sheikh, Abu Ishak, a native of Isthakr (Persepolis), had more taste for travel than knowledge to render his observations useful to posterity; he visited successively Persia, Mesopotamia, and Syria, and he gave in his "Book of Climates" (Kitab al Akalim) not only the result of his own observations, but that of those who had preceded him. The care with which he describes Persia-his native country-imparts a high value to his work, and we are much
• Dictionnaire Géographique, Historique et Littéraire de la Perse et des contrées adjacentes, extrait du Mo'djem él Bouldan de Yaqout, et complété à l'aide de documents Arabes et Persans pour la plupart inédits. Par C. Barbier de Meynard, Ancien Attaché à la Légation de France en Perse, Membre du Conseil de la Société Asiatique. Paris: Imprimerie Impériale.
indebted to Yakut for having so frequent recourse to him in what concerns that country. The second, Ibn Haukal, whose investigations were carried further than those of the Isthakhri, availed himself in like manner of the labours of his predecessors, more especially of the latter, and his "Book of Ways and Provinces" (Kitab al Masalik wal Mamalik) is still a handbook with comparative geographers.
The eleventh century was illustrated by a writer whose prodigious erudition imparted a vigorous impulse to knowledge generally. Abu Rihan, surnamed Al Biruni, having visited India in the suite of the renowned conqueror Mahmud the Ghaznevide, was enabled to lift the veil that hid this cradle of humanity, and geography became indebted to him for many a discovery. The latter portion of this century, and the early part of the twelfth, without being utterly unproductive, only contributed slightly to the progress of knowledge. The works of the day were more of a local character, as the dictionaries of Bakri and of Zamakhscheri, or were only remotely related to geography, as the treatises on "Origins" (Ansab), due to Sem'ani and to Al Hazemi. The only name that did credit to the twelfth century was that of Idrisi or Edrisi, to whose labours cosmography is singularly indebted. The narratives of travel of Ibn Jubair and of Haravi, which belong to the same epoch, are also deserving of mention, for the good faith and sagacity of their authors.
Such were the rich materials which travels and erudition placed at the disposal of Yakut when he conceived the plan of his great dictionary. As a writer, he possessed sufficient knowledge to profit by these labours, and patience enough to co-ordinate them; but at his epoch criticism was not sufficiently advanced to enable him to distinguish between what was truth, what hypothesis, and what falsehood. Luckily these faults, common to all his contemporaries, are almost compensated for by the boldness and grandeur of his conceptions. Obaid Allah al Bakri, in his "Dictionary of Unintelligible Names," and the Imam Zamakhscheri, in his “Book of Mountains," scarcely went beyond the limits of Arabia; their object was mainly to clear up certain passages in the Koran, or to determine the position of places noticed by the poets of old. Neither the one nor the other dreamt of enriching their treatises by those numerous historical, biographical, and literary notices which make the "Mo'djem" an encyclopædic monument unique in the East.
Obaid Allah Yakut, son of Abd Allah, was born in 1178, of a Greek family. His life, entirely devoted to travel and indefatigable studies, does not present many features of very marked interest. Falling in early years into the hands of Mussulmans, he was brought up in the religion of the Prophet, and was purchased by a merchant residing at Baghdad, but who was a native of Hamah, on the Orontes, and to which circumstance the young slave was indebted for his surname of Hamawi. He was also called Rumi, or Greek, from his infidel origin, and Baghdadi on account of his long residence in the city of the khalifs. The name of Yakut (ruby), commonly given to slaves in the East, does not appear to have been to his taste, and he endeavoured to change it to Yakub (Jacob) by a slight modification in the orthography, but posterity has not sanctioned the substitution.
Thanks to the liberality of his master, he studied with success the sciences at that time cultivated at Baghdad, especially theology and