« VorigeDoorgaan »
rariæ Poetam ad Supplicam vocasset*—and further caused his ambassador at Florence to protest against the license given to such writers.
The Prelate Catarino (one of Bayle's impartial witnesses), whom Touron not inaptly designates “The Ishmael of his age,” was one of “ those literary assassins” who lent his services most unscrupulously to the persecutors of Savonarola, and who undertook most zealously the task of slandering the memory of the victim of abused power.
Horace Walpole, in his “Doubts concerning Richard the Third,” has truly observed : “When a fortunate prince brings accusations agaist his enemies, all the historical writers press forward to serve him with their testimony.”
Of the words of such historians, we may truly say :
Quanto sono fallaci le Istorie.”
* Bzovius, Ann. Eccles. p. 521.
CHARACTER OF SAVONAROLA.-REGARDED AS A MARTYR BY
MANY PERSONS EMINENTLY HOLY, BY SOME WHO HAVE BEEN CANONIZED. ST. CATHERINE OF RICCI, ST. PHILIP NERI.SAVONAROLA'S PERSONAL APPEARANCE.
"Quæ cum magna modis multis miranda videtur
LUCRET. 1. i. v. 728. In the early career of Fra Savonarola, it is curious to trace the progress of his mind, and to notice the conflicting opinions of his monastic brethren with respect to the nature of his abilities and acquirements. Some accorded him great aptness for learning, others original genius of the highest order, a few thought the faculty of memory was the most remarkable power he possessed, and a talent for preaching was accompanied with it.
Talent and genius are separated by very distinguishable boundaries. Talent denotes qualities of mind susceptible of great improvement by study and experience, quickness of memory, acuteness and self-possession, power of combination and concentration, and the application of mental energies to the accomplishment of great objects devised by others.
Genius is born with its possessor, it is not an acquisition but a gift, no conquest of study, no late development of abilities accidentally exercised and called into operation. It is sometimes a heritage, and when inherited it is generally transmitted by the mother to her offspring. But when not thus derived, it seems to be the result of physical organization and temperament, peculiarly adapted, by greater delicacy of fibre or subtlety of the
vital fluids, for exalted intellectual achievements. Genius is in. tuitive and instinctive. It was regarded, and probably not incorrectly, of old, as a divine aura or afflatus, that served as an atmosphere to the intellectual powers, and was to them not only as a medium to give brilliancy and vividity to the coruscations of exalted intelligence, but as an animating influence that fitted them with a creative energy and controlling power, which no art or industry could attain or imitate.
In oratory, poetry, painting, sculpture, music, in every branch of science and of learning, in all ennobling pursuits, in the labours of philanthropy, in the struggles of patriotism, in all efforts for the reformation of mankind, for the redress of wrongs, in all warfare with interests at deadly issue with the rights of the poor, or any good and glorious cause-great projects have been seldom created and put in action except by genius or spirituality, moved and stirred to a high pitch of enthusiasm, which state of mental exaltation was not inaptly designated in former ages by the term, "a divine fury.”
Lascasas, Francis Xavier, Peter Claver, glorious apostles of the poor and the oppressed in distant climes, and in our own times Howard, Clarkson, and Macaulay, generous champions of justice, and of mercy, like Savonarola in his age, wrote and acted, not as if moved by mere earthly influences, but as if impelled by the instincts of a spiritual teaching of a divine origin.
It is the fortune of all great men who have aimed at moral reform, to be regarded during their lives with envy and admiration, in relative proportions to the evil they had resisted, and the good they had endeavoured to accomplish. Savonarola is no exception to the rule. With the impious, he was an impostor—with unbelievers, he was a fanatic-with wickedness in high places that should be spiritual, he was “a son of perdition" -with people who loved and feared God, he was a faithful minister of Christ, and with many of that class he was a saint.
Genius, that illuminates and magnifies the beauty of all that comes in contact with it, by its surpassing brightness, renders even its own defects more obvious, and exaggerates the outlines
of them by such an atmosphere of surrounding light; while mediocrity in its ignoble obscurity owes to its opacity the preservation of its faults from observation.
We, at a distance of three centuries and a half from the animosities excited by Savonarola's struggle with abuses, and the enthusiasm created by the wonderful powers of his eloquence, and actual contact with the heroism and holiness of life displayed in his career-can look at it from a position elevated above passion, prejudice, local interest, and class influences, commanding its circumference and its history in every point of view.
We find himn in youth, full of promise, studious, thoughtful, averse from amusements and pleasures, free from vice, deeply impressed with a conviction of the miseries of this life, and the importance of the preparation for another, before he had yet reached his twenty-second year. We follow him from his father's house which he abandons for ever, without communicating his design to any human being, for a monastic life in a Dominican order.
We perceive in the young monk, mental capacity of the highest order. All the bold originality of genius in his intellectual faculties, and that rare combination of great powers which belongs only to minds of the most exalted intelligence-an imagination full of poetry, instincts of art, with spiritualizing tendencies, all compact, united with excellent judgment—surprising quickness of perception-insight into character, and clearness of mental vision-all resolving themselves into that quality of practical sagacity which passes for something even more rare in the world than its highest wisdom, under the name of common sense.
Savonarola, like all men destined to attempt or achieve great objects, was full of enthusiasm in the cause he had taken up.
We perceive from his first entrance into religious life, that one dominant idea had taken possession of his mind—that great abuses had crept into the government of the Church and the court of Rome, and that they ought to be removed.
This idea occupied his mind night and day. He talked of it in the cloisters, he meditated on the subject in his cell-it was his theme in prayer, his topic in the discharge of his duties of master of studies in the convent—his text in the pulpit.
In the abundance of the divine mercy, a mission was given to him from on high, to labour for the renovation of the Church of God, as he most firmly and piously believed. And in the discharge of the duties of that mission, the conviction was never absent from his mind, that he was to encounter great trials, grievous sufferings, and, eventually, death.
He had three weapons for the fearful struggle he had engaged in. 1. Ardent love for the honour and glory of God.
2. A spirit of prayer, that exalted his mind above all worldly influences, fears, and affections.
3. A power of preaching, in which the highest order of eloquence was united with a spiritualized piety, and a pervading stream of gospel light, that gave an unction to his sermons, such as at once touched the hearts of all classes of his hearers, and was alike appreciated by the learned and the illiterate, the young and the old, by men and women—and alike also by laity and clergy.
All his cotemporaries are agreed on this point. And many of those in subsequent times, who have taken unfavourable views of his character in general, seem to leave the question of the power of his preaching undisputed.
There was a marvellous energy, life, and animation in the eloquence of Savonarola. Frequent apostrophes, exclamations of a plaintive and affecting nature, impetuous sallies, unexpected interrogatories-sudden appeals to heaven-striking observations addressed to the hearts of men, and the understanding too, abounded in his sermons, and seemed to enliven his disquisitions on the dryest topics. The spirit of sacred writ, its truth, its poetry, its divine morality pervaded his pulpit eloquence, and this sacred influence gave an air of inspiration to it, and prevailed over many obvious minor defects of style, superabundance of imagery, occasional scholastic absurdities and inaccuracies of expression.
“ Machiavelli,” says Dr. Hafe, “has commemorated Savonarola both in prose and verse, for he was impressed from his youth with a favourable opinion of his personal character and his public conduct. He has not ventured to acknowledge