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EXILES OF LUCERNA.
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
In the recesses of the great chain of mountains, which form the barrier between France and Italy, are situated the three secluded valleys of Lucerna, Perosa, and St Martino, which for ages have signalized themselves in their struggles for religious
freedom. Truth, when banished from the altars of the church, the halls of learning, and the palaces of kings, found a safe asylum among these alpine solitudes; and their inhabitants, a simple race of peasants, nobly struggled for a thousand years, against the corruptions of papal Rome, while the rest of Europe lay prostrate at her feet. But the annals of the persecuted Vaudois are written in blood, and the statute-book of the house of Savoy is darkened with sanguinary edicts against this innocent people. Age after age witnessed the flames of persecution raging in their peaceful valleys—laying their hamlets in ashes, and condemning the inhabitants, amid the rigours of winter, to wander among their fastnesses, with often no home but the cavern, no pillow but the sod, no prospect of any
relief from their sufferings, but the grave ! The homes of the Waldenses are emphatically classic ground. Every mountain and valley, every rock and cave, has some tale to tell, of daring deeds and noble achievements, which, while a thousand exploits of heroic valour, far less worthy of celebrity, have been immortalized in poetry, or sculptured in marble, are all that remain to perpetuate the Christian patriotism of men, whom the world was not worthy." Greece had but her one Thermopylæ—the valleys of Clusone and St Martino have their hundred
Apart from these moral and religious associations, the valleys themselves possess a combination of scenery of surpassing grandeur. The sublime and beautiful in nature, seem to have their living archetypes in the favoured spot which divine providence selected for depositing the precious seed, which was afterwards to have for its field" 'the world.” Alps piled on Alps in majestic confusion, their suinmits resting amid the clouds, and mantled in eternal snows, seem as if purposely thrown as a rampart of defence around this asylum of truth; while the valleys beneath, are so many little store-houses, into which nature has poured, with lavish profusion, her most exuberant bounties; and whose unrivalled loveliness at the present hour, may satisfy the passing traveller, that they need not the pen of romance to add enchantment to their living wonders. He may find a sterner magnificence, a more awful grandeur, in the mountain passes overhung by the frowning peaks of the Ungfrau or the Wetterhorn ; or in gazing on the icy solitudes of Mont Blanc, with its throne of glaciers, and curtain of tempests; but to witness the rare combination of sublimity and beauty-to see nature, at one glance, in her smiles and in her frowns—in her sternest and in her softest colouring—let him place himself in the centre of Lucerna, with its waving fields, and smiling hamlets, and sylvan wonders at his feet, and the colossal amphitheatre of Alps bounding the horizon.
Previous to the year 1686, the tyrannical edicts of the house of Savoy, had been for some time suspended. The sword of persecution was sheathed, and the Vaudois hailed with joy the temporary respite from their sufferings. Each was once more permitted to worship in peace, “under his own vine and his own fig-tree;" and all seemed to betoken that this tranquillity was to be permanent. The reigning sovereign, Amadeus, though the slave of bigotry, and the blind devotee of Rome, was not unmindful of the loyal obedience of his Waldensian subjects. They had been taught from their cradles, that to honour the king, was the duty which, in their creed, stood second only to fearing God; and although a crowd of confessors thronged the palace of Turin, to whom nothing would have been more congenial than the extirpation of the hated race; yet their innocent lives, and uncorrupted morals, could afford nothing for the tongue of slander to whisper against them.
But the darkest cloud is often preceded by a bright sunshine. This season of peace was the precursor of a fiercer tempest, than had ever yet desolated their valleys. Once more, their parental roofs were to be laid in ashes, and themselves and families expelled from their homes. A new adversary appeared on the field, and laid a deadlier train for their destruction. Louis XIV. of France, the scourge and despot of his country and age, trampling on the most sacred and inviolable obligations, revoked the edict of Nantes, which had granted a free liberty to Protestants, to worship God according to their consciences. He scoured the valleys of Dauphiny-penetrated into those fastnesses in the south-east of his dominions, which for ages had been the homes of his Protestant subjects, laid their peaceful villages in ruins, and purpled the mountain streams with their blood. The persecuted mountaineers sought a refuge among the valleys of the Vaudois; but the tyrant, not satisfied with banishing them from his own frontiers, demanded of the Duke of Savoy to execute the same work of extirpation in the valleys of Piedmont, as had been effected in those of Queyras and Fressinière. The young monarch expressed his unwillingness to unsheath the sword against a portion of his subjects, who, although hostile in their faith, were yet devoted in their allegiance. But Louis was resolved, at all hazards, on the execution of the tragedy. By means of his envoy, he made the Duke aware, that in the event of his refusal, he was himself ready to march at the head of 14,000 men, to wreak his vengeance on the heretics. Amadeus saw that there was no alternative but to obey.