Page images
PDF
EPUB

When

it. The conqueror of Aboukir was not seen on towards the dwelling of the composer of “ I! the deck; could he not yet look without a blush Matrimonio Segreto.of shame, without feeling that a blight had At that time Domineco Cimarosa inhabited a passed over his lately-acquired laurels, on those small house in the Strada dei Fiorentini. He was floating gaols in the which artists, litterati, men a man of some five-and-forty years of age, middle of science, aye, and helpless women and children, sized, and of pleasant countenance. sighed for liberty, for even a breath of fresh air? Cimarosa wished to please, he was perfectly fasThe bay was covered with boats of every shape cinating. His features bore a strong resem. and kind, filled with soldiers, sailors, and rabble; blance to those of Rossini. Kind-hearted, goodthe banks were lined with a lawless fierce multi- tempered, willing to oblige, exceedingly modest

, tude, all shouting, panting, thirsting for blood. and sincere as a child, he was universally beIf one of the betrayed unfortunates dared appear loved. His manners and conversation were full at either of the port-holes to inhale a single gasp of spirit and wit; he sang beautifully, especially of fresh air, those at the distance took aim at the comic scenas; and was a first-rate violinist

. So pale, anxious face, and those in the nearest boat many attractions made him the idol of the best thrust at it with bayonets, swords, sticks, or society in Naples, St. Petersburg, and Vienna. even with their clenched fists.

At the period when the revolution broke out, he Suddenly the hollow roll of muffled drums was at the height of his fame and success. was heard; involuntarily the multitude became The musician was seated at his instrument, silent, and their attention was directed to the neatly and handsomely attired; by his side was deck of a Neapolitan frigate, the Minerva, which a pupil, who, with his eyes fixed on the music

, lay at anchor opposite to the admiral's ship sang an air from “Artaxerxes," while the master The Prince Francesco Caraccioli, the admiral of accompanied him on the instrument, beating the Neapolitan fleet, the noblest, bravest, and time with his foot, and smiling encouragement

, best beloved of all the officers, stood there laden or uttering a whispered “bravo," when some with chains, and a priest by his side. But where particularly difficult passage was conquered. It was the scaffold ? surely a nobleman had a right was a peaceful scene-the fair golden-haired boy to demand that even in death his rank should with his cherub face, the pleasant looking man, be respected! Might had taken the place of the neat cheerful room; and then the sweet right, and evil passions governed and blinded treble voice, and the soft harmonious acthe else noble heart of the judge. A halter was companiment. But hark! what deep bass is suspended from the mast of the Minerva, and in that, which echoes like distant thunder? Nearer a few moments the late commander of that frigate and nearer it comes! and now the tramp of swung there a ghastly corpse, and was alter- many feet—dull and heavy sound—and wild wards cut down and cast into the sea. An invo- yells and cries, are audible; and now they beluntary groan of horror burst even from that come more distinct, and the words “ Death to savage assembly; a cloud obscured the sun, as Cimarosa” peal trumpet-voiced through the if that luminary refused to cast its light on so air. The music died away on the lips of the frightful a crime. An awful silence followed, boy; the fingers of the master seemed as if frozen which was broken by the clear, melodious voices to the keys of the instrument. Before they had of two of the betrayed patriots, youths of sixteen time to think, still less to act, the yard was and twenty, who, hand in hand, on the deck of thronged, the staircase groaned beneath the one of the dismantled vessels, their eyes fixed weight of numbers, and the door was burst on the murdered prince, chanted the hymn of violently open, while the foremost of the mob liberty

were in a manner hurled into the chamber by

those behind them, and stood there with dishe" Or che innalzato è l'albero

velled hair, torn clothes, foaming and panting, S'Abbatano i tiranni !"

and as little conscious as the musician of the

cause of their coming. They, like many others, For some moments all were too much astonished had seen the throng rushing through the streets

, to interrupt what seemed like celestial melody, and joined it, had heard the cries, and repeated when contrasted with the sounds and sights of them, nothing knowing, nothing caring about horror that had hitherto filled each moment of the cause or consequence of their action, seeking that black day which should be blotted from the only the excitement it produced. Thus it hap. annals of history; then, recovering themselves, pened that they paused, looked at each other, as the guards rushed upon these young martyrs, if inquiring who should begin, and what was to and dragged them brutally below. The multi- be said, and seemed as if suddenly tamed by the tude howled, that it too, that many-headed mon- sight of that benevolent-looking man, and the ster, could not at the moment find a prey. sweet child who half shrank behind his pre

Suddenly a voice exclaimed, “ Those words ceptor, and yet could not refrain from peeping just sung by the young traitors are set to music round at the wild horde, whose faces shifted by Domineco Cimarosa.”

and multiplied like a living kaleidoscope. “ Down with Cimarosa! Death to the Jaco- A sort of dumb pantomime took place be bite !" howled the mob, whose madness had tween the invaders ; and one being by become yet more inflamed by the scenes they consent invited to speak, shook his clenched had just witnessed ; and, like wolves in pursuit fist, and thundered forth : of their prey, they rushed with one consent " Ah ha! There thou art, dog of a jacobite !"

common

[blocks in formation]

You are in error, my friends," returned assailants, and seized hold of the musician by Cimarosa; I am no jacobite-simply a musi- the hair of his head. “Ah! he wears his hair cian, at your service!"

like those smart fellows whom I finished off yes“ Thou liest, accursed republican!” shouted a terday. What think you I did to them before lazzarone ; " but who can wonder at that, seeing I made them shorter by a head-eh, my chilthat the Frenchmen believe neither in God nor dren??" the saints !"

“ Tell us, Pascalone !" Heavenly Father!” involuntarily exclaimed I just drove one of these pretty little nails Cimarosa, devoutly crossing himselt.

into each temple--it set their heads off amazingly, The fellows looked at each other, not knowing I promise you!" of what to accuse him, and yet resolved to be- Some laughed at this frightful jest, while lieve and prove him guilty. So perverted were others cried, “ Serve him the same !" the minds of the people, that they saw all the “No, no, my friends! Justice, let all have actions of the patriots through an inverted me justice !” Then turning to Cimarosa, he said dium, and wrenched even those which had « Now then, we shall examine thy pockets, thy benefited the populace, and them only, to cupboards, boxes, beds—in short, every corner; grounds of accusation.

and if we find anything suspicious, or convicting Thus in the present instance one exclaimed thee, I shall immediately dash thy brains out “ You took the tax off salt !"

with this hammer.” Another shouted—“You caused the duty on The mob awaited not their leader's permission, meal to be diminished !”

but dispersed themselves throughout the house, A third—“ You set aside the taxes on fish, breaking, destroying, plundering, and burning vegetables, and fruit !"

all that fell into their hands; but to their vexaTo all these strange reproaches Cimarosa tion, finding nothing on which to ground an gently and firmly replied, that he had not had accusation against Cimarosa. voice or part in any of the acts, or indeed power “Now we have him !" exclaimed the lazzarone. to alter or change anything.

“ Here is the portrait of Championet, set round Again ensued a pause; the throng began to with precious stones.” murmur at their leader for failing to prove to Accused, what have you to reply?" said the them that the intended victim was guilty; and butcher sententiously. the man, seeing the threatening glances which “ It is the portrait of the Emperor Leopold of shot upon him, was meditating by what new Austria : his majesty presented it to me himself," atrocity he should recover his influence, when replied Cimarosa. fresh cries were heard without, and another “ It does not look much like an emperor," group forced their way up the staircase, and observed the fellow who had found it, stretching rushed into the room ; at the head of which was out his hand to recover his prize. a butcher, a giant in height, with large muscular “ Wait a bit !” said the butcher, stowing the arms, and a neck like a bull.

portrait away;

“ We must decide upon this This monster, who was welcomed by the point before the booty can be handed over to crowd as our good Pascalone," swung a huge you." hammer in his right hand, while in his left he “ And here is the portrait of the Goddess of held several nails, some two or three inches Liberty !” exclaimed another, tearing from its long ; his head nearly touched the ceiling, while satin-lined crimson morocco a highlythe boards cracked beneath his heavy footfall. finished miniature. “ What is it, my children?” inquired the My God !” exclaimed Cimarosa.

“ And is giant, looking round him with an air of paternal there none among you can recognize the features interest.

of the Empress Catherine of Russia, my noble “ "Tis well thou art come” “ We lacked patroness?”. thee sadly”—“Where hast thou been the whole “That the Empress of Russia !” said the day through ?" were some of the exclamations bandit, shrugging his shoulders ; “

why, she is which greeted him on all sides.

half naked." “ Where have I been !" repeated the butcher; Only her neck is uncovered !” observed why over the way, crucifying a jacobite ; and Pascalone gravely, also pocketing that miniaa precious job the rascal gave me, with his coarse ture. hard skin.” This was said in the most natural It appeared then that there was no ground of and common-place manner possible. I heard accusation against the musician; and the butcher, a noise, and said to myself, “ Come, I must see as an advocate of justice, could not think of what all that's about-perhaps there may be murdering an innocent man. Already there was some more work for me.

a sort of movement among the throng, which And that's just what there is !” exclaimed swayed it to and fro like the waves of the sea ;

“Here's a heretic and a repub- and the giant was preparing an harangue of aclican, who insists that he is as innocent as a new- quittal, when that same voice which had inflamed born babe."

the mob around the bay, hurled a fresh fireStop, stop, friends! The gentleman must brand into this magazine of combustibles, hy have justice. Let's look at him.” Thus speak- shoutinging, he kicked the piano over, which had hitherto “Domineco Cimarosa set the republican Hymn served as a barrier between Cimarosa and his of Liberty to music !”

case

[ocr errors]

many voices.

66

A thousand throats uttered a wild yell, and, not less skilful in chaunting those of the devil, it the butcher made a stride towards his victim, would seem, since he composed the Hymn to exclaiming, “ What hast thou to reply?” Liberty."

“ I did so!” firmly replied the musician; “ Then give him up to judginent," observed “ but permit me to explain—"

the monk. No explanations !” yelled the crowd. “ He is already judged by the mighty voice of Not a word !" shouted the butcher, clutch- the people.” ing his victim with his muscular hand, and half “In the name of his eminence the Cardinal, bearing, half dragging him off, so rapidly that I command you to deliver this man to me." the unhappy composer had not even time to cast “ The Cardinal is a jacobite, and his majesty one look on his beloved pupil, who had sunk our King refuses to sanction his acts.” down fainting.

“Ah, miscreant ! darest thou !” exclaimed “ To the gallows !” –“ Into the sea with the monk; and exasperated by the audacity of him !”-“ Let's burn him alive !" were among his opponent, he raised a heavy oaken crucifix, the most merciful proposals of the raging multi- adorned with a figure of Christ in bronze, and tude; and the butcher had much ado with his let it fall heavily forward on the forehead of strength and influence to preserve his victim Pascalone. The Goliah sunk like a felled ox; from instant annihilation. At length they reached and while yet the astonished throng gazed on the place of execution; a funeral pile was hastily their disabled champion, the monk drew Cimaerected.

rosa to a small door in the wall, which opened “Before we burn him, let's strip him, and as when a spring is suddenly touched, and paint the tree of liberty on his back and breast,” closed again behind the composer. shouted some of the more remorseless of the Cimarosa made a few steps forwards, like one rufhans.

in a dream ; but his legs trembled, his knees “A capital notion !” laughed Pascalone, as bent under him, his brain throbbed, and still he he greedily surveyed the good and valuable seemed to feel those rough hands which had clothes of his victim.

well nigh throttled him. The gaoler came to his This last stroke, which Cimarosa knew was aid, and by voice and action endeavoured to but a pretext for every kind of horrible indignity bring him to a sense of surrounding objects, and barbarity, destroyed all his remaining firm- and eventually succeeded so far, that the comness. Mercy !” he shrieked : “ Kill me if you poser understood where he was, arranged his will, but at once, without further insult or de- disordered dress, and followed the man to congradation.”

finement with a feeling of thankfulness. This “ Would not one think it was a girl, to hear latter led him through several courts, and round him !” laughed Pascalone. Why we served the walls, until they reached a low door, which Fonseca so, that distinguished scholar as he was he unlocked, invited his prisoner by a gesture considered; and San Felice, a princess; and to enter, and immediately closed and bolted it many other of your betters :" and he began to behind him. Cimarosa felt himself at the edge strip his victim.

of a steep slippery staircase, and clung fast hold At this moment a monk opened one of the of the rope which supplied the place of balusters, small portals in the wall of the Castello. As in order not to be precipitated into the dungeon soon as the crowd beheld the little, pock-marked, beneath. The lower he descended step by step, shrivelled man, who stood gazing on the scene the more accustomed did his eyes become to darkwith sparkling intelligent eyes, many voices ness, and he was at last enabled to distinguish a called to him—" Hillo! Fra Paolino! come and species of cellar of considerable length, faintly confess this sinner before we fix him to the lighted by air-holes, which, to judge from the stake!"

sound of waves dashing against the walls, looked The monk came forward with an air of indif- on to the sea. Cimarosa paused on the last ference, as if accustomed to such scenes; but so step to take breath, put up his hand to his eyes soon as the circle had opened to him, and he to concentrate the light, and looked as steadily beheld their victim, he retreated a few steps, and and fixedly around him as the indistinct twilight with a cry of astonishment exclaimed

and his own injured features would permit him, “ Heavenly Father! Ye know not what ye This damp, dark dungeon seemed to be thronged do. This man is one of the greatest geniuses of with prisoners of all ages and sexes; all alike this century. It is Cimarosa !”

ready to meet their fate with courageous en“We know it-and also that he is a jacobite, durance, with stoicism, and with a lively, firm a traitor, and an impious wretch !"

faith. No groans, no complaints were heard. “ He a traitor and jacobite! Ye rave, men. Some conversed together in an under tone; others He impious, who sings the praises of God with paced slowly up and down, like the spirits a voice like a seraph, and has composed more described by Dante in the fourth canto of his psalms, masses, and Deus dixit, than ye have glorious poem. It was plain to see all hope on sins on your miserable souls. Back, profane earth was lost

, and that their thoughts and looks wretches as ye are! nor dare to harm one hair were already turned heavenwards. of his head."

While Cimarosa was considering how to in“ Be not so hasty, holy father!” exclaimed troduce himself to his fellow-prisoners, the giant, scornfully. “This man, who, accord- withdrew himself from the group with whom be ing to you, can sing the praises of God so well, is had been conversing, and advanced with out

a man

[blocks in formation]

stretched hands, and a cry of astonishment, and “ Is this place then the grave of hope?" asked the composer recognised in him Annibale Gior- Cimarosa anxiously. dano, professor of mathematics, a profound

“ Unless we

can effect our own escapescholar, and the author of various works and which—perhaps - we shall see. Expect nor of several important discoveries. Repeatedly justice nor mercy from our judges ; we are imprisoned on the charge of high treason, he the victims they will immolate on the altar of had escaped condemnation almost miraculously. vengeance and bigotry. But hush ! Here comes His manners were agreeable, his conversation Cerillo !" instructive and eloquent; but notwithstanding his fame, his acknowledged talent, his attractive sublimest of the revolutionists, advanced up the

That great physician, one of the noblest and character, there was something repelling about dungeon until he reached the centre, where he him, something which generated one of those paused, and a circle was immediately formed instinctive antipathies so often experienced, so around him. “ I am condemned to death,” he difficult to be defined.

said calmly, replying to the looks rather than This man now drew Cimarosa forward, intro- the questions of his companions. “ The trial ducing him by name, exclaiming against the was short. They asked me my name, my age, injustice, the tyranny of the royalists, and pre- my profession, and what I now was ? ' A physisenting him to all the celebrated individuals who cian, was my reply. Good, we know that; were dispersed about that gloomy cavern. but as thou standest there opposite us, what art

“ Here,” he said, “is Marcello Scotti, a blame- | thou?' 'A hero, and about to become a marless minister of God, an enlightened philanthro- tyr,' was my reply." pist; these are Logoteta and Baffi, a first-rate A shout of applause drowned the patriotis Latin scholar, and a Hellenist ; here is Nicola voice for a while; and when he again spoke, it Fiorentino, one of our first counsellors; that

was to Cimarosa, whom he had regarded as a proud-looking yet resigned woman is Elenora friend, attended as a physician, and admired as Pimentel ; you must have heard of her, the

a composer. “ You, too, here, my poor friend-editress of 'The Neapolitan Moniteur. There and looking so pale and ill, and bearing such stand Rotondo, Albanese, and Bagni, the pride marks of recent brutal usage! But courage ! all of the medical profession; beyond them, Neri hope has not yet vanished. Conforti has drawn Ciaja, Falconieri

, and the Caratta, the Pignatelli, up a memoir, which has been forwarded to and the Colonna. No one escapes the fangs of Nelson, explaining clearly to him the terms of those tigers in human form; the learned, the

our capitulation, and the treaty signed by Carscientific, the noble, and even women, fall vic- dinal Ruffo. Nelson is a distinguished seaman, tims to their blood-thirsty rage.”

and a man of honour; and I cannot believe that As Giordano had thus led the composer from he will consent to an act which will disgrace one group of prisoners to another, and per- alike his own name and the annals of his country. formed the office of master of ceremonies, some I expect the answer every moment.” had courteously bowed, others pressed his hand, Meanwhile, I'll finish my poem,” observed while others spoke a few kindly words of sym- | Vincenzo, re-seating himself. pathy and regret. Cimarosa paused at last by

The door of the dungeon grated on its hinges, two men, who were in such earnest conversation and an English officer of the marines was that they had not remarked the addition of a ushered in by the gaoler. fellow-unfortunate to their number.

“ The answer of the Lord High Admiral Nelson “ Ah!” exclaimed Francesco Conforti, one of to your memoir," said the seaman, presenting a this twain, our zeal misled us: this nation is sealed paper to Cerillo, who had advanced with not yet ripe for liberty.”

that air of natural dignity which seemed to “ Hush, my friend,” replied Mario Pagano, place him above those who surrounded him. “one might as well say that a child should not He tore off the cover and readbegin to breathe as soon as born, because its lungs are not yet accustomed to the fresh air.

I have laid your papers before your gracious Every human being who beholds the light of King, who must be the best and only judge of the day has a right to live, and every properly-con- merits and demerits of his subjects. stituted nation has a right to liberty:

“ HORATIO Nelson." “ But woe to that one which seeks to obtain it through the might of foreign arms!” observed Giordano, clapping the republican on the shoulder “ • Our gracious King !" " was echoed and familiarly.

re-echoed around in accents of the most bitter “ Do be silent, good folk! or at least speak a

irony. little lower, you fright away my muse, and lo!

“ Who that saw the gallant Carracioli susmy song remains unfinished.”

pended from the masts of his own frigate, can “ You'll finish it on the scaffold, good Vin- doubt the mercy which will be shown to us?” cenzo, and so, swan-like, die!” said Giordano. exclaimed Genzano. “We are doomed men !"

Let us see what you have done, for here is “Gentlemen,” said another officer, advancing, Cimarosa to set it to music for you, and thus “ I am deputed by the tribunal to receive any ensure your fame by uniting it with his, and add requests which you may have to prefer, and a last leaf to his own chaplet.”

make known to them your last wishes."

66

my

A murmur arose, and many crowded with Hitherto a species of feverish excitement and threatening looks forward; but Cerillo stilled exaltation had sustained Cimarosa ; but now, them with a wave of his hand, and spoke- when placed thus suddenly before the man he

“ The only request I have to make is, that I doubted not was the judge, who, after a few may die with dearest friends, Pagano, Ciaja, questions put merely for form's sake, would and Pignatelli."

hand him over to the executioner, death seemed “I require,” observed the Count di Ruvo, so palpable, so fearful, so near, that he was coin" that as a nobleman I may die on the scaffold, pelled to lean on the back of a chair to hide the with my brow upturned to heaven, watching in weakness of his tottering frame. scorn the descent of the knife which is to deca- On a sign from the general the soldiers withpitate me, and rid me of a life now valueless." drew; and scarcely had they closed the door,

“ And I, Eleonora Pimentel, condemned to than rushing to the composer, he clasped him in be hanged by the tribunal of tyrants, ask as the his arms, exclaiming, “ Saved! saved! Italian last and only favour I would receive or crave at music will not lose one of her brightest ornatheir hands, for permission to order for myself ments. Aye, and I have not been able to aca pair of drawers.”

complish my purpose without difficulty, mio caro Two others spoke, and the two officers re

maestro. By heavens, I was obliged to enter tired with feelings of deep sympathy and com

their assembly stick in hand, and threaten to passion.

break every bone in their bodies, if they did not “And now,” said Cerillo, solemnly, " now

that very moment sign an order for you to be fellow-citizens, we have done with this world.

set free!” We shall pass from this dungeon to the scaffold;

“ Most noble sir!” stammered Cimarosa, let us therefore raise our thoughts, our hopes, like one who, just awakened from sleep, knew to heaven, and humbly and earnestly pray not

not if he were waking or dreaming ;

is who is only for ourselves, but especially for those the protecting angel to whom I owe life and among us who shall be the first to have the liberty ?honour to shed their blood for liberty and “ Ah! You do not know me! probably not. patriotism !”

But I have long known you, and admired your A deep silence fell on all, broken only by the music. I followed you from St. Petersburg to monotonous dash of the waves against the walls. Vienna, from Vienna to Italy, to Rome, and at Silent and fervent prayer occupied each spirit; last to Naples. Not one of your operas bas and as they knelt on the damp ground, night's come out but I was present at its first represen. darkness gradually veiled them from each other, tation ; and woe to those near me whose want and only an occasional pressure of the hand of taste or of enthusiasm led them not to apbetween two friends, or an involuntary elevation plaud." of the voice in some moment of pious enthu- “ But your name! I pray you tell it to me, siasm, told that living, breathing beings were yet that I may

bless my preserver. there.

“ I am Katanyvetern, envoy from Russia, and Suddenly a hoarse voice summoned “ Domi- commandant of the Russian troops here at Naneco Cimarosa."

ples. I saw you for the first time at the court The composer shuddered, turned deadly pale ; of the Czarina, and have never since ceased to but one thought on the stoicism of those who be one of your warmest admirers. But you surrounded him gave him fresh energy; and need some refreshment; follow me into the next embracing those nearest, and waving an adieu room, where I have prepared for your entertainto the others, he followed the gaolor with a firm ment.” step and composed mien.

Cimarosa could scarcely believe in the acThe man led him up staircases, and along tuality of all this. But a few moments before, galleries, and at length through the secret pas- and he was a prisoner, awaiting the sentence of sage which unites the fortress with the Palazzo death : now, the honoured guest of a Russian Vecchio, which at that time served as a dwelling noble. He pressed his hand to his heart in for the Cardinal Ruffo and the commanders of silent expression of thanks and gratitude too the foreign troops. At length he paused at a deep, too overpowering for utterance. Nor did door, and knocking three times, delivered up his generous preserver need words; his own his prisoner into the hands of two soldiers who heart, his own enthusiasm, repaid him for the opened it; informing them that they were exertions he had made to save his beloved, adanswerable with their heads for the safety of mired composer, of whose danger the first intitheir charge.

mation he heard came from Fra Paolino, who told Cimarosa was now in total darkness with his him how to rescue him from the people. He new conductors, the gaoler having taken his dark had placed him in the hands of the formidable lantern with him. T'he soldiers seemed, how-Giunto di Stato. He seated his guest, and ever, perfectly at home, and led him through pressed him to eat, speaking meanwhile of music, several chambers, until they opened the door of of Cimarosa's own operas and compositions, a large well-lighted room, 'in the which a tall man, of distinguished appearance, and wearing the uniform of a general, was pacing up and down,

* An historical fact,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »