Page images

upon the storied monuments, the stately hatchments, the cold marble pomp, with which grandeur mourned magnificently over departed pride; and turned to this poor widow, bowed down by age and sorrow at the altar of her God, and offering up the prayers and praises of a pious, though a broken heart, I felt that this living monument of real grief was worth them all.

I related her story to some of the wealthy members of the congregation, and they were moved at it. They exerted themselves to render her situation more comfortable, and to lighten her afflictions. It was, however, but smoothing a few steps to the grave. In the course of a Sunday or two after, she was missed from her usual seat at church, and before I left the neighbourhood, I heard, with a feeling of satisfaction, that she had quietly breathed her last, and gone to rejoin those she loved, in that world where sorrow is never known, and friends are never parted.


On the heights above Baccano the postillions stopped, and pointing to a pinnacle that appeared between two hills, exclaimed-"Roma!"-That pinnacle was the cross of St. Peter's.--The " ETERNAL CITY" rose before us!

As the traveller advances over the dreary wilds of the Campagna, where not one object occurs to awaken his attention, he has time to recover from the surprise and agitation, which the first view of Rome seldom fails to excite in liberal and ingenuous minds. He may naturally be supposed to inquire into the cause of these emotions, and at first he may be inclined to attribute them solely to the influence of early habits, and ascribe the feelings of the man,

to the warm imagination of the school-boy. Without doubt the name of Rome echoes in our ears from our infancy; our lisping tongues are tuned to her language; and our first and most delightful years are passed among her orators, poets, and historians. We are taught betimes to take a deep interest in her fortunes, and to adopt her cause, as that of our own country, with spirit and with passion. Such impressions, made at such an age, are indelible, and it must be admitted, are likely to influence our feelings and opinions during life.

But the prejudices instilled into the mind of the boy, and strengthened by the studies of youth, are neither the sole nor even the principal causes of our veneration for Rome. The Mistress of the World claims our respect, and affection, on grounds which the Christian and the philosopher must admit with grateful acknowledgment. In addition to her ancient origin and venerable fame, to her mighty achievements and vast empire, to her heroes and her saints, to the majesty of her language, and the charms of her literature; "habe ante oculos hanc esse terram quæ nobis miserit jura, quæ leges dederit." Rome has been in the hands of Providence, the instrument of communicating to Europe, and to a considerable portion of the globe, the three greatest blessings of which human nature is susceptible-Civilization, Science, and Religion.

The system of Roman government was peculiarly adapted to the attainment of this great end, and the extension of its empire, seems to have been ordained by Heaven for its full accomplishment. The despotism of the Eastern monarchies kept all prostrate on the ground in abject slavery; the narrow policy of the Greek republics confined the blessings of liberty within their own precincts: Rome, with more enlarged and more generous sentiments, considering the conquered countries as so many nurseries of citizens, gradually extended her rights and privileges



to their capitals, enrolled their natives in her legions, and admitted their nobles into her senate. Thus her subjects, as they improved in civilization, advanced also in honours, and approached every day nearer to the manners and to the virtues of their masters, till every province became another Italy, every city another Rome. With her laws and franchises she communicated to them her arts and sciences; wherever the Roman eagles penetrated, schools were opened, and public teachers were pensioned. Aqueducts and bridges, temples and theatres were raised in almost every town; and all the powers of architecture, of sculpture, and of painting, were employed to decorate the capitals of the most distant provinces. Roads, the remains of which astonish us even at this day, were carried from the Roman Forum, the centre of this vast empire, to its utmost extremities; and all the tribes and nations that composed it were linked together, not only by the same laws and by the same government, but by all the facilities of commodious intercourse, and of frequent communication. Compare the state of Gaul, of Spain, and of Britain, when covered with numberless cities, and flourishing in all the arts of peace under the protection of Rome, with their forests, their swamps, and the sordid huts of halfnaked savages scattered thinly over their wastes previous to their subjugation; and you will be enabled to appreciate the blessings which they owed to


Rome, in thus civilizing and polishing mankind, had prepared them for the reception of that divine religion, which alone can give to human nature its full and adequate perfection; and she completed her godlike work, when influenced by her instructions and example Europe embraced Christianity. Thus she became the metropolis of the world, by a new and more venerable title, and assumed in a most august sense, the appellation of the "Holy City,"

the "Light of Nations," the "Parent of Mankind.” When in the course of the two succeeding ages, she was stript of her imperial honours; when her provinces were invaded, and all the glorious scene of cultivation, peace, and improvement, was ravaged by successive hordes of barbarians; she again renewed her benevolent exertions, and sent out, not consuls and armies to conquer, but apostles and teachers to reclaim, the savage tribes which had wasted her empire. By them she bore the light of heaven into the dark recesses of idolatry; and displaying in this better cause all the magnanimity, the wisdom, the perseverance, which marked her former career, she triumphed, and, in spite of ignorance and barbarism, again diffused the blessings of Christianity over the Western world.

Nor is it to be objected that the religion of Rome was erroneous, or that she blinded and enslaved her converts. The religion which Rome taught was Christianity. With it the convert received in the Scriptures, the records of truth; and in the sacraments, the means of sanctification; in the creeds, the rule of faith; and in the commandments, the code of morality. In these are comprised all the belief and all the practices of a Christian, and to communicate these to a nation is to open to it the sources of life and happiness. But whatever may be the opinions of my reader in this respect, he must admit, that the Latin muses, which had followed the Roman eagles in their victorious flight, now accompanied her humble missionaries in their expeditions. of charity and with them penetrated the swamps of Batavia, the forests of Germany, and the mountains of Caledonia.


Schools that vied in learning and celebrity with seminaries of the south, rose in these benighted regions, and diffused the beams of science over the vast tracts of the north, even to the polar circles. Thus the predictions of the Roman poets were ful



filled, though in a manner very different from their conceptions; and their immortal compositions were rehearsed in the remote islands of the Hebrides, and in the once impenetrable forests of Scandinavia.

At the same time, the arts followed the traces of the muse, and the untutored savages saw, with surprisc, temples of stone rise in their sacred groves, and arches of rock spread into a roof over their heads. The figure of the Redeemer, till then unknown, seemed to breathe on canvass to their eyes; the venerable forms of the apostles in Parian marble replaced the grim uncouth statues of their idols; and music surpassing in sweetness the strains of their bards, announced to them the mercies of that God whom they were summoned to adore. It was not wonderful that they should eagerly embrace a religion adorned with so many graces, and accompanied by so many blessings; and Europe finally settled in the profession of Christianity, and once more enlightened by the beams of science, was indebted to the exertions of Rome for both these blessings.

But the obligation did not end here, as the work of civilization was not yet finished. The northern tribes long established in the invaded provinces had indeed become Christians, but they still remained, in many respects, barbarians. Hasty and intemperate, they indulged the caprice or the vengeance of the moment; they knew no law but that of the sword, and would submit to no decision but that of arms. Here again we behold the genius of Rome interposing her authority as a shield between ferocity and weakness, appealing from the sword to reason, from private combat, to public justice, from the will of the judge, and the uncertain rules of custom, to the clear prescriptions of her own written code. This grand plan of civilization, though impeded, and delayed by the brutality, and the obstinacy of the barbarous ages, was at length carried 19*

« PreviousContinue »