SENOR CASTELAR ON ITALY.*
Forms] from his native country, under sentence of death if he returned thither, warned against remaining in Rome, where he was an object of suspicion to the police, regretting that he was not an orator of any merit, so that he might bewail the decline of Venice in fitting language, making a vow that if ever he was called to the exalted post of legislator he would spare no efforts to wipe away from Spain the reproach of intolerance, the writer of this work takes a very different position from that occupied by one whose eloquence has gained him a European reputation and the Presidency of the Spanish Republic. Yet marked as may be this -contrast, the book with which we are dealing harmonises rather with its author's present than with his past. We trace in its pages much of that spirit, much of that power of expression, much of that range of imagination which Senor Castelar has since displayed in the Cortes. He tells us himself that he draws " a broad line between ordinary language and oratorical language," and he has been faithful to the latter throughout the greater part of this Toltune. Macaulay says of the answer to Hume in Fox's History of James II., that "the whole passage sounds like a powerful reply, thundered at three in the morning from the Opposition Bench." In like manner, many of the most striking passages in Senor Castelar's • Old Rome and New Italy. By Emilio Castelar. Translated by Mrs. Arthur Arnold. London; Tinsley Brothers. 1873.
book have the appearance of those glowing improvisations natural to a speaker of Southern temperament, who is led on from fancy to fancy, and from image to image, by the kindling effect which his eloquence produces on his own mind, as well as by the sympathy of his audience. It is not difficult to imagine Senor Castelar swaying an assembly of his countrymen by pictures of the degradation of Rome and the decay of Venice, of the evils of priestly government and the pain- ful legacies of foreign despotism. The application of his teach- ing would no doubt in that case be more direct and more pointed. Spain would be reminded of her past glories, of the time when she gave laws to Europe, of the days when she, too, had her artists and poets, her generals and statesmen, her sages and discoverers. Much that the reader is left to supply from his own reflection must be given to the hearer. But the tone would probably be much the same in the speech as in the writing, while the impression conveyed by the former would be far more effective.
There is no lack of appreciation on our part of the eminent qualities shown by Seiler Castelar in this volume. He calls up by a succession of brilliant touches the life of ancient Rome in the days of her greatness, and brings out forcibly the contrast between the pomp and luxury of the Caesars, and the lowly life led by the Christians in their hiding-places in the Catacombs. The descrip- tion of Michael Angelo's labours in the Sistine Chapel is also heightened and rendered more vivid by the contrast between the vehemence, the struggles, the despair of that painter, and the ease and serenity of his great rival. Among the other striking and eloquent passages which dwell in our memory, the picture of the city of Rome as seen at sunset from the Pincian, the description of the performance of the Miserere in the Sistine Chapel, the account of the Campo Santo at Pisa, the sketch of the island of Java drawn from the materials supplied by other travellers, claim a pre-eminence. Our readers shall have the opportunity of judg- ing from some of these what Senor Castelar can do. Here, for instance, is his word-painting of the Campo Santo at Pisa :-
beheld with ecstacy the lofty arches covered with precious woods; the broad walls adorned with every possible combination of colour ; the oval windows of immense height, with their light columns and their elegant ornamental roses; the cypresses and the ivy ; the honeysuckle pushing its fragrant blossoms into the central court, its leaves rustling softly in the breeze ; the rude monuments of .monastic times shadowed by the cross, joined to the beautiful tombs of classic ages, adorned with nymphs and fauns ; the bacchanalian vase of Pares marble, with its sculptured figures of the priests and of tho god of wine, by the side cf the Madre Dolorosa with her son in her arms, overcome by the contem- plation of death and her tears of agony; the trophies of the Crusades close to tho native offerings of the Romans; the friezes of the great Grecian temples mingled with the architraves of the altars of the tenth century ; a bust of Brutus, and the Roman Tribunes under the white wings of the marble angels wrought by Christian sculptors ; the recumbent statues upon the pavement looking as if sunk in the eternal sleep, those which are erect on their pedestals stretching forth their arms as if to enter conquerors into immortality ; the saints and virgins, the patri- archs, the doctors, the cherubin, the choirs of the blessed, the demons, gnomes, and monsters floating on the many-coloured atmosphere of the gigantic frescoes which cover all the walls ; an indescribable chaos in these four Gothic galleries, a chaos over which the sound of the bell comes like the trumpet of the angel, and the noise of the pickaxe like the response of the dead opening their tombs at the great summons ; a chaos whore all ages, all civilisations, all arts crowd together in confusion over the fragments of a world in ruins—a picture of the Valley of Jehoshaphat at the supreme hour of the Universal Judgment."
We may place by the side of this the account of the performance of the Miserere
No pen can describe the solemnity of the Miserere. The night advances. The Basilica is in darkness. Her altars are uncovered. Through the open arches there penetrates the uncertain light of dawn, which seems to deepen the shadows. The last taper of the tenebrario is hidden behind the altar. The cathedral resembles an immense mausoleum, with the faint gleaming of funereal torches in the distance. The music of the Miserere is not instrumental. It is a sublime choir admirably combined. Now it comes like the far-off roar of the tem- pest, as the vibration of the wind upon the ruins or among the cypresses of tombs ; again like a lamentation from the depths of the earth, or a moaning of heaven's angels breaking into sobs and sorrowful weeping. The marble statues, gigantic and of dazzling whiteness, are not com- pletely hidden by the darkness, but appear like spirits of past ages coming out of the sepulchres, and loosing the shroud to join the in- tonation of this canticle of despair. The whole church is agitated, and vibrates as if words of horror were arising from the stones. This profound and sublime lament, this mourning of bitterness dying away into airy circles, penetrates the heart by the intensity of its sadness ; it is the voice of Rome supplicating Heaven from herl oad of ashes, as if under her sackcloth she writhed in her death-agony. To weep thus, to lament as the prophets of old by the banks of the Euphrates, or amongst the scattered stones of the Temple, to sigh in this sublime cadence, becomes a city whose eternal sorrow has not marred her etbrnal beauty."
It would not be difficult to fill up more than the space allotted to this review with similar quotations. Senor Castelar gives the rein freely to his imagination, and revels in picturesque and poetic language. When we come to analyse it calmly, when we lay down the book and ask what is the general result, our judgment is not wholly favourable. We have listened to a glowing rhapsody ; dazzling colours have passed before our eyes. Now and then we have met with fine thoughts, struck out, as it were, at a heat, without effort, by some spontaneous process. But while there has been much which has taken the eye in passing, comparatively little leaves a distinct mark. The book has the main characteristic of oratory ; it aims almost exclusively at temporary effect. We see this in moat of its brilliant descriptions. We see it, too, in the perpetually recurring search for contrast and antithesis. It has been pointed out already how the pride of the Conant was put in opposition to the modesty of the early Christians, and how Michael Angelo's strivings were contrasted with the inspiration of Raphael. Another time, Michael Angelo is compared with Fra Angelico, and then we have a still more violent contrast. In order to glorify the " bold, athletic, gigantic, and herculean figures " of the Sistine, Seiler Castelar speaks of Fra Angelico's figures as "measured and rigid, narrow-chested, meagre, and lustreless." Of course, no one would look for anatomical vigour in the works of a recluse who painted on his knees. But what true lover of art thinks of Fra Angelico's bodies, while the soul beaming through every face rivets the gaze ? We might as well estimate Fra Angelico's " Last Judgment," in which perfect and ineffable bliss breathes from each lineament of the Blessed, by the paltry and grotesque images of the demons. Yet if we were to ask whether this version of the Last Judgment, or that of Michael Angelo, with the figure of Christ the Avenger, which has been compared to Jupiter hurling down the Titans, is most in harmony with the spirit of the Gospel, Senor Castelar might find it difficult to sup- port his favourite. When we turn from painting to sculpture, we find him pursuing the same method. Wandering through the Campo Santo at Pisa, he is struck with the juxtaposition of Pagan and Christian sculptures, and he catalogues at some length the most memorable instances. The figure of Phaedra on the tomb of the Countess Matilda, an intoxicated bacchante by the side of an anchorite, on one bas-relief the Good Shepherd lead- ing his sheep, and on another Neptune with his tritons, Meleager following the chase past an altar where some sainted king or pious knight of the middle ages kneels in prayer, are the main features of the contrast which has such an attraction for our author. These striking antitheses are eminently calculated to seize the attention of an audience, and for this cause they com- mend themselves to a speaker ; but a writer knows that he must employ them more sparingly, lest he should expose himself to the charge brought by Pope against Lord Hervey. Once at least Sefior Castelar is betrayed by his love of effect into a piece of over- strained metaphor. Speaking of Venice during the Austrian occupation, he says, " Venice was for us a City-Christ, suspended with infamous punishment by the four great nails of the Quad- rilateral." One would have thought the mere act of writing down such a sentence would have awakened doubts as to its propriety. Senor Castelar tells us frankly at the outset that he has had no intention of writing a book of travels. He has simply desired to communicate to the public the impressions which his sojourn in Italy produced on his mind. We cannot wonder at his living more in the past than in the present, at his turning away from the sights before him to reproduce the heroic times with which he sympa- thised most keenly, at his devoting more space and more careful portraiture to Julius the Second and Michael Angelo than to Pius the Ninth and Cardinal Antonelli. The few words in which he sketches the late master of Rome are worth quoting, but they are most remarkable for their brevity :—
" Antonelli appeared to me to be tall and strong ; a huntsman rather than a Cardinal; a mountaineer, but no courtier. Eyes dark as night, a prominent nose, full lips, a lemon-coloured complexion, a rude and rugged physiognomy, a daring character, a robust constitution; and his attitudes and gestures—according to my impressions—proclaimed a man long habituated to command imperiously, and to be obeyed without resistance. But I should also declare, ho seemed to me to be a person of extreme vulgarity."
As Cardinal Antonelli is contrasted unfavourably with the many illustrious names preserved by Ranke, so the sight of anything peculiar to the Papal Government awakens in Senor Castelar's mind very different memories. His experience of the Roman Custom House, the sight of the desolate Campagna, the railway stations without a house near them, so that the sound of their names, when called out by the porters, are "lost in distant echoes in the immensity of the desert ;" the spectacle of a double line of soldiers drawn up in St. Peter's to keep order, words of military command resounding through the Church, and the butts of firearms falling _noisily on the marble pavement, remind the Spanish pilgrim of the days when Rome was rich and happy, when the plains around were fertile, when the new faith overcame the resistance of Paganism. Will not the Holy Spirit, he asks, which pours forth torrents of religious truth on the Church of St. Peter, will it not in mercy shed a few drops of political truth and economy, at once the hap- piness and riches of modern peoples? Will not the Pontifical Court, at the sight of which the emotions kindled by the aspect of the Catacombs and the thought of the early Christians are stifled, —will it not abdicate its pomp and pageantry, to make room for a pure and a spiritual worship ?